Suffolk factories warned to stay vigilant after outbreak at Norfolk border chicken firm
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A Suffolk trade union boss has warned factories to keep up strict safety measures after a Covid-19 outbreak at a chicken processing plant near the Norfolk border.
A total of 75 workers at Banham Poultry in Attleborough, Breckland, have now tested positive for the virus – 22% of the 347 people tested – and the factory has been partially shut down for a deep clean.
All 350 members of staff from the cutting room have been asked to self-isolate from August 27 for 10 days, although staff who work in other areas of the factory are able to continue working.
Mark Robinson, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, said the union has workers in factories very similar to Banham’s in Suffolk.
He said: “Throughout the lockdown, Unite has been working with Birds Eye in Lowestoft and Bernard Matthews in Holton – to name but two – to ensure the highest levels of protocols are put in place to ensure worker safety.
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“This includes the travelling, arriving and working on the sites.
“However COVID does not go away and employers must continue to work to the highest safety practices to ensure that they do not end up with a situation that we currently see in Attleborough.”
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Workers from as far away as Ipswich are known to travel to work at food processing units in the north of Suffolk and beyond, and despite fears of further outbreaks the risk of infection from food products is thought to be very low.
Director of public health for Norfolk, Dr Louise Smith, said there is no evidence of increased risk to the general public and that most of the affected workers at Banham’s are known to live in Breckland, Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk, said they were working closely with their counterparts in Norfolk to establish any potential impact the outbreak at Banham’s might have for Suffolk.
He said: “We are keeping a close eye on this developing situation and will undertake proactive actions if and when the situation changes.
“There are robust plans in place to deal with any outbreaks in similar settings in Suffolk and we have already been in contact with all meat processing plants in Suffolk to ensure that the right precautions and safety measures are being followed.”