New guidance for meat processing and food production plants about preventing and managing outbreaks of coronavirus has today been issued to the sector.
The guidance has been developed with Public Health Wales, Unions and other key agencies, including the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, following recent outbreaks and incidents at three meat and food plants in Wales.
The outbreaks in North Wales, centred on the 2 Sisters plant in Llangefni and Rowan Foods, in Wrexham, are being closely monitored, including for any evidence of wider community transmission. All staff working at the plants are being tested and the close contacts of people who have tested positive are being identified and contacted by the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service.
The incident in South Wales, which involves more than 30 cases dating back to the end of March linked to Kepak Merthyr Tydfil, is being investigated.
The new guidance provides clear advice to the sector on a number of areas, including:
- Procedures to manage suspected cases, including information about the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service
- Workplace risk assessment
- Communications with employees
- Shared accommodation and transport to site
- Entry to site and physical distancing onsite, including in communal areas
- Food hygiene.
The guidance also recommends that, wherever possible, employees should be organised into groups built around natural work teams. These groups should work together, take their breaks together, change clothes together, and, if relevant, they should travel to work together.
This will help to minimise the number of people who are in contact with each other at any one time, thereby reducing the potential spread of the virus if there is a case in the workplace.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:
“Following the outbreaks and incidents at these three sites in Wales, I committed to working with Public Health Wales and other agencies to provide new guidance to the sector.
“This provides clear advice and support for the sector to help it prevent and manage coronavirus in the workplace and ensure all necessary safeguards are in place to protect their employees and their families.
“These outbreaks show coronavirus has not gone away. They reinforce the importance of us all following social distancing guidance, continuing good basic hand hygiene and if we have symptoms, staying at home and not going to work.
“By working together, we can keep Wales safe.”
In addition to the new guidance, the Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths has commissioned Food Innovation Wales, a delivery partner of the Welsh Government, to carry out a rapid risk assessment of meat processing sites across Wales.
Initial work has been completed and the findings are currently with the Minister for consideration. The review will now be extended to packaging and processing plants for other types of food in Wales.