Joint statement from Public Health Midlands (West) and Herefordshire Council

10 August
No further cases in farm outbreak

Herefordshire Council and Public Health England (PHE) Midlands have confirmed that all remaining workers have tested negative for COVID-19 at an outbreak on a farm in Mathon, Herefordshire. The majority of farm workers are now able to return to work and daily life- a few workers remain living in self-isolation as contacts of positive cases.

Katie Spence, PHE Midlands Health Protection Director, said: “This has been a significant outbreak, and the first of its kind. We have worked closely with the farm management to support the health and wellbeing of their workforce and wider public health.

“The management at AS Green and Co are to be commended on the way their swift and responsible reporting has helped contain the outbreak on the site and prevented transmission into the community. This outbreak highlights the importance of the need to self-isolate when you know you are COVID-19 positive, or have been in contact with someone who is, especially if you live with other people.”

Karen Wright, Public Health Director for Herefordshire Council said: “This outbreak has been successfully contained by the multi-agency response, the farm management, and the workers based on the farm. We are all learning about the impact COVID-19 has on our health and our economy. This outbreak has helped shape the national workplace guidance, and how businesses can continue to operate alongside a COVID-19 outbreak.

“There is no doubt that without the actions taken by AS Green and Co, this could have been an outbreak on a much bigger scale. I’d like to thank them for all their support to help prioritise the health and wellbeing of the workforce and the residents of Herefordshire.”

A spokesperson for AS Green and Co said: "We are grateful for the support provided by Public Health England and Herefordshire Council to help control the COVID-19 outbreak. The real challenge has been that of those who tested positive, 98% reported having no symptoms at all. We are pleased to say that due to existing and additional control measures, there was no transmission into the local community and all those tested have now tested negative.

“The health of our workforce and our local community has been and continues to remain our highest priority. We have been overwhelmed by the support from our customers, associated businesses within the industry, the NFU and the local community.

"We continue to focus on the harvesting and packing of fresh healthy vegetables for our customers, ensuring consumers can enjoy fresh British produce as part of a healthy balanced diet.”

To prevent further outbreaks and to protect yourself and others, please continue to wash your hands regularly, keep your distance and use face coverings in public spaces, shops and on public transport. Anyone who has a fever, persistent dry cough, or loss or change in their sense of taste or smell should call 119 or go online to arrange a test.


04 August
Update

Herefordshire Council and Public Health England (PHE) Midlands continue to work with AS Green and Co to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 at their farm. The total number of positive cases linked to the outbreak is 142. Regular testing continues.

A number of workers who have previously tested positive have now completed their period of self-isolation and are able to resume their daily activities. These workers are able to return to work or leave the farm.

Those workers who have recently tested positive have been asked to remain on site and self-isolate to reduce risk of spread within the workforce and into the wider community. They are being provided with food and essential supplies during their ongoing period of isolation.

We are aware that local residents are concerned, but the risk to the general public remains low.

We would like to remind people to wash your hands regularly, keep your distance, and use a face covering to help protect yourself and others. If you develop a fever, persistent dry cough, or have a loss or change in your sense of taste or smell, please call 119 to arrange a test.


24 July
Update

Herefordshire Council and Public Health England (PHE) Midlands continue to work with AS Green and Co to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 at their farm. The total number of positive cases linked to the outbreak is 134. Regular testing continues.

Workers have been asked to remain on site and self-isolate to reduce risk of spread within the workforce and into the wider community. We continue to arrange food and essential supplies to the farm and its workers during the ongoing period of isolation. A number of workers have completed their period of self-isolation and are able to resume their daily activities. These workers are able to return to work or leave the farm.

We are aware that local residents are concerned, but the risk to the general public remains low.

We would like to remind people to wash your hands regularly, keep your distance, and use a face covering to help protect yourself and others. If you develop a fever, persistent dry cough, or have a loss or change in your sense of taste or smell, please call 119 to arrange a test.


20 July 2020
Update

Herefordshire Council and Public Health England (PHE) Midlands continue to work with AS Green and Co to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 at their farm. The total number of positive cases linked to the outbreak is 120, and testing continues with further cases possible.

