Response to outbreak of COVID-19 at a food packing site in Worcestershire

Kath Cobain Smiling head and shoulders Published Wednesday, 29th July 2020

Worcestershire County Council is working with Public Health England (PHE) Midlands to support Evesham Vale Growers Limited.

Latest update on Wednesday 29 July

Worcestershire County Council is working with Public Health England (PHE) Midlands to support Evesham Vale Growers Limited, at Blackminster near Evesham, following an outbreak of COVID-19 among their workforce.

Currently 26 key workers from EVG have tested positive for COVID-19, from a workforce of around 340 key workers. They are employed to carry out packing work vital to the UK food supply chain and the local economy.

The company has advised staff, who do not live at the site, to remain at home and self-isolate for 14 days, in line with national guidance for contacts of positive cases.

Dr Adrian Phillips, consultant in communicable disease control with PHE Midlands, said: “We are working closely with the local authority and the management at Evesham Vale Growers Limited to support the health and wellbeing of the workforce and wider public health.

“At this stage of the pandemic we 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 take swift remedial action to reduce spread.

“To support this workforce of around 340 key workers, the company has advised staff who do not live on the site, to stay at home and self-isolate. Small, controlled groups of workers who live on site, are continuing to work with a multitude of infection control and social distancing measures to reduce risk of further spread of COVID-19 in the workplace and in living accommodation. EVG are working closely with our Health Protection Team and the Health and Safety Executive to ensure work vital to the fresh food supply chain is carried out as safely as possible.

“As we have seen a global trend of large food producers being subject to outbreaks, as a precautionary measure, the entire workforce will be tested again later this week.”

A spokesperson for Evesham Vale Growers Limited said:

“Our staff are our priority, they are hard-working key workers helping us provide food for the country. The business is currently operating at a very reduced capacity as 75% of our workforce self-isolate. The site has a multitude of preventative measures in place for our workers who live on site and continue to work. This includes screens, hand washing facilities, extra cleaning and staggered start times. We are working closely with PHE Midlands and Public Health at Worcestershire County Council to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and remain open to provide our vital services.”

Dr. Kathryn Cobain, Director for Public Health for Worcestershire said; ”Our first priority is the health and wellbeing of those who have tested positive for Covid-19. Worcestershire County Council’s Public Health teams are supporting the staff and providing guidance on what they should do next. Any increase in cases is of concern, and we are working quickly to contain this outbreak. We can all keep ourselves safe by washing our hands, wearing face coverings and keeping our distance. If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and asked to self-isolate, please do so, and get tested if you show any symptoms. “

“Worcestershire County Council’s robust local outbreak plan is in place and in action to ensure we respond with necessary and appropriate measures, in situations such as this. The outbreak is a reminder to us all, that Covid-19 has not gone away, and we should all ensure we follow the guidance as we work, shop and socialise.”

The Food standards agency advises that it is highly unlikely that Covid-19 can be contracted from food, and advises that cooking will thoroughly kill the virus.

Update on Monday 27 July 

Dr. Kathryn Cobain, Director for Public Health for Worcestershire said; “23 workers from Evesham Vale Growers Limited at Blackminster near Evesham, have now tested positive for Covid-19. Those workers have been advised to isolate. We continue to work with the business and Public Health England to control this outbreak. This is a reminder that Covid-19 remains with us and we should all wash our hands, wear masks where necessary and keep our distance, to protect us and our loved ones. “

Message from Dr Kathryn Cobain on Friday 24 July

Latest update on Thursday 23 July 

Worcestershire County Council is working with Public Health England (PHE) Midlands to support Evesham Vale Growers Limited, at Blackminster near Evesham, following an outbreak of COVID-19 among their workforce.

Around 340 key workers are employed to carry out packing work vital to the UK food supply chain and local economy. 14 workers from the site have tested positive. All staff at the site will now be tested and advised to isolate, when not in work.

Dr Adrian Phillips, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with PHE Midlands, said: “We are working closely with the local authority and the management at Evesham Vale Growers Limited to support the health and wellbeing of the workforce and wider public health.

“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 340  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 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.

“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.”

A spokesperson for Evesham Vale Growers Limited said: “Our staff are our priority, they are hard-working key workers helping us provide food for the country. The site has a multitude of preventative measures in place for our workers, including screens, hand washing facilities, extra cleaning and protocols for workers coming and going on the site. We are working closely with PHE Midlands and Public Health at Worcestershire County Council to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Dr.Kathryn Cobain, Director for Public Health for Worcestershire, said: “Our priority is to protect the health and wellbeing of all residents in our community. We will continue to support the site management, their workers – who form an important part of our local economy, and the local community through this challenging time. The food produced on the site is unaffected by the outbreak and remains safe to eat. 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.”