Nearly 1,400 Covid-19 ‘clusters’ in European and UK workplaces since March

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There were 1,376 clusters of Covid-19 cases in workplace or occupational settings in Europe and the UK between March and early July, a report has concluded.

With a cluster of nearly 300 workers testing positive this month at food manufacturer Greencore in Northampton, as well as clusters being reported at a food manufacturing plant in Scotland and a supermarket in Swindon, among others, the report from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted the scale of the challenge facing workplaces, and occupational health, as we head into the autumn.

The report, Covid-19 clusters and outbreaks in occupational settings in the EU/EEA and the UK, calculated that the 1,376 clusters occurred in the UK and 15 European Union or European Economic Area countries in the five-month period.

Staff most at risk were those working in occupations that brought them into close physical proximity with other people, particularly when working in indoor settings or with shared transport or accommodation, it concluded.

The majority of clusters were reported within healthcare settings, although large numbers of clusters had also occurred within the food packaging and processing sectors, in factories and manufacturing, and in office settings. Fewer clusters were reported from the mining sector, however some of these had been large, the report said.

“Increased focus on testing for Covid-19 in workplace settings, combined with robust polices on physical distancing, hygiene and cleaning, appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary and hand hygiene, particularly in closed settings and situations where workers have extended contact or share transportation and accommodation, will help prevent further Covid-19 outbreaks,” the report concluded.

“Collaboration between public health and occupational health and safety agencies at local and national level will help with communication and mitigation of the spread of Covid-19 in occupational settings and communities in the EU/EEA and the UK,” it added.

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