A thousand staff at Bernard Matthew's food processing facility in Holton near Halesworth in Suffolk will be tested for Covid-19.
The county council say it is part of ongoing precautionary measures to protect their workforce and the wider community after an outbreak was identified there and at a second site in Great Witchingham in Norfolk. In total, there have been 72 cases identified among staff who live in Suffolk and Norfolk and who work at the factory, with 13 employees currently self-isolating at home. Swabbing of the 1,000 staff is now being carried out by local public health professionals, with all samples being sent to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for testing.
It's being done in the hopes that any asymptomatic staff who are currently showing no signs of COVID-19 can be identified.
Other precautionary measures are being put in place at the site including new entrances to aid one-way movement of staff, breaks being staggered and bus marshals on the firm’s free staff transport.
Stuart Keeble, Suffolk’s director of public health, said: “We’re working very closely with Bernard Matthews and other agencies to put in place all possible measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, identify those affected and therefore protect staff and the public. “Testing all staff now is a sensible, precautionary and preventative measure that will help us understand who has COVID-19 and who else they have been in contact with. “This adds to the strong and clear messages we have been giving to Bernard Matthews staff and the wider public. “Everyone must remain alert and keep following the social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing advice. Together, we will be able to stop the spread of COVID-19.” Suffolk County Council say that food production and the safety of products has not been compromised. Officials from Suffolk County Council, Public Health Suffolk, Public Health England, Public Health Norfolk, East Suffolk Council, Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group and Bernard Matthews are working together to manage the situation.
Rebecca Hams, consultant in health protection at Public Health England East, said:
Testing and tracing is one of the key steps in identifying and containing the spread of COVID-19, staff at the factory are being tested as a precautionary measure. Mass testing in this way, will help protect staff and the community, by allowing us to identify people who are carrying the virus but who have not developed symptoms.