MORE than 70 cases of coronavirus were confirmed at a Herefordshire vegetable farm at the weekend after an outbreak among seasonal workers living there.

The news came after a dramatic rise was seen in the number of cases in the county, with the figure leaping by 56 in a single day on July 11.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Herefordshire currently stands at 817.

Herefordshire Council and Public Health England said there had been a Covid-19 outbreak at vegetable producers AS Green and Co, based in Mathon on the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border, where a total of 74 cases have been confirmed so far.

READ MORE: Coronavirus outbreak confirmed at county vegetable farm

The farm employs 200 key workers for picking and packing work, and supplies broccoli and beans to some of the UK's biggest supermarkets including Asda, Aldi and Tesco. Most workers live in static caravans on the site, which is between Cradley and Bosbury.

Hereford Times: Static caravans at Rook Row Farm. Picture: Jacob King/PA WireStatic caravans at Rook Row Farm. Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire

AS Green and Co had in April launched a local recruitment drive, with 160 picking and packing positions to be filled. Speaking in May, a farm spokesperson said the drive had received more than 1,000 applications for the roles.

READ MORE: AS Green and Co had appealed for workers

Herefordshire Council's Director of Public Health, Karen Wright, said an outbreak of this kind was not unexpected, but it is the first in the county so far.

Hereford Times: Karen Wright, Director of Public Health for Herefordshire, at AS Green and Co on Sunday. Picture: Jacob King/PA WireKaren Wright, Director of Public Health for Herefordshire, at AS Green and Co on Sunday. Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Ms Wright said there “isn’t any risk around the food” coming from the farm, and that her focus is on containing the outbreak, supporting the owners and staff, and reducing the spread of infection.

"There are now 74 confirmed cases at the farm. Our focus remains the health and wellbeing of residents while we work to contain and control the spread of Covid-19. 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," Ms Wright said.

READ MORE: Focus is on containing coronavirus at AS Green and Co

However, it emerged yesterday (July 13) that three workers had fled the site, which provides mobile home accommodation for workers.

"There are three workers who have left the site without permission - one of whom tested positive. Workers who have left the premises have been asked to self-isolate. We are working with West Mercia Police to ensure they are safe and well, and taking the appropriate public health advice," Ms Wright said.

READ MORE: Infected worker fled from quarantined farm

Hereford Times: A police officer wearing a face mask at Rook Row Farm on Sunday. Picture: Jacob King/PA WireA police officer wearing a face mask at Rook Row Farm on Sunday. Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire

Superintendent Sue Thomas of West Mercia Police said: “Within the constraints of the current legislation, we continue to support our partners in Public Health England and Herefordshire Council as they work with the farm owner and those working there to keep them all safe and to provide reassurance to the local community.

“In relation to an individual who has left the site after testing positive with the virus, we are assisting our colleagues at Public Health England, as required, in order to trace them.”

North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin has praised the response to the outbreak, which he said was discovered after a worker began feeling unwell on July 7, prompting the testing of all staff at the site.

READ MORE: The shops workers from coronavirus-hit farm visited

"Public Health England have acted incredibly fast to locate the virus, test all those on-site and form a large ‘bubble’ at the farm," Mr Wiggin said.

"I commend the action so far taken and I believe this has been a very good example of the effectiveness of the work done to combat and neutralise mini-outbreaks of Covid-19 not only in the county but also country-wide."

The MP confirmed that workers had visited four separate shops in Malvern and Worcester last week, before the farm was put into lockdown.

"The shops and locations are Worcester's Primark, Iceland and the Romanian store, and Malvern's Morrison’s supermarket," Mr Wiggin said.