The Herefordshire Council is working with Public Health England (PHE) Midlands to support vegetable producers AS Green and Co, based in Mathon near Malvern, following an epidemic of Cvoid-19 among their workforce.
About 200 key workers are employed to pick and pack. During the harvest season, the workforce lives in mobile homes based on the farm, so as a precaution, the whole group is treated as a single extended bubble.
Workers are asked to stay on the farm during the isolation period and stay within household groups, to reduce the risk of spread among the workforce and the wider community.
The Herefordshire council organizes essential food and supplies for residents on the site while they self-isolate.
Katie Spence, Director of PHE Midlands Health Protection, said: “We work closely with the management of AS Green and Co to support the health and well-being of their staff and public health at large.
“At this phase of the pandemic, we still expect to see cases in the community and in contexts where people are closer to each other, such as the workplace, which is why the testing and testing system tracing is important, to help us detect potential problems. and take prompt corrective action to reduce the spread.
“To support this workforce of approximately 200 key workers, the company has implemented a range of infection control measures to try to reduce the risk of personnel exposure to COVID-19. Measures include support for on-site testing, promotion of social distancing in communal social areas and in the inner packaging area; provide personal protective equipment to staff, if necessary, encourage regular hand washing for at least 20 seconds and promote the use of face covers in closed areas. ”
“Despite these measures, a small number of workers became symptomatic earlier this week and they and a few close contacts in the workforce were tested initially and found to be positive. In accordance with NHS directives, the persons concerned were invited to self-isolate for 7 days, with their households and close contacts to be isolated for 14 days. ”
“As we have seen a worldwide trend of large food producers subject to epidemics, as a precaution, the decision was made to test the entire workforce. The first batch of results showed a significant percentage of positive cases, although these individuals are asymptomatic. We are still awaiting some final results, but currently we have 73 positive cases of COVID-19 in the workforce. ”
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“PHE Midlands and the Herefordshire Council are therefore working with AS Green and Co to closely monitor and manage the epidemic and support individual workers.”
An AS Green spokesperson said, “Our people are our priority, they are key workers who work hard to help us provide food to the country in these unusual times.” We have contacted PHE and are working closely with them and Herefordshire Council public health to prevent the spread of COVID-19. ”
Karen Wright, Director of Public Health for Herefordshire, said: “Although Herefordshire is the first to experience an outbreak of this type, it is not unexpected. Our priority is to protect the health and well-being of all residents of our community. Rapid farm tests allowed us to understand the transmission and control the spread of the infection. We continue to support farm management, their workers – who are an important part of our local economy, and the local community through this difficult time. Anyone who has a fever, a persistent dry cough, or a loss or change in taste or smell should call 119 or go online to arrange a test. “