Coronavirus: Two Fonterra staff test positive for COVID-19 in Southland

Fonterra has temporarily closed one of its Southland distribution centres after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

The dairy giant's Edendale distribution centre closed on Tuesday night for 48-hours, to allow for deep cleaning, said Fonterra director of global supply chain Gordon Carlyle.

"We take our responsibility as an employer operating during this period very seriously," said Carlyle in a statement to Newshub.

The remainder of the Edendale site would continue to operate during this time and milk collection and processing was not affected.

"Our employees are also members of the community and, as you'll know, there is a significant outbreak locally, referred to as the Bluff cluster."

"With this in mind, our priority is to take conservative actions and precautions on site to keep our people protected from catching or spreading the virus."

He said the scale of Fonterra, with more than 20,000 employees in more than 20 countries around the world, meant it was inevitable that some staff would test positive.

In March Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell said employees in the food supply chain, such as farmers, tanker drivers and manufacturing and distribution centre employees were to keep working during the lockdown, but were following the very strict guidance from the government to protect themselves and the community from COVID-19.

"The Government has shown a lot of trust in us to keep operating under a level 4 alert," said Hurrell. 

"This is a big responsibility. I sincerely thank all our people who will continue to keep dairy in production for everyone's health and nutrition during this difficult time."

All Fonterra staff who are able to work from home would do so, he said.