Workers have been asked to remain on site and self-isolate to reduce risk of spread within the workforce and into the wider community. We continue to arrange food and essential supplies to the farm and its workers during the ongoing period of isolation. Two further workers who tested negative have left the farm and are being contacted by their employment agency to ensure they are self-isolating. This is in addition to three people who left the farm previously, who have all confirmed with their employment agency that they are self-isolating.

A number of workers have completed their period of self-isolation and will be able to resume their daily activities. These workers will be able to return to work or leave the farm.

We are aware that local residents are concerned, but the risk to the general public remains low.

We would like to remind people to wash your hands regularly, keep your distance, and use a face covering to help protect yourself and others. If you develop a fever, persistent dry cough, or have a loss or change in your sense of taste or smell, please call 119 to arrange a test.


15 July 2020
Update (pm)

Herefordshire Council and Public Health England (PHE) Midlands continue to work with AS Green and Co to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 at their farm. The total number of positive cases linked to the outbreak is 93. Further testing is ongoing.

Wherever a case of COVID-19 is confirmed, close contacts of the case are identified and followed up through Test and Trace. This includes anyone who may have come into contact with confirmed cases within the local community.

Contact tracing with over 100 existing workers continues on-site. In addition, a group of agricultural workers who travelled into the UK by private coach, including some of the workers who went on to work at AS Green and Co, are being followed up.

Another group of workers travelled to the site on a flight bringing agricultural workers to the UK. As an additional precaution, the individuals who travelled on this flight are also being followed up. Seventy-six workers on the flight who travelled onwards to other farms in England have already been offered testing and no further cases have been identified to date. Public health partners in Scotland have been notified of a further group of 63 workers on the same flight who travelled onwards to Scottish farms in order that they too can be followed-up appropriately.

Katie Spence, PHE Midlands Health Protection Director, said:

“Information gathered from both the recruitment company and from the workers themselves suggested that those workers who tested positive were not showing any symptoms of COVID-19 at the time they travelled to the UK. We know however, that there is a risk that people can transmit the infection before - or without ever - developing symptoms, and this is why we’ve taken a precautionary approach to follow-up workers who were on the same flight as the confirmed cases.

“It’s encouraging that testing of this wider group has not identified any linked cases at other farms so far, but testing, tracing and monitoring of the situation continues, and along with our partners, we will take any further actions necessary to protect public health if linked cases arise.”

Three workers who previously left the farm have been reached by the agency that secured their employment and have confirmed they are self-isolating. A further worker has left the farm despite being asked to remain on-site and isolate. The worker’s overseas recruiter is in contact with the worker (who tested negative) and has been advised they are self-isolating.

Karen Wright, Director of Public Health for Herefordshire, said:

“We continue to test workers at the farm and expect to see the number of cases rise over the coming days before social distancing and infection prevention measures start to take effect. Workers have been asked to remain on site and self-isolate to reduce risk of spread within the workforce and into the wider community. We’re aware that local residents are concerned, but the risk to the general public remains low. We are arranging food and essential supplies to the farm and its workers during the period of isolation.

Another reminder to continue to wash your hands regularly, keep your distance, and use face coverings to help protect yourself and others. If you develop a fever, persistent dry cough, or have a loss or change in your sense of taste or smell, please call 119 to arrange a test.”

 



15 July 2020 
Update (am)

Herefordshire Council continue to work with AS Green and Co in Mathon, to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 at the farm.

Three workers (one of whom tested positive) left the farm despite being asked to remain on site and isolate. All three of these individuals have been reached through the agency that secured their employment, and all have confirmed they are self-isolating.

Karen Wright, Director of Public Health for Herefordshire, said: 

“We continue to support the farm to advise their workers to remain on site during the period of isolation and stay within household groups, to reduce risk of spread within the workforce and into the wider community. Herefordshire Council is arranging food and essential supplies for residents on the site.  

