Norwich firm shuts down after Covid outbreak hits 190 staff

Ingram Micro on Vulcan Road in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

The staff car park was full at Ingram Micro on Vulcan Road North in Norwich at midday on Thursday, February 4. - Credit: Danielle Booden

A Norwich firm employing almost 800 people has closed down for the next 10 days after a coronavirus outbreak among its workers.

A total of 190 staff members at Ingram Micro UK, which spreads across two buildings in Vulcan Road North, on the industrial estate by Norwich Airport, have tested positive within the last 28 days.

The firm, which specialises in mobile phone and computer logistics and employs 795 staff, has informed Norfolk County Council's public health team.

The factory was open and operational at midday on Thursday, February 4, with cleaning and maintenance staff visibly going about their business and a large number of cars parked outside the buildings.

Ingram Micro on Vulcan Road in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

Ingram Micro on Vulcan Road North in Norwich was open at midday on Thursday, February 4. - Credit: Danielle Booden

The county council said that the firm, formerly known as Avono, has now "voluntarily closed" for the next 10 days.

This newspaper had arranged an interview with Ingram Micro UK chief executive Kevin Coleman on Thursday afternoon, but several telephone calls went unanswered.

But through a press release from Norfolk County Council, he said: "The safety and well-being of our colleagues is our number one priority and has been at the forefront of our Covid response since the start of the outbreak.

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"Ingram Micro has invested heavily in preventative measures and risk mitigation initiatives with our Norwich site being part of a program driven globally across all sites in the company to manage our response to the Covid pandemic.

Ingram Micro on Vulcan Road in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

The staff car park was full at Ingram Micro on Vulcan Road North in Norwich at midday on Thursday, February 4. - Credit: Danielle Booden

"This includes a broad range of safety measures being put in place in March last year, including all government recommended Covid safety regimes as well as significant investments in building and infrastructure to mitigate risk.

"We have also made numerous changes to the working practices, including masks, temperature screening, one-way systems, changes to layout and the addition of significant extra space for staff facilities to enhance social distancing – all of which have been in place for many months and remain under constant review as government health advice is updated.

"The welfare of our team members is our primary concern which is why we have taken the steps we have taken. We remain in regular contact with all those affected and will continue to provide support as needed."

Last month, a man contacted this newspaper to say he had become aware of a Covid outbreak at the factory on Friday, January 15, through a relative who works there.

Ingram Micro on Vulcan Road in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

The staff car park was full at Ingram Micro on Vulcan Road North in Norwich at midday on Thursday, February 4. - Credit: Danielle Booden

The man, who is in his 70s but did not want to be identified, said he had been told "at least six people" had tested positive.

He said: "[My relative] said they needed to keep away from us because we are in the vulnerable category. He said the company was doing nothing. But how can this be, I asked? My relative felt nothing was happening.

"They have been at the firm a long time but said they were concerned over the way the company was dealing with the outbreak. They don't want to lose their job so they are toeing the line."

Then, on Saturday, January 23, he said his relative was instructed to come into work as normal.

He continued: "The company is quite good about using hand sanitiser and social distancing, but working on a conveyer belt, people have to pass things to each other and so are in close proximity.

Louise Smith, Director of Public Health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Louise Smith, director of Public Health in Norfolk. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

"I'm very concerned about the situation."

Breaking down in tears, he added: "We have tried to be independent, but we do rely on our relative for support. And now we can't see them. It's devastating."

Norfolk’s Local Outbreak Control service is working with colleagues from Norwich City Council and Public Health England and the management team at Ingram Micro to manage the outbreak.

Norfolk’s director of public health Dr Louise Smith said: "As people will be aware, infection levels of Covid-19 are very high across the whole country at this time.

"I very much welcome Ingram Micro’s positive approach to working closely with us to instigate testing on their site this week and now to take this swift and decisive action to control this outbreak.

"It's vital that we act swiftly to break the chain of transmission and prevent any further spread amongst this workforce or more widely into the community.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council and councillor for Catton Grove, in which Ingram Micro is based. - Credit: Denise Bradley

"All those who have already tested positive are now isolating and all the rest of the staff will now also be asked to isolate for 10 days."

Norfolk County Council’s community resilience team and Norwich City Council are working to support all staff to isolate. Ingram Micro workers will be provided with information about the support offers available to them at this time.

Support available includes access to food and essential supplies, access to medications and prescriptions, emergency financial support and other support for those with no family or friends nearby to help.

All workers at Ingram Micro who have not been tested in the last 90 days are being advised to arrange a test whether or not they have symptoms.

Norfolk county councillor for Catton Grove Steve Morphew said: "This is one of those moments we pull together and hold the line so the experts can get on and do their jobs.

"The infection control team and public health are excellent at dealing with this sort of outbreak. I’m pleased the company is working with them and it’s right the premises should close to help keep everybody safe.

"There is help available for those self isolating and anybody else who is affected. Nobody should be shy of asking for help or think of cutting corners."

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