Corby logistics firm still bussing in London workers despite large coronavirus outbreak
iForce, which operates two sites in Corby, has been employing dozens of workers from London for months because it cannot get enough local workers to fill its roles. Many of them stay in the Holiday Inn next door during the week next door then go home to London at the weekend.
The firm declined to confirm how many workers were coming from the capital to Corby each week.
An outbreak during Christmas week at the Geddington Road site was described by the company at the time as 'very small'. But since then, the Northants Telegraph has learned that 15 workers have tested positive and 18 more are self-isolating after coming into close contact with a person who has since tested positive.
The site acts as a logistics centre for big brands including John Lewis and Tesco. The Government advice is that people can leave their homes for work if they cannot work at home, but should avoid unnecessary travel. London's rates today prompted major Sadiq Khan to declare a major incident amid peak hospital admissions.
Corby's spiralling coronavirus rates - which have doubled in seven days - have led to the borough being mentioned at this week's national government gold command meeting.
Eariler this week the Northants Telegraph revealed that Corby's weekly rate jump was the highest in the country - the with borough recording more than 500 in just seven days.
An incredible 19,000 people in Corby work in either transporation, storage, manufacturing or wholesale meaning that there has been pressure from employers on workers to send their children into schools, so they can go into work. Some local schools have reported more than 50 per cent attendance this week, prompting one head to re-write her policy on in-school education for children.
Now MP Tom Pursglove has now written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Health Secretary Matt Hancock to pass on wider concerns from residents about the number of businesses in the town that have decided to stay open despite their workers not being critical to coronavirus efforts.
In an email to a concerned constituent, Mr Pursglove said: "In terms of who should be going to work, the Government guidance is clear that if you can work from home, you should, and I would expect local employers to be willingly and responsibly reflecting that approach in their working practices and not needlessly making staff who do not need to be in the workplace venture in."
He urged local people to contact him with any concerns they had about their workplaces.
Earlier this week the Government broadened its definition of critical workers to include a wider range of employees.
An iForce spokeswoman said: "Consistent with our last statement, iForce can confirm we have a small number of colleagues who have tested positive for Covid-19 (not all of which were working at the time).
"We have 15 confirmed cases across both locations and a further 18 colleagues whom are self-isolating as a result of our contact tracing policy, or due to requirements from within their own household. This represents less than 2 per cent of our workforce, and a further three cases since the last publication.
We continue to work closely with both the local council bodies and PHE in ensuring our Covid-19 processes are industry leading. The health, safety and wellbeing of all our colleagues is paramount to our organisation and we have, and continue to, go to great lengths to ensure all of our employees are safe. We have put in place robust measures, all consistent with the government guidelines, and invested in further safety and social distancing measures to protect all of our ‘critical workers’.
"These are unprecedented circumstances and our priorities are the safety and welfare of our colleagues. We continue to enforce the strictest hygiene and social distancing measures in all of our locations and work hard to keep our people safe, as we have done so since the start of this pandemic.”
A spokeswoman for the county’s Covid urgent response cell said: “We are aware of positive cases of COVID-19 at IForce, Geddington Road, Corby. The individuals who have tested positive have been advised to self-isolate, as well as those identified as their contacts.
“We are working closely with Public Health England and our Environmental Health and Health and Safety Executive colleagues, as we usually would, to ensure that measures are in place to prevent further virus spread.
“Based on the information we have so far, the risk to the wider population is low and we will be continuing to monitor this.
"Coronavirus is not known to be transmitted via food products but it’s important to remember to adhere to guidance on hand hygiene, wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitiser. Clean touch points and work surface after use; maintain social distancing and wear a face covering as per national guidance.”