Don’t leave us in limbo, council boss tells government as Cranswick Covid cases rise to 175
- Credit: Archant
The number of workers with coronavirus at Cranswick Country Foods in Watton has risen to 175, with hundreds more results expected on Friday.
All 1,000 workers at the Norfolk meat factory are being swabbed and mobile testing units have been set up in Watton.
Around half of the 360 workers tested so far are positive, with the outbreak centred on the factory’s butchery.
Norfolk’s director of public health Dr Louise Smith said on Thursday that 185 workers had tested negative, but they had advised the factory that everyone who worked in the butchery should be self-isolating.
“I’m expecting to see more positive cases but the proportion (testing positive) should drop,” Dr Smith said.
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The factory remains open and only the government, through health secretary Matt Hancock has the power to order it to shut to contain the outbreak.
Norfolk County Council has been waiting to hear from the government on what action could be taken at Cranswick since Monday, when the scale of the outbreak first emerged.
That has lead to frustration at the council and leader Andrew Proctor said: “There has to be a decision. We cannot be left in limbo.”
His comments echo those of Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman who urged the government to “move quickly” on making a decision about Cranswick.
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Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at the county council, said: “‘It’s outrageous that the power to close a factory isn’t with the director of public health locally.
“Matt Hancock keeps saying local authorities know best but clings on to the powers and is dangerously slow.”
Questions were also asked at the press conference about a six-day delay between Norfolk’s public health team first being informed about the outbreak, on October 15, and mass testing of staff beginning on October 21.
Dr Smith said Cranswick did not agree to carry out testing on site until October 21.
When we asked Crasnwick about this delay earlier this week, as spokesman said: “We are continuing to work cooperatively with PHE, HSE, Defra and Norfolk County Council.”
Watton is the third Covid outbreak at a Cranswick Country Foods site. There was one in Northern Ireland in August and in May three workers died from Covid at the company’s factory in Wombwell, South Yorkshire.
The infection rate in Watton, meanwhile, has soared to 1200 infections per 100,000, making it one of the most infected areas of the country. The overall infection rate in Norfolk is 89 per 100,000 people with the highest number in Breckland at 171 per 100,000.