GÜTERSLOH, GERMANY — A German meatpacking plant suspended operations on June 17 following the first major COVD-19 outbreak in the country since it began reopening. 

Tönnies Group, which owns the facility in Gütersloh in the western part of Germany, announced in a release on June 17 that 400 of 500 people tested positive for the virus. 

The BBC later reported that more than 650 people tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 1,000 total workers had been tested. Thousands of more people are awaiting test results.

"The health and protection of our employees is our top priority," said Clemens Tönnies, director of Tönnies Group. "The slaughter was stopped on Wednesday afternoon (June 17). Further areas will gradually be shut down. This is the only way to minimize the further spread of the disease in the company. It's not about the company now, it's about the people and the circle. We fully support the agency with all measures."

Tönnies said the company will work with district officials on the next steps to stop the spread of the virus. During the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the company recorded 128 positive cases after testing more than 13,000 people at the company. 

Tests have also been going on at other Tönnies Group locations in recent weeks. There are currently no changes in production at those facilities, so production will continue as long as regulations are followed. 

In response to the recent outbreak, local authorities are closing schools and childcare facilities in the region until the end of the month.