Nearly one in seven key workers at increased risk from Covid-19

Nearly one in seven key workers across the UK are at increased risk from Covid-19 because of existing health conditions, according to a new study.

Around 10.6 million people across the UK are classed as key workers.
Around 10.6 million people across the UK are classed as key workers.

In what is the first ever analysis of the 10.6 million strong cohort keeping the country running during the pandemic, the Office for National Statistics said heart problems were the most common condition among key workers, affecting around six per cent of the total. One in 20 (five per cent) has chest and breathing difficulties.

Under UK government guidance, people with conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes are considered to be a “medium risk” from Covid-19. The Scottish Government’s guidance goes further, classing those taking medication for the same conditions - as well as chronic kidney disease, COPD, and high blood pressure - as “high risk.”

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The ONS analysis found that of all key workers across the UK, one per cent - around 130,000 people - were aged 70 or older, with women accounting for nearly three-fifths (58 per cent) of all key workers.

However, the gender split was very different within different occupation groups. Women are most represented in education and childcare (81 per cent), and health and social care (79 per cent). Conversely, the majority of workers in transport occupations were male (90 per cent).

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Key workers who were of an ethnic minority were most represented in health and social care (16 per cent).

In a breakdown of Scottish key workers, the ONS research also indicated that East Renfrewshire is home to the highest proportion of key workers in any Scottish local authority, accounting for 44.6 per cent of its workforce.

The comparative figures in Edinburgh and Glasgow stood at 33.2 and 36.3 per cent respectively.

The ONS analysis, based on 2019 data from various sources including the Annual Population Survey, the Labour Force Survey and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, showed that 31 per cent of key workers had dependent children aged between five and 15, while 16 per cent had children aged four or under.

Of all households with dependent children (under 16 years), six per cent were key workers and lone parents, while nine per cent were households where both members of the couple were key workers.

The data also reveals that some 12 per cent of key workers reported having unpaid care responsibilities, while 16 per cent said they travelled to work using public transport.

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