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Lives Of Cleaners Potentially At Risk Due To Lack Of COVID-19 Testing

Lives Of Cleaners Potentially At Risk Due To Lack Of COVID-19 Testing
23 April 2020 | Updated 14 May 2020

The British Cleaning Council is calling for cleaners to be eligible for Coronavirus testing, just like other key workers.

The lives of cleaners working on the frontline in the fight against Coronavirus are potentially being put at risk because they are not automatically entitled to testing, according to the industry body for the sector.


"Failing to offer testing to cleaner key workers is a serious mistake which could cost lives."

–Paul Thrupp

Chairman, BCC


Testing for critical and key workers doesn't include cleaners


The British Cleaning Council (BCC) is calling for cleaners who are supporting critical industries to be treated in the same way as other key workers when it comes to testing.

On Friday 17 April 2020, the government announced a roll-out of testing to cover more key workers but cleaners who are themselves critical and key workers were not mentioned.

On 23 April 2020, an online testing scheme was launched, which the government said was designed to allow "all essential workers" in England to register for tests if they or a family member were suffering virus symptoms.

The list of eligible workers included "support staff" in health and social care, the police, the fire and rescue service, education and childcare meaning that cleaners in these few sectors are entitled to testing.

But once again, these lists still leaves out a huge number of cleaners. 

There have been several calls for key worker status for cleaners, from both the BCC and industry leaders. Some have encouraged their staff to carry employer-signed letters to say that they are, despite no official recognition, considered as a key worker by their employer.

The BCC wants key worker cleaners to be explicitly included in the list of occupations to be offered testing. Cleaners who should be offered testing include those who: 


  • Keep healthcare premises hygienically clean
  • Clean schools and education facilities that are open for the children of key workers to attend
  • Work within the food supply chain such as in food hygiene, logistics, factories, supermarkets and shops
  • Clean at government buildings and prisons
  • Work as cleaners at care homes


Cleaners making "a vital contribution to keeping critical industries open"


BCC Chairman, Paul Thrupp said: “Many cleaners are making a vital contribution to keeping critical industries open and are, in the process, putting themselves just as much at risk of contracting Coronavirus as other key workers.

“They are absolutely required to be included in the list of workers who are entitled to testing. Failing to offer testing to cleaner key workers is a serious mistake which could cost lives.

“Many people throughout the cleaning industry are very worried. We are calling for the government to urgently correct this major mistake and will be contacting them directly to demand that this be corrected.”

BCC Deputy Chair Jim Melvin said: “Aside from our highly significant concern for our cleaning colleagues, it is arguably true that by not giving cleaning staff tests, the government process is effectively making the tests, correctly given to Key Workers, redundant as they would potentially be working with non-tested cleaners. It would therefore also be a waste of valuable tests and funding.”

Picture: Image of a person in protective clothing, holding a Coronavirus test

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 23 April 2020


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