Bosses at a factory which has been hit by a coronavirus outbreak have responded to claims that it has no regard for the health of staff.
Over 170 staff at Pilgrim’s Pride in Pool have tested positive for COVID-19.
According to the latest claims, Pilgrim’s Pride allows workers who either have symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus back to work.
The company says, however, that anyone in this situation is asked to self-isolate in line with government guidelines – with no exceptions.
A worker said: “My friend is working in Tulip and he has had a positive coronavirus test. After a couple of days of isolation the company let him back to work when he had not finished his 14-day isolation.
“And I know that more people were told to come back to work when they had not finished their isolation.”
A local resident also said he is “appalled” by the situation at the factory.
“There has been mass testing but people are asked to work whilst awaiting results even if they have symptoms,” he said.
“I know someone who drives four other people to the site and, when one came back with a positive test, he was worried and so told the factory and staff line the situation. He was told it will be fine as long as they were wearing masks.
“Since then three of four people in his car have tested positive and he is showing symptoms such as having no sense of smell and feeling rough. He has told the factory but they have told him he still has to work.
“This company have no regard for their people’s health or for the consequences of spreading the virus into the wider community.”
Pilgrim’s Pride said they are following government guidelines, and no exceptions are made.
According to Cornwall Council’s public health team, people who test positive for COVID-19 need to isolate for ten days, and close contacts or people coronavirus patients live with should isolate for 14 days.
A spokesperson for Pilgrim’s Pride said: “Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 or displaying symptoms are required to self-isolate in line with government guidelines and this policy has been enforced throughout the business at all times with no exceptions.”
In total, almost 500 employees at the factory have been tested and Cornwall Council said the vast majority of the people who tested positive were not displaying symptoms.
You can stay up-to-date on the top news near you with CornwallLive’s FREE newsletters – find out more about our range of daily and weekly bulletins and sign up here or enter your email address at the top of the page.
The council’s Public Health team, along with Public Health England SW and the NHS, have been working closely with the food factory in Pool to reduce the likelihood of community transmission.
In a joint statement issued yesterday, the local authority said: “All employees who have tested positive are isolating in line with government guidelines, as are those found to have been in close contact with them.”
Julian German, leader of Cornwall Council, said: “This case demonstrates how the strategy of proactive testing is helping us to take action quickly to limit the spread of COVID in our communities. The council’s Public Health team review the situation daily and if any additional actions are needed the team stands ready to put them in place quickly.
“Our key message to residents is that we all need to play our part in limiting the virus – by following the guidance and doing our bit to protect ourselves and each other”.
As part of the joint statement with the council, a representative from Pilgrim’s Pride added: “These are the first positive cases we have experienced at our site in Redruth since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK and appear to coincide with the outbreaks seen more widely around the county. To put this into context, we have seen significantly more cases of COVID-19 in Cornwall over the past 14 days than we have experienced within our business of 6,000 employees located in 13 sites across the UK – including Manchester, West Midlands and Leicestershire – since the onset of this pandemic.
“We recognise our role and responsibilities within our community and continue to follow and exceed government guidelines as we have been since March when COVID-19 restrictions were introduced. We have also implemented additional measures where they bring benefit to particular situations. We audit our own compliance of all COVID-19 controls daily.
“From the outset we have worked conscientiously to do all we can to protect our workforce and the local community. Our teams have been working extremely hard in collaboration with the local authority and public health to manage this challenging situation, and have bravely conducted themselves with professionalism and integrity as they continue to play their important role in maintaining the UK food supply chain.”
The food factory also responded to claims that they are “covering up the outbreak” by “falsifying staff test data”.
A spokesperson explained that tests and follow-up communications are not handled by them but by public health teams.
They said: “The business is cooperating fully in this multi-agency approach to group testing at the site.
“All testing and follow-up communication is carried out independently of the business by public health teams, and every member of staff at the site as well as contractors and agency employees are involved in the testing or track and trace programme, as deemed appropriate by public health teams.”