Nearly 300 staff at a convenience food factory in England’s Northampton have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, health officials said.
The officials are dealing with the outbreak at the Greencore food company which has seen 299 confirmed cases of Covid-19, Xinhua news agency quoted Lucy Wightman, director of public health at Northamptonshire County Council, as saying on Thursday.
A spokesman for the company, which employs 2,100 people, said those who tested positive were self-isolating.
The confirmed test results may force the town in England’s Midlands region into local lockdown.
Wightman said 79 workers tested positive through National Health Service (NHS) tests while 220 positive results came back from Greencore’s private testing.
“Northampton borough has been experiencing a high number of cases over the last four weeks and residents and employees have been asked to ‘act now’ to follow additional measures, to avoid a local lockdown or further government intervention,” Wightman said.
Greencore said in a statement that the company took the decision to proactively test workers as a result of a rise in cases in the Northampton area.
“All of Greencore’s sites have wide-ranging social-distancing measures, stringent hygiene procedures and regular temperature checking in place, and we are doing everything that we can to keep our people safe,” it said.
“Public Health England Midlands have been providing support to colleagues at Greencore in managing the outbreak. This has been supplemented by support from the local infection prevention and control team and Northampton Borough Council’s environmental health colleagues,” said a joint statement by Northampton Borough Council and Public Health Northamptonshire.
Over the past seven days, there were 70 new confirmed cases in Northampton alone and the infection rate is well above the county rate with 580 cases per 100,000 population.
Greencore has a number of factories across Britain and makes food for supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, according to media reports.