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.
“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.
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.
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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."
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