MP demands ‘fast’ decision on factory’s future after coronavirus outbreak

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has demanded a quick decision over the potential closure of Cranswick

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has demanded a quick decision over the potential closure of Cranswick Country Foods in Watton, where there has been a coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Archant - Credit: Ian Burt

The MP for Mid Norfolk has demanded a fast decision on the potential closure of a factory at the centre of Norfolk’s largest single Covid-19 outbreak.

There has been a major coronavirus outbreak at the Cranswick Country Foods factory in Watton. Pictur

There has been a major coronavirus outbreak at the Cranswick Country Foods factory in Watton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

George Freeman, who represents Mid Norfolk, said the government must “move quickly” if Cranswick Country Foods, in Watton, is to be shut.

Writing to health secretary Matt Hancock and environment secretary George Eustice, he requested a package of compensation for Cranswick and its workers, as well as more widespread testing.

MORE: Watton now has coronavirus rate above 400 amid factory outbreak

In his letter to the cabinet ministers, Mr Freeman highlighted a similar outbreak in his constituency - at Banham Poultry in Attleborough - as showing lessons must be learned.

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: Archant - Credit: Archant

Referencing the high infection rate within the Cranswick workforce, he said: “This is precisely what I feared would happen when we had the outbreak at Banham Poultry back in the summer, when delays in authorising local track and trace caused the infection spread more widely and the company to suffer much bigger losses (£10m) than was necessary.

Mr Freeman wrote that, following numerous conversations with Norfolk County Council and Breckland Council, he was “asking on their behalf for four things”, the first being a prompt decision on the factory’s possible shutdown.


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“As we learnt at Banham, early delays have major consequences,” he added.

MORE: Covid fears over Cranswick workers’ living conditions raised weeks before outbreak

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has demanded a quick decision over the potential closure of Cranswick

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has demanded a quick decision over the potential closure of Cranswick Country Foods in Watton, where there has been a coronavirus outbreak. Picture: - Credit: Archant

With more than 4,000 pigs in the chiller or about to be processed at Cranswick, the Conservative member of parliament went on to call for “proper culling compensation”.

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He said it would “protect animal welfare and ensure other food businesses are not discouraged from reporting outbreaks and cooperating with Public Health England, as has been the case at Banham and Cranswick.”

Regarding financial support for workers, Mr Freeman argued that a short-term furlough scheme should be introduced for those forced to stay at home in the event of the factory’s closure.

He added that Banham workers had not been able to survive on statutory sick pay, and alleged they had been forced to seek roles at other food processing plants - “thus spreading the virus”.

Mr Freeman’s fourth demand was for Covid-19 testing of Watton’s population in its entirety, in order to prevent “further spread into the community” and a local lockdown with “devastating” effect on the area’s economy.

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