Health, social care and food staff among ‘essential’ workers on Covid-19 list

Frontline health and social care staff, people involved in food production and delivery, and utility workers are among a list of workers deemed “essential” to the Covid-19 response.

The Government published a list of “key workers” just after midnight on Friday whose children will continue to be cared for at school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The list was expected to be published on Thursday, with those included anticipated to be NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers.

But on Thursday evening, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking on BBC Question Time, confirmed the list would not be published until Friday – when most schools will shut their gates until further notice.

The Department for Education said: “If your work is critical to the COVID-19 response, or you work in one of the critical sectors listed below, and you cannot keep your child safe at home, then your children will be prioritised for education provision.”

It added that children with at least one parent or carer identified as critical workers by the government could send their children to school if required.

The Department for Education said they expected the majority of educational establishments to stay open where required – but recognised it may be “impossible” for small rural schools.

It said when a school is unable to stay open, it would work with local officials to find an alternative setting for pupils, as well as providing transport arrangements.

The list has been separated into eight categories, including health and social care, key public services – such as those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and journalists – and transport.

Those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery are also included, along with “administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the Covid-19 response” in local and national government.

Staff needed for “essential financial services provision”, such as bank workers, key telecommunications staff and postal services and delivery workers are also on the list.

HEALTH Coronavirus
Coronavirus-related deaths in the UK (PA Graphics)

Many English schools will stop operating on Friday afternoon until further notice, as will nurseries, colleges and childminders.

Special schools are to remain open during the closures, while educational settings will continue to cater for vulnerable children and pupils whose parents are key workers.

In Scotland and Wales, all schools will have closed by Friday, and schools in Northern Ireland are due to shut from Monday.

After schools shut their gates from Friday afternoon, they will remain closed for most pupils – for the vast majority of pupils – until further notice.

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— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 18, 2020

GCSEs and A-levels in England and Wales will be cancelled – although Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there were plans for students to receive qualifications.

The Education Secretary has indicated guidance about exam cancellations will be issued on Friday, including how pupils unable to sit their exams will get their grades.

Gavin Williamson said the Government would work with schools, colleges and England’s exams regulator, Ofqual, “to ensure children get the qualifications they need”.

School leaders have said they expect that grades will be based on teacher assessment and evidence of internal assessment – such as mock exams – which could then be submitted to the exam boards to check.

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