Coronavirus: NFU says early detection at vegetable farm is ‘good practice’

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

The vegetable farm is on quarantine
The vegetable farm is on quarantine

Related tags: coronavirus

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has said early detection of coronavirus at a Herefordshire vegetable farm, where 73 people were declared positive, has helped to contain any potential spread.

News broke on 12 July that 200 key workers harvesting at AS Green and Co, based in Mathon near Malvern, were self-isolating as 73 tested positive for the virus, with many being asymptomatic.  

During the harvesting season, the workforce resides in mobile homes based on the farm. The workers are now being asked to remain on-site during the period of isolation and stay within household groups, to reduce risk of spread. Measures have been introduced, including testing on-site and promoting social distancing in communal social areas and in the indoor packaging area. 

The farm is the latest company in the food sector to be impacted by the spread of the virus. 

2 Sisters saw a cluster of over 200 confirmed coronavirus cases​ at the chicken plant in Llangefni, Wales.

There were also other cases identified in other food factories including Princes in Wisbech​, Cambridgeshire. 

Health and safety

An NFU spokesperson said: “The industry takes this issue incredibly seriously and everything is being done to keep workers safe; their health and safety remains the priority.

“Across the sector there have been significant investments this season; from the use of additional safety equipment and PPE ​[personal protective equipment], keeping workers in small cohorts to avoid mixing with others, regularly testing temperatures, and following government guidance created specifically for seasonal workers. 

“Its early detection on this farm means testing is now taking place to identify and contain any potential spread. This is good news and an indication of good practice taking place across the business.”

Herefordshire Council said it was working with Public Health England (PHE) Midlands to support the vegetable producer. Katie Spence, PHE Midlands health protection director, said: “We are working closely with the management at AS Green and Co to support the health and wellbeing of their workforce and wider public health.

Asymptomatic

As we have seen a global trend of large food producers being subject to outbreaks, as a precautionary measure, the decision was made to test the entire workforce. The initial batch of results showed a significant percentage of positive cases, despite these individuals being asymptomatic.”

Karen Wright, director of Public Health for Herefordshire, said: “Prompt testing on the farm has allowed us to understand transmission and control the spread of infection.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for AS Green said: “Our staff are our priority, they are hard-working key workers helping us provide food for the country during these unusual times. We contacted PHE and we are working closely with them and Public Health at Herefordshire Council to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Related topics: COVID-19

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