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Covid-hit chicken factory won’t close despite surge in infections, health chiefs say

Health chiefs have outlined their reasons for not closing a Perthshire chicken factory, despite an upsurge in coronavirus cases.

The 2 Sisters plant in Coupar Angus was ordered to shut down in August after four out of 1,200 staff tested positive for the virus.

Now an Incident Management Team (IMT) has been set up at the George Street abattoir following a second outbreak.

So far, 30 people connected to the factory have tested positive and about 70 are self-isolating.

NHS Tayside has come under pressure to temporarily close the plant again. Local SNP MP Pete Wishart suggested there “was a strong case for the factory to be temporarily closed, given the numbers are higher than the initial outbreak previously.”

Dr Emma Fletcher, who is chairing the IMT, has now moved to allay concerns.

“The IMT has conducted a comprehensive risk assessment of the cases associated with the factory,” she said. “For several reasons the public should be reassured that it is possible for the factory to remain open at this time as we are in a very different position to when there were Covid-19 cases at the factory last August.”

She said: “Firstly, 2 Sisters have put in place a number of measures to reduce the risk of transmission within the factory.

“These have been reviewed regularly and assurance provided by the relevant regulatory authorities.”

Dr Fletcher said the rate of community infection was much higher compared to August’s outbreak.

“Therefore, we will identify cases of Covid-19 in employees of 2 Sisters, as in any workplace, at this time,” she said.

“Many of the cases are likely to have contracted the infection outwith the factory setting.

“Thirdly, we have built on our experience from the cases at the factory last year and work closely with the factory ensuring full contact tracing is completed for all staff contacts and advice and support provided to employees affected through partner agencies of the IMT.”

Dr Fletcher confirmed contact tracing of the positive cases to date had been completed, and around 70 employees, who were working in directly affected areas of the factory, were “self-isolating as a precaution”.

“The factory is continuing to work closely with NHS Tayside’s Public Health team and Food Standards Scotland to help manage the situation,” she said.

The team will meet again to review the situation early next week.

Local SNP MSP John Swinney said: “I am closely monitoring the concerning situation at the 2 Sisters factory in Coupar Angus.

“It is vital that the strongest necessary action is taken to ensure that the outbreak does not spread any further.”

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