The lives of cleaners working on the front line in the fight against coronavirus are potentially being put at risk because they are not automatically entitled to testing, according to the industry body for the sector.
Cleaners working in critical industries are deemed to be key workers. British Cleaning Council (BCC) has been campaigning for all cleaners to be recognised as key workers because of the vital importance of high hygiene standards during the pandemic.
Now the organisation is calling for cleaners who are supporting those critical industries to be treated in the same way as other key workers when it comes to testing.
On 17 April, the government announced a roll-out of testing to cover more key workers but cleaners who are themselves critical and key workers were not mentioned.
The BCC and leading cleaning industry figures are concerned that cleaners who risk being exposed to Covid-19 while working to keep vital industries open have been forgotten.
The body is calling for key worker cleaners to be explicitly included in the list of occupations to be offered testing. Cleaners who should be offered testing include those who:
•keep healthcare premises hygienically clean
•clean schools and education facilities that are open for the children of Key Workers to attend
•work within the food supply chain such as in food hygiene, logistics, factories, supermarkets and shops
•clean at government buildings and prisons
•work as cleaners at care homes.
BCC chairman Paul Thrupp said: “Many cleaners are making a vital contribution to keeping critical industries open and are, in the process, putting themselves just as much at risk of contracting coronavirus as other key workers.
“They are absolutely required to be included in the list of workers who are entitled to testing. Failing to offer testing to cleaner key workers is a serious mistake which could cost lives.
“Many people throughout the cleaning industry are very worried. We are calling for the government to urgently correct this major mistake and will be contacting them directly to demand that this be corrected.”
BCC deputy chair Jim Melvin said: “Aside from our highly significant concern for our cleaning colleagues, it is arguably true that by not giving cleaning staff tests, the government process is effectively making the tests, correctly given to key workers, redundant as they would potentially be working with non-tested cleaners. It would therefore also be a waste of valuable tests and funding.”
The list of workers eligible for testing given on the website www.gov.uk is as follows:
• all NHS and social care staff, including hospital, community and primary care, and staff providing support to frontline NHS services (for example accommodation, catering) and voluntary workers
• police, fire and rescue services
• local authority staff, including those working with vulnerable children, adults and victims of domestic abuse, and those working with the homeless and rough sleepers
• defence, prisons and probation staff, and judiciary
• frontline benefits workers.