Teaching and transportation among most risky jobs during pandemic
New data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that teaching and transport are among the highest-risk professions outside health and social care, in terms of close-contact exposure to those who might be carrying infection.
The news comes after Boris Johnson’s u-turn on sending children back to school and Labour’s bizarre decision to attack the u-turn and push for an accelerated return in spite of the objections of teaching and other unions.
The ONS data showed, predictably, that health and social care activities involve the most employees coming into close contact with others, with air travel, food services next non-residential social work next. Transportation then follows with 34% of staff working in regular close proximity and 30% of those working in education.
In both sectors, around 80% of staff have to work within a two-metre distance of others.
Significant numbers of people in transport and teaching have been killed by the virus, with the awful case of station worker Belly Mujinga making headlines when she died after being spat on by a passenger who said he was infected – and the decision of the authorities not to prosecute even for assault.
The government’s guidance for teachers says that even if they have been physically helping a pupil taken ill with coronavirus symptoms they should not self-isolate unless they also become ill, even though the rest of the country is still expected to stay home and obtain a test.
The risk exceeds what the ONS data reveals, as children will mingle with each other and passengers and transport staff are confined in enclosed proximity, the optimal conditions for the virus to spread.
The threat to workers in two essential sectors – and the children and passengers they work with – underlines the danger of Boris Johnson’s haste to lift lockdown in spite of the still-high incidence of the virus in England’s population – especially when studies in France and Germany have demonstrated how easily schools can become the driver of a second wave of the pandemic.
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