A mass outbreak of coronavirus has struck a meat factory in West Yorkshire, England with a total of 165 employees testing positive for Covid-19, the local council confirmed on Thursday. 

The first cases of the deadly virus at Kober factory in Cleckheaton – a supplier to Asda, the major UK supermarket – were confirmed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier this week. The food factory had closed on June 18, but reopened once again on Tuesday.

The local Kirklees Council said the 165 positive cases are being chased up by the NHS Test and Trace program and workers are being advised to self-isolate for seven days.

In a statement, Rachel Spencer-Henshall, Director of Public Health at Kirklees Council, said that Kober had “reopened their factory on 23 June on a reduced capacity and only colleagues that have been tested and declared fit to return are on site.”

It comes as the UK prepares to adjust to a major relaxation of lockdown measures on July 4, with pubs, restaurants, cinemas and hotels being given the green light to open their doors to the public. Some fear the easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures in the UK could spark a second wave.

A group of leading medical professionals have written an open letter – addressed to “leaders of all UK political parties” – which was published in the British Medical Journal, calling for a review of the country’s preparedness for a second wave of the virus.

In the letter they warned that “local flare-ups” are highly likely and there is a “real risk” of a second wave of the virus. 

The UK is not the only country to record a Covid-19 flare up in a meat factory. Germany also recently suffered a mass outbreak of coronavirus at Europe’s largest meat-processing plant at Gütersloh in North Rhine-Westphalia – where 1,500 workers had become infected by the disease, according to labor minister Hubertus Heil.

Germany’s coronavirus reproduction, or ‘R rate’ leaped to 2.88, thought largely to be as a result of the outbreak at Gütersloh. Heil said on Monday that an entire region had been “taken hostage” by the factory’s failure to protect its staff, most of whom originate from Romania and Bulgaria. Around 7,000 people have been place in quarantine as a result of the incident.

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