Covid vaccine plant in Wrexham evacuated over suspicious package

Andy Gregory and Conrad Duncan
·3 min read
The Wockhardt pharmaceutical manufacturing facility on Wrexham Industrial Estate has been partially evacuated (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
The Wockhardt pharmaceutical manufacturing facility on Wrexham Industrial Estate has been partially evacuated (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A factory manufacturing AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine has been partially evacuated after receiving a suspicious package.

Police said they responded to reports of a package on Wednesday morning at the Wrexham Industrial Estate, which houses the Wockhardt factory, and imposed a security cordon around the site, closing roads to all traffic.

Bomb disposal experts were in attendance, and first minister Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government was working with police and the military to find out more information.

Read more: Live UK updates on the coronavirus pandemic

The North Wales plant has been touted as being capable of producing 300 million annual doses of the vaccine created at Oxford University.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said Downing Street was “being regularly updated by the police and officials”.

Shortly before 4.30pm, North Wales Police reopened roads around the Wockhardt site in Wrexham and workers who had been waiting outside the cordon were allowed back in. There have been no reported injuries.

Forensic officers could be seen examining items in the road outside the factory this afternoon, while a bomb disposal van was parked opposite the site and the road immediately outside was closed by police.

“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," Wockhardt UK said in a statement.

“We can now confirm that the package was made safe and staff are now being allowed back into the facility.”

It added: “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.”

On Wednesday afternoon, police said the situation had been made safe but some roads on the industrial estate would remain closed while an investigation continues.

It comes days after authorities were forced to step in to help save the vaccine doses kept at the facility from flooding, with teams working through the night to remove waters left by Storm Christoph.

Mark Pritchard, leader of Wrexham Council, told Sky News at the time: “This could have had an impact not just in Wrexham [or] Wales, [but] across the whole country with vaccine supplies.

“They were under pressure and had serious concerns that the warehouse could be flooded so they asked us for help and support and without hesitation we gave them that support.”

A Wockhardt spokesperson said then that all “necessary precautions” were taken and that there had been no water let into the building or disruption to the manufacturing of the vaccine.

The incident also comes amid a deepening row between AstraZeneca and the European Union over delays in the delivery of agreed doses.

The pharmaceutical giant denied reports on Wednesday that it had cancelled a meeting with the European Commission to discuss supply issues, with chief executive Pascal Soriot saying the firm was effectively two months behind schedule due to issues at plants in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Addressing rising frustrations in the EU over varying delays to its supply of vaccines, the AstraZeneca boss said that “glitches” in supply to the bloc were the result of Brussels taking three months longer than London to seal a deal, as he confirmed that the UK would have the first claim on vaccines produced in the country.

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