BERNARD MATTHEWS has become the latest poultry processing site to have staff test positive for covid-19 as it enters its busiest time of year.
Public health authorities said 18 staff at the firm’s site in Holton, Suffolk, tested positive for covid-19, and were self-isolating.
A further 100 staff members have been tested, with most returning negative results. More testing will take place this week.
Operations are continuing at the plant, which has had extensive controls in place since March to manage and reduce the risk of infection.
They include temperature checks, staff working in “bubbles”, masks, visors and social distancing in place.
Earlier this month 2 Sisters’ Coupar Angus processing plant was forced to close because of covid-19 outbreaks. Banham Poultry has also had to suspend operations because of positive tests at its plant.
In both of those cases, birds had to be slaughtered on farm because of the backlog created by reduced processing capacity.
Small number of cases
A Bernard Matthews spokesman 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.”
Stuart Keeble, Suffolk’s director of public health, added: “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.
“All partners recognise the importance of protecting staff and the wider community, which is why we’re reminding people, especially those who live in these areas, to keep following Government guidance around handwashing, social distancing and wearing face coverings.
“Together, we can stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep people safe.
“I’d especially like to recognise Barnard Matthews’ management for the speed and thoroughness with which they’ve acted. They have extensive controls in place and we’re supporting them closely.”