500 infections in Wales vehicle licensing contact center, a 'scandal'

World | 24 Jan 2021 11:37 pm

Staff are scared to work at the UK vehicle licensing agency's contact centre in Swansea where 500 workers have contracted coronavirus since the pandemic began, a union says, the BBC reports.

The PCS union has urged ministers to intervene and described the numbers as a "scandal".

A DVLA spokesperson insisted safety was a priority and it followed guidance to "help keep our offices Covid secure".

The Welsh Government said it had been "worried about the DVLA for a while".

First Minister Mark Drakeford said he has repeatedly raised concerns over case numbers at the offices.

Minister Eluned Morgan said the decision to introduce tougher Covid regulations for workplaces in Wales was made, in part, due to the situation at the DVLA.

In December, a coronavirus outbreak was declared at the centre at Swansea Vale in Llansamlet after 352 patients in the space of four months.

The DVLA has about 6,000 staff based in Swansea but said it was currently operating on a "far reduced capacity".

A DVLA worker, who did not want to be identified, told BBC Wales News that close contacts of people testing positive are not always sent home to self-isolate, social-distancing is not being followed and homeworking is not possible because of "archaic" systems.

"There are certain elements within management who are trying to bend the rules and regulations," they said.

"It has been mentioned that you don't need your track and trace [contact tracing app] on. If someone's off with Covid, the people who haven't had their app on haven't been sent home.

"They'll say 'your app hasn't pinged, you're not going home'."

The worker said it was difficult for staff to adhere to the two-metre distancing rule because of the way the office was laid out and some staff had resigned.

"The atmosphere sucks, people are scared. I have heard of some people walking out," they said.

"I think they have been raising concerns. They probably didn't get the answer they wanted. It's not necessarily the manager's fault, the managers are struggling too."

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