Dozens of key workers picking and packing vegetables at a farm in Herefordshire have tested positive for coronavirus.
AS Green and Co, based in Mathon near Malvern, says 73 of its 200 employees have COVID-19 following an outbreak there.
Workers are being asked to isolate on the farm and stay within household groups to reduce the risk of spreading the virus within the workforce.
A spokesperson said: “Our staff are our priority, they are hard-working key workers helping us provide food for the country during these unusual times.
“We contacted PHE and we are working closely with them and public health at Herefordshire Council to prevent the spread of 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.”
The farm has closed for all visitors and says Public Health England has advised 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”.
Herefordshire Council says it is arranging food and essential supplies for residents on the site while they self-isolate.
Katie Spence, PHE Midlands health protection director, said: “At this phase of the pandemic, we still expect to see cases in the community and within settings where people are closer together, such as workplaces, which is why the test and trace system is important, to help us pick up on any potential problems and swiftly to take remedial action to reduce spread.”
She added that despite health measures being introduced, “a small number of workers became symptomatic earlier this week”, and that “a few close contacts among the workforce were tested initially and found to be positive”.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Karen Wright, director of public health for Herefordshire, says “prompt testing” on the farm has allowed them to “understand transmission and control the spread of infection”.
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She said: “While Herefordshire is the first to experience an outbreak of this kind, this is not unexpected.
“We continue to support the farm management, their workers – who form an important part of our local economy, and the local community through this challenging time.
“Anyone who has a fever, persistent dry cough, or loss or change in their sense of taste or smell should call 119 or go online to arrange a test.”