Pub staff 'more likely to catch COVID' than shop or gym workers

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2 min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 12: Bar staff serve beer for table service in the garden of the The Duke of Kent pub which reopened at lunchtime today on April 12, 2021 in London, United Kingdom. England has taken a significant step in easing its lockdown restrictions, with non-essential retail, beauty services, gyms and outdoor entertainment venues among the businesses given the green light to re-open with coronavirus precautions in place. Pubs and restaurants are also allowed open their outdoor areas, with no requirements for patrons to order food when buying alcoholic drinks.  (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Sage has said pub and restaurant workers face a higher risk of coronavirus infection than retail or leisure staff. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Pub and restaurant staff face a higher risk of coronavirus infection than shop and gym workers, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said.

In a meeting on 8 April, four days before the hospitality, retail and leisure industries were allowed to start reopening in England, experts warned there were differing risks across the sectors.

The Sage minutes, which were made public on Friday, read: “Overall, data suggest that the hospitality sector is associated with greater risk of transmission than the leisure and retail sectors.

“Staff working in these sectors are shown to be at significantly higher risk of infection than customers, consistently demonstrated in all studies.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 16: A waiter at a pub carries a tray of drinks to a table on April 16, 2021 in London, England. Pubs and Restaurants are expecting good business tonight being the first Friday night after Coronavirus lockdown rules were relaxed to allow outside dining and drinking. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)
Pubs reopened on Monday last week. (Rob Pinney/Getty Images)

“Close contact service staff, in particular those working in restaurants, bars and pubs, had the highest risk observed.”

Sage said factors behind this include hospitality staff often having multiple colleagues and finding it difficult to keep socially distant in the course of their work, long working hours, and sharing vehicles or using public transport to get to work.

Read more: Have your say: What is the most important issue for the government after the pandemic?

The committee added paid sick leave is vital, as “staff attending the workplace while unwell increases the risk of transmission… which increases risk for customers and other staff members”.

The second easing of the lockdown on Monday last week saw thousands of retail units, gyms, outdoor attractions and community centres – as well as pubs and restaurants for outdoor service – reopen across England.

Watch: Boris Johnson has announces new antivirals taskforce

Read more: Racist hate crimes soared in England after COVID lockdown eased, charity says

Pubs and restaurants will also reopen for indoor service at the third easing of restrictions set for 17 May, with the government then aiming to lift all restrictions on social contact on 21 June.

Boris Johnson has previously warned a third wave of infections will hit the UK as the lockdown is lifted, and scientists at the Sage meeting on 8 April suggested this will be linked to the return to workplaces of people who are currently able to work from home.

A section of the minutes reads: "Data from before the pandemic shows that for adults, the majority of contacts are associated with work (for children, the majority are associated with school).

"The trajectory of the epidemic over the coming months is therefore likely to depend, to a large extent, on the scale of increase in workplace contacts."

Watch: How England is leaving lockdown