Speaking to ITV this morning, the Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi stated his view that there is a justification for certain occupations to be prioritised as the vaccination programme develops. He said: “My instinct is that anyone who, through no fault of their own, has to come into contact with the virus in much greater volume and probability should be protected – teachers, policemen and women, shop workers, all those who need that additional protection,”.
Adrian Axtell, National Officer for the Justice Sector, says:
“We welcome the comments from the Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi today, stating that professions who are more likely to come into contact with Coronavirus and cannot work from home should be prioritised in the next stage of the vaccine rollout. We hope that these initial remarks will lead to this being made policy imminently as a vital move to protect essential workers.
Throughout the pandemic there have been many groups of workers, such as those working throughout the entire justice sector who have been on the frontline helping to keep our country running and safe. They have been providing vital services in the pandemic and the pressures on these exceptional people are increasing as the lockdown measures continue.
Workers are dealing with increasingly high-risk environments. The nature of this work, such as interacting with offenders on a daily basis, means that workers are unable to work from home. This has created a workforce that is significantly more exposed to the virus than those in industries where greater distancing can be achieved or homeworking is more widespread. The latest figures from the Ministry of Justice show prisoner infections were up 46% in a week with 498 prisoners testing positive.
We believe that workers in sectors such as justice should be considered much sooner in the next stage of the vaccine rollout, and we are delighted to hear that Mr Zahawi agrees with us on this. This would give staff increased confidence, allow them to protect vulnerable family members and contacts, and most significantly would dramatically reduce the risk to these groups of essential workers who are on the front line keeping us all safe.”