Of the positive cases, roughly 80-85% were asymptomatic. Testing is continuing at the site and figures may be subject to change, according to a 25 November statement from Cornwall Council. Earlier this week, the meat industry called for priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine because it was well-documented that the sector had reported a number of outbreaks in meat factories.
A spokesperson for Kepak, which is headquartered at Clonee in County Meat, Ireland, said: “Kepak is providing advice and support to any staff member who needs to self-isolate due to either a positive result or being a close contact of a confirmed case.
"We are working closely with the Public Health England case review team to ensure that all contacts are identified. The group is working tirelessly to protect its staff as well as ensuring the continuity of secure food supply during this pandemic. All staff members returning to work are following the Company’s COVID-19 return to work guidelines."
Tests were carried out on 271 employees after a small number initially reported positive tests.
Testing was done though Kepak’s own on-site lateral flow tests, local NHS testing, and the use of a Mobile Testing Unit, which visited the site on the advice of Cornwall Council and Public Health England South West.
Anyone identified as a close contact linked to the positive cases was being contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service. However, they are only required to get tested if they develop symptoms. Even if tests are negative, contacts must still self-isolate for 14 days.
“Cornwall Council has worked alongside the factory owners, Public Health England South West and our NHS partners to quickly contain this outbreak, provide public health advice and help stop the spread of the virus," said Rachel Wigglesworth, Cornwall Council’s director of public health, said. "Kepak staff who have tested positive are now self-isolating in line with public health guidance and are being given support.
'Quick and robust action'
“Outbreaks such as this are always tough for everyone involved, but we have worked with Kepak and our health service partners in taking quick and robust action to help stop the virus spreading.
“It is also a stark reminder that COVID-19 often comes with no symptoms, meaning people can easily pass the virus on without knowing they have it. I would urge everyone to keep following the government’s guidance to halt the spread of the virus and get a test when required to do so.”
She added that the situation was being closely monitored so staff could return to work as soon as it was safe to do so: "The safety of residents and workers in Cornwall remains the council’s top priority.”
Anyone with any of the three main COVID-19 symptoms – a new continuous cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste or smell - must self-isolate and their household must continue to self-isolate while waiting for a test. They must also continue to isolate until receiving test results. in addition, anyone who tests positive must self-isolate, along with all members of their household, whether they have symptoms or not.
Anyone unclear about Government coronavirus rules and guidance for food businesses can find a summary online.
Founder Noel Keating opened the Keatings butcher shop in 1966. Since then, Kepak have grown significantly, maintaining the trust of our dedicated suppliers and customers to produce quality meats, nutritious innovation and great-tasting products.
Kepak has grown from a family-run butcher shop on Dublin’s Francis Street, which was set up in 1966, to an internationally operating meat processor. It boasts more than 5,000 staff across 43 countries, delivering prime cuts of fresh meat, successful brands and on-trend, food innovations to clients and customers. The company works with more than 28,000 farms and farming families.