2 Sisters has temporarily closed its chicken site in Llangefni, Wales for 14 days following the confirmation of a cluster of Coronavirus cases. However, concerns have been raised that the incident could have implications for a sister site at Sandycroft, Deeside in Flintshire, with politicians calling for all workers there to be screened and tested.
Mark Tami, MP for Alyn and Deeside tweeted his concern about the outbreak. He said he and Jack Sargeant, member of the Welsh Parliament for Alyn and Deeside, had written to John Allan, 2 Sisters' UK poultry HR director, on 18 June urging that all workers at the Sandycroft site be screened and tested. Their letter, which Tami posted on twitter, reads: "We believe that employees at Sandycroft have been 'bussed in' to your site in Llangefni to help with production pressures. With this in mind we now request that all employees on the Sandycroft site are now tested for COVID-19.
"We also expect you to review all current processes and associated risk assessments as a matter of urgency, and where necessary, implement safety measures including protective screening in production areas immediately."
I'm very concerned about the news of a major coronavirus outbreak at 2 Sisters' factory on Anglesey.@JackSargeantAM and I have written several times to management backing @UniteWales' for improved health and safety standards in Sandycroft to prevent an outbreak here as well. pic.twitter.com/UqxWMKg2fd— Mark Tami MP (@MarkTamiMP) June 18, 2020
Public Health Wales said that following a rapid screening exercise over the weekend 17 new cases of COVID-19 had been identified in employees at the Llangefni plant, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the outbreak to 175. More than 400 samples have so far been taken, during the rapid screening phase. Employees and contractors from the processing plant have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
In a statement updating the situation at Llangefni, Public Health Wales said: "This increase is as we anticipated when a focused track and trace programme is implemented, and does not mean that the spread of infection is increasing."
A spokesman for 2 Sisters said that the health, safety and wellbeing of its colleagues was ultimately the thing that mattered the most to its business. It said it would not “tolerate any unnecessary risks for our existing loyal workforce” at the facility.
“Therefore, in light of the current COVID-19 cases at our Llangefni site, we have decided to take the necessary action to clearly demonstrate how seriously we take this issue by doing the right thing,” he said.
Production suspended for 14 days
“Doing the right thing means from today (18 June) we will temporarily suspend production at our Llangefni site with immediate effect for a period of 14 days.”
He added that 2 Sisters had been working in the past week in close collaboration with Public Health Wales, Anglesey Council, the Health & Safety Executive, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Unite union who had all offered advice, scientific knowledge and support. He thanked them for their help and guidance, which had informed this decision.
Employees of the 2 Sisters poultry processing plant in Anglesey were being screened for COVID-19 at testing sites in Llangefni, Holyhead, and at an existing facility in Bangor, a Public Health Wales statement confirmed.
Public Health Wales statement
Issuing a statement on 19 June, Dr Christopher Johnson, consultant in health protection for Public Health Wales, said: “We are working in close collaboration with the employer, Anglesey and Gwynedd Councils, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and other partners, and our priority is to bring this outbreak to a swift conclusion.
“We would remind all members of the public that they have a vital role in preventing the spread of Coronavirus, to help keep Wales safe. They can do this by always observing social distancing guidelines – that’s staying two metres away from others - washing hands regularly.”
A spokesperson for Isle of Anglesey County Council said: “The North Wales Regional Test, Trace, Protect team is responding to the cluster of coronavirus cases at the 2 Sisters plant in Llangefni as a priority, and supporting the workplace.
Public health bodies, Health and Safety Executive and local councils give support
“Key agencies, including Public Health Wales, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Health and Safety Executive and both Anglesey and Gwynedd Councils are working together to support and advise the employer and those employees who have tested positive, together with their contacts.”
Colin Sullivan, FSA chief operating officer said: “We are aware of concerns about the safety of food following outbreaks of COVID-19 in a small number of food production plants. Coronavirus is a respiratory disease, spread from human to human. It is very unlikely that you can catch COVID-19 from food, including meat.”
2 Sisters recently revealed that it was still recruiting for 200 roles across three of it sites as it sought to cope with increased demand for chicken due to the coronavirus.
Last month, calls were made to protect staff in the Northern Ireland meat processing sector following the death of a staff member who worked for the Moy Park poultry site in Dungannon.