Production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at a Welsh factory was suspended for around five hours while a bomb squad investigated a ‘suspicious package’ today.
All employees were evacuated from the Wockhardt pharmaceutical facility at Wrexham Industrial Estate in Wales at around 11.30am after staff received the parcel.
Wockhardt provides fill-and-finish services for the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine and is capable of producing up to 300 million doses of the vital jab each year.
A plant spokesperson said the pause in manufacturing – which commenced around 11.30 – did not affect the previously-approved ‘production schedule’ of the vaccine.
Workers returned to the factory around 4.30pm and production has resumed after the suspicious package was ‘made safe’.
The contents of a suspect package at the Wockhardt factory are being taken away for analysis, North Wales police said.
The plant could not provide information on how many doses of the vaccine were on site, but said production ‘had been proceeding at pace to meet the Government contract for vaccine doses’.
Pictures taken at the site earlier today showed bomb squad vehicles and several police officers.
A bomb disposal robot was filmed on the site as experts ensured the plant – which employs 400 people – was safe. No injuries have been reported.
Production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at a Welsh factory was suspended for around five hours while a bomb squad investigated a ‘suspicious package’ today. Pictured: Emergency workers at the scene
The Wockhardt vaccine facility in Wrexham this morning received a suspicious package. Pictured: Emergency services at the scene
A cordon was put in place near the plant and the public were asked to keep away.
A spokesperson this afternoon said: ‘We can confirm that the investigation on the suspicious package received today has been concluded.
‘Given that staff safety is our main priority manufacturing was temporarily paused whilst this took place safely.
‘We can now confirm that the package was made safe and staff are now being allowed back into the facility.
‘This temporary suspension of manufacturing has in no way affected our production schedule and we are grateful to the authorities and experts for their swift response and resolution of the incident.’
A bomb disposal squad was called to the Wockhardt pharmaceutical facility at Wrexham Industrial Estate in Wales after staff received the parcel this morning. Pictured: Emergency workers at the scene
Last week emergency teams were called out to Wrexham Industrial Estate to protect supplies of the Oxford jab from flood water. Pictured: Police at the Wockhardt facility today
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said an explosive ordnance disposal team based in Chester was called out just after 11.30am and was assisting the authorities in Wrexham.
Downing Street was being kept up to date on developments, a Number 10 spokesman said.
A North Wales Police spokesman said: ‘We received a call at 10.41am this morning reporting that a suspicious package had been received at the Wockhardt factory on Wrexham Industrial Estate.
‘Officers attended and imposed a security cordon around the site, closing roads to all traffic.
‘Colleagues from the Royal Logistics Corp bomb disposal unit attended and examined the package to make sure it was safe to handle. The contents will be taken away for analysis and police will undertake an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.
‘There are no wider concerns for public safety, however some roads on the industrial estate will remain closed whilst we continue our investigations.’
John Roberts – the boss of a business next to the Wockhardt factory – claims he heard ‘a hell of an explosion or a bang’ shortly before 12pm.
Wockhardt (file image, pictured) provides fill-and-finish services for the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine
Police are seen directing traffic outside the Wockhardt pharmaceutical facility at Wrexham Industrial Estate today
He told BBC News: ‘I went outside, couldn’t see anything. I looked the other side and two blokes were on the roof.
‘The next thing the police had blocked off the road and were looking in the bushes.’
Dave Picken, 53, who lives near Wrexham Industrial Estate, said: ‘We’ve seen lots of police cars and a fire engine.
‘Bomb disposal are here with a robot.
‘We were closer to the factory but police told us to move and cordoned off a bigger area.
A North Wales Police spokesperson said: ‘The roads are currently closed and we would ask the public to avoid the area until further notice.’ Pictured: Police directing traffic outside the industrial estate
‘I did ask an officer how big the bomb is but he said he couldn’t say it’s a bomb.’
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford took to Twitter writing: ‘We are working with local police and the military to find out more about this incident.
‘Thank you to the security personnel who are on-site to protect lives and ensure the safety of our vaccine supply.
‘This highlights the vital role they play in keeping us all safe.’
Gary Creighton – who lives near the industrial estate – said he was notified of the incident today by a friend who works at the the Wockhardt factory.
Mr Creighton said he believed it was a ‘bomb threat by antivaxxers’.
There is nothing to suggest the investigation will impede vaccine production (police at the scene, pictured)
He added: ‘The bomb squad is currently at Wrexham Industrial Estate following a threat.
‘It’s where the bottles for the Covid vaccine are being produced and nearby buildings have now been evacuated.’
Last week emergency teams were called out to Wrexham Industrial Estate to protect supplies of the Oxford jab from flood water.
Excess water surrounded buildings at Wockhardt’s pharmaceutical facility during a deluge of rain caused by Storm Christoph.
A police officer is seen directing traffic near to the Wrexham Industrial Estate where the Wockhardt factory received a suspicious package
A North Wales Police spokesperson earlier said: ‘We are currently dealing with an ongoing incident on the Wrexham Industrial Estate’ (police at the site, pictured)
Gary Creighton – who lives near the industrial estate – said he was notified of the incident today by a friend who works at the the Wockhardt factory. Pictured: Police at the scene
The warehouse appeared completely empty with no equipment or machinery visible at the time.
The vaccines were believed to have been moved to a different, secret location.
The leader of Wrexham County Borough said authorities worked ‘through the night’ to ensure that the site was not overwhelmed by flood water.
Mark Pritchard said on Thursday morning resources such as gullies had been put in place to protect the vaccine storage facility on the industrial estate.
‘I’m sure you are aware that the Oxford vaccine is manufactured there and we had to work with the company logistically with their storage facility, that was under possibility of flooding,’ he told Sky News.
‘So we worked through the night with that and that was a success. This could have had an impact not just in Wrexham, Wales, but across the whole country with the vaccination supplies.’
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