Coronavirus: Food plant cases no longer an anxiety, says FM

Processing chicken - stock shot Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fears over outbreaks at Welsh food plants are easing, say health officials

There is "no longer anxiety" about coronavirus spreading in the community after outbreaks at two north Wales food plants, says the first minister.

Mark Drakeford said "we are probably past the most concerning time" at Rowan Foods in Wrexham and 2 Sisters in Llangefni, Anglesey.

There have been 13 cases linked to the Wrexham site in the last week, while the Anglesey plant reopened last week.

Health officials said the picture emerging "continues to improve".

In total, 302 people have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Wrexham food processing plant.

Public Health Wales (PHW) said the increase over the last seven days had been "modest" and in line with "what we would expect to see from a focused testing process".

Image caption Rowan Foods in Wrexham has had just over 300 Covid-19 cases

On Anglesey, the total number of people testing positive for the virus linked to the outbreak at the chicken processing factory was 221.

"We continue to monitor, but are confident that the 2 Sisters factory does not present any additional risk to the workforce or local population," said Dr Robin Howe, who is the PHW incident director for the outbreak response.

"There is no evidence of community transmission, with positive cases associated with the outbreak reducing to match background levels in the population as a whole. This is extremely positive news, and if this trajectory continues I hope to bring the outbreak to a formal close in the near future."

Anglesey council suspended plans to reopen schools in response to the outbreak, while classrooms across the rest of Wales opened.

The schools will now reopen for a final "catch-up" week on the island on Monday, 13 July.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The 2 Sisters plant at Llangefni has reopened after an outbreak

Speaking on Friday, the first minister said the experience had shown the importance of accurate record keeping for tracing, especially in the case of Rowan Foods where "you are working with a population which is often drawn from countries outside the United Kingdom".

"Some of the people who we have struggled the most to contact are people where names and addresses have not been properly recorded, where the spelling of people's names is many and various, where telephone numbers have not been properly transcribed," he told the Welsh Government's daily coronavirus briefing.

"I think we've learned something about being prepared to communicate in languages other than Welsh and English.

"Because for some of the workers at Rowan Foods, being able to see information in their own language, their native language, is important and we will be better prepared to do that more quickly if we face a similar outbreak in the future."

PHW said it was also continuing to investigate the Covid-19 cluster at the Kepak meat processing plant in Merthyr Tydfil, which has had 138 cases since April.

Dr Howe from PHW added: "The Food Standards Agency advise that it is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food. Coronavirus is a respiratory illness. It is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging."

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