HEREFORDSHIRE Council leaders say central government should take the lead to prevent further outbreaks among seasonal workers on other farms.

Councillors asked what measures were being put in place to prevent similar outbreaks given there are many farms that employ a high number of seasonal workers in the county.

But council chief executive Alistair Neill said the local authority did not have the manpower to conduct checks on every similar farm in Herefordshire.

He told yesterday's (July 17) full council meeting that he had raised concerns with the Government who should treat it as a national issue.


Councillor Terry James asked: “What is actually being done about other similar sites throughout the county?

“As it is, there is quite a large number of these type of sites.

“The outbreak spread rapidly because of the close proximity of the accommodation in which the workers live on the farms.

“Are there checks going on as to the state and health of workers within other farms, some of them much larger than this?

“Bearing in mind the workers tend to congregate around supermarkets throughout the county at least once a week, there is a danger that we could get further outbreaks in the county.”

Mr Neill said the outbreak at Rook Row Farm in Mathon was extremely unlikely to be the last in the country.

“In terms of the other farms, when you start looking at this as an issue for the county you would very quickly see this as an issue for the whole country because there may be further outbreaks,” he said.

“My own estimation would be it’s extremely unlikely this will be the only outbreak in the country and those outbreaks could happen pretty well anywhere throughout the country.

“It just so happens the first one has been here in Herefordshire.”

He said it was important it should be treated as a national issue.

“From last Thursday, I’ve been escalating that very point and had further meetings on this point to try and ensure the government understands that, if it really wants to get some quick learning in, there is some really useful learning that we can helpfully provide from the Herefordshire experience,” he said.

“In order to be able to see how they go about looking at the position for other farms around the county and country.

“Our manpower would be beyond stretched were we to engage in something in the order of looking at every farm in the county in detail.”

Mr Neill added that seasonal workers were transported to do their shopping on a weekly basis and that they don’t stay in town.

“Typically, they will go shopping extremely early in the morning,” he said.

“They don’t tend to congregate, they go in a bus from the farm, they do their shopping and they come away again.

“That tends to be the norm.”

“The key point about our other farms is that we need to make sure government understands the importance of this and we’ve escalated that over the course of last week.

“We believe, by some of those discussions, that the government is very focussed on this and that it is genuinely listening to what we are saying to them.

“We will see where that goes in the course of days ahead.”

Councillor Jim Kenyon suggested setting up a system to go and test farm workers on site.

He said: “Seasonal workers provide a massive contribution to the economy of Herefordshire with the great job they do.

“They tend to work long hours. As long as it’s light they are working and they work very hard.

“Taking a day off to go and get a test int the city centre is a an ask because they would lose money.

“Rather like with Defra which do Bovine Tuberculosis testing and that sort of stuff.

“Nationally, can we not look at using Defra and actually going around to test the workers on site?

“There are not too many fruit farms in Herefordshire, they could go around on a rotational basis.”