Health chief warns of local lockdown in Northampton after nearly 300 positive tests in food factory

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Rebecca Haworth

There's a warning that Northampton may be forced into a local lockdown as health officials have confirmed nearly 300 people have been tested positive for coronavirus at a local convenience food factory which sends sandwiches to supermarkets all over the country.

Health officials are dealing with an outbreak at the Greencore food company in the town which has seen 292 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

The factory employs more than 2,000 people and makes sandwiches or other convenience food which is transported all over the country.

Lucy Wightman, Director of Public Health at Northamptonshire County Council said: "Northampton borough has been experiencing a high number of cases over the last four weeks and residents and employees have been asked to “act now” to follow additional measures, to avoid a local lockdown or further government intervention."

The Greencore factory employs more than 2,000 people and makes sandwiches for supermarkets across the country. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Greencore said some of its staff are self-isolating after several tested positive for coronavirus. The company took the decision to proactively test workers as a result of a rise in cases in the town.

The NHS told ITV News Anglia that 79 positive cases had been identified through NHS tests over the past two to three weeks and that promoted the company to conduct its own tests.

Since those tests started on Monday, 213 additional confirmed cases were identified in Greencore's private testing.

Public Health England Midlands has been supporting Greencore in managing the outbreak with help from the local Infection Prevention and Control team and Northampton Borough Council’s environmental health colleagues.

Greencore said in a statement: "In each case we have immediately conducted contact tracing and instructed potentially affected colleagues to self-isolate.

"All of Greencore's sites have wide-ranging social distancing measures, stringent hygiene procedures and regular temperature checking in place, and we are doing everything that we can to keep our people safe.

"As ever, the health and wellbeing of our colleagues is our number onepriority."

Staff at the Greencore convenience food factory in Northampton are being tested for Covid-19 Credit: Greencore

Northampton has seen 149 positive tests for coronavirus in the fortnight to Friday 7 August 2020 which was a rise of a third compared to the previous fortnight.

Since the start of the pandemic there have been 1,411 confirmed cases of Covid-19 which is 628 per 100,000 in the population. The rate for England is 481 cases per 100,000 people.

There were 252 new cases of coronavirus in the whole of Northamptonshire in the two weeks to 7 August.

Lucy Wightman said: "Individuals must now understand their role in acting responsibly outside of the work environment, to ensure that they protect themselves, their colleagues and those that they socially interact with, especially family and friends.

The guidance in the workplace is just as important as outside of work.

"If individuals do not take responsibility for following the guidance that we have issued, then further intervention and a possible local lockdown will follow.

"Everyone must be meticulous in following the guidance, especially in social environments where no markers or visual prompts tell you to stay apart, it must become part of our normal and we must all take our individual responsibility seriously.”

She added: "It is evident that Greencore has highly effective measures inplace and they continue to work extremely hard to exceed the requirements neededto be Covid-19 secure within the workplace.