Nearly 300 employees have tested positive for coronavirus at a factory that makes sandwiches for M&S.
The Greencore factory in Northampton, which employs around 2,100 people, said some of its staff are now self-isolating.
Greencore said 79 workers had tested positive through NHS tests before the company decided to bring in a private testing program.
A further 213 positive results came back – taking the total number of positive results to 292.
Greencore told Sky News that the company is still waiting for some results to come back. A spokesman was unable to confirm how many but said it was less than 100.
The company said in a statement: “As a result of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Northampton area, we took the decision to start proactively testing all of the colleagues at our Northampton site.
“We can confirm that a number of colleagues have tested positive for the virus and are now self-isolating.
“We are liaising closely with PHE East Midlands, Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council, who are fully supportive of the controls that we have on site.”
The company added: “In each case we have immediately conducted contact tracing and instructed potentially affected colleagues to self-isolate.
“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.
“As ever, the health and wellbeing of our colleagues is our number one priority.”
Lucy Wightman, director of public health at Northamptonshire County Council, said employees have been asked to “act now” after the number of confirmed cases in the town increased from 66 in the week ending 2 August to 85 for the week ending 9 August.
She said: “We are working with colleagues at Greencore in Northampton after the discovery of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace.
“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.”
She added: “It is evident that Greencore has highly effective measures in place and they continue to work extremely hard to exceed the requirements needed to be COVID-19 secure within the workplace.
“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.”
Greencore describes itself as the world’s largest sandwich manufacturer, producing nearly four million sandwiches every week at its various factories for supermarkets, convenience stores, garage forecourts, coffee shop chains, contract caterers and airlines.
The company’s outbreak comes as a banana distribution centre in Coventry is working with public health officials to contain and manage an outbreak of COVID-19.
All staff at Fyffes Group Limited, on Richardson Way, Cross Point Business Park, are to be tested as a precaution after 10 members of staff tested positive for the virus.
The management at the company are working closely with public health officials at Coventry City Council, Public Health England (PHE) Midlands and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Coronavirus outbreaks have also taken place at food processing plants in Wisbech, Wrexham, Cleckheaton, Merthyr Tydfil and Llangefni.
The developments in Northampton and Coventry come as the World Health Organization (WHO) downplayed the danger of coronavirus latching on to food packaging.
The WHO’s head of emergencies programme Mike Ryan told a briefing in Geneva: “People should not fear food, or food packaging or processing or delivery of food.
“There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus. And people should feel comfortable and safe.”
(c) Sky News