'Urgent' search for 300 food factory workers after Wrexham hit by coronavirus outbreak

PUBLIC Health chiefs are urgently trying to trace hundreds of workers at a major North Wales food processing site.

166 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed at Rowan Foods in Wrexham, North Wales – and now officials are urgently searching for 300 other members of staff.

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The announcement has caused significant concern, consider over 1,000 people are employed at the food processing site.

In a statement today, Public Health Wales said: "We are working with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to urgently contact just over 300 workers that have not yet presented for testing.

“As we would expect with any focused track and trace process, we will identify additional asymptomatic cases.

"Finding these cases does not mean that the rate of infection in the Wrexham area is increasing as a whole.

“There is no evidence that Rowan Foods is the source of the outbreak.

"The multi-agency team managing the outbreak with Public Health Wales will continue to review the situation and work with the employer, their workforce and wider community to bring this outbreak to a swift conclusion."

'URGENT' SEARCH

The Wrexham site first hit headlines earlier this year when workers walked out in April in an apparent protest over what they felt was a lack of protection from the virus.

The firm supplies major supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda.

This is the latest food processing plant at the centre of coronavirus outbreaks – as Princes tinned food factory in Cambridgeshire shut for a deep cleaning after 14 staff members contracted the virus.

Also in North Wales, the 2 Sisters factory in Llangefni, Anglesey tested at least 158 of its staff positive for coronavirus.

All staff were told to self-isolate for two weeks when the infection number reached 72.

The Rowan Foods outbreak and the cluster of cases around the Anglesey 2 Sisters abattoir have so far accounted for more than 300 infections.

Over 4,000 workers have been infected with coronavirus in 37 outbreaks in abattoirs and meat factories in Europe, leading to at least nine factory closures, analysis has found.

Staff working close to each other in low temperatures is thought to be the cause, but Public Health England are reportedly looking at evidence from around the world linking meat plants to coronavirus.

Last week, Germany was forced to reimpose lockdown measures after more than 1,500 workers at one of Europe's largest slaughterhouses were found to have coronavirus.

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