Covid-19 Outbreaks (Food Processing Plants)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th November 2020.

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Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

The First Minister will be aware of the worrying outbreak of Covid at the Kepak McIntosh Donald plant in my constituency, where 78 cases have been detected. That is another example of an outbreak in a food processing plant.

Do we now have a better understanding of why those outbreaks occur? What measures can be taken to prevent them?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

We have known throughout the pandemic—even before we had experience of it in Scotland—that food processing plants pose some particular risks. There are various reasons for that, which include the very low temperatures in some plants and some of the other working conditions. As that understanding has developed, so too has the response from public health experts.

A lot of work has been done to make sure that the right precautions are taken in food processing plants and that where there are cases those are identified quickly and the right steps are taken. That includes testing the wider workforce to minimise spread within workplaces and, most important, to minimise the risk of an outbreak in a plant such as Kepak moving into wider community transmission.

That is an important focus for the public health teams in Grampian.

Without taking away from the seriousness of the situation, I can perhaps say one more positive thing about this. Although we have seen a rise in cases in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire—I have commented on that in the chamber in the past couple of weeks—we can take some assurance from the fact that much of that rise can be attributed to outbreaks such as this one, rather than being indicative of more widespread increases in community transmission. We continue to monitor that carefully, but it is one of the reasons why, notwithstanding those increases, we have not felt it necessary to move Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire up a level.