Tropical fruit giant Fyffes has today closed its Coventry banana ripening centre after 30 staff tested positive for Covid-19.
The Dublin-based importer is the latest in a growing list of food businesses to be negatively affected by transmission of the virus and will close the site until Wednesday 19 August to allow for a full deep clean of the entire workplace and the implementation of enhanced infection control measures.
Fyffes said three employees had initially tested positive after feeling unwell a fortnight ago, with a further 11 cases confirmed between 3 and 14 August.
Through contact tracing, management identified a further 26 employees who were asked to self-isolate. And after local authority test results of the remaining 182 staff was returned today, the total number to test positive for the virus had risen to 30.
All but three were asymptomatic, the importer said. But while the majority of results came back negative, Fyffes decided to suspend normal operations for 48 hours as a precaution.
It stressed it was “confident we can continue to supply bananas to our customers with minimal disruption”, despite the site closure.
Since March, the supplier said it had implemented social distancing, regular deep-cleaning and provided PPE, while also supporting staff financially to ensure they were not disadvantaged by following government guidelines and best practice in the management of the virus.
However, it would now look at implementing “additional measures we can take and we are asking employees to be additionally vigilant in following government guidelines both at home and at work”.
Management at Fyffes had “worked openly and co-operatively” with health authorities throughout its investigations, said Coventry City Council’s director of public health Liz Gaulton.
“After the increase in positive cases we have agreed a temporary cessation of normal operations is the best way forward to support the business and the food production industry, while also protecting the health and wellbeing of the workforce and the wider public health.”
Staff safety was Fyffes’ “number one priority”, added a spokesman for the business. “We are thankful for the continued support we have received for our staff members and our business.”
The news comes in the same day 2 Sisters Food Group confirmed it had temporarily closed its Coupar Angus poultry processing plant in Scotland, after four staff members tested positive for Covid-19.