‘Not an occasion for panic’ - council leaders say Banham Poultry coronavirus outbreak contained
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/ELLA WILKINSON
The Banham Poultry coronavirus outbreak has been contained, council leaders have said, saying this is “not an occasion for panic”.
The government named Norfolk as an area for enhanced support, which Norfolk County Council said would lead to speedier access to data and priority for testing.
And the council’s cabinet today (Monday, September 7) agreed to back a move for the council to become a locally supported contact tracing area - so more of the legwork in tracing is done locally, rather than relying on the national NHS Test and Trace system.
Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said there was “no evidence” the coronavirus outbreak had spread beyond Banham Poultry staff and their households.
He said the ongoing risk of transmission on site, to the wider population and to other food producers was “low”.
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Mr Proctor said: “My message to everyone in Norfolk today is clear - now is a time for togetherness.
“Everyone in Norfolk has a role to play. By following the guidelines, together we can protect ourselves, protect others and protect Norfolk.
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“We welcome the secretary of state’s decision on Friday to make Norfolk an area of enhanced support, following the coronavirus outbreak at Banham Poultry.
“I also want to be very clear in this. This is definitely not about restrictions. It’s all about support, providing us with even more capability to protect Norfolk.
“There will be no extra rules affecting how any of us live and work in Norfolk or for that matter, for anybody visiting Norfolk.
“In terms of Banham Poultry, Dr Louise Smith [director of public health] has outlined that all the evidence we have so far suggests we have contained that outbreak.”
MORE: Q&A: Norfolk on the coronavirus watchlist - will it mean local lockdowns? He said the increased numbers of infections in Norwich, Breckland and Great Yarmouth were all linked to workers and their households.
He urged people with symptoms to isolate and get tested and for people to mantain social distancing and hand washing.
He said people in Norfolk had been “excellent” at helping keep rates low, but that they needed to keep doing so - particularly as children go back to school.
He said: “We understand that people are concerned and today is a today when many of us sees our children and grandchildren return to school.
“Children seeing their friends and teachers for the first time in almost six months show how important it is that Norfolk communities start getting some kind of normality back in their lives. “Nothing emphasises that more than children learning and playing with their friends.”
Tom FitzPatrick, cabinet member for innovation, transformation and performance, said: “It is not an occasion for panic. The outbreak has been picked up and contained.”
Last week, the council said that contact tracing had only been completed in 52pc of cases linked to Banham Poultry and there has been criticism over the speed of the response to the outbreak. The EDP has asked the council for the latest figures around completed contract tracing and is awaiting a response.
The council has stood by the way it handled the outbreak.
At the meeting a public question was asked by former Green city councillor Tim Jones. He asked why procedures were not put in place at Banham Poultry in Attleborough to prevent the outbreak before it happened.
However, Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said it was the responsibility of firms to put in place guidance from government to meat processors.
He said failure to do so could result in businesses being shut down, damaging their business and reputation.
He said: “Until we hear what the Health and Safety Executive has said about what was put in place by Banham, I would be very loathe to criticise it.”
Dr Smith said the responsibility for checking on safety was with to the Health and Safety Executive, which recently inspected the plant with officers from Breckland’s environmental health department.
She said: “Our early evidence in the outbreak with Banham Poultry is that measures had been taken in line with the national guidelines and advice. The opinion of the Health and Safety Executive as to whether that was sufficient remains outstanding.”