WORKERS at an Oswestry NHS site had to be tested after two employees tested positive for Covid-19 last month.

Shropshire Community Health Trust infection control chief Steve Gregory told a meeting that a third staff member later tested positive for the virus and two more were asked to self-isolate, and the “outbreak”is believed to have originated from an employee’s husband, who was symptomatic at the time.

He told the trust board that the team struck by the first two cases consists of just six members, but they share the Thomas Savin Road site with Oswestry Health Centre, the town’s Minor Injuries Unit and other health services, so 32 staff had to be tested.

Mr Gregory said all workers and now routinely wear surgical masks instead of basic face coverings while in the workplace, and trust chief executive David Stout said this new policy reduced the risk posed by “slip-ups”.

Mr Gregory told the board that an “outbreak” is defined as two or more people testing positive in the same workplace in the same timeframe.

“We were alerted that within days of each other we had two people that proved to be Covid-positive within the ICS [Integrated Community Services] team at Oswestry,” he said.

“The ICS team in particular is quite a small team. There’s only six individuals, but they are part of the Oswestry Health Centre itself as our MIU that has other outpatients, physios, OTs [occupational therapists] going there, plus it also has our community nursing team which is quite a bit bigger, plus some school staff.

“We made the decision on that basis. Although they weren’t part of the same room, part of the same building, we tested 32 staff in total.

“None of those returned a positive test result, but, since the first two, we have had one other individual that has gone back as being Covid-positive.”

The cases were discovered during September, and Mr Gregory said the third person did not show the “typical three” Covid-19 symptoms – a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to the senses of taste or smell – but had “flu-like” symptoms and went on to positive for the coronavirus.

Two other individuals were asked to self-isolate for 14 days, he said, and both of those periods had finished by Saturday, October 3, with neither showing any symptoms.

“What we do know, though, is we’ve identified the root cause,” said Mr Gregory, who is also the trust’s nursing and operations director.

“An individual came to work when their husband was symptomatic and was going to have a test.

“And also there’s a breach of PPE [personal protective equipment]; within the work environment they weren’t distanced at least by the two metres and wearing the appropriate face mask or covering at that time.”

He said the trust had made the “immediate decision” that anyone in a shared workplace, even with social distancing in place, would be required to wear a face mask.

Mr Proud added: “We were already asking staff to wear face coverings. We’ve strengthened it to a surgical facemask in all settings and to wear it even if you are beyond two metres of each other in a shared environment for obvious reasons that the risk of slip-up is high – not just in our trust, in other trusts as well – and the biggest source of infection has been shared areas outside the clinical environment.”