MORE than 70 seasonal workers at a farm near Malvern have tested positive for coronavirus.

AS Green and Co, based in Mathon, has tested its entire workforce of around 200 people, and 73 positive tests have been returned.

Around 200 key workers are employed to carry out picking and packing work at the site, with the workforce living in mobile homes based on the site.

During the outbreak, they are all being treated as one extended bubble, being asked to remain on the farm during lockdown and stay within household groups.
Herefordshire Council is arranging food and essential supplies for residents on the site, while they self-isolate. 

An AS Green spokesman said: "Our staff are our priority, they are hard-working key workers helping us provide food for the country during these unusual times. 

"We contacted Public Health England and we are working closely with them and Public Health at Herefordshire Council to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

Karen Wright, director of public health for Herefordshire, said while Herefordshire is the first to experience an outbreak of this kind, this is "not unexpected." 

She said: "Our priority is to protect the health and wellbeing of all residents in our community.

"Prompt testing on the farm has allowed us to understand transmission and control the spread of infection. 

"We continue to support the farm management, their workers – who form an important part of our local economy, and the local community through this challenging time."

Katie Spence, PHE midlands health protection director, said: "We are working closely with the management at AS Green and Co to support the health and wellbeing of their workforce and wider public health.

"At this phase of the pandemic, we still expect to see cases in the community and within settings where people are closer together, such as workplaces, which is why the Test and Trace system is important, to help us pick up on any potential problems and swiftly to take remedial action to reduce spread. 

"To support this workforce of around 200 key workers, the company has put in place a range of infection control measures to try to reduce the risk of staff being exposed to COVID-19. 

"Measures include supporting testing on site, promoting social distancing in communal social areas and in the indoor packaging area; providing PPE for staff where applicable, encouraging regular handwashing for at least 20 seconds, and promoting the use of face coverings in closed areas.

"Despite these measures, a small number of workers became symptomatic earlier this week and they and a few close contacts among the workforce were tested initially and found to be positive. 

"In line with NHS guidance, affected individuals were asked to  self-isolate for 7 days, with their households and close contacts asked to isolate for 14 days. 

"As we have seen a global trend of large food producers being subject to outbreaks, as a precautionary measure, the decision was made to test the entire workforce. 

"The initial batch of results showed a significant percentage of positive cases, despite these individuals being asymptomatic. 

"We are still awaiting a few final results, but currently we have 73 positive cases of COVID-19 among the workforce.

"PHE Midlands and Herefordshire Council are therefore working with AS Green and Co to closely monitor and manage the outbreak and support individual workers."