Tiny market town in Norfolk has highest Covid infection rate in England after massive outbreak at pork factory

2 weeks ago 1

A TINY market town in Norfolk has the highest Covid infection rate in England after a massive outbreak at a pork processing plant. 

Watton now has 1,516 cases per 100,000 people, after 248 people tested positive for the bug at Cranswick Country Foods.

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Watton is home to the highest Covid infection rate in England

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Watton is home to the highest Covid infection rate in EnglandCredit: Ralph Blackburn/Triangle News

248 people tested positive for the bug at Cranswick Country Foods

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248 people tested positive for the bug at Cranswick Country FoodsCredit: Ralph Blackburn/Triangle News

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The surge in cases at the plant - thought to package around a fifth of England’s pork - is so large that the Government has been warned.

And residents, who until Thursday's national lockdown were living under Tier 1 (medium alert level) restrictions, are now afraid to leave their homes.

Local councillor Keith Gilbert, who lives in the town, said: “Many people have stopped shopping in Watton completely.

“They are driving to supermarkets out of town.”

Businesses are also wary of the outbreak, with one bookies trying to bar Cranswick workers from entering.

'SCARED TO GO OUT'

Alan Diver, 67, said he and his friends were avoiding leaving their homes.

He said: “It’s a huge concern for everybody, you can see a marked difference in the way people are living.

“Everyone walks around with their masks on in public.”

But Laura Elliott, who runs the butchers Steven Smith Quality Meat, insists people are following the rules.

She said: “We insist everyone who enters wears a mask, unless they have an exemption.

“We’ve become extra careful with our precautions.”

Elsewhere in Norfolk has few Covid cases, with north Norfolk having the lowest infection rate in England.

The rest of Breckland, where Watton is located, has a rate of just 197 per 100,000.

BUG SPREADS

The town has been split over what to do about Cranswick Country Foods - the epicentre of the outbreak.

Norfolk County Public Health has asked the Health Secretary to order the butchery section, where half the workforce tested positive, to close.

Its application is being screened by government officials and the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

It will be up to Matt Hancock to make the final decision on the immediate future of the plant.

The council is continuing to test staff, and of the 767 tests carried out by Friday, 248 staff had tested positive.

A Norfolk Public Health spokesperson said: “We’ve been working hard with our partners to respond to the outbreak at Cranswick Country Foods in Watton.

“With support from the local NHS, our District Council colleagues and mobile testing units from the DHSC, we’re testing all employees at the site and directing individuals with a positive test result, and their close contacts to self-isolate.

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“We have also strongly advised Cranswick’s management to ask all staff in the butchery section to self-isolate as close contacts.

“We continue to be in close contact with the company and with the Joint Biosecurity Centre to combat any community transmission of the virus in the town.”

After the outbreak was made public last week, Cranswick said: “We are continuing to work cooperatively with Public Health England, the Health and Safety Executive, Defra and Norfolk County Council.”

Laura Elliott says customers have been following the rules

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Laura Elliott says customers have been following the rulesCredit: Ralph Blackburn/Triangle News

 A worker pictured at Cranswick Country Foods in Watton

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 A worker pictured at Cranswick Country Foods in WattonCredit: GEOFF ROBINSON.

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