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Seventy-three key workers at a farm in Herefordshire have tested positive for Covid-19, it has been confirmed.
Dozens more staff have now been forced to self-isolate on the farm in Mathon, on the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border, which is owned by AS Green and Co.
According to the Hereford Times, about 200 key workers are employed for picking and packing work at the farm and – as they live on-site in mobile accommodation during the harvest season – they are now self-isolating together as one extended bubble.
A statement on the AS Green and Co website said: “We confirm that we are working closely with, Public Health England and the Public Health team at Herefordshire Council to support a number of our workers that have tested positive for Covid-19.
“As a precautionary measure we have arranged for testing of additional key workers including management team members and visitors connected with A S Green and can confirm all results to date outside of our site have been returned with negative results.
“To date there are 73 positive cases on our site.
“Our site is currently closed for all visitors and with the assistance of the various bodies no workers are being permitted to leave our site and are receiving the required support at our site.”
A joint statement from Public Health England (PHE) Midlands and Herefordshire Council said employees were being asked to remain on the farm during the period of isolation.
The council said it is arranging food and essential supplies for residents on the site – who reside in mobile homes based on the farm during the harvesting season – while they self-isolate.
To date, there have been 809 confirmed cases of Covid-19 Herefordshire, with the biggest daily increase incases recorded on Saturday when 56 positive tests were recorded in the county.
A spokesperson for AS Green and Co added: “Our work force and local community are our priority at this difficult time and we continue to follow the guidance of the relevant bodies to ensure that the spread of the virus is controlled and our workforce is supported.
“Public Health England advises that it is very unlikely Covid-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging, so shoppers can remain confident buying British fruit and veg.
“Thank you for your understanding in these difficult times.”
Katie Spence, PHE Midlands health protection director, said that to support the workforce of around 200 key workers, the company had put a range of infection control measures in place.
“Despite these measures, a small number of workers became symptomatic earlier this week and they and a few close contacts among the workforce were tested initially and found to be positive,” she said in a statement.
“In line with NHS guidance, affected individuals were asked to self-isolate for seven days, with their households and close contacts asked to isolate for 14 days.
“As we have seen a global trend of large food producers being subject to outbreaks, as a precautionary measure, the decision was made to test the entire workforce.
“The initial batch of results showed a significant percentage of positive cases, despite these individuals being asymptomatic.
“We are still awaiting a few final results, but currently we have 73 positive cases of Covid-19 among the workforce.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.