Many workers at a coronavirus-hit chicken factory are likely to have contracted the deadly infection outwith the plant, a leading doctor has said.
On Monday, NHS Tayside confirmed 57 cases of Covid-19 have now been identified in connection with the 2 Sisters processing plant in Coupar Angus, Perthshire.
The health board said contact tracing continues, with more than 80 workers having to self-isolate as a precaution.
The plant was closed last August and all workers were told to quarantine following an outbreak that infected almost 200 staff members and community contacts.
An Incident Management Team (IMT) was mobilised following this latest outbreak and is continuing to monitor the situation closely.
The factory remains open in the meantime.
Dr Emma Fletcher, chair of the IMT, said: “Fifty-seven cases of Covid-19 connected to the 2 Sisters food processing plant have now been identified.
“This was an expected increase, with many of the additional positive cases already self-isolating.
“The Incident Management Team remains reassured that the factory can remain open at this time as we are in a very different position to when there were Covid-19 cases at the factory last August.
“Firstly, 2 Sisters have put in place a number of measures to reduce the risk of transmission within the factory. These have been reviewed regularly and assurance provided by the relevant regulatory authorities.
“Secondly, the incidence of the infection in the community is much higher compared to August. Therefore, we will identify cases of Covid-19 in employees of 2 Sisters, as in any workplace, at this time.
“Many of the cases are likely to have contracted the infection outwith the factory setting.
“Thirdly, we have built on our experience from the cases at the factory last year and work closely with the factory ensuring full contact tracing is completed for all staff contacts and advice and support provided to employees affected through partner agencies of the IMT.
“We can confirm that contact tracing of the positive cases to date is ongoing and over 80 employees who were working in the areas of the factory, which have been identified as having been directly affected, are self-isolating as a precaution.
“The factory is continuing to work closely with NHS Tayside’s public health team and Food Standards Scotland to help manage the situation.”
A further update from the IMT is expected on Friday.
A spokesperson from the 2 Sisters Food Group said: “Last year all colleagues were given extensive guidance on conduct in the community and how to keep Covid-safe in a shared household.
“Any colleague suspected of breaching guidelines will be subject to disciplinary action.”