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Outbreak of COVID-19 at a farm in Herefordshire.


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Joint statement from Public Health Midlands (West) and Herefordshire Council

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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 outbreak of COVID-19 among their workforce.

Around 200 key workers are employed to carry out picking and packing work vital to the UK food supply chain and local economy. During the harvesting season, the workforce resides in mobile homes based on the farm, so as a precaution, the whole group are being treated as one extended bubble. Workers are being asked to remain on the farm during the period of isolation and stay within household groups, to reduce risk of spread within the workforce and into the wider community. Herefordshire Council is arranging food and essential supplies for residents on the site, while they self-isolate.

Katie Spence, PHE Midlands Health Protection Director, said: 

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“We are working closely with the management at AS Green and Co to support the health and wellbeing of their workforce and wider public health.

“At this phase of the pandemic, we still expect to see cases in the community and within settings where people are closer together, such as workplaces, which is why the Test and Trace system is important, to help us pick up on any potential problems and swiftly to take remedial action to reduce spread."

“To support this workforce of around 200 key workers, the company has put in place a range of infection control measures to try to reduce the risk of staff being exposed to COVID-19. Measures include supporting testing on site, promoting social distancing in communal social areas and in the indoor packaging area; providing PPE for staff where applicable, encouraging regular handwashing for at least 20 seconds, and promoting the use of face coverings in closed areas."

“Despite these measures, a small number of workers became symptomatic earlier this week and they and a few close contacts among the workforce were tested initially and found to be positive. In line with NHS guidance, affected individuals were asked to  self-isolate for 7 days, with their households and close contacts asked to isolate for 14 days."

“As we have seen a global trend of large food producers being subject to outbreaks, as a precautionary measure, the decision was made to test the entire workforce. The initial batch of results showed a significant percentage of positive cases, despite these individuals being asymptomatic. We are still awaiting a few final results, but currently we have 73 positive cases of COVID-19 among the workforce."

“PHE Midlands and Herefordshire Council are therefore working with AS Green and Co to closely monitor and manage the outbreak and support individual workers.”

A spokesperson for AS Green said:

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“Our staff are our priority, they are hard-working key workers helping us provide food for the country during these unusual times. We contacted PHE and we are working closely with them and Public Health at Herefordshire Council to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Karen Wright, Director of Public Health for Herefordshire, said:

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“While Herefordshire is the first to experience an outbreak of this kind, this is not unexpected. Our priority is to protect the health and wellbeing of all residents in our community. Prompt testing on the farm has allowed us to understand transmission and control the spread of infection. We continue to support the farm management, their workers – who form an important part of our local economy, and the local community through this challenging time. Anyone who has a fever, persistent dry cough, or loss or change in their sense of taste or smell should call 119 or go online to arrange a test.”

 

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UPDATE: Health officials in Herefordshire say there's no risk to the general public after more than 70 people working at a vegetable farm tested positive for coronavirus. All 200 staff at AS Green & Co in Mathon are now isolating to contain the outbreak

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In view of this one outbreak can the council confirm that the many farms in Herefordshire, housing seasonal farm workers in multi-occupancy accommodation, have been tested or will be tested to safeguard the workers and the local residents. A scan of past planning applications highlights the number of casual and overseas workers employed, hundreds in some businesses, hoping to boost their income during their short seasonal stay in the county.

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WORKERS at a Herefordshire farm hit by more than 70 cases of coronavirus are understood to have visited four separate shops in the past week, North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin has confirmed - including Malvern's Morrison's and Primark, Romanian store and Iceland in Worcester.

https://www.malverngazette.co.uk/news/18580261.workers-coronavirus-hit-farm-visited-four-shops-cases-found/

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15 July 2020 Update (pm)

Herefordshire Council and Public Health England (PHE) Midlands continue to work with AS Green and Co to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 at their farm. The total number of positive cases linked to the outbreak is 93. Further testing is ongoing.

Wherever a case of COVID-19 is confirmed, close contacts of the case are identified and followed up through Test and Trace. This includes anyone who may have come into contact with confirmed cases within the local community.

Contact tracing with over 100 existing workers continues on-site. In addition, a group of agricultural workers who travelled into the UK by private coach, including some of the workers who went on to work at AS Green and Co, are being followed up.

Another group of workers travelled to the site on a flight bringing agricultural workers to the UK. As an additional precaution, the individuals who travelled on this flight are also being followed up. Seventy-six workers on the flight who travelled onwards to other farms in England have already been offered testing and no further cases have been identified to date. Public health partners in Scotland have been notified of a further group of 63 workers on the same flight who travelled onwards to Scottish farms in order that they too can be followed-up appropriately.

Katie Spence, PHE Midlands Health Protection Director, said: 

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“Information gathered from both the recruitment company and from the workers themselves suggested that those workers who tested positive were not showing any symptoms of COVID-19 at the time they travelled to the UK. We know however, that there is a risk that people can transmit the infection before - or without ever - developing symptoms, and this is why we’ve taken a precautionary approach to follow-up workers who were on the same flight as the confirmed cases.

“It’s encouraging that testing of this wider group has not identified any linked cases at other farms so far, but testing, tracing and monitoring of the situation continues, and along with our partners, we will take any further actions necessary to protect public health if linked cases arise.”

Three workers who previously left the farm have been reached by the agency that secured their employment and have confirmed they are self-isolating. A further worker has left the farm despite being asked to remain on-site and isolate. The worker’s agency is in contact with the worker (who tested negative) and has been advised they are self-isolating.

 

Karen Wright, Director of Public Health for Herefordshire, said: 

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“We continue to test workers at the farm and expect to see the number of cases rise over the coming days before social distancing and infection prevention measures start to take effect. Workers have been asked to remain on site and self-isolate to reduce risk of spread within the workforce and into the wider community. We’re aware that local residents are concerned, but the risk to the general public remains low. We are arranging food and essential supplies to the farm and its workers during the period of isolation.

Another reminder to continue to wash your hands regularly, keep your distance, and use face coverings to help protect yourself and others. If you develop a fever, persistent dry cough, or have a loss or change in your sense of taste or smell, please call 119 to arrange a test.”

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Jules 2020 said:

Since when did people call 119 and not 111.  Also please confirm/advise if the people that want AWOL 3 days ago have been traced or are still out and about potential infecting dozens of other people.

Hi Jules and welcome to Hereford Voice. 

NHS test and trace service & the new 119 telephone number

The NHS test and trace service is now live for people that have tested positive for coronavirus.

This new service aims to ensure that anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested quickly to find out if they have the SARS-CoV2 virus, as well as targeted testing of NHS and social care staff and care home residents who don’t have symptoms. The service will help trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for the virus and if necessary notifies them that they must self-isolate at home to stop the virus spreading.

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On 13/07/2020 at 17:00, megilleland said:

In view of this one outbreak can the council confirm that the many farms in Herefordshire, housing seasonal farm workers in multi-occupancy accommodation, have been tested or will be tested to safeguard the workers and the local residents. A scan of past planning applications highlights the number of casual and overseas workers employed, hundreds in some businesses, hoping to boost their income during their short seasonal stay in the county.

A quick check on 192.com brought up 29 active businesses for Fruit And Vegetable Producers in Herefordshire. How many of these have been checked and tested. Also this article appeared in The Independant pertinent to Herefordshire fruit farm workers. Not a good read.

Revealed: Scandal of Britain's fruit-farm workers

Bulgarians are flown to Britain, live in packed caravan compounds and pocket just £45 a week to pick fruit for Britain's biggest retailers

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