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Covid outbreak at Wellingborough pharmaceutical packing firm

The Honeywood Wadsell site in Wellingborough. Copyright: Google.

Bosses at a Wellingborough pharmaceutical packing company say they have taken lengthy steps to protect other workers after a coronavirus outbreak hit eight workers there.

The first staff member is believed to have become ill over the VE day bank holiday in late May and then others at the Honeywood site, which is part of the Wasdell Group, contracted the virus over subsequent weeks.

A whistleblower contacted the Northants Telegraph to say that staff had raised concerns about social distancing at the site during the early part of the pandemic.

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Staff at the firm on the Denington Industrial Estate have continued to work during the coronavirus pandemic. One person told our reporter they’d told managers they were worried about the continued presence of different agency staff at the firm which they say put them and existing workers at risk.

He said: “We were worried that they didn’t shut for a deep clean when the first cases happened and that agency staff were still coming in. We didn’t think they were being told about the outbreak so they had no idea about it.”

Several organisations across north Northants have encountered coronavirus outbreaks including Tayto and Kingswood School in Corby as well as the Royal Mail depot in Wellingborough.

In response to the concerns raised by the whistleblower, Daniel Tedham, managing director of the Wasdell Group, said: “These assertions are simply not true. As you’d expect, as a responsible employer we have taken the coronavirus pandemic extremely seriously, and taken every precaution to protect staff.

“Even before lockdown on March 23, management were meticulous in running through procedures with their teams, including precautions in the workplace such as personal hygiene and cleaning workstations. We also advised all employees who were considered “vulnerable”, and not just those who needed to be shielding, to refrain from coming to work.

“Since then we have put further measures in place, based on Government guidance, that includes using sanitisers, wearing face masks where appropriate, maintaining two metres distancing at all times, washing hands thoroughly and often, washing down workstations regularly and staggering work breaks. Visitors are only allowed on site if their visit is essential, and they are fully briefed on our on-site rules when they arrive. Staff and agency workers are regularly reminded to maintain social distancing during lunch breaks and indeed outside of work, and are urged not to car-share when travelling to and from work.

“We have developed a COVID policy which includes a COVID screening questionnaire, which anyone who calls in sick with symptoms is required to complete.

“We have had eight employees who tested positive, and each of those was told to self-isolate immediately. Since then, all have recovered and have returned to work.

“We have spoken at length to Public Health England (PHE) about these cases and provided all the information they needed to conduct track and trace analysis. PHE have had details of all the initiatives we put in place, including our screening questionnaires, the central log, our COVID Policy and its implementation and any other health and safety measures. PHE told us that the employee whom they had spoken to confirmed that we had put those measures in place and were adhering to them. PHE advised that it was not necessary to isolate any employees with whom those who tested positive were working. However, we were completely transparent with our employees and agency workers when someone tested positive, and informed them of the fact and reiterated the need to be very vigilant, maintain social distancing inside and outside work, and follow our Safe Systems for Work procedures.

“As regards the complaint that we did not conduct a deep clean, as a pharmaceutical company it is a requirement of our industry that we have the most stringent cleaning regimes at all times, 24 hours a day. As such, it is not necessary to close the business for a deep clean because we maintain these strict cleaning regimes constantly. Anybody who works at our facility knows that is the case.

“The only way the virus can spread amongst employees is if they do not adhere to the social distancing measures. In common with the general population, it is incumbent on all of us to continue to do so, and we will continue to be vigilant in reminding everyone on the site of that responsibility.”

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