Covid-19 outbreak among Thai berry pickers in Sweden

At the end of last week, an outbreak of covid-19 was discovered at a plant for berry pickers in Jämtland, Sweden which houses 117 berry pickers from Thailand, media Aftonbladet writes.

Initially, eight of the plant’s total 117 Thai berry pickers were confirmed to be infected with covid-19 but now further 15 cases have been discovered and the Infection Control in the Jämtland Härjedalen region is still awaiting the test results regarding which virus mutation the berry pickers have been infected with. To Aftonbladet, Annika Ersson, infection control doctor region Jämtland Härjedalen says, “We have not received test results yet, but I would be surprised if it is not about the delta variant.”

Aftonbladet writes that according to their information, more than the 23 confirmed cases have been infected amongst the berry pickers but Annika Ersson is not worried that the infection will spread to the rest of society and believes that the outbreak will be limited to the facility.
“It is extensive to the extent that there are many people who are at risk of becoming infected. At the same time, these are people living in a bubble and there is hardly any precondition for them to be able to spread the infection,” Annika Ersson says.

According to the region’s infection control, the berry pickers have been vaccinated with at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine. “According to their employer, everyone must have received at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine before they entered the country,” Annika Ersson says.

The Thai berry pickers are working for the berry picking company Blommor och Bär and according to Bo Axelsson who runs the company, the Thai berry pickers have been vaccinated with at least one dose before arrival but he is suspecting that the PCR tests results might not have been accurate. The Thai berry pickers had to take a PCR test a maximum of 48 hours before arriving in Sweden but Bo Axelsson does not believe the tests have been any good. He explains to Aftonbladet that several other carrier companies he has been in contact with have also been affected by virus outbreaks. “I have talked to several companies in the country that have encountered the same situation as us. Their Thai berry pickers have also been infected,” Bo Axelsson says.

Blommor och Bär has now rented a larger property to enable the berry pickers who are confirmed to be infected to be isolated safely. “In addition, they get prepared food sent to the facility, and the berries are picked up by cars at night. According to infection control, there is a microscopic risk that this outbreak will spread to the rest of society,” Bo Axelsson says.

About Mette Larsen

ScandAsia Journalist • Scandinavian Publishing Co., Ltd. • Thailand

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