Suffolk County Council reported 18 members of staff at the site testing positive for the disease at the start of this week. About 100 workers have been tested so far, with further testing to take place later this week.
The ‘outbreak’ of coronavirus cases at Bernard Matthews Suffolk was in spite of a range of ‘extensive controls’ set in place by the manufacturer to monitor staff for symptoms of the virus. This included regular temperature checks, personal protective equipment and social distancing throughout the site.
Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth residents
The infected staff members and their contacts – the majority of whom are said to reside in nearby Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth – are now self-isolating at home, according to the local authority. Production at the site was said to be unaffected by the outbreak.
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.”
Keeble applauded management at the plant for their speed and thoroughness in handling the situation and that the council was supporting the control put in place at the plant.
Support for Bernard Matthews
A spokesman for the manufacturer added: “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-19 measures as we enter into our busiest period of the year.”
This week also saw 170 members of staff at the Pilgrims Pride processing plant in Redruth, Cornwall testing positive for COVID-19, after an alert through the National Health Service's (NHS's) test and trace service led to the discovery of the outbreak at the site.
500 staff tested
About 500 employees at the factory have now been tested, with a vast majority of the cases who tested positive not displaying symptoms.
A spokesman for the manufacturer said: “These are the first positive cases we have experienced at our site in Redruth since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK and appear to coincide with the outbreaks seen more widely around the county.
“To put this into context, we have seen significantly more cases of COVID-19 in Cornwall over the past 14 days than we have experienced within our business of 6,000 employees located in 13 sites across the UK – including Manchester, West Midlands and Leicestershire – since the onset of this pandemic.”
Meanwhile, Greggs has temporarily halted production and sent 300 staff home from its factory near Newcastle after a “small number” of coronavirus cases were confirmed among staff working at the site.