Workers at Cranswick not tested for more than week after outbreak began

Cranswick Country Foods. Pic: Archant

Cranswick Country Foods. Pic: Archant - Credit: Archant

It took more than a week to start testing workers at Cranswick Country Foods after the first coronavirus cases were reported, we can reveal.

Watton has a higher infection rate than parts of Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire following th

Watton has a higher infection rate than parts of Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire following the coronavirus outbreak at Cranswick Country Foods. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

The first Covid-19 infections among workers were detected at the Watton meat factory during the week beginning Monday, October 12.

This newspaper reported on October 15 a spokesman for the company stating that a “very small number” of workers had tested positive.

The spokesman said at the time that the virus was being spread in the community rather than in the factory itself.

No testing of workers took place, however, and within a few days Cranswick had become the centre of Norfolk’s biggest coronavirus outbreak.

Testing of staff began last week - more than seven days after the first confirmed cases.

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We asked Cranswick why there was a delay, particularly as this is the fourth meat factory to have a coronavirus outbreak in the region.

They referred us to their statement from earlier this week, which stated they were working with authorities.

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“We are continuing to work cooperatively with PHE, HSE, Defra and Norfolk County Council,” they said.

All 1,000 workers at the Watton site are now being tested, with more results expected later on Wednesday.

Norfolk County Council, which oversees local public health, said it would provide more details on the timeline on Thursday.

As of Monday, 144 workers had tested positive out of 300 tests.

But figures from Public Health England suggest the outbreak was well under way by early last week.

Cases began rising in the Breckland area on October 13.

By Monday, October 19 they had hit 24 and on October 22 a record 48 cases were recorded. The following day the number of new infections leapt to 88.

Watton now has the highest infection rate in the region at more than 436 cases per 100,000 people. That is double the current average for England which is 217 per 100,000 people.

There is a delay of a few days in getting test results, however, the public were not told about the extent of the Watton outbreak until several days after it emerged - the afternoon of Monday, October 26.

In the absence of information, Watton councillor Keith Gilbert said rumours had spread around the town last week about the number of workers infected.

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