Local lockdowns still an option amid growing coronavirus cases at North Wales food plants
Local lockdowns are still being considered as an option following an outbreak of coronavirus cases at food plants in North Wales.
The latest figures show 204 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among workers at 2 Sisters in Llangefni, while 166 cases have now been linked to Rowan Foods in Wrexham.
Some politicians and GPs have called for localised lockdown measures to be introduced in the region to prevent the virus spreading further into the community.
Speaking to North.Wales and other local media today, the Health Minister said it was one of several options being kept under review.
However, Vaughan Gething also reiterated his faith in the “track, trace and protect” system put in place by the Welsh Government to stop infection rates from soaring.
He said: “No options are off the table, but what I would say is that if people follow the advice they’re given by the test, trace an protect service, then it will effectively operate as a smart targeted lockdown.
“The individuals, the families, and their contacts will be the people who’ll be locked down and that will prevent community transmission.
“It will also mean that other parts of life can still continue. The challenge would come if we had to take further measures if people weren’t able to follow that advice, for whatever reason.
“That could have an impact on the business and its ability to reopen safely. It could also have a wider impact on community challenges as well.
“I don’t want to be in a position where we’re having to close down wider community assets because we’re dealing with the very real prospect or reality of community transmission.
“But no option is off the table. The starting point, though, is people follow the advice of test race, protect, it makes all those other matters much less likely.”
Meanwhile, new guidance aimed at preventing and managing outbreaks of coronavirus has today been issued to meat processing and food production plants .
It has been developed with Public Health Wales, Unions and other key agencies, including the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, following the recent outbreaks.
It provide 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.
The government said these groups should work together, take their breaks together, change clothes together, and, if relevant, they should travel to work together.
It is designed 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.
Mr 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 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 the country.
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