There have been 35 cases of COVID-19 since March at Tulip’s Tipton plant in the West Midlands, as testing of staff continues at the plant.
Three employees, including two from the same household, received positive test results after more than 100 tests were carried out on a sample of the site’s 640-strong workforce on Monday, June 22. All three, together with anyone identified as having had close contact with those who have tested positive, are now isolating at home in line with government guidelines.
Tulip has suspended exports from the site as a result of the cluster of cases. It also recently announced, unrelated to the COVID-19 cases, that the site is due to close, following a consultation.
In a joint statement, Public Health England and Tulip said the site is continuing to work in collaboration with PHE Midlands, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), local NHS staff and Sandwell Council, following confirmation of the cases.
Dr Lisa McNally, Sandwell’s director of public health, said: “We have now proactively tested 104 staff at Tulip Ltd for coronavirus and have had three positive cases. Tulip has also asked a further 16 employees to isolate at home as a precautionary measure.
“The site has had a number of cases since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK and are able to report that they have all returned to work safely. We will be conducting further testing across the workforce in the coming days so that we can identify and isolate any further positive cases.”
Questions have been raised about conditions at meat plants where there have been cases of COVID-19. Tulip said that, working alongside the health authorities, it has taken steps to reduce the risk of transmission at the plant, on top of measures already in place.
This includes actively encouraging employees to report COVID-19 symptoms to ensure that individuals with infection are appropriately isolated and tested to reduce the risk of infection to co-workers and the wider community.
A Tulip spokesperson said: “Since the onset of this pandemic, our business has been working to guidelines issued in relation to coronavirus and food processing sites, and liaising with UK Government, the Food Standards Agency, the Health & Safety Executive and Public Health England on all matters including social distancing and its application in food processing factories.
“Our team members at Tipton are key workers who have responded to this global pandemic in the most challenging of circumstances; their health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance and we welcome the support of health authorities.
“We continue to work in partnership with health authorities to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 among our workforce, at work and in the community, as we provide food for the country during these unprecedented times”.