Testing continues after 18 Bernard Matthews workers found to have coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 08:05 29 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:27 29 September 2020
Testing is continuing today, after 18 workers at a Bernard Matthews meat production factory were found to have coronavirus - the majority of them living in the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft areas.
The staff and their contacts, all working at the company’s turkey processing plant in Holton, near Halesworth, are now self-isolating at home.
Extra testing is continuing today, after about 100 employees were tested. Most returned negative results.
Food production and safety is unaffected by the cases being identified, with the factory entering its busiest time of the year.
There have been no reports of any cases at the Great Witchingham plant in Norfolk.
Bernard Matthews said it has had controls in place to manage and reduce Covid-19 infections since March 2020 - and these are continuing and include regular temperature checks, staff working in bubbles, Covid marshals, masks and visors and social distancing throughout the site.
Officials from Suffolk County Council, Public Health Suffolk, Public Health England, Public Health Norfolk, East Suffolk Council, Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group and Bernard Matthews are working together to manage the situation.
It is understood that of the 18 employees who have tested positive, and who are now self-isolating, the majority live in the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft areas.
Stuart Keeble, Suffolk’s director of public health, said: “I’d like to reassure people that this is, at this stage, a relatively small number of cases and that the situation is being very carefully managed by all the partners working closely together.
“All partners recognise the importance of protecting staff and the wider community, which is why we’re reminding people, especially those who live in these areas, to keep following Government guidance around hand washing, social distancing and wearing face coverings.
“Together we can stop the spread of Covid-19 and keep people safe.
“I’d especially like to recognise Bernard Matthews’ management for the speed and thoroughness with which they’ve acted. They have extensive controls in place and we’re supporting them closely.”
David Edwards, health protection consultant for Public Health England East of England, said: “We are working closely with the organisation, local authority and NHS partners to provide public health advice and help stop the spread of the virus. Close workplace contacts have been identified and given self-isolation advice.
“Bernard Matthews is following national guidance and ensuring that anyone with symptoms self isolates for 10 days, and their household members isolate for 14 days. Close contacts of confirmed cases are asked to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
“Employers have been asked to take certain measures to help reduce the spread of the virus, including ensuring staff can maintain 2 metre social distancing wherever possible, employees wash their hands more often than usual for 20 seconds with soap and water and frequently touched surfaces are cleaned regularly.”
A spokesperson for Bernard Matthews said: “We are grateful for the help of all local agencies and we fully support their objectives to protect the local community. We believe these small number of cases were initiated in the community, but nevertheless we will continue to enforce our robust COVID measures as we enter into our busiest period of the year.”
Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s director of public health, said: “Norfolk’s Local Outbreak Control Service are aware of a Covid-19 outbreak in Suffolk and will take up follow up action with staff who live in Norfolk to offer them full support. Norfolk County Council has also offered support to Suffolk County Council through our contact tracing service.”
If anyone develops symptoms, which include a new continuous cough, high temperature or loss or change to their sense of taste or smell, they should self-isolate straight away and arrange a Covid-19 test at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/ask-for-a-test-to-check-if-you-have-coronavirus/
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