Banham Poultry - Update

1st September 2020

The past few days have been worrying times for Attleborough – with almost 100 staff at the Banham Poultry site having now tested positive for Coronavirus.

That’s why, over the past week, I’ve been liaising closely with Public Health England, Norfolk County Council, Breckland Council and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as Ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and pushing hard for a proper Track and Trace plan to contain the outbreak, avoid the spread of the virus to other communities and throughout Norfolk’s farming and food processing sectors, and prevent a wider lockdown.

Despite this, reports over the weekend that the Track and Trace response to the outbreak was slow, bureaucratic and overly-centralised continued.

The lack of proper Track and Trace following the outbreak amongst workers in the Norfolk poultry sector is potentially catastrophic to our vital local food industry & economy. 

Norfolk is home to thousands of low paid workers in poultry & pork factories, many of whom live in hostels.  All 800 staff at Banham and all their close contacts need tracing and testing.  Urgently. 

We should have hundreds of public health officials and volunteers out with clipboards this weekend knocking on doors. Every day the risk rises.

If this ends up with a pandemic and lockdown of Norfolks food businesses and towns like Attleborough, Thetford & Dereham there will be serious questions to answer about how this was allowed to happen.

We need a much more urgent local operation led by our local councils & local public health officials.

This morning’s emergency meeting provided some reassurance on the urgency of local Track and Trace now being taken, whilst also highlighting the problems & ongoing challenges which need sorting urgently:

1. Approx 1/3 of the staff who tested positive still not traced

2. Those who have been traced are concentrated in Yarmouth, Thetford, Attleborough and King’s Lynn

3. Urgent work is now being done by local councils to trace the outstanding staff who have tested positive, and their close contacts: likely to be approx 150

4. The tracing of workers in the food processing sector is complicated by locating often low paid overseas and agency staff, low cost accommodation & cultural barriers.

5. The Track and Trace system, run by NHS, is too centralised: Norfolk is still not authorised by NHS to run its own Track and Trace system.

6. We all agree this requires urgency & pace to prevent wider contamination across the food sector.

Relevant Links

(Please note that there have been a number of articles in the EDP on this issue over recent days. All can be found at their website: here)

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