73 farm workers catch coronavirus forcing 200 others to self-isolate

Workers at a vegetable farm in Herefordshire are being forced to self-isolate after 73 members of staff tested positive for coronavirus.

The outbreak, at AS Green and Co, in Mathon, near Malvern, was discovered after some workers began showing symptoms and is now being closely monitored by PHE Midlands. Around 200 workers are now isolating in mobile homes on site and they are still waiting for some tests results to be returned.

Katie Spence, PHE Midlands Health Protection Director, said: ‘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 seven days, with their households and close contacts asked to isolate for 14 days. 

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‘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.’

It is currently harvesting season for farm workers, and those employed by AS Green and Co come and live on the site for several months as they pick vegetables. Herefordshire Council is arranging food and essential supplies for those now in isolation.

A spokesperson for AS Green and Co said they were working closely with PHE to support their workers with Covid-19 and had arranged testing for additional key workers connected with the farm.

They added: ‘Our site is currently closed for all visitors and with the assistance of the various bodies no workers are being permitted to leave our site and are receiving the required support at our site.

‘Our work force and local community are our priority at this difficult time and we continue to follow the guidance of the relevant bodies to ensure that the spread of the virus is controlled and our workforce is supported.

‘Public Health England advises that it is very unlikely Covid-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging, so shoppers can remain confident buying British fruit and veg. Thank you for your understanding in these difficult times.’

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