1000 Bernard Matthews staff to have precautionary COVID-19 test

Published

1000 staff working at the Bernard Matthew’s food processing facility in Holton, near Halesworth, will be tested for COVID-19.

In total, there have been 72 cases identified among staff who live in Suffolk and Norfolk and who work at the factory, with 13 employees currently self-isolating at home and being supported by public agencies and Bernard Matthews.

Swabbing of the 1000 staff is being carried out by local public health professionals, with all samples being sent to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for testing. It is anticipated that this measure will identify asymptomatic staff who are currently showing no signs of COVID-19.

It follows the introduction of additional precautionary measures being put in place to control further the outbreak, including new entrances to aid one-way movement of staff, breaks being staggered and bus marshals have rolled out on the firm’s free staff transport. This is in addition to measures which have been in place at the facility since March 2020.

Whilst Bernard Matthews can not prevent their staff from being exposed to COVID-19 off-site, at home and in the community, the testing and additional on-site measures are designed to protect staff.

Stuart Keeble, Suffolk’s director of public health, said:  

“We’re working very closely with Bernard Matthews and other agencies to put in place all possible measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, identify those affected and therefore protect staff and the public.

“Testing all staff now is a sensible, precautionary and preventative measure that will help us understand who has COVID-19 and who else they have been in contact with.

“This adds to the strong and clear messages we have been giving to Bernard Matthews staff and the wider public.

“Everyone must remain alert and keep following the social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing advice. Together, we will be able to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Staff who test positive and be required to self-isolate at home. Food production and safety is unaffected.

Officials from Suffolk County Council, Public Health Suffolk, Public Health England, Public Health Norfolk, East Suffolk Council, Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group and Bernard Matthews are working together to manage the situation.

Rebecca Hams, consultant in health protection at Public Health England East, said:

“Testing and tracing is one of the key steps in identifying and containing the spread of COVID-19, staff at the factory are being tested as a precautionary measure. Mass testing in this way, will help protect staff and the community, by allowing us to identify people who are carrying the virus but who have not developed symptoms.”

Teams from Suffolk and Norfolk are out in the community working with residents to provide advice and support to people who are affected and reminding them how to keep safe.

If anyone does develop symptoms, which include a new continuous cough, high temperature or loss or change to their sense of taste or smell, they should self-isolate straight away and arrange a COVID-19 test https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/ask-for-a-test-to-check-if-you-have-coronavirus/

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate immediately and apply for a test. Testing is free and easy, find out more at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/