Bernard Matthews hit by new Covid outbreak as 75 workers test positive

Bernard Matthews is hit by new Covid outbreak as 75 workers test positive at turkey plant a week after 72 showed infections at company’s nearby site

  • The Great Witchingham Covid outbreak follows positive tests at its Suffolk site
  • There had been 72 positive infections at Holton, Halesworth, facility in Suffolk
  • Bernard Matthews brought in Covid-19 bus marshals on its free staff transport

Seventy-five workers at a Bernard Matthews turkey plant have tested positive for coronavirus.

Norfolk County Council revealed the workers at the Great Witchingham site were affected.

It comes after 72 positive infections were found at the company’s food processing facility in Holton near Halesworth last month.

Norfolk County Council said: ‘We can confirm that after precautionary testing began at Bernard Matthews’ site in Great Witchingham on October 15, results received so far have shown a total of 75 Covid-19 positive cases with over 600 staff tested at the site, and the results of the final tests still being processed.

‘Results showed that the majority of positive cases so far worked on the afternoon shift at the site, leading Public Health to advise Bernard Matthews that the entire shift be instructed to self-isolate.

‘It is advised that staff must self-isolate for 14 days, if they have not tested positive or not been tested.

‘Staff must isolate for 10 days if they have had a positive test result, and the households of positive cases, including children, need to isolate for 14 days.’

Norfolk County Council revealed the workers at the Great Witchingham site were affected (file photo)

Seventy-two positive infections were found at the company’s food processing facility in Holton near Halesworth (pictured) last month

In Suffolk, Bernard Matthews brought in Covid-19 bus marshals on its free staff transport as part of its response to the outbreak.

Food production at the processing facility has not been affected by the Covid outbreak.

Food factories ravaged by Covid outbreaks

  • October 22: Bernard Matthews turkey plant, Great Witchingham, Norfolk
  • October 6: Karro Food Group pork processing plant in Scunthorpe 
  • September 30: Pilgrim’s Pride food factory in Pool, near Redruth, Cornwall
  • September 29: Bernard Matthews turkey plant, Holton, near Halesworth in Suffolk
  • September 23: Greggs factory in Newcastle 
  • September 11: Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire pudding factory in Hull
  • September 2: Millers of Speyside in Scottish Highlands
  • August 26: Food Standard’s Authority reveal there are at least 40 active outbreaks at factories in the UK 
  • August 22: Banham Poultry in Attleborough, Norfolk
  • August 21: Greencore in Northampton
  • August 20: Cranswick in Ballymena, Northern Ireland
  • August 18: Bakkavor in Newark
  • August 17: 2 Sisters Food Group in Coupar Angus, Tayside
  • August 17: Fyffes in Coventry, West Midlands
  • August 13: Greencore in Northampton
  • July 12: AS Green and Co, Herefordshire
  • July 3: Walkers, Leicester
  • June 26: Tulip, Tipton  
  • June 24: Kepak Food Group in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales 
  • June 23: Princes, Wisebech
  • June 19: Asda, Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire
  • June 19: Rowan Foods in Wrexham, Wales 
  • June 17: 2 Sisters food factory in Anglesey, North Wales
  • May 15: Cranswick, Barnsley
  • May 11: Moy Park in Dungannon, Northern Ireland

The site has had controls in place since March to reduce coronavirus infections, including regular temperature checks, staff working in bubbles, Covid marshals, masks and visors and social distancing.

The majority of the 18 workers who tested positive live in the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft areas and the cases are believed to have been caught in the community.

Officials including from Suffolk County Council, Public Health England and Bernard Matthews are working together to manage the situation.

Suffolk’s director of public health Stuart Keeble said: ‘I’d like to reassure people that this is, at this stage, a relatively small number of cases and that the situation is being very carefully managed by all the partners working closely together.’

A spokesman for Bernard Matthews said: ‘We are grateful for the help of all local agencies and we fully support their objectives to protect the local community.

‘We believe these small number of cases were initiated in the community, but nevertheless we will continue to enforce our robust Covid measures as we enter into our busiest period of the year.’

Health protection consultant for Public Health England East of England David Edwards said: ‘We are working closely with the organisation, local authority and NHS partners to provide public health advice and help stop the spread of the virus.

‘Close workplace contacts have been identified and given self-isolation advice.

‘Bernard Matthews is following national guidance and ensuring that anyone with symptoms self isolates for 10 days, and their household members isolate for 14 days.

‘Close contacts of confirmed cases are asked to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.

‘Employers have been asked to take certain measures to help reduce the spread of the virus, including ensuring staff can maintain 2 metre social distancing wherever possible, employees wash their hands more often than usual for 20 seconds with soap and water and frequently touched surfaces are cleaned regularly.’

Earlier this month ten cases were linked to a Scunthorpe factory where employees claimed they were told not to wear masks because they are food hazards.

The Karro Food Group pork processing plant, one of the country’s largest food producers, was criticised by employees for its coronavirus measures.

Workers reported a spate of cases over the last week, though the company claimed they were infected through ‘community contact’. It also insisted it was following all government guidelines.

One employee at the factory, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘Staff are dropping like flies and being sent home. There’s around ten confirmed cases now.

The Karro Food Group pork processing plant in Scunthorpe reported several cases of coronavirus earlier this month

‘We have plastic screens up but that’s about it. Staff have been trying to wear masks on the factory floor but been told to remove them or leave.’

They added: ‘Apparently face masks are classed as food hazards, but hair nets and snoods aren’t.

‘People are getting texts from Test and Trace now, telling them to get a test as they’ve been somewhere where people have tested positive.

‘The factory has worked all through lockdown and now people are going off with the virus, they still refuse to close. It is putting not only their staff at risk but their families too.’

A Karro Food Limited spokesman said earlier this month: ‘We have a small number of unrelated Covid-19 cases which are as a result of community contact.

‘The workers and close contacts are now self-isolating at home. We are continuing to follow government guidelines and doing everything possible to protect our people.’

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