Occupational hazards: twice as many infections in working population

Occupational hazards: twice as many infections in working population
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Over the past two weeks, working people have become infected with the coronavirus almost twice as often as the rest of the population in Belgium, shows a new report from the KU Leuven.

A report published by the GEMS expert group shows that the incidence rate for the working population was 2,933 confirmed infections per 100,000 people between 28 December and 11 January, compared to 1,574 cases for the rest of the population.

The large difference is partially explained by the fact that a number of activities for non-working people were suspended during those two weeks, while children had Christmas holidays and university students were studying for their exams.

The report shows a clear "Christmas effect," professor of occupational medicine Lode Godderis (KU Leuven) told De Morgen: in sectors that revolve around leisure activities, a strong increase in infection rates was recorded. The incidence in the aviation sector (5,860 cases/100,000) was almost double that for the rest of the working population.

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A higher incidence than in the rest of society was also recorded in hotels and bars, as well as in the sports and culture sector and in retail, the report shows.

"That in itself is not surprising. If there is more economic activity in a sector, we can also expect the infection rates to rise there," Godderis said, emphasising that the figures do not show where exactly someone was infected, which he said often happens in the private sphere.

The report also shows that quite a large number of people working in sectors where teleworking is possible, such as architects, accountants and people working in finance, still got infected. "This shows that it remains important to focus on teleworking. Otherwise, there is a risk of more staff downtime and companies may shut down or have difficulty operating," Godderis said.

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