United Kingdom

Long-serving worker at Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire pudding plant dies two weeks after Covid outbreak

A long-serving female worker at Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire pudding plant has died and another remains seriously ill in hospital two weeks after a coronavirus outbreak was confirmed among staff.

The woman worked at the firm's factory in Freightliner Road, Hull, where the previous cases were discovered and where she was described by colleagues as 'an important member'.  

Her cause of death is yet to be confirmed although it is believed Covid-19 was responsible.

Bosses said at the time of the alert a fortnight ago that they have 'followed and gone beyond the guidance' set out by public health bodies when confirming the earlier cases.

The factory, where half a billion 'Yorkshires' are produced every year, is believed to employ around 400 people and has been deep cleaned following the outbreak.

A long-serving female worker at Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire pudding plant has died and another remains seriously ill in hospital two weeks after a coronavirus outbreak was confirmed among staff 

The woman worked at the firm's factory in Freightliner Road, Hull, where the previous cases were discovered and where she was described by colleagues as 'an important member'

Aunt Bessie's have said the firm has put in place additional social distancing measures and the plant will operate at a 'reduced capacity'

Greggs factory closed after 'small number' of workers test positive 

Earlier this week, a Greggs factory in Newcastle was temporarily closed after a 'small number' of workers tested positive for the virus. 

The company insisted the move was just a 'a precautionary measure to keep teams as safe as possible', with around 300 people employed at the site in Longbenton, which will be deep cleaned before reopening.

Supplies are still expected to reach the 1,700 Greggs shops around the country, however, as a spokesman said: 'We do not foresee any stock shortages in our shops at this time.'  

Confirming the news in a statement, a spokesman for Aunt Bessie's said: 'We are all saddened about the death of our colleague, and our thoughts and condolences are with her family and friends at this time.

'She was an important member of our team for 21 years and we will do everything we can to support her family. As a mark of respect, today we won't be running the shift our colleague worked on, so that friends and colleagues have time to mourn and remember her.'

It is understood another employee told bosses that they were feeling unwell on Thursday, September 3 - the day before a second staff member reported also being ill.

Aunt Bessie's described how they had a 'small number of coronavirus cases' and that they were following national health guidance 'very strictly'.

We continue to follow the guidance of national health authorities very strictly,' a company spokesman said previously.

'Currently, our Aunt Bessie's factory has a small number of coronavirus cases, but PHE has repeatedly complimented us on our social distancing measures and our proactive approach to ensuring that our colleagues are safe and well.

'The health and welfare of our employees is our number one priority.

'We acted early and decisively in March to implement new procedures and have strict protocols at all of our sites, including our Hull Aunt Bessie's factory, to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading amongst our employees.'

Some of Britain's biggest food processing sites have been hit by Covid outbreaks during the pandemic.

Earlier this week, a Greggs factory in Newcastle was temporarily closed after a 'small number' of workers tested positive for the virus. 

The company insisted the move was just a 'a precautionary measure to keep teams as safe as possible', with around 300 people employed at the site in Longbenton, which will be deep cleaned before reopening.

Supplies are still expected to reach the 1,700 Greggs shops around the country, however, as a spokesman said: 'We do not foresee any stock shortages in our shops at this time.'  

Banham Poultry in the village of Attleborough also suffered an outbreak earlier in the pandemic

Last month Marks and Spencer was hit with a sandwich shortage after its supplier was forced to close its factory amid a surge in coronavirus cases among workers 

Chilled and damp interior with ultraviolet light: Why meat plants are a hotbed for coronavirus outbreaks

The virus thrives in cold, damp and indoor environments, particularly on cool surfaces.

The lack of a breeze or ultraviolet light from the sun means the moisture remains and can't be killed off inside food processing plants.

Furthermore, social distancing is particularly difficult in workplaces with a busy production line meaning the virus is likely to spread more easily.

Loud machinery also forces people to raise their voices and researchers say situations where people have to shout result in an increased risk of projecting the virus to others.

It's not just in the UK where a trend has been seen, either, after hundreds tested positive in a Berlin slaughterhouse, while a wet market in Wuhan is believed to have been at the heart of a huge number of infections early on in the crisis.  

Last month Marks and Spencer was hit with a sandwich shortage after its supplier was forced to close its factory amid a surge in coronavirus cases among workers.

Greencore, which manufactures own-label sandwiches for the retailer, announced a temporary closure of its Northampton plant for at least two weeks after 292 staff tested positive for the virus.

The move left refrigerated aisles empty of lunchtime favourites like prawn mayonnaise, BLT, and chicken salad for shoppers and office workers around the country.

It came as the Food Standards Agency revealed even at that stage that there were at least 40 active outbreaks in factories in England alone - with more recorded in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Dr Colin Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer at the FSA, admitted at the time the figure is not comprehensive, and may be higher, but said: 'The number that I mentioned, was one we are content to make public. It is a small number of a big total.'

A huge chicken factory in Norfolk was another that was forced to close after 75 workers tested positive for coronavirus. It resulted in 350 families put into Covid isolation.

Banham Poultry, in the village of Attleborough, voluntarily agreed to close its cutting room following an outbreak of the virus.     

Other major food producers, such as Cranswick and 2 Sisters Food Group, have also closed plants following a surge in cases among staff. 

Experts have suggested the cold conditions inside the plants may be conducive to the spread of the virus.

Although the FSA's statement only mentions factories in England, there have already been cases of plants closes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A chicken processing plant run by 2 Sisters in Coupar Angus, Scotland, has seen the number of cases among its staff pass well over 100, forcing it to close, while a facility run by Cranswick in County Antrim became the first in Northern Ireland to be shut down because of a surge in cases. 

Plants in Anglesey and Wrexham in Wales were among the first in the UK to register a crisis in cases among staff, forcing them to close. 

Dr Simon Clarke, a cellular microbiologist at the University of Reading, previously told MailOnline that it was notable that food factories seemed to have been the centre of outbreaks more than other factories where people might be close together.

He said: 'There are problems in this country, in Germany, in the United States. There is something common between them - it's not happening in engineering or clothing factories where you also might expect people to be in close proximity to one another.

'One assumes - but it's just an idea - that the cold environment makes people more susceptible to the virus. 

'Cold weather irritates the airways and the cells become more susceptible to viral infection.'  

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