Posted: Tue 30th Jun 2020

Updated: Tue 30th Jun

237 confirmed cases connected to Wrexham outbreak – however 72 ‘historic’ cases that ‘predate mass sampling’ for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jun 30th, 2020

UPDATE 2pm: The usual 2pm Public Health Wales statement has emerged, along with the dashboard data update.

The dashboard attributes +5 new confirmed cases for Wrexham.

Today’s Public Health Wales statement notes some extra information on the jump from 166 cases to the new 237 figure, information that was not given from the Health Minister earlier.

The 237 announced cases, minus the 72 ‘historic’ cases, would return the local figure close to the Friday figure of 166.

“Today’s report includes 19 cases identified following an intensive data matching exercise that has taken place over the course of the weekend and 72 historic cases which pre-date the mass sampling at the site”.

“This is as we would expect for any focused track and trace process. The relatively large increase in cases reported does not mean that we have experienced a sudden jump in levels of infection in the Wrexham area as a whole.

“Work has also continued over the weekend to review data and continue contract tracing with the workforce. As a result we have established that around two thirds of the 300 workers we were initially seeking to contact could be removed from our enquiries, as they we either already shielding or have not been working during the period of the outbreak.

“Of the remaining group of employees and contractors (approximately 100 people), we continue to work with the employer and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to offer testing appointments at local community testing units.

“There is no evidence that Rowan Foods is the source of the outbreak. The multi-agency team managing the outbreak with Public Health Wales will continue to review the situation and work with the employer, their workforce and wider community to bring this outbreak to a swift conclusion.

em>Original information below…

The Health Minister has said today there are now 237 confirmed cases in relation to the outbreak in Wrexham.

The figures are up 42% from the 166 cases at the last official public update, or 28% up on the 185 cases we reported last night based off an internal Wrexham councillor update.

We asked the Health Minister Vaughan Gething today if further stats will be released to give more context around the single number given out, to discover if that was around factory workers, friends and family and the numbers of people self isolating.

We also asked the Minister if comments in the House of Commons last night were accurate when Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock said Welsh Government had closed the Wrexham factory.

The Health Minister replied, “On the last point, the Welsh Government hasn’t closed the factory. Now, we have the powers to close a business, but we have not closed at Rowan Foods or Kpak. Two Sisters (Anglesey) voluntarily closed their business for two weeks so that’s the factual point.

“On figures in Wrexham, I’ve given the figures and later today we’ll give the new figures when we get the update on up the numbers of people associated with Rowan Foods to be able to see from the Rowan Foods figures and the other figures in Wrexham about what the link is.

“We are actually seeing a very low level of coronavirus transmission within our communities, there’s I think about a third or more of our local authorities that have had no cases at all within the last few days so that’s really positive.

“What we do see in Wrexham is it being driven by the testing and the prevalence of coronavirus within the workforce at Rowan Foods, so that is absolutely an undeniably the driver.

“It’s why we test so many people. It’s why, as I’ve described earlier for local authority, the employer trade unions and the National Health Service are working together to make sure that we do test everyone who needs a test.

“We are taking all steps that we could and should do to make sure testing happens, whilst taking all steps necessary to protect the public and the wider community.

“The drivers of transmission appear to be, not just the workplace actually, but shared travel to the workplace and shared accommodation as well, so we need to understand those to then measure our response against what’s required to protect those people with coronavirus, as well as the wider community.”

Mr Gething referenced discussions locally with a range of stakeholders including unions. Yesterday Unite the Union said about Wrexham: “Full sick pay so that employees can stay home and be safe is in our view the key action that would have stopped the virus spreading on this site.”

We asked the First Minister about that topic on Friday, and was he was writing a letter to PM Johnson. Today we asked for an update regarding the finances of closures and staff pay, and if UK Government was not going to sort the issue, would Welsh Government.

Today Mr Gething replied: “We don’t have the power to intervene on sick pay or changes to employment law, and we don’t have the power to intervene in individual contracts employment.

“It’s worth pointing out Two Sisters on Anglesey, because they closed the plant, they’re paying their staff as normal. That’s the legal requirement, and that happened with relatively little need to engage directly with a company, between local stakeholders including the union.

“In Kpak USDAW welcomed yesterday the fact that Kpak are paying everyone who has a positive coronavirus test their full pay as well.

“Rowan Foods is still paying statutory sick pay, and for some people that puts people in a position where they need to choose between doing the right thing on public health grounds, protecting the wider community, and the potential to go back in to work, and essentially pay bills.

“Now, what all of the employers are doing as I said is that unless people have a negative test result, they won’t be allowed back into work, so there won’t be an incentive to go into work with symptoms in these three employers.

“We are though concerned that there should be an answer, not just in these three instances, not just in the outbreaks that we know are taking place in England too but more generally. That’s why the First Minister wrote to the UK government at the end of last week, asking for the work to be progressed, and to have an answer to this.”

“It’s why I raised it in the meeting of four health ministers last week, this is something where the whole UK could and should benefit.

“I would welcome, and support UK Government measures either to change employment law or in any event to make sure that support is available centrally from the UK Government so employers don’t face a choice between potentially going out of business if they want to pay full sick pay or indeed have the means and the resources to not make that choice between different competitors.”

“So, I hope the UK government in the work that I understand they’re already doing, will be able to bring forward a quick decision because this isn’t just of benefit and interest to us here in Wales, but I think every nation in the UK would benefit from that approach being taken as we see in Germany, for example, it would practically mean people would self isolate when asked to do so by their contract tracing teams.”

You can watch the briefing, and the Q&A session on the below video:

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