Thirty-eight experienced and skilled butchers from the mainland arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday to supplement the COVID-19-infected workforce at the city's temporarily shuttered Sheung Shui slaughterhouse for two months, in an effort to resume a stable supply of fresh meat to the city.
The city's two slaughterhouses, at Sheung Shui and Tsuen Wan, were closed on Saturday after butchers there tested positive for COVID-19. The Sheung Shui slaughterhouse is still closed, while the Tsuen Wan abattoir partially reopened on Sunday.
The Sheung Shui abattoir, the largest slaughterhouse and major supply of fresh meat in the city, is managed by China Resources Ng Fung Ltd.
According to CR Ng Fung, only about 40 out of 150 employees of the Sheng Shui slaughterhouse's regular production team are currently available. The 38 backup butchers will help the business resume its operations, but production will not be at its pre-pandemic level for now.
The company said that with the help of the mainland butchers, the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse will be able to gradually resume operations and supply fresh meat to the city in an orderly manner. The company said it will not be long before the facility resumes full production.
The mainland butchers, with an average of six years' experience on the line, came from various places, including Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Shanghai.
The backup butchers were trained before coming to Hong Kong and will start work as soon as the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department allows the slaughterhouse to resume operations.
The team will be managed under a closed-loop system. They will take a designated bus to commute between their residence and the slaughterhouse. The company will provide meals.
The butchers are all vaccinated and will have two COVID-19 tests in three days.
Once they enter the slaughterhouse, the butchers, wearing protective gear and face masks, will not be allowed to take off their masks or drink water in order to prevent cross-infection.
Zhou Guoming, the leader of the butchers' team, said he is honored that he can use his professional skills to help Hong Kong residents get fresh meat. Zhou said his family supported his decision to come to the city to offer help, and he did some homework about Hong Kong before coming.
In a farewell ceremony for the team before it left for Hong Kong, Wang Xiangming, chairman of China Resources Group, parent company of CR Ng Fung, thanked the 38 butchers who volunteered to help.
Colleagues of the group are working their utmost in different positions to ensure various supplies in the city as the pandemic situation in the city has tugged at the heartstrings of many, Wang said.