By KLTV Newsdesk
165 members of staff at a Meat Processing Plant in Cleckheaton have officially tested positive for Covid-19, it has been announced.
KOBER Ltd, based in Hunsworth, made national headlines last week when Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health revealed there had been a local outbreak at their factory.
A statement released on behalf of Kirklees Council, Public Health England, and KOBER said the whole workforce has been offered testing and 165 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19.
They said the testing is likely to have identified people who’ve shown mild illness, or even some not showing symptoms who may have otherwise gone undetected and could have infected others.
These positive cases are being followed up by the NHS Test and Trace programme and they are being advised to self-isolate for 7 days.
Anyone identified as a close contact of a positive case is being advised to self-isolate for 14 days.
The statement also said that the detection of outbreaks of Covid-19 are likely to become more common across the country with the introduction of NHS Test and Trace.
This case in Kirklees is an early example of this new system being implemented.
KOBER have since reopened their factory on a reduced capacity basis.
Rachel Spencer-Henshall, Director of Public Health at Kirklees Council, said:
“I’d like to thank KOBER for acting quickly and working with us and Public Health England to help manage this outbreak.
“They reopened their factory on 23 June on a reduced capacity and only colleagues that have been tested and declared fit to return are on site.
“We’re satisfied with health and safety measures on site which include separation of colleagues on different shifts and as an additional precaution, checking the temperature of colleagues before they enter the site.
“Our advice to residents is to continue to socially distance, wash hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water, and get tested if they have symptoms.
“Providing you have not been contacted and told otherwise, you can continue to leave the house following the latest government advice.”
On the 23 June, Tracy Brabin MP raised the issue of Covid-19 outbreaks in meat processing plants with the Prime Minister following his statement to the House of Commons on the further easing of lockdown restrictions.
Speaking directly to the Prime Minister, Tracy said: “With the Health and Safety Executive having their budget cut by 50% since 2010 can the government ensure that Kirklees and other councils will have all the money they need to keep our community safe, and also what investigations are going ahead from the government to look at why meat processing particularly is exposed to COVID-19 outbreaks?”
Responding to Tracy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said: “We are certainly looking into what’s happening to meat processing”.
The Prime Minister also stated that the Health and Safety Executive would be receiving an extra £14 million and that “local councils will be fortified in implementing local lockdowns by the central government and the joint biosecurity center”.
Commenting afterward, Tracy Brabin said “Whilst I welcome extra funding for the Health and Safety Executive, the fact is that we were left unprepared for this pandemic by a decade of austerity.
“With lockdown being eased and new clusters of Covid-19 becoming more likely, I will be investigating how much of this additional funding will be coming to Kirklees.
“Words of support from the Prime Minister are welcome, but we need action to ensure the government gives councils the funding and support they need, as well as an urgent investigation into Covid-19 outbreaks in meat processing plants so the staff, and the communities they live in, are kept safe.”