Bernard Matthews worker tested positive over a week before Covid outbreak was made public
- Credit: Archant
Bosses at the Bernard Matthews factory in Suffolk waited more than a week after the first worker tested positive for Covid before the outbreak became public.
A total of 36 people working at the Holton site are now self-isolating after testing positive for the virus, up from the 18 announced on Monday, September 28.
The first case was identified on Saturday, September 19, however the outbreak was not publicised until over a week later, Suffolk County Council has confirmed.
MORE: Eighteen more cases of coronavirus confirmed at Bernard Matthews site
There are now 123 members of staff who are waiting for tests or who have been tested, with most of those returning negative results.
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The most recent positive cases have been workers living predominantly in the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft areas.
Tests are only being carried out on those with symptoms and their close contacts.
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A spokesperson 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 a 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, said: “The swift and thorough work of our local contact tracers and staff, working alongside Bernard Matthews, has quickly identified these additional cases and we’ve been able to advise them to self-isolation straight away.
“This will certainly help to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
“I would like to reiterate the reassurance I gave on Monday.
“This situation is being very carefully managed by all the partners working closely together.”
Since the announcement of the outbreak, Unite union has criticised Bernard Matthews for “inadequate” sick pay and bus fare rises, which it believes could have contributed to the outbreak.
The union claims the company was paying statutory sick pay of £95.85 per week and had previously raised the company-run bus fare from £3.50 to £6 – this could have forced some staff to car share instead.
Officials from both Norfolk and Suffolk are working together to manage the outbreak.
Food production and safety is thought to be unaffected and the factory has continued work.