Coronavirus: Chicken factory closes as 350 families isolate after 75 test positive #COVID19 #coronavirus #BanhamPoultry #Norfolk #UK
Hundreds of employees at a huge chicken factory have been forced into self-isolation after 75 staff members tested positive.
There are fears Norfolk will be plunged back into lockdown as Banham Poultry suffers the outbreak – and tomorrow it will be the subject of a central government review.
The cutting room at the factory in the village of Attleborough will close tomorrow morning as the factory voluntarily agrees to shut it and advise 350 staff members to go into isolation.
There are fears in Norfolk that the workers could have spread the virus across the county, with the majority of staff members living in the districts of Breckland, Great Yarmouth and the county’s capital city of Norwich.
Banham Poultry employs 1,100 staff.
The first case of the virus among staff was known of last Friday, when one worker reported feeling sick. By Monday, seven out of 15 tested were found to have the virus – four were asymptomatic.
One member of staff is in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, and their current condition is unclear.
But officials moved to reassure the public that it is believed that any potential geographical spread outside of the factory is low.
Dr Louise Smith, director of Public Health England in Norfolk, told the EDP she was ruling out an immediate local lockdown.
She said: “At this point what we are doing is a very specific localised lockdown to a very specific setting, the who work there and their households.
“We do not anticipate the need for a geographical or town-based lockdown at this stage and we would only move to that kind of measure if we were getting evidence of spread in the general public that could not be linked to a specific location, such as this outbreak.
“We are not at that level at this stage and the background level of infection in Norfolk outside of this outbreak is low.”
Dr smith told the BBC that this was “now being regarded as a significant national outbreak”.
The Government could decide to overrule local chiefs and shut the factory completely.
The cutting room floor – where staff butcher chickens into cuts of meat – is where the vast majority of cases were discovered and the rest of the factory remains open.
Norfolk County Council is understood to be considering whether they need to speak with other meat factories in the county – with the the east of England processing 7% of the country’s poultry.
They reassured the public that the risk of the virus spreading through food packaging is very low.
Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman urged people not to panic, and claimed Norfolk’s public health teams had handled the pandemic better than in other areas.
But he asked people to remain vigilant as cooler weather was on the horizon and workplaces with higher densities of staff remained open.
Mayor of Attleborough, Philip Leslie, told the EDP he expected to see coronavirus cases in the area increase, and admitted eyebrows would be raised in the community.
He warned people to keep following government health advice in their own homes, and claims some had become “lax” at following the guidelines.
In a statement to the EDP yesterday, Banham Poultry’s managing director Blaine van Rensburg said the management team was working to prevent any further spread.
“The safety of our staff, customers and the wider public is really important to us and we are working with public health authorities to make sure we are doing absolutely everything we can and following all of the correct procedures,” he said.
“The business remains open and operating and we are doing everything we can to prevent the further spread of the virus.
“We have already invested in a range of procedures and protective equipment to keep our staff as safe as possible.”
The source of the outbreak is not yet known.
Staff members who live in houses of multiple occupation are being advised on how to isolate safely.
Norfolk health chiefs are taking advice from Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Herefordshire.
Virology expert Lawrence Young appeared on Good Morning Britain in June and explained why meat factories are breeding grounds for viruses like Covid-19.
He told Good Morning Britain hosts Ben Shephard and Susanna Reid: “Well the virus likes the cold, it’s highly transmissible, and indoor areas that are cold with poor ventilation will provide a perfect environment for the virus to linger and spread.
“So infected individuals who are coughing out or speaking out the virus find that the virus will linger for longer, and stay viable and settle and spread more on surfaces.
“All of this is compounded in busy work places by poor ventilation.”
On why meat processing plants appear to be so impacted, with such a spike in cases, Lawrence said: “I suspect the problem there is the need for containment of refrigeration, busy production lines and I guess in those environments it might be more challenging in terms of social distancing.
“Issues associated with busy machinery and shouting and speaking loudly over machinery will also produce more infectious droplets.
“So I think it’s a combination of a number of different factors, certainly compounded by the fact that the virus as Dr Hilary keeps telling us is highly transmissible, and it likes the cold.”
On whether consumers are likely to be infected from the meat, he went on: “I don’t think there is any risk of consumption when meat is cooked.
“This is a very fragile virus at some levels, it’s got this fatty coat around it and that fatty coat doesn’t like the heat, because as that fat becomes more fluid the virus becomes less infectious.
“But it loves the cold because then that can solidate the virus, and it becomes more stable.”
He added: “I think it can settle on surfaces, we know this type of virus like other respiratory viruses, can be picked up from surfaces, but I think that anything to do with meat and the production of meat, and the processing and cooking of meat would absolutely destroy the virus.
“You wouldn’t be able to get infected from the virus in that way.”
Union reps last month told Mirror Online that meat packing workers are going in sick and even failing to get coronavirus tests because they fear isolation will hurl them into poverty.
Officials raised the alarm after a string of food processing plants were hit by outbreaks of deadly Covid-19.
By June 25, four food factories had reported more than 450 workers between them testing positive with the virus.
But unions fear the full total across England and Wales could be far higher.
In a meeting between unions and Labour, attended by the Mirror, reps said some low-wage food workers cannot afford to isolate on £95.85-a-week Statutory Sick Pay.
Unite regional officer Brian Troake said “people simply cannot afford to have the time off”.
He claimed some workers do not want to be tested “because when they’re tested, they can’t earn any money.”
He added: “We’ve got thermal CCTV cameras now on the entrance to the sites.
