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Six staff members at Newcastle factory which produces medicine for the NHS test positive for coronavirus

Six workers at a Newcastle factory that produces medication for the NHS have been sent home after testing positive for coronavirus.

Accord Healthcare, which employs more than 350 people, said half a dozen members of staff had contracted the virus and were now self-isolating.

The pharmaceutical company creates medication and tablets for the health industry, including the NHS, at its 22-acre site in Fawdon.

Accord Healthcare said 1.7% of its workforce were currently absent due to Covid-19 with the majority of those testing positive being identified through its in-house testing after displaying no symptoms.

Keith Daniels, associate vice president operations at Accord said: “We employ over 350 at Accord in Newcastle, the majority of our workforce on site are critical workers manufacturing essential medicines for the NHS.

“As a critical supplier to the NHS, we proactively developed as early as February a number of initiatives to protect our workforce including more recently twice-weekly antigen testing, heightened social distancing measures, and regular Covid communications exceeding the guidance from Public Health England, Newcastle Public Health and the Health and Safety Executive.

“Our testing works alongside a structured reporting system with standard procedures for isolation, tracing and clean down where necessary.

“We currently have 1.7% of our workforce absent due to Covid, the majority who have been identified by our in-house testing. As a majority of these cases are asymptomatic, they ordinarily would not have been identified as Covid-19 positive without this proactive measure.

“As a responsible employer, we believe that our unique testing programme provides a robust way to ensure the safety of our staff and their families, which of course identifies early on positive cases.

“Whilst this potentially provides a higher ratio of ordinarily undetected positive cases, this also provides a very thorough, and Covid-secure approach to keep our employees and their families safe while continuing to manufacture and provide medicines to those who need them.”

Accord took over the Fawdon site in 2015 after pharmaceutical firm Sanofi closed down the factory and relocated to France.

It now produces around 110 million tablets every month for use in conditions such as Alzheimer’s and also for use in chemotherapy.

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