Bergen Municipality comments on construction site outbreak: “The sanitary conditions are not optimal”

Beate HusaPhoto: Marit Hommedal / NTB

Bergen Municipality has said that the sanitary conditions on the construction site at Fantoft station have contributed to authorities fearing a mass spread incident of the South African coronavirus variant.

“The workplace conditions contribute to the concern that makes us fear that this may be a mass transmission incident. This includes sanitary conditions,” Health Councilor Beate Husa (KRF) in Bergen told news bureau NTB.

She did not want to share details, but she elaborated that the “sanitary conditions are not optimal.”

“There is a great deal of unrest here, which is the reason why we have pressed the (red) button and asked for action because so many people are involved. The conditions at this workplace that make us particularly worried,” Husa said.

The company Lars Jønsson AS is responsible for the construction site. 

Project Manager Thormod Jønsson says that he is unsure what Health Councilor Husa believes optimal construction site conditions actually are.

“But what I can say is that this is a very proper construction site. We have good sanitary conditions that are in line with the rules. We have also taken measures beyond this to be on the safe side,” he said.

Closed down

On Sunday, the government decided to introduce strict measures in Bergen and several other municipalities in Western Norway as a result of outbreaks of mutated and more contagious variants of coronavirus.

In Bergen, the South African mutation outbreak is largely linked to the construction site at Fantoft station.

“It is a construction site where apartments are built. There are potentially many who may be infected. There could be up to 100 close contacts. 

“This is also a hub with an urban train station and shops nearby, and we are concerned that more people may have come into contact with people with infection,” Husa said.

Infection control has been good

Project Manager Thormod Jønsson says that they give clear recommendations on the use of face masks in all places with congestion on the construction site and that they have divided up lunchtimes and dining rooms so that as few people as possible have contact with each other. 

They also have guidelines on disinfecting the dining areas between each shift.

“I think infection control has been good. At the same time, we have very few instructions to comply with from the municipality and the authorities. But we feel we are doing what we can,” he said.

Following the outbreak, the entire construction site has been closed down. Everyone who worked on the project was immediately contacted and required to test, Jønsson explained.

“Upon reopening, we will introduce further measures, with shifted working hours, and an external company for disinfection of the dining and changing area, as well as contact points in the building,” he said.

Jønsson pointed out that it is not the case that all craftsmen are stationary on a construction site.

Several people work on different construction sites for different contractors. We will therefore strongly urge all other contractors to also mass test on their construction sites,” he said.

Many are being tested

A connection has already been proven between the outbreak at Fantoft station and another construction site at Kronstad station, which the Municipality is also closely following.

“The construction site at Fantoft station has many employees, while the one at Kronstad is more limited. A housing project is being completed, and there are far fewer workers there,” Husa said.

She has not commented on the conditions at Kronstad station.

The first case of the South African coronavirus variant was detected in Bergen on January 31. It was actually a sample from three weeks prior, which may indicate that the infection has been in the city for a long time.

On Friday afternoon, the municipal management sounded the alarm after they received eight more positive samples of the South African mutant virus. They are now working on mapping everyone who works on the construction site at Fantoft station.

“We have tested many and have encouraged everyone to get tested. There were five new positive samples on Sunday that will be analyzed further for the South African mutant virus,” Husa said.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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