THE number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus at a Devizes cake factory has risen to 13 amid the revelation that an employee died from Covid-19 back in April.

A 68-year-old Devizes man, who had worked at the bakery for many years, died in Great Western Hospital in April.

His family believe he contracted the virus at work after he was sneezed over by another employee who later also became ill.

The company said it was unaware of the sneezing allegation and that it had not reported the death as at the time this was the responsibility of the hospital.

Wiltshire Council's public health department was not aware of the death until told by the Gazette this week.

Last week five coronavirus cases were reported at Bakkavor on the Hopton Industrial Estate said less than one per cent of its 540 employees had the virus. By Friday this had risen to seven and now the figure is 13.

But both Wiltshire Council's public health department and the factory owners are playing down the outbreak.

Kate Blackburn, Director of Public Health, Wiltshire Council, said: “ Thirteen employees at Bakkavor bakery have now tested positive for COVID-19. Bakkavor continues to follow all of the correct reporting procedures and have very good control measures in place.

“We are working closely with colleagues at the bakery and Public Health England to ensure that messages on social distancing are understood and can be followed at all times.

“The council does not receive personal details of deaths from PHE and there would be no requirement for their employer to contact us unless there was a concern raised for us to address.

“We believe Bakkavor have followed the correct COVID-secure measures throughout the pandemic and we continue to work with them closely to ensure the current outbreak is contained.”

A spokesman for Bakkavor said: "At the end of April one of our male colleagues, who had an underlying medical condition, contracted the virus and sadly passed away.

"Public Health has been and continue to be very supportive of the measures we have taken. As a responsible food manufacturing business, we will continue to be disciplined in our approach to this pandemic with the health and safety of our colleagues at the forefront of this.”

It is understood that workers are now temperature tested when they arrive at work and people from different shifts no longer work together.

A spokesman for the company said: “Whilst we have a relatively small number of positive cases – seven employees out of the 540 people employed at the site - we are concerned that these numbers are slowly rising, and we are working closely with Public Health England to manage and understand this.”

Last week the Gazette was told that the five people who tested positive were bussed into work at the factory from Swindon where coronvairus cases have risen significantly in past weeks and the town is now on a Government watch list.

Ms Blackburn added: “The factory has followed the correct reporting procedures throughout the outbreak, and we have been working closely with colleagues at Bakkavor and Public Health England South West to ensure good control measures have been implemented.

“The cases have been managed appropriately and any contacts identified are now self-isolating for 14 days in line with government guidance. It is important to remind people that if they are self-isolating they must isolate for the full 14 days, even if they do not display any symptoms or if they are tested and receive a negative result.

“We would like to reassure people living and working in Wiltshire that while we do expect to see more small outbreaks of this nature in the weeks and months ahead, we have robust mechanisms in place to contain the infection and protect the health of the local community.”

A spokesman for Bakkavor said: “The health and safety of our colleagues has and always will be our foremost priority.

“Bakkavor is one of a small number of businesses that has remained open for business through this unprecedented time. Due to the nature of our business, we already have high standards of hygiene, Good Manufacturing Practice and handwashing in place.

“As soon as COVID-19 started to threaten our colleagues, visitors and sites, we developed a Coronavirus Management Strategy based on specific COVID-19 risk assessments. We implemented control measures based on Government, Public Health England and HSE guidance and put further measures in place including enhanced handwashing, social distancing, screens, visors, temperature screening, touch point cleaning and self-certification on being fit to work.

“With the easing of the lockdown, people are socialising and travelling more in their free time, and every business is exposed to some element of risk that staff members will test positive for Covid-19. The stringent controls we have in place significantly minimise this more than many businesses in other industry sectors and we are working hard to stress to all our colleagues to be equally careful outside of work to control the transmission of the virus.”