The manufacturing site, which produced food for M&S, confirmed 292 cases at the site earlier this month. The closure follows the temporary suspension of operations at 2 Sisters’ Coupar Angus factory in Scotland.
The 2 Sisters site has now seen an increase in cases to 110 with 96 factory workers and 14 community contacts.
This followed recent confirmation from both fresh food provider Bakkavor and biscuit manufacturer Pladis of new COVID-19 cases at its manufacturing facilities.
In a statement, Greencore confirmed that, in consultation with the Department of Health & Social Care, Public Health England and other Government bodies, the localised virus outbreak had forced it to temporarily halt Northampton production.
“We have moved a proportion of production from the Northampton facility to other sites within the Greencore network, and are working with the affected customer to help mitigate any shortfall,” the company said.
Greencore said that Public Health England East Midlands, Northamptonshire County Council, Northampton Borough Council and other Government bodies, had been “hugely understanding and supportive of our response”.
Meanwhile, according to a report in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, Greencore employees were car-sharing with staff from another Northampton workplace that had also suffered a COVID-19 outbreak.
It said there had been 16 incidents of between two and four people living in houses in multiple occupations testing positive for COVID-19 and working at the Moulton Park Industrial Estate facility.
Northampton Borough Council leader Jonathan Nunn said infected individuals were all self-isolating and being traced. However, he also urged residents to avoid car-sharing and public transport or at least wear a face covering if such commuting methods were unavoidable.
Meanwhile Lucy Wightman, director of Public Health said: “Northampton borough has been experiencing a high number of cases over the last four weeks and from today will be added to the government’s watchlist as an “Area of Intervention”.
“Local testing data shows this spike is significantly influenced by a workplace outbreak at the Greencore Factory.”
She added that most employees and their direct households would be required to isolate at home for two weeks.
“This decision has been taken as part of the ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of the virus in the Borough,” she said. “We will continue to support Greencore so that they are in a position to re-open as soon as is safe to do so.”
Shore Capital analysts on the Greencore Northampton outbreak:
The analysts said that key to this was that the closure was temporary and for a limited time period. Staff already self-isolating were expected to return next week, while those commencing self-isolation would return in 14 days. It also said several initiatives had been put in place to mitigate the closure impact. These included the transfer of a proportion of production to other parts of Greencore’s UK-wide factory network, and the furloughing of those staff not already self-isolating.
Shore Capital said Marks and Spencer, which is supplied by the Greencore Northampton site, was reported to have been supportive of the process and was working closely with Greencore to help mitigate any production shortfall.
Based on the return to a “substantial level” of production within 14 days, Greencore estimated that any impact on adjusted pre-tax profit from the temporary closure would be “modest”, said Shore Capital.
“We estimate c£2m at worst reflecting the potential for lost sales of up to £6m,”the analysts stated.
“We do not have forecasts for Greencore’s FY2020 and beyond, preferring to await greater visibility on the return of the group’s food-to-go market and the impact of local lockdowns amid second wave fears on production activity.”