Covid-19 testing extended to construction workers

Construction workers are among those who can now be tested for the virus, following an announcement from the Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday. 

Speaking from Downing Street, Hancock said: “From construction workers to emergency plumbers, from research scientists to those in manufacturing, the expansion of access to testing will protect the most vulnerable and help keep people safe.” 

The move to offer testing to construction workers comes after pressure from the Unite trade union, which said that all those people who have worked during lockdown should be eligible for testing. 

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said in a letter to Whitehall: “Government needs to understand that construction workers have travelled to and from work are among other key workers and will continue to be so.  

“For testing to be effective within the key worker group, construction staff must be included.” 

Matt Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Credit: Richard Townshend

Concerns over the spread of the virus prompted Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to call for all non-essential construction sites to be closed earlier this month, and although some firms temporarily closed operations to review safety protocol, many have now returned to work.

Many developers in the North West and beyond continued building activity throughout the lockdown, which the Government permitted, in part to enable the construction of the emergency Nightingale hospitals. 

Housebuilders Persimmon and Vistry said they would recommence activity on site at the start of this week, while Taylor Wimpey plans to restart operations next Monday. 

Seddon, Eric Wright Construction and Bam, among others, are operating under strict safety measures but industry sources said construction work has slowed due to the implementation of social distancing measures and a shortage of building materials.

Critics, including Burnham, have raised concerns over whether social distancing measures can be realistically adhered to on sites, and testing of construction workers could provide an answer as to how effective those measures have been. 

The Government has pledged to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day across the UK, but the latest figures show it has failed to reach even half that target. 

Construction Wworkers can book a test by visiting the Government’s test-booking website.

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