Last reviewed 13 May 2020

New figures published by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) linking coronavirus deaths to people’s jobs, have prompted some experts to argue the data is proof that the coronavirus is an occupational disease while others have claimed the figures speak to Britain’s “social class divide”.

The new data showed there were a total of 2494 deaths involving COVID-19 in the working age population of England and Wales up to and including 20 April 2020.

Nearly two-thirds of these deaths were among men (1612 deaths), compared with 882 female deaths.

Men working in the occupations classed by ONS as “lowest skilled” — which includes cleaners and security guards — had the highest rate of death involving COVID-19, with 21.4 deaths per 100,000 males (225 deaths). In particular, men working as security guards had very high rates, with 45.7 deaths per 100,000 (63 deaths).

In addition, men and women working in social care, a group including care workers and home carers, both had significantly raised rates of death involving COVID-19, compared to averages.

Commenting on the data, Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia, said, “The latest ONS analysis on reported deaths from COVID-19 amongst people of working age paints a very stark impact of the social class divide in the UK…

“One of the key findings has been the high death rates in care workers and social care workers (this does not include healthcare workers). Male social care workers have more than twice the risk of death than do male healthcare workers. We have heard repeatedly over recent weeks of the failure to deliver sufficient PPE to care homes and care workers and the high death rate in this occupational group is a probable consequence of that failure.”

Prof Neil Pearce, Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said, “This important report confirms that in the working age population COVID-19 is largely an occupational disease.”