As part of an unprecedented lockdown of British life, the Government has announced that schools will close except for the children of “key workers”. On Monday evening it was also announced that people should only leave their homes to go to work where it is absolutely necessary. But who is classed a key worker?
The Department of Education has published a full list of roles that the Government considers to be “key”.
So here’s what we know so far.
Who are key workers?
Key workers are people whose jobs are vital to public health and safety during the coronavirus lockdown. Because their work is so vital, the Government is keen to ensure that they are able to carry out their jobs with as little restriction as possible. This includes being able to put their children in school and use necessary transport links.
The list includes:
Health and social care
All NHS staff, including administrative and cleaning workers. Frontline health and social care staff such as doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, plus support and specialist staff in the health and social care sector.
In addition it includes those working in supply chains including producers and distributors of medicines and personal protective equipment.
Education and childcare
Nursery, teachers – including teaching assistants – and social workers.
Food and other necessary goods
Food chain workers, including those involved in production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of goods.
Key public services
Postal workers, those required to run the justice system, religious staff, as well as those responsible for managing the deceased, and journalists providing public service broadcasting.
Local and national government
Local and national government workers in admin roles “essential to the effective delivery” of the Covid-19 response or delivering essential public services, including payment of benefits.
Staff needed to keep oil, gas, electricity, water and sewerage operations running. Staff in the civil nuclear, chemical and telecommunications sectors. Those in postal services and those working to provide essential financial services.
Public safety and national security
Police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilian staff and armed forces personnel, fire and rescue staff, and workers responsible for border security, prisons and probation.
Those keeping air, water, road, and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating.
Read the full list on the Department’s website.
Can children of non-key workers still go to school?
No, they should be at home and observing social distancing.
Vulnerable children, including those with a social worker, and pupils who get special needs support will be able to stay in school.
Do both parents need to be key workers?
Children with at least one parent or carer who are identified as critical workers by the government can send their children to school if required.
Single parents who are key workers will be entitled to a school place.
Is a dental nurse a key worker?
Some roles within the NHS, such as dental nurse, whose work is not at the frontline of treating the coronavirus may still be considered key workers. However, this may depend on your practice and the type of work you do.
Clearly, there is a grey area over key workers, and it may be hard to enforce restrictions if children of non-key workers are still turning up at school. But the Government is asking people, in extraordinary times, to do everything they can to protect as many lives as they can.
If you do not need to take your child to school because your job is not essential to public health and safety, please try to stay at home.
I’m not a key worker, but can I still use public transport?
The Government is not intending to restrict access to the transport system, though there are a number of closures, particularly in London. However, if you are not a key worker, try to avoid travelling by public transport.
Not only does this free up space for vital workers, but you are less likely to catch and spread the virus. If you can, walk or cycle to work. If you don’t need to travel, don’t.
What should I do if I’m still unsure?
A Downing Street spokesman said employees should speak to their employers to check whether they should come into work if they are unsure whether they are a key worker.
“Employees should speak to their employers. People who can work from home should, but those who are central to the coronavirus effort, we believe, have been named as key workers,” they said.
The spokesman said the Department for Education had been working closely with the Office for National Statistics in compiling the list of key workers, but could not say how many children were expected to turn up at school next week.
Earlier in the day, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary said that under 20 per cent of children will be in school, and that the scientific advice still stands that operating at that level will still be “overwhelmingly effective in slowing the spread.”