FURTHER testing should be done at fruit farms and food producers in Herefordshire, North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin has said.

His statement comes following the coronavirus outbreak at Rook Row Farm in Mathon.

Mr Wiggin said he had spoken with health ministers, and was keen that other local food producers and fruit farms be given the Covid-19 virus test.

"We have a large population of migrant workers and ensuring everybody’s safety is in all our interests," Mr Wiggin said.

"While we are all washing our hands and taking sensible distancing precautions, I also discovered some rather worrying patterns.

"Most food operations make their workforce wear personal protective equipment, but recently the last six outbreaks have been in food processing plants.

"The Government is concerned that the reason for this is that despite the PPE in use, the temperature in these places is much lower at about six degrees celsius.

"In the hotter months, we have been winning our battle against Covid-19 but the Government fear that during the winter months when the temperature falls, we will be much more vulnerable.

"This is not wholly proven but the consistent outbreaks in temperature-controlled environments despite PPE gives us reason to be concerned, and coupled with winter flu and colds, we could be very vulnerable again."

"We must do all we can to be ready for the winter by reducing the opportunity for contact with infection, and that is why the face mask is necessary in shops, and why even people like me who have had the virus should wear them."

The MP said he was told that my own antibodies would only last for about ten weeks and that after that the protection afforded by our immune system may not be sufficient.

He is among the many to have donated blood plasma, which contains antibodies and is helpful to patients recovering from the virus, but said that after some time, the plasma is found not to contain enough antibodies to be worth collecting.

"This is particularly alarming as this means a vaccine, if one existed, would require a boost every ten weeks or so," Mr Wiggin said.

"This also means that we will need to continue to take precautions to protect one another for a lot longer, and because of this new information, I can see why the Prime Minister believes that wearing masks should be compulsory, especially as we get into the cooler months where the disease is expected to resurge."

Mr Wiggin said he was left with the feeling that Covid-19 will be with us for a while longer yet and that rigorous testing is needed at airports as well as greater powers to isolate infected people.

"I have therefore spoken to both the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Transport, both of whom were sympathetic and keen to ensure that effective measures are put in place," he said.

"I am not in favour of draconian steps but without a long-lasting vaccine we will need to think hard about how we protect one another."