Operations at the site at Cleckheaton - operated by Kober Ltd on behalf of Asda - have been shut down following a briefing last night that there had been a localised outbreak of the novel coronavirus at the location.
A spokesman for the retailer said: “As soon as we became aware that some colleagues at our Kober site may have COVID-19, we responded swiftly and worked collaboratively with the local authority and Public Health England to test all colleagues.
2 Sisters Llangefni
This latest outbreak of coronavirus at a food factory comes as poultry processing giant 2 Sisters reported multiple cases of the virus at its chicken plant in Llangefni, Wales.
While the Kober site had been given the clean bill of health for staff to return by Public Health England, Asda had decided to voluntarily close the factory to protect its colleagues from any risk of further transmission.
“Colleagues who need to self-isolate will receive full pay and we aim to reopen the facility early next week,” the spokesman added. “We’re grateful to the Kirklees Council and Public Health England for their support through this process.”
Rowan Foods, Wrexham
News of Asda stopping production at the Kober site followed reports of 38 workers testing positive for COVID-19 at the Rowan Foods Ltd site in Wrexham, North Wales.
In a statement issued on 19 June, Public Health Wales said an outbreak of COVID-19 had not yet been declared at the site. Investigations were ongoing as to the possible cause of the cluster, and no firm conclusions could be reached at such an early stage, it said.
The multi-agency team tackling the cluster included Wrexham County Borough Council, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, the Health & Safety Executive, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Welsh Government and Public Health England’s regional teams for the north west and West Midlands. Rowan Foods Ltd was cooperating fully with investigations, Public Health Wales said.
Dr Christopher Johnson, consultant in health protection for Public Health Wales, said: “Public Health Wales has not declared an outbreak. We are working in close collaboration with the employer, the local authority, the Health Board and other partners, and our priority is to bring this cluster to a swift conclusion.
Social distancing guidelines
“We would remind all members of the public, including employees of Rowan Foods Ltd and their close contacts, 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, and working from home if they can. If you or a member of your household is advised to have a test for COVID-19, you should do so promptly to help control the spread of infection.
“When travelling, you should also avoid car-sharing with people outside your household, and ensure social distancing on entry and exit from your workplace. If you are meeting members of one other household, as permitted by the guidelines, you must stay outdoors and stay local. To provide additional clarity, the Food Standards Agency advise that it is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. It is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging.”
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.”
Rowan Foods' owner Oscar Mayer confirmed the cluster of cases across its direct and agency workforce of 1,500 people. Members of staff that have tested positive for the virus have been told to isolate for at least seven days.
“The safety of our colleagues remains our priority and our focus,” read the statement. “We must do all we can to take individual responsibility and follow government guidelines at all times for our own safety and the safety of our colleagues.”
Oscar Mayer said it had been working with Public Health Wales to implement a track-and-trace system for the virus in a bid to protect the reaming workforce.
“While we are seeing a number of cases on-site, Public Health Wales supports our view that there is no clear evidence to suggest that there is a spread of the virus within the site, we are seeing a reflection on-site of the increases in cases within the locality,” Oscar Mayer added.
“We will continue to do all we can to remain vigilant and to keep our colleagues and families safe.”