BRADFORD’S meat processing businesses will be asked to do as much as they can to prevent the spread of Covid 19 after a number of outbreaks locally and across the country.
Last week it was announced that 165 people who work in the Kober meat processing factory in Cleckheaton had tested positive for the virus following a localised outbreak.
And a number of similar businesses across the country have also seen similar outbreaks.
At a meeting of Bradford Council’s Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, members asked what was being done to prevent such an outbreak in Bradford – where there are a number of food processing businesses.
Coronavirus: Kober food factory in Cleckheaton set to re-open
It is believed that food processing businesses are prone to Covid 19 outbreaks for a number of reasons.
Workers are often unable to maintain a two metre distance from each other, and heavy breathing and shouting over loud machinery makes it easier for the virus to spread in droplets of breath.
Meat processing businesses are often cold and damp, making it easier for the virus to survive on surfaces. Often workers are transported to sites in large groups by bus, and many low paid staff live in cramped accommodation. Some workers may not be entitled to full sick pay, and may keep going to work even when showing symptoms.
And language barriers with migrant workers may make it difficult for them to know how to let employers know of any health issues.
At the meeting, which was held remotely due to social distancing measures, Councillor Ralph Berry (Lab, Wibsey) said one issue was people in some jobs, such as meat processing, did not feel they were able to take sick days, as they would lose out on their income.
He said: “People in that industry are often less protected and live in overcrowded accommodation.
“A lot of people in Bradford work in food production.
“We may want to do testing in areas like Bowling Back Lane. The testing may need to be moved to where the people are.”
The meeting heard that Bradford was setting up an Outbreak Control Plan that would help tackle localised incidents like the one seen in Cleckheaton.
The plan would tie in to the NHS test and Trace, and if groups are forced to self isolate, they will be supported with accessing food banks and shopping, with the fire and rescue service providing medication pick up and delivery.
Referring to the Cleckheaton outbreak Sarah Muckle, Director of Public Health, said: “As soon as I heard about it we stepped up communications within the communities employed there.
“Unfortunately we don’t have the date to identify where all the people who work there live.
“Along with Environmental Health we have contacted all those large sites in Bradford and reminded employers of their responsibilities to make sure all guidelines are followed.
“We’re trying to enhance the test offer to include home test kits. We can deploy mobile testing units, which are run by the army if we have somewhere like in Kirklees. We’ll be able to employ mobile testing. In Cleckheaton they had the army on site testing everyone at different times to make sure they were able to reach everyone on different shifts.”