“We’re aware that local residents are concerned about shopping trips made by farm workers, prior to positive cases being identified. The risk to the general public remains low. We encourage people to continue to wash your hands regularly, keep your distance and use face coverings to help protect yourself and others.

“Anyone who has a fever, persistent dry cough, or loss or change in their sense of taste or smell should call 119 or go online to arrange a test.”

 


13 July 2020
Update

Director of Public Health for Herefordshire, Karen Wright, said:  

‘Herefordshire Council continues to deploy the local response in Mathon, in accordance with our outbreak control plan. There are now 74 confirmed cases at the farm. Our focus remains the health and wellbeing of residents while we work to contain and control the spread of COVID-19. We continue to support the farm management, their workers – who form an important part of our local economy, and the local community through this challenging time. 

There are three workers who have left the site without permission - one of whom tested positive. Workers who have left the premises have been asked to self-isolate. We are working with West Mercia Police to ensure they are safe and well, and taking the appropriate public health advice.

We follow the data on number of cases in Herefordshire closely, which otherwise remains very low. I would like to remind everybody that it is important to wash your hands, maintain social distancing and to wear a face covering to help protect others.’


12 July 2020

Herefordshire Council is working with Public Health England (PHE) Midlands to support vegetable producers AS Green and Co, based in Mathon near Malvern, following an outbreak of COVID-19 among their workforce.

Around 200 key workers are employed to carry out picking and packing work vital to the UK food supply chain and local economy. During the harvesting season, the workforce resides in mobile homes based on the farm, so as a precaution, the whole group are being treated as one extended bubble. Workers are being asked to remain on the farm during the period of isolation and stay within household groups, to reduce risk of spread within the workforce and into the wider community. Herefordshire Council is arranging food and essential supplies for residents on the site, while they self-isolate.

Katie Spence, PHE Midlands Health Protection Director, said:

“We are working closely with the management at AS Green and Co to support the health and wellbeing of their workforce and wider public health.

“At this phase of the pandemic, we still expect to see cases in the community and within settings where people are closer together, such as workplaces, which is why the Test and Trace system is important, to help us pick up on any potential problems and swiftly to take remedial action to reduce spread."

“To support this workforce of around 200 key workers, the company has put in place a range of infection control measures to try to reduce the risk of staff being exposed to COVID-19. Measures include supporting testing on site, promoting social distancing in communal social areas and in the indoor packaging area; providing PPE for staff where applicable, encouraging regular handwashing for at least 20 seconds, and promoting the use of face coverings in closed areas."

“Despite these measures, a small number of workers became symptomatic earlier this week and they and a few close contacts among the workforce were tested initially and found to be positive. In line with NHS guidance, affected individuals were asked to  self-isolate for 7 days, with their households and close contacts asked to isolate for 14 days."

“As we have seen a global trend of large food producers being subject to outbreaks, as a precautionary measure, the decision was made to test the entire workforce. The initial batch of results showed a significant percentage of positive cases, despite these individuals being asymptomatic. We are still awaiting a few final results, but currently we have 73 positive cases of COVID-19 among the workforce."

“PHE Midlands and Herefordshire Council are therefore working with AS Green and Co to closely monitor and manage the outbreak and support individual workers.”

A spokesperson for AS Green said:

“Our staff are our priority, they are hard-working key workers helping us provide food for the country during these unusual times. We contacted PHE and we are working closely with them and Public Health at Herefordshire Council to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Karen Wright, Director of Public Health for Herefordshire, said:

“While Herefordshire is the first to experience an outbreak of this kind, this is not unexpected. Our priority is to protect the health and wellbeing of all residents in our community. Prompt testing on the farm has allowed us to understand transmission and control the spread of infection. We continue to support the farm management, their workers – who form an important part of our local economy, and the local community through this challenging time. Anyone who has a fever, persistent dry cough, or loss or change in their sense of taste or smell should call 119 or go online to arrange a test.”

Find out more about booking a test on our website www.herefordshire.gov.uk/covidtest

There is more information and resources for farms on our website www.herefordshire.gov.uk/covid19farms 

 

Published: 10th August 2020