By Leah Conway
On June 18th, this past Thursday, a meat processing factory in Cleckheaton had to temporarily shut down due to an outbreak of coronavirus among its staff.
In the latest figures, up to 150 workers at Kober Ltd. have tested positive for Covid-19.
Kober Ltd is a meat factory in Cleckheaton, which provided supplies of bacon to Asda.
Kirklees Council and Public Health England (PHE) were notified of the localised outbreak.
However, many have been left outraged as news of the outbreak was not made known until the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock randomly made the announcement during a public briefing.
Local politicians, as well as senior medics and the wider public, were left in the dark as to both the location and extent of the outbreak.
One former government advisor labelled the secrecy as ‘reckless’
The council have released a statement in response to the outbreak.
Rachel Spence-Henshall, the Director of Public Health at Kirklees Council, said: “We have been providing support and advice to both the management and employees in order to minimise any further transmission.
“I’d like to reassure everyone that as soon as we became aware of this issue, we acted quickly to work with the business and their staff to limit any further potential spread of COVID-19.”
The official Kirklees Council Twitter followed up on the statement.
In a statement, they said: “The Health Secretary gave the effective action we have taken with Public Health England to contain the outbreak as an example of good practice in the test and trace programme.
“We immediately started providing support and advice to the employer and staff in order to contain the outbreak.
“We have worked with colleagues at Public Health England to provide testing, advice and support to the employer who has cooperated fully throughout.”
Several local MP’s have expressed varying levels of frustration with the way the situation has been handled.
Batley and Spen MP, Tracy Brabin, criticised the Health Secretary for announcing the outbreak seemingly without notifying the council first
Meanwhile, Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield’s MP, expressed his frustration at having to find out about the outbreak from a national news provider.
He said on Twitter: “What a frustrating day the Secretary of State mentions a Coronavirus outbreak in Kirklees yesterday! Local MPs informed by Public Health England that it is local councils duty to keep us fully informed still scant information from Kirklees that we can share with our constituents!”
Mr Sheerman’s frustrations at this have also been shared by some local GPs who also found out only when it was announced on national news.
Both Kirklees Council and PHE have emphasised the importance of the NHS Test and Trace service in identifying and preventing such outbreaks as the one in Cleckheaton and advocate its continual development.