The pork processor confirmed a number of cases of COVID-19 among its 600-strong workforce in a joint statement from Public Health England (PHE), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the local council.
Dr James Chipwete, PHE Midlands consultant in communicable disease control, said: “Despite putting a range of infection control measures in place to protect staff from potential exposure to COVID-19, there have been a number of cases among workers.
“We are therefore liaising with management, the local authority and the Health and Safety Executive to advise on increased social distancing measures. We are also working with local NHS colleagues to arrange testing for a group of the workforce that have seen the most cases of COVID-19 over the last month.”
In line with NHS guidance, any affected individuals were asked to self-isolate at home for seven days, with members of their households to isolate for 14 days.
A Tulip spokesman added: “We are proud of our team members at Tipton who, as key workers, have bravely responded to this global pandemic in the most challenging of local circumstances; their health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance and we welcome PHE Midlands’ support during these unprecedented times.
“We are working with PHE Midlands to arrange swab testing for a sample group in one particular area of production before deciding upon the need for any further screening. As soon as we receive test results, we will liaise with health partners to assess whether further actions are necessary.”
The coronavirus cluster at the Tipton site followed the announcement that Tulip had finalised plans to shut down operations at the factory.
“Tulip can confirm it has reached a decision to close its fresh pork manufacturing site in Tipton following a collective consultation process with employee and union representatives,” explained a spokesman. “This was communicated to all employees upon the end of consultation on Wednesday 10 June.
Support for staff
“Support is being made available to all those implicated in the site closure to explore opportunities for redeployment within the Tulip network, as well as employment opportunities outside of the business in the local area.”
Tulip is the latest in a number of meat processors that have reported a cluster of coronavirus cases at their factories.
Big four retailer Asda shut down operations at its meat processing site in Kirklees after members of staff were suspected of having contracted COVID-19.
Just two day prior, 2 Sisters Food Group suspended production at its chicken plant in Llangefni, Wales after confirming multiple cases of coronavirus there.
Meanwhile, more meat factory coronavirus outbreaks are “likely” in the wake of the news of three processing plans having clusters of cases.