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28 August, 2020 - 10:53 By Tony Quested

Poultry firm forced to part-closure as COVID-19 hits almost quarter of staff

Banham Poultry in Norfolk  has been forced to close part of its site on the advice of health authorities after 22 per cent of staff tested positive for COVID-19.

All 347 staff who work in the cutting room area of the factory will be asked to isolate with their households. 

Those 75 who have tested positive will be asked to isolate for 10 days. Those who have tested negative will be asked to isolate for 14 days. The area of the Attleborough factory affected will be deep cleaned.

Banham Poultry has followed advice from Public Health England and Norfolk Public Health.

Staff who work in the cutting room have been contacted by management and those who work in other areas of the plant will be able to continue working as the factory remains open. Employees unsure whether they are affected have been urged to contact management directly.

The company said the action had been taken because it believes it is the most effective way to protect the wider public from further transmission.

Norfolk's Director of Public Health, Dr Louise Smith said: "This action has been taken because we believe it is the most effective way to protect the wider public from further transmission. We have carefully assessed the various levels of risk to come to this decision.

"This has been an incredibly tough decision for Banham Poultry, whose management team has worked tirelessly to make arrangements for this partial closure, balancing the protection of the public, their staff and their business.

"I’d also like to thank them for their significant of endeavours in assisting us with contact tracing.

"The management team at Banham Poultry is continuing to work closely with us alongside other colleagues at Breckland Council, Public Health England and the Department of Health. We know the workers live mainly in the Breckland, Norwich, and Great Yarmouth districts. We will be working with partners across the county to support people to isolate."

Dr Smith added: "At this stage in our investigation these cases of infection are in staff who work in Banham Poultry and their households. There is no evidence of increased risk to the general public. The risk of infection from food products is very low."

• Tests can be booked by calling 119 or visiting the NHS website. Tests are free and anyone with symptoms is eligible. The chief symptoms are a continuous cough, high temperature and loss of taste or smell.

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