Recruitment agencies asked to restrict workers in bid to stop Covid-19 transmission

Northamptonshire's director of public health has asked that workers are not sent to more than one company as links between cases emerge

Friday, 21st August 2020, 5:24 pm
Updated Friday, 21st August 2020, 5:28 pm
Recrutiment agencies are being asked not to put people on their books into more than one workplace.

Northamptonshire’s director of public health has asked the county’s recruitment agencies not to send workers to more than one company to help stop the spread of the Covid-19.

The move is being done in a bid to prevent workers with the virus perhaps unknowingly infecting colleagues by moving between workplaces.

Today it has emerged there are links between cases from sandwich factory Greencore and other smaller outbreaks at firms on other business parks.

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At the news conference leader of Northampton Borough Council Jonathan Nunn said: “Car sharing is an issue. Not just among the same workplaces but between workplaces. There are linked cases that have been traced.” Besides Greencore the public health team says there are just two other known live outbreaks in workplaces.

Mobile testing units are to be stationed at large business parks around the county and at the Covid oversight meeting yesterday (August 20) head of quality at Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, Sharon Wright, said: “We are looking at a testing strategy to roll out to other industrial units because we do know that some of the staff at Greencore car share and drop off at various industrial units across the way. So that will help us to understand what is going on at other industrial units.”

At the news conference when asked what proportion of Greencore staff had been working at other companies, Director of Public Health Lucy Wightman said the practice was an issue.

She said: “It is a known challenge. We have written to agencies to ask that people are not double placed for the time being.”

Today Health secretary Matt Hancock stepped in and Greencore, which has had just under 300 confirmed cases in the past two weeks, closed down. The company will undergo a deep clean and its 2,000 employees will have to self-isolate for two weeks.

The health secretary’s decision was made after evidence was submitted by public health that the company had been doing an ‘exemplary job’ and the Northamptonshire director of public health made clear at a virtual press conference today that ‘the setting is not the risk factor here’. Non compliant social distancing measures by staff have been pointed to as the cause of the scale of the outbreak.

Cllr Jonathan Nunn also said the county’s public health and environmental health officers were keeping in ‘extremely close contact’ with food manufacturing companies in the county.

Asked whether these companies should carry out their own private testing – which was the method behind exposing the large scale of the Greencore outbreak – Lucy Wightman said it was ‘not reasonable’ as it was ‘extremely expensive’ and disproportionate. She said detailed analysis had found the transmission was happening with colleagues outside of the workplace.

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