200 farm workers are in lockdown at AS Green & Co in Mathon near Malvern after 73 positive cases of Coronavirus were confirmed at the farm.
Public Health England and Herefordshire Council say that they are confident that the outbreak is under control and that there is no risk to the wider public at this stage. The outbreak has seen the total number of cases of COVID-19 in Herefordshire rise to 816.
Herefordshire Council released a statement yesterday saying:
“While Herefordshire is the first to experience an outbreak of this kind, this is not unexpected. Our priority is to protect the health and wellbeing of all residents in our community. Prompt testing on the farm has allowed us to understand transmission and control the spread of infection. We continue to support the farm management, their workers – who form an important part of our local economy, and the local community through this challenging time. Anyone who has a fever, persistent dry cough, or loss or change in their sense of taste or smell should call 119 or go online to arrange a test.”
AS Green & Co said that they were working with both Public Health England and Herefordshire Council and that workers and local residents were their main concern at this time. A statement from them 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.”
Public Health England confirmed they were working with Herefordshire Council and the farm to support workers and to keep the wider public safe. A statement read:
“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.
“At this phase of the pandemic, we still expect to see cases in the community and within settings where people are closer together, such as workplaces, which is why the Test and Trace system is important, to help us pick up on any potential problems and swiftly to take remedial action to reduce spread.”
“To support this workforce of around 200 key workers, the company has put in place a range of infection control measures to try to reduce the risk of staff being exposed to COVID-19. Measures include supporting testing on site, promoting social distancing in communal social areas and in the indoor packaging area; providing PPE for staff where applicable, encouraging regular handwashing for at least 20 seconds, and promoting the use of face coverings in closed areas.”
“Despite these measures, a small number of workers became symptomatic earlier this week and they and a few close contacts among the workforce were tested initially and found to be positive. In line with NHS guidance, affected individuals were asked to self-isolate for 7 days, with their households and close contacts asked to isolate for 14 days.”
“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. We are still awaiting a few final results, but currently we have 73 positive cases of COVID-19 among the workforce.”
“PHE Midlands and Herefordshire Council are therefore working with AS Green and Co to closely monitor and manage the outbreak and support individual workers.”
Some tests that were taken last Thursday haven’t been returned yet, so it is possible that we may see a further rise in cases at the farm over the coming days.