Specialists from Public Health England are providing expert advice to major Alconbury Weald-based flower and fruit suppliers AM Fresh UK and MM Flowers after a coronavirus outbreak.
A total of 35 employees at the sister factories, which supply the leading supermarket chains, have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last four months, including 26 in recent weeks.
Nearly 1,000 full and part-time staff work at the plant on the former military base and people identified as close contacts of cases are self-isolating at home.
Amelia Cummins, health protection consultant for Public Health England East of England, said: “We are working closely with the organisations, local authority and NHS partners to provide public health advice and help stop the spread of the virus.
“Close workplace contacts have been identified and given self-isolation advice.”
She said: “Workplaces are following national guidance and ensure that anyone with symptoms self isolates for seven days, and their household members isolate for 14 days. Close contacts of confirmed cases are asked to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
“Employers have been asked to take certain measures to help reduce the spread of the virus, including ensuring staff can maintain two metre social distancing wherever possible, employees wash their hands more often than usual for 20 seconds with soap and water and frequently touched surfaces are cleaned regularly.”
A statement from the firm said: “AM FRESH UK and MM Flowers’ Alconbury site employs around 550 permanent colleagues and around 300 agency workers via one employment agency. The companies supply citrus, grapes and flowers to UK supermarkets.
“Since the onset of COVID-19, AM FRESH UK and MM Flowers have put the safety and wellbeing of their teams at the centre of their operations. This has included extensive hygiene practices as well as close monitoring of workers.
“In the last four months 35 people based at the site have tested positive for the virus. This includes 26 people who have tested positive in the last three weeks (since 29 June 2020). The last reported positive test within AM FRESH UK was on July 10 and within MM Flowers on July 18.”
The statement said: “Like many organisations, AM FRESH UK and MM Flowers have taken extensive steps to ensure the safety of their people and their continued operation providing fresh produce and cut flowers. Both businesses have adapted their processes in accordance with all government guidelines to create a COVID-19 secure site.
“Measures include social distancing, extensive hygiene practices (deep cleaning of high touch and high traffic areas including packing facilities of both businesses), one-way systems within welfare areas, staggered shifts, Perspex screens and face coverings as further mitigations against the risk
The firm added: “AM FRESH UK and MM Flowers are working in conjunction with Public Health England and local authorities to trace the source of these recent infections. As a further precautionary measure, and in consultation with Public Health England, everyone working at the Alconbury site will be tested for COVID-19. This is anticipated to commence shortly.
“Both companies continue to monitor the situation closely and will take any further necessary steps, in consultation with Public Health England, to protect both their teams and their continued operations.”