Covid outbreak at Cranswick meat plant as 144 staff catch virus

Covid outbreak at Cranswick meat plant as 144 staff catch virus – just days after 75 workers test positive at nearby Bernard Matthews factory

  • Norfolk County Council said there had been a ‘significant outbreak’ of Covid-19 
  • Coronavirus outbreak has hit Cranswick Country Foods site in Watton, Norfolk
  • 300 members of staff at the factory have been swabbed, with more tests today

Around 140 people have tested positive for coronavirus at a Norfolk meat processing factory, it has emerged today.

Norfolk County Council said there had been a ‘significant outbreak’ of Covid-19 at the Cranswick Country Foods site in Watton.

Some 300 members of staff at the factory have been tested so far, with the remaining employees due to be swabbed today.

The outbreak comes as 75 workers at a Bernard Matthews turkey plant in Great Witchingham, Norfolk, also tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month. 

There has been a ‘significant outbreak’ of Covid-19 at the Cranswick Country Foods site in Watton (pictured)

The council’s director of public health, Dr Louise Smith, said the local authority was working with the Joint Biosecurity Centre to urge people in the Watton area to get tested if they have symptoms.

She said in a statement: ‘Testing of staff at Cranswick Foods has revealed a significant outbreak.

‘At this stage we have identified about 140 positive cases out of around 300 tested so far. The analysis of swabs continues and the remaining staff on site are being tested today and tomorrow.

‘Due to the high proportion of positive case results received so far, we are liaising with the Joint Biosecurity Centre and have stepped up contact tracing and leafletting in the Watton area, urging people with symptoms to access testing.’

Cranswick Country Foods has been contacted for comment. 

The local authority said testing at the Bernard Matthews turkey plant began on October 15, with more than 600 members of staff tested.

‘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,’ Norfolk County Council said.

As of October 15 there had also been 72 positive cases at Bernard Matthews’ food processing facility in Holton near Halesworth, Suffolk County Council said.

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

Chilled and damp interior with ultraviolet light: Why meat plants are a hotbed for coronavirus outbreaks

The virus thrives in cold, damp and indoor environments, particularly on cool surfaces.

The lack of a breeze or ultraviolet light from the sun means the moisture remains and can’t be killed off inside food processing plants.

Furthermore, social distancing is particularly difficult in workplaces with a busy production line meaning the virus is likely to spread more easily.

Loud machinery also forces people to raise their voices and researchers say situations where people have to shout result in an increased risk of projecting the virus to others.

It’s not just in the UK where a trend has been seen, either, after hundreds tested positive in a Berlin slaughterhouse, while a wet market in Wuhan is believed to have been at the heart of a huge number of infections early on in the crisis.  

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