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Coronavirus Morning Digest: Staff walk out of Armagh factory and lessons from France in lockdown – stories you may have missed

Workers have walked out of a poultry factory in Armagh and students have asked to be involved in decision making around their state exams this morning. reporters are bringing you the latest coronavirus stories you may have missed this lunchtime.

Workers walk out of Armagh poultry factory amid social distancing fears

Margaret Canning reports


Northern Ireland poultry giant Moy Park

UP to 1,000 workers at poultry giant Moy Park, Northern Ireland’s biggest employer, have walked out with a trade union claiming that bosses have rejected health and safety proposals.

Unite said there had been a “mass walk-out” by staff at Moy Park in Seagoe, Portadown, over what it said was a lack of measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Food factories have been deemed essential businesses which are to stay open even as others close – but they are required to have social distancing measures in place for their employees.

And in nearby Lurgan, around 80 staff are reported to have walked out of a factory owned by Irish meat giant ABP, again over health and safety concerns.

Both companies have been asked for comment.

Unite regional officer Sean McKeever said claimed that Moy Park had failed to provide “basic health and safety” protections, leading employees to walk out.

Meanwhile, a new centre for assessing suspected coronavirus cases is opening in Derry in a bid to prevent hospital wards becoming overwhelmed.

It will be based at Altnagelvin Hospital and staffed by GPs.

Patients will be assessed at an out-of-hours urgent care building and if necessary transferred to specialist wards.

Dr Tom Black, chair of Northern Ireland’s British Medical Association (BMA), said: “This has been shown in Italy and other countries that this is how we save lives.”

The triage service is designed for those moderately ill who do not need an ambulance to go to hospital.

It is the first of 13 similar centres being established in Northern Ireland, enlisting the expertise of GPs while lessening the pressure on hospital beds and intensive care units.

Students want to be involved in decision-making around the State exams

Katherine Donnelly reports


‘Education is the greatest single lever at our disposal in preparing our society for what lies ahead. We should use it wisely.’ Stock picture

Second-level students want to involved in the decision-making around the Leaving Cert and Junior cycle exams, in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) said there was an immense feeling of uncertainty and anxiety as students await clarification on the exams.

The Government still hoping the written exams will go ahead on schedule, starting on June 3, but it depends on how the public health emergency plays out.

The ISSU is asking Education Minister Joe McHugh Minister to include the student voice in finalising the exam contingency plans.

It is calling for “immediate clarity” and wants to be involved in setting a deadline for when decisions about the exams will be disseminated to the public.

In a statement today, the ISSU said it wanted “ to assist in providing clear steps to be taken to ensure fairness and quality for all students and stakeholders involved”.

Lessons from Europe’s strictest lockdown

Mark Hayes reports


Time for fun: Mark and his daughter Kim are making great use of their garden

We’ve been confined to quarters in France for a week now and so far it’s been… bearable.

Our strict Coronavirus lockdown here came into effect last Tuesday, March 17, at noon. Since then, if you want to leave the house, you need to print out an attestation form and fill it in, justifying your reasons. As anyone who has lived here will know, there’s no problem the French can’t make worse with paperwork.

The situation we are in is a big step-up from physical distancing, the policy in force in Ireland. Here in Castres, like elsewhere in France, everyone has been told “#restezchezvous” – the hashtag is ubiquitous.

All non-essential businesses are shut by order – only supermarkets, pharmacies and essential services remain open. People have been told to work from home if possible. The lockdown was initially put in place for 15 days, but we all know it will be extended.

WATCH: ‘This virus is a killer’ 28-year-old Kerry man is hospitalised with COVID-19

Online Editors

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