Covid-19-linked death rate higher among male carers, taxi drivers and chefs

Taxi drivers
Taxi drivers - (Copyright PA Archive)
12:11pm, Mon 11 May 2020
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Male carers, bus drivers, chefs and retail assistants have higher rates of death involving Covid-19 than other workers, new figures suggest.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), men working in several occupations had raised rates of deaths involving the disease when compared with people of the same age and sex in England and Wales.

Security guards had one of the highest rates with 45.7 deaths per 100,000, while taxi drivers and chauffeurs had a rate of 36.4.

Male bus and coach drivers were found to have a rate of 26.4 deaths per 100,000, chefs a rate of 35.9, and sales and retail assistants a rate of 19.8.

The figures are based on an analysis of the 2,494 registered deaths involving coronavirus among workers aged 20 to 64 in England and Wales up to and including April 20.

Coronavirus graphic - (Copyright PA Graphics)

Overall researchers found that nearly two thirds of these deaths were among men (1,612), with a rate of 9.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

This is higher than the 882 deaths among women, representing a rate of 5.2 deaths involving Covid-19 per 100,000.

One union boss said the figures, which come the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people should start going back to work if they cannot work from home under conditional plans to ease the lockdown, were “horrifying”.

John Phillips, acting GMB general secretary, said: “These figures are horrifying, and they were drawn up before the chaos of last night’s announcement.

“If you are low-paid and working through the Covid-19 crisis, you are more likely to die – that’s how stark these figures are.

“Ministers must pause any return to work until proper guidelines, advice and enforcement are in place to keep people safe.”

ONS researchers also found that people working in social care, including care workers and home carers, have “significantly” higher death rates involving Covid-19 than the working population as a whole.

For male social care workers in England and Wales, the rate of death involving Covid-19 is estimated to be 23.4 deaths per 100,000 males, while for female social care workers the figure is 9.6.

The new figures also revealed that healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, were not found to have higher rates of death involving Covid-19 when compared with the equivalent figures for people of the same age and sex in the general population.

For female workers, the ONS did not identify any specific jobs with raised rates of death involving Covid-19, instead highlighting only one broad group where the Covid-19 mortality rate was significantly higher than the equivalent rate among women of the same age in the general population: caring, leisure and other service occupations.

Prof Neil Pearce, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the ONS report “confirms that in the working-age population Covid-19 is largely an occupational disease”.

He said the findings emphasised that “we need to look beyond health and social care, and that there is a broad range of occupations which may be at risk from Covid-19”.

“These are many of the same occupations that are now being urged to return to work, in some instances without proper safety measures and PPE (personal protective equipment) being in place,” he added.

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesman said: “The death of any care or health worker is a tragedy and the whole country recognises the tremendous work of social care workers, nurses, doctors and many others on the frontline of this global outbreak.”

He said the Government was working to ensure it had a “comprehensive picture” of the number of deaths among social care workers and to provide support to affected sector providers and families.

The ONS said its analysis “does not prove conclusively that the observed rates of death involving Covid-19 are necessarily caused by differences in occupational exposure”.

It said the researchers had adjusted the data for age, but not for other factors such as ethnic group or place of residence.

The findings could change as more deaths are registered, the ONS added.

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