WORKERS in many essential occupations are particularly vulnerable to severe illness from Covid-19, according to a new study published yesterday (Tuesday) by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
The age profile of local agricultural workers is suggested to be a notable risk factor. The study claims it is the occupational group with the largest proportion of older workers, with 63 percent of farmers and those working in the industry aged over 50. That figure is 10 percent greater than those aged over 50 working in housekeeping and related services.
Speaking on the topic Cllr Chris McCaffrey said, “You can tell by statistics that Fermanagh and Omagh was the least affected region in the six counties in terms of Covid-19 probably because of its rurality.”
The study examines three factors of risk from coronavirus, age, vulnerable chronic illness and living in deprived areas.
It states, “Despite agricultural and related trades having high risk profiles across each dimension, due to the nature of their work and the closure/modifications of some agricultural activities such as marts, they may have lower exposure and therefore lower probability of severe outcomes.”
It also suggests, “Reducing risk of infection from larger gatherings in marts or food/animal fairs should be considered if rates of Covid-19 in the community are high, or if clusters appear in specific localities.”
Cllr McCaffrey said, “The last number of months have been difficult for farmers, they have never stopped working albeit in changing circumstances. It was extremely difficult in the first number of weeks when the cattle marts couldn’t continue as they were.”
He explained that the virtual marts provided some income for farmers and as things begin to return to some form of normal he remarked, “For a lot of farmers the mart is a social outing. I think for anyone in a vulnerable category or those over 70 there is a need to remain careful.”
The latest guidance from the PHA encourages continuing good hygiene including the wearing of face coverings, avoiding standing or sitting face to face and the use of screens or partitions.