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Cornwall's Public Health team enhanced contact tracing detects new cases

A single alert to Cornwall Council’s Public Health team from the national NHS Test and Trace service has resulted in the proactive identification of over 170 cases of people who were unaware that they had Covid-19 and were not displaying symptoms.

Cornwall’s public health team provided an update on the situation at a meeting of the COVID19 Local Outbreak Engagement Board yesterday and outlined the intensive testing they are carrying out to help limit the transmission of the virus.

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Cornwall Council’s Public Health team, along with Public Health England SW and the NHS, have been working closely with Pilgrim’s Pride Ltd. food factory in Pool in order to take proactive action to reduce the likelihood of community transmission.

The public health team provides an enhanced contract tracing service where they contact the individual identified to us by NHS Test and Trace and interview them about their recent activities. In this case the individual revealed to us that they worked at the factory, and so further investigations were carried out and testing procedures put in place.

In total, almost 500 employees at the factory have been tested and the vast majority of the cases who tested positive were not displaying symptoms. Swift identification of the initial case has therefore helped to limit the transmission of Covid-19 in the local community. All employees who have tested positive are isolating in line with government guidelines, as are those found to have been in close contact with them.

The information on cases of coronavirus in Cornwall is updated weekly and can be found www.cornwall.gov.uk/coviddata . The data shows a sharp rise in cases in Cornwall over the last two weeks, the majority of which can be attributed to this outbreak.

Julian German, Leader of Cornwall Council said: “This case demonstrates how the strategy of proactive testing is helping us to take action quickly to limit the spread of Covid in our communities. The Council’s Public Health team review the situation daily and if any additional actions are needed the team stands ready to put them in place quickly. 

“Our key message to residents is that we all need to play our part in limiting the virus – by following the guidance and doing our bit to protect ourselves and each other.

Rachel Wigglesworth, Interim Director for Public Health for Cornwall Council said:

“Our team has been working tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic, and have strengthened our local COVID19 contact tracing approach to help detect cases early, prevent spread and support people to self-isolate . We’ve quickly identified and tested hundreds of people, and in finding people who weren’t displaying symptoms we have potentially stopped much wider spread in our communities. We continue to closely monitor the situation and appreciate the cooperation of Pilgrim’s Pride Ltd. and their employees. 

“It’s really important that everyone, no matter where they live Cornwall, follows the government guidance of good hand hygiene, wearing of face masks in enclosed public spaces, keeping two metres apart, and not gathering in groups of more than six people, to help us stop the spread of the virus. 

“If anyone does develop symptoms, which include a new continuous cough, high temperature or loss or change to their sense of taste or smell, they should self-isolate straight away and book a test. Please stay at home until you receive the results. If they are positive, please make sure you isolate for 10 days, and close contacts or people you live with should isolate for 14 days”.

A representative from Pilgrim’s Pride Ltd. added:

“These are the first positive cases we have experienced at our site in Redruth since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK and appear to coincide with the outbreaks seen more widely around the county. To put this into context, we have seen significantly more cases of COVID-19 in Cornwall over the past 14 days than we have experienced within our business of 6,000 employees located in 13 sites across the UK - including Manchester, West Midlands and Leicestershire - since the onset of this pandemic.

“We recognise our role and responsibilities within our community and continue to follow and exceed government guidelines as we have been since March when Covid-19 restrictions were introduced. We have also implemented additional measures where they bring benefit to particular situations. We audit our own compliance of all Covid-19 controls daily.

"From the outset we have worked conscientiously to do all we can to protect our workforce and the local community. Our teams have been working extremely hard in collaboration with the local authority and public health to manage this challenging situation, and have bravely conducted themselves with professionalism and integrity as they continue to play their important role in maintaining the UK food supply chain.”