Covid-19 outbreak at poultry plant forces hundreds to self-isolate
All 350 members of staff at Banham Poultry’s site in Norfolk have been told to self-isolate following an outbreak of coronavirus which led to 75 positive cases.
The company has agreed to close part of its site following consultation with Public Health England and Norfolk Public Health.
The outbreak came from the cutting room area of the factory and all 350 members of that section have been asked to isolate. Those who tested positive must quarantine for 10 days, while those who tested negative must self-isolate for 14 days.
The Attleborough factory has been deep cleaned and Banham Poultry says it is bringing in a new group of 45 people to continue to staff the slaughterhouse and ensure the processing of birds can continue.
Norfolk Public Health told Sky News: “This has been an incredibly tough decision for Banham Poultry, whose management team has worked tirelessly today to make arrangements for this partial closure, balancing the protection of the public, their staff and their business.”
It said there is also no evidence of increased risk to the general public and the risk of infection from food products is very low.
Norfolk’s director of public health, Dr Louise Smith, said: “We can confirm that we have now received a significant number of positive tests from workers at the Banham Poultry site and we are awaiting further test results, which may reveal more positive cases.
“This has significant implications for the health of the workforce and significant implications for Banham Poultry as a business.
“Banham Poultry have been working hard to ensure the health and safety of their staff.
“We are now working with colleagues across the county, regionally and nationally to take specialist advice, including learning from other similar outbreaks in other parts of the UK. This will assist us to quickly make decisions on what the next steps will be to prevent further transmission of the virus.”
Mid Norfolk Conservative MP, George Freeman, has also convened an emergency meeting of key agencies in Norfolk in order to prevent a potentially “catastrophic” situation.
Freeman said: “The lack of proper track and trace following the outbreak amongst workers in the Norfolk poultry sector is potentially catastrophic to our vital local food industry and economy.
“We should have hundreds of public health officials and volunteers out with clipboards this weekend knocking on doors. Every day the risk rises.
“Norfolk is home to thousands of low paid workers in poultry and pork factories, many of whom live in hostels. All 800 staff at Banham and all their close contacts need tracing and testing, urgently.”
Meat Management has approached Banham Poultry for comment.