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Following the announcement that schools across the UK will close this afternoon but that children of “key workers” and vulnerable children will still attend school, the UK Government has provided greater clarity over who “key workers” refer to.

On Wednesday the 18th of March, the Department for Education (DfE) announced that schools will close on Friday afternoon due to the Coronavirus outbreak. This measure has been implemented to help limit the chance of the Coronavirus spreading and the Government has asked parents to keep their children at home, where possible.

However, the announcement stated that this excludes children of “key workers”, whose parents’ work is vital in the country’s Coronavirus response.

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In an official statement, the DfE said: “It is important to underline that schools, colleges and other educational establishments remain safe places for children. But the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.

“Schools are, therefore, being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.”

According to the DfE, “key workers” refer to people in health and social care and other sectors whose work is critical to the Coronavirus response.

Key workers in the health and social care sector include doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Together, these key health and social care workers help people receive the right treatment with the right equipment and help to reduce pressure on the NHS.

The Government has also outlined other key workers who are vital in delivering key services amid the global Coronavirus pandemic, including specialist education professionals, journalists and broadcasters who provide public service broadcasting, police, those work in necessary supply chains and supermarket staff.

To read the full list of “key workers”, click here  

Yesterday, the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) called on the UK Government to provide greater clarity over the definition of “key workers” and wrote to the Department of Health and Social Care; Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government; NHS England; and Local Government to urgently seek greater clarity.

Noting that the healthcare sector provides services which will be vital as the NHS comes under greater pressure, BHTA CEO Dr Simon Festing said that members of the Association are involved in manufacturing key medical products and delivering key medical services that are pivotal to the NHS in these challenging times.

He said: “Some members companies of the Association have identified that up to 40% of their service/production work force would have difficulty in continuing to attend to work which will then have a severe impact on their ability to continue to deliver these services to the NHS.”

The BHTA also sought greater clarity over what are deemed essential products and services. Products in the assistive technology and medical device sectors include specialist beds urgently needed by hospitals, stoma and urology devices needed by patients in hospital and at home, and mobility aids including stairlifts, bathlifts and wheelchairs.

“It is vital that these continue to be delivered, installed, decontaminated, and repaired, for the safe care of patients in hospitals and care homes, and the safety of very vulnerable members of the public in their own homes,” continued Simon.

“Manufacturers, suppliers and service providers are all putting appropriate measures in place to keep their staff and their customers safe, but will need assistance, if key staff have had to self-isolate, in determining whether they can resume their duties.

“Extension of testing to this sector will help immeasurably in ensuring continuity of supply to the NHS and to vulnerable people, as will an assurance that they will be able to access protective garments such as masks to enable them to fulfil their duties.”

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