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07.05.2020 / News / Press releases / / /

UVW to distribute 2,000 surgical masks to key and frontline workers 

  • Government and employer failure to provide masks to key and frontline workers has forced UVW union to step up to the challenge 

  • UVW represents London’s lowest paid, most precarious and predominantly migrant workers, many of whom are Key and frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19. 

  • The masks have been sourced from Hong Kong through a translational mutual aid network.

  • These masks will be rushed to the cleaners at the Ministry of Justice where masks still aren’t been provided and one cleaner has died of suspected COVID-19. 

  • Any masks not taken by UVW’s membership will be distributed to other key and frontline workers in need. 

UVW union is stepping up to fill the void left by employers and government by sourcing and distributing 2000 surgical masks to Key and frontline workers who are keeping the UK running throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. Many of UVW’s members have already walked off the job in protest of unsafe working conditions, particularly the failure to provide sufficient PPE. 

The most prominent of these walks outs took place by security guards at St. George’s University and cleaners at the Ministry of Justice where both direct employers, Noonan and OCS respectively, failed in the view of the worker’s to provide them with adequate PPE. 

At the Ministry of Justice two workers have died from suspected Coronavirus which prompted the walk out on International Workers’ Memorial Day.

The masks have already arrived to 8 locations around London and will be distributed in the coming days by car, bicycle and foot. 

Whilst scientific opinion appears divided on the effectiveness of face masks in non clinical settings the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) advice, published on 6 April 2020, says that “wearing a medical mask [in a community setting] is one of the prevention measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including COVID-19”. However, the WHO warns that face masks are not a replacement for other protective measures, such as hand hygiene or social distancing and may only be effective when combined with those measures.

In light of the WHO’s advice Petros Elia, organiser and co-founder of UVW, said “Whilst there’s a chance they can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 every worker and person should be given them. If UVW can source and distribute 2000 masks with no special connections and limited resources, then what excuse do our government and employers have for failing to do so? That UVW had to step in really highlights the utter incompetence and callousness of both employers and government.”

Editors Notes:

For more information about mask distribution, quotes or photos please contact:

Gabrielle Jeliazkov, Editorial Lead on Campaign Communications, tel. 07761 542653 email.

Kane Shaw, Editorial Lead on Campaign Communications, tel. 07950 927798 email.

Petros Elia, Organiser and Rep, tel. 07884 553443, email.

UVW would like to note that no one distributing these masks makes any pretension of any medical, scientific or other specialist knowledge in respect of the adequacy of masks in general, or the specific masks sourced, in minimising the transmission of COVID-19.

Furthermore, these masks are in no way meant as a substitute for any PPE provided by employers or the government. They are merely a provision to those who want or may need them who are currently not being provided with them. In addition, the WHO has warned that face masks in community settings are not a replacement for other protective measures, such as hand hygiene or social distancing and we expect employers to implement all the relevant safety measures possible.


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