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Government ‘failing to get a grip’ on Covid-19 safety in workplaces

THE government was accused today of “failing to get a grip” on Covid-19 safety in workplaces after figures showed office outbreaks have outnumbered those in supermarkets, restaurants, cafes and warehouses. 

More than 60 suspected Covid-19 outbreaks were recorded in the first two weeks of January, despite a national lockdown, according Public Health England figures obtained by the BBC. 

The figures also showed that there were more than 500 outbreaks or suspected outbreaks in offices in the second half of 2020 — more than in supermarkets, construction sites, warehouses, restaurants and cafes combined.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone has the right to be safe at work. But Boris Johnson and his ministers have failed to get a grip on Covid-19 safety in workplaces.”

Labour said that “weak and outdated” workplace safety rules and “a lack of enforcement” have put workers and the general public at risk. 

The shocking research comes as 86 per cent of staff at the Covid-19-affected DVLA site in Swansea said that they do not feel safe to go to work, according to a survey by public services union PCS. 

More than 500 infections have been recorded at the site since the pandemic began.

In a testimony shared by PCS, an anonymous DVLA staff member said it was “impossible” for them to keep social distancing with over 2,000 people still working in the office.

“Every day I wake up for work feeling sick,” they said. 

“My mental health has definitely suffered due to the fact that I am working in an unsafe environment.”

A government spokesperson said it is continuing to reinforce the stay at home message: “We need all employers to act responsibly and take every possible step to help their employees work from home."

A DVLA spokesperson said the department has accepted all recommendations from Public Health Wales and the local environmental health team to "ensure the safety of our staff."

“All staff in roles that enable them to work from home are doing so and have throughout, in line with current government advice," the DVLA said.  

"However, in view of the essential nature of the public services we provide, some operational staff are required to be in the office where their role means they cannot work from home.”

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