AT LEAST 158 workers have tested positive for coronavirus at a chicken processing plant in North Wales, authorities have said.
Production was stopped at the 2 Sisters factory in Llangefni, Anglesey, on Thursday after the Covid-19 outbreak was declared.
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All staff were told to self-isolate for two weeks after 72 workers initially tested positive for Covid-19.
The total number of infections, however, has now reached 158.
A Welsh Government minister has not ruled out local lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Anglesey council has confirmed schools will not reopen as planned on 29 June following incidents at the plant, BBC News reports.
Economy Minister Ken Skates said it was essential to make sure the Anglesey outbreak was “kept as local as possible”.
Dr Christopher Johnson, consultant in health protection at Public Health Wales, said: “Since we commenced targeted testing last Thursday, over 400 members of staff have provided samples so far.
“Testing of employees continues, and it is likely that some additional cases will be identified in the coming days.”
It comes amid concerns over how coronavirus outbreaks are announced, with another cluster at the Kober meat processing plant in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, confirmed by owner Asda on Friday.
On Thursday, the 2 Sisters Food Group announced it was “doing the right thing” and would cease work on site for 14 days with immediate effect.
The company said the first reported positive case at the plant was on May 28, and a full “safe ways of working” action plan had been in place since early March.
Production at the factory, where 560 people are employed, will be transferred to other company locations until July 2.
2 Sisters had said “the health, safety and well-being of our colleagues is ultimately the thing that matters most at our business”.
It added: “We will not tolerate any unnecessary risks – however small – for our existing loyal workforce at the facility.”
Dr Johnson said: “The increase in cases is as we anticipated when a focused track-and-trace programme is implemented, and does not mean that the spread of infection is increasing.
“I would like to thank the workforce and wider community for their swift co-operation with this test-and-trace process. This rapid response is providing vital information to help minimise the further spread of Covid-19 locally.
“We must remember that Covid -19 has not gone away. Incidents like this show the potential for pockets of asymptomatic undiagnosed infection in the community, highlighting the importance of the adherence to social distancing and hygiene measures.”
Anglesey County Council leader Llinos Medi said: “With a significant number of confirmed coronavirus cases amongst employees – this is a huge priority, not only for us on Anglesey, but for the whole of North Wales.”
Also on Thursday, in Wrexham, North Wales, 38 staff at the Rowan Foods factory tested positive for the virus, though bosses said the cases showed an increase in the locality rather than a spread within the site.
2 Sisters Food Group is one of the largest food producers in the UK, with brands including Fox’s Biscuits and Holland’s Pies.
It also produces about a third of all the poultry products consumed each day in the country and has more than 7,000 workers in its specialist factories.
The Llangefni site does not supply retail or branded food service customers, the company said.
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The outbreak in Wales comes after more than 1,331 people tested positive for the virus at a meat processing plant in Gütersloh, Germany.
All the workers and everyone they have been in contact with have been told to go into isolation while they await test results.
Local authorities have also closed schools and childcare centres in the region until the end of the month.
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