All night-shift staff at Bernard Matthews told to isolate after coronavirus cases

Bernard Matthews' factory at Great Witchingham, Norfolk. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Bernard Matthews' factory at Great Witchingham, Norfolk. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Night shift workers at the Bernard Matthews factory at Great Witchingham have been ordered to self-isolate after several confirmed cases of coronavirus among staff.

On Thursday last week, coronavirus swab tests began on all 1,000 Bernard Matthews staff at its the site after several confirmed cases.

Workers on the night shift at the factory were handed letters on Monday telling them to go home and self-isolate.

The letter stated: “The analysis has indicated that there is a higher number of positive cases amongst those working on the PM shift at Great Witchingham.

“Having discussed this with public health bodies, it has been agreed that, as a precaution, the best course of action is to require all those working on the Great Witchingham PM shift to self-isolate at home for 14 days to ensure that any risk of transmission to other colleagues is minimised.

“Therefore, when you go home tonight, you must isolate for 14 days. You must stay at home and not go out.”

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The workers were told they would need to take a home test after seven days - to establish if any of those who had previously been tested and come back negative had since contracted the virus.

The company said, if those tests come back negative, then workers might be able to return before the full 14 days of self-isolation.

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The letter continued: “In terms of pay, the options are statutory sick pay, taking holiday or we can bank your hours, which means we will pay you and then you work the hours at a later date. “I appreciate that this will be frustrating for you, but it is essential that we do everything we can to ensure that we minimise the potential spread of the virus and your cooperation is greatly appreciated.”

But one worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he was frustrated at having to self-isolate when he had tested negative for coronavirus.

He said: “Constantly we are told there is no one with Covid and it’s all speculation. The letter says we all have to self-isolate for 14 days or until they change their mind.

“And if sick pay of £95 is not enough then to take it as holiday. I know this is a hard time for everyone but this seems really unreasonable.”

The testing of approximately 1,000 staff started on Thursday last week and is continuing.

Last week, Norfolk County Council said there had been a number of cases among staff, but at that point, there was not evidence to suggest transmission of the virus at the site.

The point of the precautionary testing was to identify if there were any asymptomatic staff, not showing signs of Covid-19.

The situation at Great Witchingham comes after more than 70 workers at the company’s meat factory near Halesworth in Suffolk tested positive for Covid-19.

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