THE First Minister of Wales has described the response to an outbreak of coronavirus at a Wrexham food factory as “hugely successful”.

It comes despite reports of problems with the “track, trace and protect” system being used to tackle the wave of cases at Rowan Foods on the town’s industrial estate.

There were 166 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 linked to the plant as of Friday, although a further update is expected from Public Health Wales (PHW) later today.

The issues raised by sources with knowledge of the situation include claims that swab tests have gone missing, data has been wrongly inputted into the system and test results have taken up to five days to be delivered.

It has also been suggested that translators were not made available to engage with workers who don’t speak English as their first language until Friday.

Meanwhile, concerns were raised over the weekend after PHW said it was trying to find 300 employees from the site who had not been tested.

Speaking at today’s daily Welsh Government press conference, First Minister Mark Drakeford said around half of those people have since been contacted.

Although he acknowledged there have been a small number of teething issues with the tracking system, he said he believed it had largely been effective.

He said: “In terms of the 300 people who were identified as needing to be contacted in Rowan Foods, half of those have now been resolved over the weekend.

“Half of them were people who were shielding so while they were on the books of the firm, they weren’t in work.

“Others are people whose work rotas meant that they haven’t been in work during the time of the outbreak, so we’re down to now around 150.”

He added: “Most tests are being turned around very quickly indeed. Of course, I am aware that at the margin there can be some difficulties.

“One or two tests that came out of the Wrexham factory couldn’t be processed because the label wasn’t sufficiently clear attached to them, for example.

“They’re very marginal issues in what has been a hugely successful effort. The translation issue is something we will learn from these two outbreaks.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an inspection at Rowan Foods, which employs more than 1,000 people, last week.

As a result, a plan has been drawn up for the company to address some of the issues they found.

Mr Drakeford said the report produced by inspectors showed it was a “very co-operative” employer – a claim which has been challenged by union representatives.

He said the coming week would be key to finding out whether the virus has spread further within the community, but added it was too early to say whether workers living together in houses in multiple occupations had caused the outbreak to escalate.

He said: “One of the things we are watching all the time is whether there is evidence of the virus spreading beyond the people directly affected at those workplaces.

“The early signs are encouraging but I don’t want to put too much reliance on that because this coming week will be important.

“The system is there to make sure that if there is a sign of the virus being spread more widely than amongst the workplaces and their immediate contacts, then our system will pick that up and will allow us to take action.

“Working conditions are one thing and living conditions, traveling conditions, how people get back and forth to the factory and so on are different matters.

“If they emerge as a result of the work of our outbreak control team as being significant in these instances, then those will then become matters that we will then need to think through.”

Workers’ union UNISON has today raised concerns to HSE, which is looking into whether there have been any breaches of safety regulations in relation to risk assessments.

It said people working within the meat industry are often employed in ​places where it can be difficult to keep an adequate social distance.

UNISON national ​food safety officer Paul Bell said: “​It was clear from the beginning of the pandemic there were potential and serious dangers in the meat industry.

“Recent Covid-19 outbreaks have shown attention was needed from the start. ​Urgent action is required to make sure meat preparation businesses are safe.

“Staff and consumers will understandably be worried, particularly ​as the two metre rule is relaxed.

“All employers must have proper safety measures in place and the Food Standards Agency ​needs to visit each ​and every workplace to protect staff and restore confidence in the food ​on our plates.”

Oscar Mayer, the owners of Rowan Foods, said HSE inspectors carried out a two day visit to the plant to check COVID-19 practices on site, which had raised “no serious issues”.

A spokesman said: “This was an in-depth review of our risk assessment and measures implemented to protect our people, and our ongoing management of COVID-19 onsite.

“The visit went well and the HSE inspector left site on Friday June 26 with no enforceable action taken.

“This confirms that we have no serious issues which need addressing and we continue to comply with the law.”