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MPs’ COVID-19 Report Calls on Minimum Standards for Hygiene Infrastructure

MPs’ COVID-19 Report Calls on Minimum Standards for Hygiene Infrastructure
01 December 2022

MPs are recommending a series of measures to prepare the UK for future public health emergencies, resulting from an inquiry into the role of cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry, across three virtual sessions, examined what had been both successful and unsuccessful from the national approach to cleaning and hygiene during the pandemic. The sessions were attended by public health stakeholders, cleaning service contractors and suppliers, manufacturers of cleaning and hygiene products, and owners and managers of venues used by the public.

The resulting report recommends the introduction of minimum standards for hygiene infrastructure and the cleaning of venues. It also says that a standard qualification for cleaning should be developed within the Apprenticeship Levy to improve the quantity, quality and career prospects of people entering the industry.


Key Worker Status for Frontline Cleaners


It was also agreed that in any future pandemic, commercial cleaning and hygiene operatives working in key venues should have Key Frontline Worker status. This should also include personnel in the cleaning product production and supply sectors.


Plans for Cleaning Standards: Minimum Levels of Materials and Production Capacities


Industry experts told the APPG inquiry about the significant difficulties they experienced during the pandemic in procuring materials. Cleaning service contractors reported that the protective “ring-fencing” of supplies and the creation of “pop-up” product supply companies created procurement issues.

Therefore, the report recommends that a joint government-industry preparedness team should be established to draw up a plan for cleaning and hygiene requirements in times of emergency. There should also be investigations into how to increase production capacity during any pandemic. Based upon the plan, minimum levels of the cleaning materials and equipment most commonly called upon in emergencies should be defined and their availability ensured.


Government Guidance on Hygiene Should be “Clear” and “Consistent”


Those managing public venues, including colleges and schools, reported that there were several issues with the government advice on cleaning and hygiene. Updates were frequent but often “delayed, short on detail, reactive and sometimes contradictory.”

The British Toilet Association told the inquiry that no specific advice or resources were provided in respect of public conveniences. A widespread initial reaction to the pandemic was to close these facilities, at a time when they were needed for hand washing.

The inquiry recommends that government hygiene guidance must be “clear, consistent, sustained, timely, relevant and specific”. Communications should also widen and deepen public understanding of hygiene and establish a norm of adopting hygienic behaviour as part of everyday life.  

Jim Melvin, Chair of the British Cleaning Council, which supported the inquiry, said: “This is a hugely important report for the government and the industry in assisting the nation and, if implemented, will help make sure the UK is prepared and ready for another pandemic or new variant, which we all fear and recognise may only be a matter of time.

“This report will help us learn and remember the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic so we don’t make the same mistakes again in the next public health emergency.

“The key message is the need to ensure that cleaning and hygiene is given top priority in the future, as was so ably demonstrated by the bravery and commitment of our cleaning and hygiene professional operatives during the pandemic. The public will be healthier, happier and safer if cleaning and hygiene is recognised as a key, frontline service with a vital role in terms of public health.

“But it must also be made clear that if this report is not acted on, the risk will remain and the government simply cannot allow that price to be paid.”


UK COVID-19 Inquiry


The report is being shared with the UK COVID-19 Inquiry and is expected to be followed by a roundtable event.

For a free copy of the APPG report, please email

Picture: a photograph of a person cleaning some table surfaces in a public area indoors. Image Credit: BCC

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 01 December 2022


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