NORTHAMPTON could face a local lockdown after nearly 300 employees at a sandwich factory tested positive for coronavirus.
Greencore, the UK’s largest maker of pre-packed sandwiches, said some of its staff are self-isolating after catching Covid-19.
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The company took the decision to proactively test its 2,100 workers as a result of a rise in cases in the town – and 292 tested positive.
Their Northampton site, which supplies own-brand sandwiches to M&S, is now working with Public Health England and the local council.
Northamptonshire County Council said 79 people returned positive NHS tests and a further 213 tested positive through the Greencore’s private testing.
Nicolae Macari, the Bakers’ Union’s branch secretary for the factory, tested positive for the virus on August 4.
His mum and dad – who work at the factory – also tested positive, along with his wife.
He told the BBC: “When suddenly three or four people are pulled out of a line because they have tested positive, people are terrified.
“Making sandwiches seems to be much more important than everything else.”
It comes as Oldham residents could be given new tough restrictions after its coronavirus case rate surged to become the highest in the country.
Leicester saw the first local lockdown on June 29. At that point, the infection rate in the East Midlands city was 135 cases per 100,000 people.
In Oldham, the current rate is 104.6 per 100,000 people.
When suddenly three or four people are pulled out of a line because they have tested positive, people are terrified
In the past seven days there were 70 new confirmed cases in Northampton alone and the infection rate is well above the county rate with 580 cases per 100,000 population.
Greencore has a number of factories across the UK and makes food for supermarkets, including Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
In a statement, the firm said: “As a result of the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the Northampton area, we took the decision to start proactively testing all of the colleagues at our Northampton site.
“We can confirm that a number of colleagues have tested positive for the virus and are now self-isolating.
“We are liaising closely with PHE East Midlands, Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council, who are fully supportive of the controls that we have on site.”
The company added: “In each case we have immediately conducted contact tracing and instructed potentially affected colleagues to self-isolate.
“All of Greencore’s sites have wide-ranging social distancing measures, stringent hygiene procedures and regular temperature checking in place, and we are doing everything that we can to keep our people safe.
“As ever, the health and wellbeing of our colleagues is our number one priority.”
Lucy Wightman, director of public health at Northamptonshire County Council, said employees have been asked to “act now” after the number of confirmed cases in the town increased from 66 in the week ending August 2 to 85 for the week ending August 9.
She said: “We are working with colleagues at Greencore in Northampton after the discovery of an outbreak of Covid-19 in the workplace.
“Public Health England Midlands have been providing support to colleagues at Greencore in managing the outbreak.
“This has been supplemented by support from the local infection prevention and control team and Northampton Borough Council’s environmental health colleagues.”
She added: “It is evident that Greencore has highly effective measures in place and they continue to work extremely hard to exceed the requirements needed to be Covid-19 secure within the workplace.
“Northampton borough has been experiencing a high number of cases over the last four weeks and residents and employees have been asked to ‘act now’ to follow additional measures, to avoid a local lockdown or further government intervention.”