NHS cleaners, porters and office staff were unknown ‘super-spreaders’ in hospitals, according to the nation’s antibody screening drive.
Sir John Bell, who runs the programme, said background workers at some UK hospitals had ‘sky high’ levels of antibodies compared to doctors and nurses on COVID-19 wards.
It means it was the hospital cleaners and porters, who often worked on multiple wards, that more often caught and fought off the disease.
Health bosses are planning measures to better protect low paid workers in the event of a second peak, according to the Telegraph.
Sir John Bell, who runs the programme, said background workers at some UK hospitals had ‘sky high’ levels of antibodies compared to doctors and nurses on COVID-19 wards. Pictured: NHS staff in protective gear at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge
‘Most of the people with sky-high antibody levels are domiciliary workers, rather than front line workers’ in intensive care. If you think about it, these were the people moving around the hospital,’ Sir Bell told the newspaper.
‘The hospitals are now using that information to make sure PPE and social distancing can be prioritised towards these types of workers if a second wave comes along,’ he said.
The Government first asked NHS health chiefs to test their staff for antibodies in May after health service officials admitted that there was a significant problem of inpatients catching COVID-19 from staff or other patients.
Hassan Akkad disinfected coronavirus wards at his local NHS hospital
Transmission in hospital was thought to make up to 22 per cent of cases in hospitalised patients, and up to 11 per cent of deaths, according to papers published by Sage in June.
During the pandemic, three cleaners from St George’s Hospital in Tooting died after contracting coronavirus.
Salih Hasan and Fyngs Mullings both worked for the private cleaning giant Mitie, while the death of a third unnamed cleaner was thought to be related to Covid-19.
Reportedly it wasn’t until May 18 that Public Health England (PHE) issued guidance to hospital staff as to how they should follow distancing rules, according to an investigation by The Daily Telegraph.
This was almost two months after the UK entered lockdown on March 23.
The new data has fuelled concern that NHS trusts, alongside care homes, are causing Covid-19 to ‘re-seed’ into the community, making it difficult to lift lockdown restrictions.
The first woman to catch the disease while staying at hospital was retired cleaner Marita Edwards, 80, who went to the Royal Gwent hospital in Newport, South Wales, for a routine gallbladder operation in March.
But the fit keen golfer was thought to have caught an infection during her three-week stay.
NHS staff and campaigners outside Downing Street, London, reading out the names of NHS staff who have died as a result of coronavirus, part of a candlelit procession from St Thomas’ Hospital to Downing Street yesterday
Retired cleaner Marita Edwards (pictured), 80, went to the Royal Gwent hospital in Newport, South Wales, for a routine gallbladder operation. But the fit keen golfer is believed to have caught an infection during her three weeks stay in the hospital in March
There have so far been 44,131 deaths and more than 284,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
The virus is known to be able to live on surfaces for hours or even days so it is easy to transmit in confined and busy spaces.
Hospitals are quarantining infected patients but some do not develop any sign of illness until days after they became infectious. Every patient entering a hospital is now tested for coronavirus to ensure the safety of others.
Dr Aidan Fowler, director of patient safety at NHS England, previously said he was ‘concerned about the rates of nosocomial spread within our hospitals,’ the Health Service Journal reported.
Nosocomial infection is that which takes place inside a medical facility.
Meanwhile doctors and nurses held a candlelight procession from St Thomas’ Hospital to Downing Street in London yesterday.
Campaigners called out the names of the NHS staff who had died from coronavirus at the end of the procession.