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Walker’s Shortbread: More than 30 staff self-isolating after Covid-19 outbreak

Walker's Shortbread factory in Elgin.
Walker's Shortbread factory in Elgin.

More than 30 members of Walker’s Shortbread staff in Elgin are self-isolating after an outbreak of Covid-19.

The biscuit giant has confirmed 17 workers have tested positive for the virus while a further 15 have been told to stay at home after being identified as close contacts.

NHS Grampian has held talks with factory bosses in recent days to receive an “extensive rundown” of the firm’s safety measures.

Concerns from Walker’s Shortbread staff

It is understood that health officials have confirmed that precautions are in line with current government guidelines.

However, concerns about the requirement of face coverings within the factory remaining voluntary persist among the workforce.

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One employee said: “Wearing masks has never been compulsory when working in the factory. The only started supplying masks this week, but I think only about 25% of people wear them.

“You have to wear them when you’re walking about in the corridors but you can be quite close to some people at times when you’re working in the factory.”

Talks with NHS Grampian about Covid-19 outbreak

On Thursday, Walker’s stressed the firm had followed relevant government guidance on safety measures in the workplace.

All of the cases have been recorded among the near-300 Elgin-based personnel. No cases of Covid-19 have been reported among the 700-strong workforce in Aberlour.

Meanwhile, an annual 10-day shutdown of factory operations is beginning on Friday to allow for maintenance, painting and repairs.

Walker’s Shortbread spokesman Jack Irvine said: “We had a 70-minute meeting with NHS Grampian and numerous associates on January 20 about Covid related matters.

“The company gave an extensive rundown of safety measures in place and these were acknowledged as meeting current government standards.

“On the Elgin site there are currently 17 members of staff who have tested positive and are self-isolating.

Walkers Shortbread factory in Elgin.

“These members are employed in areas across the site from factory workers, to offices to warehouses.

“Several of these positive cases are asymptomatic and were detected as a result of the screening implementation we undertook following the NHS Grampian recommendations.

“There are also a further 15 staff members who either we, or track and trace, have told to self-isolate due to either being in the proximity of a positive case at work or else in contact with someone who has no company involvement.”

Covid-19 concerns at Walker’s have persisted through pandemic

Fears about Covid-19 have persisted among the Walker’s Shortbread workforce, which is one of the largest in Moray, throughout the pandemic.

In March last year the firm shut its factories in Aberlour and Elgin after listening to the “genuine concerns” of staff while committing to covering 100% of their wages.

Walkers to reopen factories with new and improved safety measures

However, it resumed production again the following month with capacity on coaches used to transport employees reduced from 52 to 15 among other enhanced hygiene measures to try to address concerns.

A spokesman for NHS Grampian said: “We are aware of 22 cases of Covid-19 associated with Walker’s Shortbread.

“NHS Grampian’s health protection team is working with management to support them.

“Those affected, and their close contacts, are self-isolating.”

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