Health Minister rules out closure of Wrexham schools despite large increase in coronavirus cases connected to Rowan Foods factory
Wales’ Health Minister has ruled out the closure of schools in Wrexham, despite a sharp increase in coronavirus cases linked to a food factory.
The latest update provided by Vaughan Gething shows 237 people have tested positive at the Rowan Foods plant on the town’s industrial estate – a rise of more than 40 per cent compared with the last set of public figures.
One primary school in the area decided to delay its planned reopening on Monday after a positive case was identified.
While there is no evidence to suggest the case at St Mary’s Primary School in Brymbo is connected to the factory outbreak, questions have been raised over whether schools should be shut to prevent the virus spreading further.
It comes after Anglesey Council took the decision not to allow children to return after a similar wave of COVID-19 at the 2 Sisters meat processing facility in Llangefni.
Mr Gething told the Local Democracy Reporting Service at today’s daily Welsh Government press conference that there was no cause for Wrexham schools to follow suit.
However, he said it was reliant on people following the advice of public health officials.
He said: “We don’t have evidence of community transmission, and the unified advice from Public Health Wales (PHW) and local health board, is that there isn’t a case for closing schools in Wrexham at present.
“That relies on people coming forward to get their tests, relies on people following the advice of the Test, Trace and Protect service, but at this time there isn’t that case.
“The difficulty is that whenever people ask a minister for a guarantee that something won’t happen, it’s not so much a hostage to fortune as an impossible promise to make.
“We know that coronavirus exists within communities at a relatively low level in any event, and I couldn’t guarantee in any good faith to any person in Wales, that they won’t have coronavirus now or in the future.
“What I can say is that if people follow the advice being given on social distancing, on good hand hygiene, on getting a test if you have symptoms, all of us will be safer, including you and your family.”
The latest figures from PHW in relation to Rowan Foods include 19 cases identified following a data matching exercise carried out over the weekend.
Meanwhile, 72 historic cases have also been discovered which pre-date the mass testing at the site, with 100 workers still yet to be tested.
The health agency said the significant increase in numbers was not representative of a “sudden jump” in levels of infection in Wrexham.
Mr Gething said there was no current need to impose a local lockdown after restrictions were tightened in Leicester today following a surge in coronavirus cases in the English city.
But he added that the necessary powers were available if the government decided to introduce stricter measures in future.
He said: “In Leicester, they don’t have an incident that is linked to one workplace and a distinct group of people to try to contain the spread of the virus within.
“That’s markedly different to where we are with Llangefni, Wrexham and Merthyr.
“We may get to a position where it’s necessary to make use of the power to require people to remain in isolation as opposed to the advice that is being given and largely followed.
“If we needed to take further community wide measures, ministers have those powers here.”
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme)
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