Great Britain

Northampton M&S sandwich factory where 300 workers caught coronavirus STILL open despite lockdown warnings

A SANDWICH factory in Northampton where nearly 300 workers caught coronavirus is still open despite warnings of a local lockdown in the area.

Greencore, the UK's largest maker of pre-packed sandwiches, has said that production is "continuing as usual" at the plant - though some of its staff are self-isolating after contracting the bug.

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The company, which makes sandwiches for M&S, took the decision to start "proactively testing" its 2,100 workers as a result of a rise in cases in the town.

Lucy Wightman, Director of Public Health at Northamptonshire County Council, said that so far 299 workers have tested positive.

She added that 79 people returned positive NHS tests through the NHS and a further 220 tested positive through the Greencore's private testing.

So far, 1,300 employees have been tested at the site - with fears that cases could increase by 100 as there are still between 300 and 400 tests yet to come back.

A spokesman for the company confirmed to the BBC that those who tested positive are in self-isolation, and that in each case it had "conducted contact tracing".

But they added that, despite the outbreak, production at the plant was "continuing as usual" and had no concerns about their products.

The Sun Online has contacted Greencore for comment.


It comes amidst fresh fears of a local lockdown in Northampton, which has England's 12th highest rate of coronavirus infections at 38 cases per 100,000 people.

Last week, Northamptonshire's Chief constable Nick Adderley said the town was "odds-on" for a second lockdown were locals to continue to flout health guidelines.

He added: "If we suffer a second lockdown, that would be catastrophic, not only for the economy, but for the freedom of the great people of this county".

Mrs Wightman added that locals and employees at the factory should "act now" to prevent a possible return to restrictions.

She said: "Northampton borough has been experiencing a high number of cases over the last four weeks and residents and employees have been asked to 'act now' to follow additional measures, to avoid a local lockdown or further government intervention."

Greencore's Northampton site, which supplies own-brand sandwiches to M&S, is now working with Public Health England and the local council.

Nicolae Macari, the Bakers' Union's branch secretary for the factory, tested positive for the virus on August 4.

His mum and dad - who work at the factory - also tested positive, along with his wife.

He told the BBC: "When suddenly three or four people are pulled out of a line because they have tested positive, people are terrified.

"Making sandwiches seems to be much more important than everything else."

It comes as Oldham residents could be given new tough restrictions after its coronavirus case rate surged to become the highest in the country.

Leicester saw the first local lockdown on June 29. At that point, the infection rate in the East Midlands city was 135 cases per 100,000 people.

In Oldham, the current rate is 104.6 per 100,000 people.

In the past seven days there were 70 new confirmed cases in Northampton alone and the infection rate is well above the county rate with 580 cases per 100,000 population.

Greencore has a number of factories across the UK and makes food for supermarkets, including Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

When suddenly three or four people are pulled out of a line because they have tested positive, people are terrified

Nicolae Macari

In a statement, the firm said: "As a result of the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the Northampton area, we took the decision to start proactively testing all of the colleagues at our Northampton site.

"We can confirm that a number of colleagues have tested positive for the virus and are now self-isolating.

"We are liaising closely with PHE East Midlands, Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council, who are fully supportive of the controls that we have on site."

The company added: "In each case we have immediately conducted contact tracing and instructed potentially affected colleagues to self-isolate.

"All of Greencore's sites have wide-ranging social distancing measures, stringent hygiene procedures and regular temperature checking in place, and we are doing everything that we can to keep our people safe.

"As ever, the health and wellbeing of our colleagues is our number one priority."

Mrs Wightman said employees have been asked to "act now" after the number of confirmed cases in the town increased from 66 in the week ending August 2 to 85 for the week ending August 9.

She said: "We are working with colleagues at Greencore in Northampton after the discovery of an outbreak of Covid-19 in the workplace.

"Public Health England Midlands have been providing support to colleagues at Greencore in managing the outbreak.

"This has been supplemented by support from the local infection prevention and control team and Northampton Borough Council's environmental health colleagues."

She added: "It is evident that Greencore has highly effective measures in place and they continue to work extremely hard to exceed the requirements needed to be Covid-19 secure within the workplace."

Countries with infection rates of over 20 per 100k will have to quarantine, Grant Shapps warns

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