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Controlling the spread of COVID-19: the contribution of the delivery sector and its workers

Delivery driver

The COVID-19 outbreak triggered an unprecedented political, economic, and social response across the globe. In the UK, people were asked to stay at home as much as possible.

Over one million people classed as particularly vulnerable were advised by the government to shield by staying at home for at least 12 weeks, avoiding any face-to-face contact.

The demand for home deliveries of prepared food, groceries and other products rocketed during the COVID-19 lockdown, reaching levels usually associated with the run-up to Christmas.

In recognition of their vital role, delivery drivers were identified as essential workers.

Delivery workers during the pandemic

A team at the University of Manchester – led by Professor Martie van Tongeren and Dr Hua Wei, and with support from the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England – are investigating how the home delivery sector has contributed to controlling the epidemic in the UK.

This includes an evaluation of the risk mitigation strategies that have been implemented by companies to reduce the risk of transmission between delivery drivers and customers.

This study, funded by UKRI and by the Department of Health and Social Care through the National Institute for Health Research, runs until April 2021.

The team is working closely with some of the main companies in the delivery and logistics sector to collect information and data on the volume and geographic and demographic patterns of home deliveries, as well as details on the risk mitigation measures.

Public health scenarios

These data will be used to input into epidemiological models to study the effect of changes within the delivery sector on the trajectory of the epidemic.

They will also develop and analyse the effect of different scenarios in terms of public health policies and potential responses of the delivery sector, like prioritising vulnerable groups and the types of products delivered.

This will provide essential information to develop guidance on how to better respond to future outbreaks.

Last updated: 28 October 2020

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