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Tayside farm workers forced into quarantine after massive coronavirus outbreak in England

Karen Wright (left), Director of Public Health for Herefordshire CCG, sanitising before opening a gate to give a press statement outside Rook Row Farm in Mathon, near Malvern, Herefordshire, where there have been more than 90 positive cases of coronavirus confirmed.
Karen Wright (left), Director of Public Health for Herefordshire CCG, sanitising before opening a gate to give a press statement outside Rook Row Farm in Mathon, near Malvern, Herefordshire, where there have been more than 90 positive cases of coronavirus confirmed.

Seasonal workers at two Tayside farms have been quarantined after health chiefs uncovered their connection with a major coronavirus outbreak south of the border.

The agricultural staff were on the same flight as workers who tested positive for the virus at a farm in Herefordshire.

The amount of confirmed cases at vegetable producers AS Green and Co has risen to 93, making it one of the worst outbreaks in the country.

At the weekend, about 200 staff there were ordered to self-isolate. The high profile case has prompted concerns about safety standards in the farming industry.

Public Health Scotland has been working with counterparts in England to try to trace everyone connected to the farm. NHS Tayside confirmed workers had been contacted at two unidentified farms in the local area.

Heath chiefs have stressed there is no evidence of Covid-19 at either site, and none of the farm workers have shown symptoms.

A mobile testing unit has been used to assess workers at each farm.

NHS Tayside’s health protection team and environmental health officers are in daily contact with the farms, ensure they comply with Scottish Government guidance.

Dr Emma Fletcher, association director of public health in Tayside said: “We would like to assure the public that the risk of infection to farm workers and the wider population is very low and no greater than for the general public across Scotland at this time.

“We have been in regular contact with the farms throughout the pandemic and at this time, and they are doing everything in line with Scottish Government guidance, including observing quarantine periods, physical distancing, using appropriate PPE and following hand hygiene measures.”

Dr Fletcher added: “Testing has been offered to all staff, whether they have symptoms or not, through the use of a local mobile testing unit and the regional testing centre.

“All workers have been reminded of the need to self-isolate and be tested if any symptoms develop.”

NHS Fife said it was not aware of any connection with farms in its area.

An NFU Scotland spokeswoman said farms in Scotland employing seasonal workers are strictly adhering to Scottish Government advice.

“All seasonal workers who arrive on a Scottish farm from outwith the UK must adhere to a 14 day quarantine period on the farm,” she said.

“The farms the workers went to have been conducting and recording daily temperature checks during the quarantine period.

“None of the workers who travelled on the June 26 flight who have come to farms in Scotland have shown any symptoms of COVID-19.”

“NFU Scotland and its members will continue to work with Scottish Government and health officials to ensure that guidance is strictly adhered to.”

The first case of coronavirus was discovered at the Herefordshire farm last week. By Friday, all workers had been tested and the results posted on a notice board at the site.

The farm, which supplies vegetables to Aldi, Asda, M&S and Sainsbury’s, has not spoken publicly since the outbreak was confirmed.

The ongoing crisis prompted Daniel Zeichner, the shadow agriculture minister, to raise concerns about the safety of farm workers during the pandemic.

“Working conditions on many of our farms, particularly for migrant workers, are likely to leave people vulnerable,” he said.

 

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