THE First Minister of Wales has insisted a large coronavirus outbreak associated with a factory in Wrexham is being taken “very seriously”.

It comes as more than 600 people have signed a petition calling for Rowan Foods on the town’s industrial estate to be closed temporarily.

The latest figures from Public Health Wales show the number of cases linked to the ready-meal manufacturing plant has remained static at 283.

Meanwhile, the site’s owners and Welsh Government said there were no immediate plans to shut the plant after a Health and Safety Executive visit raised “no serious issues”.

However, concerns remain after some staff revealed this week that they were scared of going to work, but felt they had to because they couldn’t afford to live on statutory sick pay.

Writing on the online petition, the fiancée of one employee said she felt the lives of workers, their families and the wider community in Wrexham were being put at risk due to the factory remaining open.

The worries of signatories were raised directly with the First Minister by the Local Democracy Reporting Service at today’s daily press conference.

In response, Mr Drakeford said he believed the outbreak was under control and all appropriate measures were being taken to prevent the virus from spreading.

He said: “I can assure people that we are taking the situation very seriously indeed.

“It’s why we have mobilised a team of people who are experts in their field.

“It’s why we have insisted that the Health and Safety Executive has visited the plant and made an assessment of it.

“It’s why we have insisted that the trade union represents workers at that site have been involved in all of those discussions.”

He added: “Of course, I understand why people are concerned but I hope that people will draw some comfort from the fact that those people who are best equipped, who understand the most, who have the greatest expertise have come together in a team to control the outbreak.

“Their advice to us is that the things that need to be done are being done, that the outbreak is under control and that it is reviewed absolutely regularly.”

He said the current advice was that the factory was able to remain open

His comments came despite an investigation by BBC Radio 5 Live this week highlighting claims by workers that it was “almost impossible” to observe social distancing rules at the plant because of a lack of space.

It was also found that personal protective equipment (PPE) was not always being used.

Unite the Union, which represents a number of staff at the site, argued there was a “direct link” between outbreaks of Covid-19 at meat processing facilities and the sector’s use of migrant workers on low pay and insecure contracts.

Mr Drakeford said it was important that any concerns held by workers were raised with their union representatives.

He said: “If there are individuals who feel that things are not being done in the way that they should be, please use your trade union.

“It is your mouthpiece; it is there to speak up for you and the Welsh Government is determined that its influence will be felt in the decisions that are being made on your behalf.”