Government pilot £2.6m scheme to tackle Covid-19 transmission in low paid workers

Fruit pickers

A £2.6m government-funded pilot project aiming to tackle Covid-19 transmission among lower-paid workers in areas where rates remain high is being rolled out.

It aims to provide extra support to those needing to self-isolate, who otherwise might not.

The Peterborough and Fenland districts in Cambridgeshire, along with South Holland in Lincolnshire will take part over the next three months.

The three council districts form one of nine areas taking part in the pilot.

A Peterborough City Council spokeswoman said the districts have what is known as “enduring transmission” of the virus, meaning it was “embedded and spread across our communities”.

Infection rates had been dropping more slowly than in other parts of the country and were “persistently higher than average”.

The councils applied for funding to provide additional support for those working in specific sectors where people are on zero-hours contracts, including food production, packaging and distribution, warehousing and construction.

The £2.6m package is part of a wider £12m pilot being rolled out by the health secretary in nine areas including parts of London and north-west England.

In the east of England, it will help to provide additional payments for workers needing to self-isolate, if they can prove financial hardship, and will work with agencies such as the Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority to increase job security for those self-isolating.

Plans also include a Covid-safe transport network to take employees to work, and alternative Covid-safe accommodation for those who live in houses of multiple occupation.

Val Thomas, acting director of public health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: “Many other areas with persistently high [Covid-19] rates face similar issues.”

“We want all of the measures included in our pilot to instil greater confidence in people to get tested and give them the confidence to let their employer know that they have tested positive and to self-isolate if needed.

“It will also allow us to support employees to access safer travel arrangements.”