The risk increased to five-fold among BAME staff, the study found (Picture: Getty/PA)

Frontline healthcare workers are three times more likely to test positive for coronavirus compared with the rest of the population – even with adequate PPE, a study has found.

The data also suggests that the risk of infection increased at least five-fold among Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) health staff.

Researchers say their findings highlight the importance of having adequate stocks of personal protective equipment, as well as proper strategies in place to safeguard frontline workers. They include ensuring it is correctly worn and avoiding the same items being reused, which has been associated with increased risk.

The findings also come days after NHS staff marched to Downing Street protesting their exclusion from the Government’s announcement of wage increases for 900,000 public sector workers. Some described feelings of ‘desperation and anger’, while others said they had been ‘let down’ by ministers.


CHESSINGTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 28: A nurse is seen at a drive through COVID-19 testing station at Chessington World Of Adventures Resort on March 28, 2020 in Chessington, England. Critical care nurses, GPs and ambulance drivers are among the medical workers who will be tested at similar sites across the country. The United Kingdom is nearing 20,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and around 1,000 fatalities, and his imposed quarantine measures to slow its spread. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
A nurse pictured at a drive-thru Covid-19 test centre in Chessington, England (Picture: Getty Images)

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Researchers from King’s College London and Harvard used the Covid Symptom Tracker App to look at data from 2,035,395 individuals and 99,795 frontline healthcare workers both in the UK and US.

They found that the prevalence of Sars-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, was 2,747 cases per 100,000 frontline health-care workers compared with 242 cases per 100,000 people in the general community.

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Around 20% of frontline healthcare workers reported at least one symptom associated with the virus, compared with 14.4% of the general population.

Fatigue, loss of smell or taste, and hoarse voice were especially frequent, the study published in Lancet Public Health found.

Professor Sebastien Ourselin, senior author from King’s College London said: ‘The findings of our study have tremendous impact for healthcare workers and hospitals.

‘The data is clear in revealing that there is still an elevated risk of Sars-CoV-2 infection despite availability of PPE.

‘In particular we note that that the BAME community experience elevated risk of infection and in some cases lack access to adequate PPE, or frequently reuse equipment.’


National Health Service (NHS) staff, protesting their exclusion from a recently-announced public sector pay rise, demonstrate outside St Thomas' Hospital in London, England, on July 29, 2020. Around 900,000 public sector workers across the UK are set to receive above-inflation pay rises this year as a gesture of thanks from the Treasury for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. Within the NHS, doctors and dentists will benefit from the rises, but nurses and other frontline staff have been excluded owing to a three-year pay deal they negotiated in 2018. Nursing activists say that so-called Agenda for Change agreement doesn't go far enough, however, in correcting a decade of falling real-terms pay. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto)
NHS staff protesting their exclusion from a recently-announced public sector pay rise demonstrate outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London (Picture: PA)

Dr Claire Steves, lead clinical researcher from King’s College London said: ‘I’m very pleased we have now introduced masks and social distancing where possible for all interactions in hospitals, to protect ourselves and the population we serve.

‘We need to ensure this is reinforced and sustained throughout the health service, including in health care settings outside hospitals, for example in care homes.

‘Additional protective strategies are equally as important, such as implementing social distancing among healthcare staff.

‘Stricter protocols for socialising among healthcare staff also need to be considered.’

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Source: Metro