Wales – Chicken Processing Facility – 158 staff members test positive
Factory has contracts with thousands of UK supermarkets
More than 150 employees at a chicken plant in Anglesey, north Wales, have tested positive for coronavirus.
The 2 Sisters poultry processing factory, which has contracts with thousands of UK supermarkets, announced on Thursday that it would be temporarily suspending production at its Llangefni site for two weeks with immediate effect.
It said the decision was made following guidance from Public Health Wales (PHW), Anglesey Council, the Health & Safety Executive, FSA and the Unite union: “The health, safety and well-being of our colleagues is ultimately the thing that matters most at our business.”
All 560 staff members were asked to self-isolate for 14 days. On Saturday the food manufacturing company confirmed that 350 people had been tested, and 75 cases were confirmed positive.
A further 83 positive cases were identified over the 24 hours to 3pm on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 158.
Testing sites were set up at Llangefni and Holyhead, and at an existing facility in Bangor, following the outbreak.
PHW said the number of cases “is expected to increase as we continue to process samples taken from employees”.
Dr Christopher Johnson, consultant in health protection for PHW, said: “Since we commenced targeted testing last Thursday, over 400 members of staff have provided samples so far.
“Testing of employees continues, and it is likely that some additional cases will be identified in the coming days.”
He also commended the testing system, saying it was “working as it should be”, and reminded the public that they too have a “vital role” to play in “preventing the spread of coronavirus”.
2 Sisters is one of the largest food producers in the UK and processes about a third of all the poultry products eaten each day from its sites across Britain.
In its statement, the company concluded: “We will not tolerate any unnecessary risks – however small – for our existing loyal workforce at the facility.”
Outbreaks of coronavirus have been reported at meat factories around the world, from Germany to the US, with a plant in West Yorkshire becoming the latest epicentre.
Earlier this week, officials in a west German district said the number of new infections linked to a large meatpacking plant had risen to 657 – a higher figure than many recent daily increases for the entire country.
Two meat factories in Wales also reported outbreaks this week.
And meat factories in the US have also shut over Covid-19 and seen hundreds of workers fall ill with the virus.
Staff working in close proximity to each other, poor employment contracts and cold temperatures are some of the theories behind the outbreaks, but industry representatives in the UK insist the reason for them is a “mystery”.
“There is no proof in science that a meat factory is any different to a chilled food factory doing other work,” David Lindars from the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) told The Independent.
“Nothing has been said about our working environment in particular that causes any of these outbreaks that we know of from a science point of view. It is a mystery as to why.”
Mr Lindars, the trade body’s technical operations director, added: “You must not forget we never stopped as an industry. The car industry stopped and lots of other industries stopped.
“We have kept going and, to date, we have been pretty good at feeding the nation and ensuring red meat is on the shelves to retailers without mass closures that has happened in other countries.”
Major processing plants in the US shut their doors during the pandemic, sparking fears of meat shortages, after hundreds of workers at some plants tested positive.
But the Unite union says it has repeatedly warned that outbreaks at meat factories in the UK were likely.
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