Coronavirus: Yorkshire meat factory locked down after becoming centre of outbreak

Unclear if any fatalities following Covid cases at Asda-owned plant

Colin Drury
Yorkshire
Friday 19 June 2020 18:45
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Kober Ltd in Cleckheaton
Kober Ltd in Cleckheaton

A meat-packing plant in West Yorkshire has been placed under emergency lockdown after a severe outbreak of coronavirus.

Mobile testing tents have been set up outside Kober Ltd, near the town of Cleckheaton, after an unspecified number of workers came down with Covid-19.

Both Kirklees Council, the local authority, and the government have refused to say if there have been any deaths or hospitalisations associated with the new explosion of cases.

But on Friday, the plant – which is owned by Asda and supplies its stores with bacon rashers and joints – remained shut down.

In a statement, the supermarket giant said: “As soon as we became aware that some colleagues at our Kober site may have Covid-19, we responded swiftly and worked collaboratively with the local authority and Public Health England to test all colleagues.”

About 100 contacts of staff are reported to have been traced and told to isolate.

The existence of the outbreak was revealed by health secretary Matt Hancock in an unscripted moment during Thursday’s live Downing Street press conference.

Answering a question about how local lockdowns might be implemented, he said: “The system is already up and running. In fact, I chaired a meeting this morning of our local action committee, which is the formal process through which we make these decisions, working with local leaders, for instance, in Kirklees.

“And the local director of public health and the council are heavily involved in the response.”

But it raised immediate questions about why Kirklees Council itself had apparently sought to keep the outbreak secret.

Rachel Spencer-Henshall, the area’s director of public health, said: “We were made aware of a number of positive cases of Covid-19 at a workplace in Kirklees.

“We have been providing support and advice to both the management and employees in order to minimise any further transmission.”

It is not the first time meat packing plants have been at the centre of a coronavirus spread.

This week alone two food-processing plants in Wales were revealed to have suffered separate outbreaks with a total number of 96 cases confirmed, while in the spring, three workers died following an outbreak at a factory in Barnsley.

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