Tests of the 600 members of staff at the site showed that a majority of positive cases so far were employees that worked on the afternoon shift at the factory. Public health officials have advised the entire shift to self-isolate.
Precautionary testing at the site began last week (15 October) with results of the final test still being processed.
A spokesperson for Bernard Matthews said: “We can confirm that staff working on the afternoon shift at the Bernard Matthew’s food processing facility in Great Witchingham will be self-isolating for 14 days as a precautionary measure to protect their workforce and the wider community.
Guidance from local authorities
“We have worked in close collaboration over the past few weeks with the Norfolk Outbreak Management Team, Public Health England, Broadland and South District Council and the Health & Safety Executive, who have all offered great advice, scientific knowledge and support, and we thank them for their help and guidance, which has informed this decision.”
The manufacturer said contingency plans had been put in place to ensure that any disruption to production was minimised.
“Representatives from the Health & Safety Executive and an Environmental Health Officer have carried out an inspection and have concluded that they are happy with the controls measures on site,” the spokesman added.
“Our focus is to ensure we support all our colleagues through this difficult time, and we look forward to them re-joining the team at Great Witchingham.”
Confirmation of the cases at Bernard Matthews Great Witchingham comes just less than a month after a cluster of coronavirus cases at its site in Holton Suffolk.
Suffolk County Council reported 18 members of staff at the site tested positive for the disease, in spite of a wide range of extensive controls set in place by the manufacturer to monitor staff for symptoms of the virus. Production was said to be unaffected by the confirmation of the cases.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has slashed local authority food safety staff numbers, which were already significantly below where they needed to be, according to Food Standards Agency chief executive Emily Miles.