“And even when the alarms are going off, you’ve got a manager stood there saying ‘don’t worry about that, keep on going.’ They need you in the factory. Because they need to make the numbers.”
Asked if he had heard of similar cases, Eamon O’Hearn, National Officer at GMB, said a survey of the union’s food and drink members found 70% could not afford to stay away from work.
He added the “response rate fell through the floor” when the same people were then asked if they’d keep going to work, even if they had symptoms.
The British Meat Processors Association has disputed Unite’s claims that workers are exploited or on precarious contracts.
The industry body insisted its members pay a “fair wage” and branded Unite’s claims ”false and misleading”, adding there have been 10 outbreaks in food plants so far.
Courtesy of mirror.co.uk
MAGNITUDE 3.3 ICELAND REGION #earthquake #Iceland
Depth: 8 km
Distances: 31 km SSW of Reykjavík, Iceland / pop: 118,000 / local time: 18:11:47.0 2020-08-26
12 km NE of Grindavík, Iceland / pop: 2,800 / local time: 18:11:47.0 2020-08-26
MAGNITUDE 3.1 ICELAND REGION #earthquake #Iceland
Depth: 5 km
Distances: 31 km SSW of Reykjavík, Iceland / pop: 118,000 / local time: 17:29:37.0 2020-08-26
13 km NE of Grindavík, Iceland / pop: 2,800 / local time: 17:29:37.0 2020-08-26
MAGNITUDE 3.0 ICELAND REGION #earthquake #Iceland
Depth: 4 km
Distances: 29 km SSW of Reykjavík, Iceland / pop: 118,000 / local time: 16:30:41.0 2020-08-26
14 km NE of Grindavík, Iceland / pop: 2,800 / local time: 16:30:41.0 2020-08-26
MAGNITUDE 3.7 ICELAND REGION #earthquake #Iceland
Depth: 6 km
Distances: 30 km SSW of Reykjavík, Iceland / pop: 118,000 / local time: 13:43:45.0 2020-08-26
13 km NE of Grindavík, Iceland / pop: 2,800 / local time: 13:43:45.0 2020-08-26
Nearly 80 Killed as Flash Floods Ravage City in Afghanistan #Floods #Afghanistan
When the heavy rains came overnight, setting off flash floods in northern Afghanistan, the deluge quickly turned deadly and caught many residents off guard because they were sleeping.
On Wednesday, a hospital official said the floods had killed nearly 80 people and injured scores of others in Charikar, home to nearly 200,000 people and the capital of Parwan Province, just north of Kabul.
Mahmood Samadi, a Charikar resident, said he woke to the sound of water rushing through his neighborhood and quickly decided to get his family out of the city. When he returned, nearly half his house was flooded and six homes on his street had been destroyed.
“I don’t know about the exact casualties in our street, but I know many people were killed and wounded,” Mr. Samadi said.
The flash floods left a trail of mud, toppled houses and bodies in their wake. Photos in the Afghan news media showed flattened buildings, scattered debris and mangled cars. Rescue workers sifted through the wreckage, as many residents were believed to be trapped under collapsed homes. One hospital reported receiving 78 bodies and 105 wounded people. The death toll in the city was expected to rise.
The flooding is just the latest blow for Afghanistan, which has been ravaged by the coronavirus and bloodied by Taliban attacks across the country since a Feb. 29 peace agreement between the United States and the insurgent group.
Tariq Arian, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s interior ministry, said on Tuesday that 88 civilians had been killed in the preceding two weeks, and he blamed the Taliban for most of the deaths.
That same day, a Taliban car bomb in the northern province of Balkh killed at least eight civilians, as well as two Afghan commandos whose unit was based nearby. More than 60 people were wounded, and the blast destroyed or damaged several buildings, including an agricultural center and an animal clinic.
Nearly 1,300 civilians were killed in fighting during the first six months of the year, according to the United Nations. A similar number of Afghans were reported to have died from the coronavirus, but the true number is likely to be significantly higher because of limited testing and the government’s diminished presence in more rural areas.
Since the start of the year, more than 17,000 people have been affected by heavy floods and rains across Afghanistan, with nearly 2,000 homes destroyed, according to a United Nations report released in April.
Scientists have pointed to climate change as more frequent flooding has struck Asian countries, including China, where riverbanks have been breached and waters have strained the Three Gorges Dam; North Korea, where the government declined to accept international aid for fear of letting the coronavirus in; Bangladesh, where torrential rains recently submerged at least a quarter of the country; and Indonesia, where flash floods left hundreds of thousands homeless earlier this year.
In Afghanistan, weak governance puts residents in additional peril: With little official oversight, urban planning is often neglected. Many of the houses destroyed in Charikar were built in an area prone to flooding, said Mohammad Khalil Fazli, a member of the Parwan provincial council.
Nearly the entire city was devastated, Mr. Fazli said. “There are houses destroyed by flash floods in every corner of the city,” he said.
Esmatullah Mohammadi, another member of the provincial council, said, “The government should haven’t let these people build their houses there, because everyone knows that it is a route of flash floods.”
Heavy rains in northern and eastern Afghanistan are common this time of year. On Tuesday night, three people were killed and three others wounded in a series of flash floods in eastern Wardak Province, said Mohammad Sardar Bakhtyari, a local official. Dozens of houses and acres of agricultural land were destroyed.
But the dense population and the fact that the downpour happened overnight combined to deadly effect in Charikar.
A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said that the Afghan government had pledged emergency support for Charikar.
Flash flooding in Charikar earlier this month affected 495 families, 152 of which needed humanitarian assistance, according to a report from the International Organization for Migration.
Courtesy of nytimes.com