Study shows up to 3% of NHS staff may have the coronavirus without knowing it

NHS workers in PPE take a patient with an unknown condition from an ambulance at St Thomas' Hospital

NHS workers in PPE take a patient with an unknown condition from an ambulance at St Thomas' Hospital; photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

A recent study has suggested up to 3% of NHS staff could be infected with the coronavirus without knowing it.

Researchers at Cambridge University tested more than 1,200 workers at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge throughout April and found that of the almost three-quarters that reported feeling fit for work, 3% had tested positive for Covid-19.

The authors behind the report published in the journal eLife, Dr Mike Weekes and professor Stephen Baker from the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease (CITIID) said hospitals needed to implement a screening programme across workplaces.

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'All staff need to get tested regularly for Covid-19, regardless of whether they have any sort of symptoms - this will be vital to stop infection spreading within the hospital setting,' Dr Weekes said.

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Researchers also tracked infection rates in workers responsible for the care of Covid-19 patients in hospitals. They found that despite wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), they were still three times more likely to contract the virus than those working in other areas.

The study stopped short of saying whether the virus was being transmitted from patients but hinted crews may have got it from a number of sources, including their homes.

Those working in Covid-19 wards were also swabbed earlier in the study, closer to when the lockdown was first introduced, so the higher rates of infection in this group might just be a symptom of higher rates of virus circulating in the community at the time.

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