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How work in Britain has been changed by coronavirus

From an actor in The Archers and an epidemiologist to a delivery driver, ten people from across the country tell us how they have adapted to the pandemic.

Everyone’s life has been changed by the pandemic, whether you’re a doctor on the front line or a Tube driver serving empty platforms. In the first of a monthly series we introduce ten people we’ll be following to see how their work has changed under lockdown.


The delivery driver: ‘Being valued — that’s a great feeling’ Dave Bailey, 27, is a haulier in Birmingham “In the past three weeks the number of nights I’ve spent at home in my own bed can pretty much be counted on one hand. Since the lockdown began, it’s been go go go. I’m working flat out.


“Ordinarily I’d be doing shifts of between nine and 12 hours, but now it’s anything up to 15 hours a day. Most nights you’ll just try and catch some sleep in the back of the cab wherever and whenever you can, with warm meals a rarity as services have all closed down their food courts.

“As a general haulage driver for a company called Onpoint, I carry all sorts of things, here, there and everywhere. Now I’m delivering essential food items for Morrisons and Asda as well as PPE equipment for the NHS.


“After the announcement that the Excel centre would be turned into an enormous field hospital, we were sub-contracted to deliver medical supplies. Myself and four other lorries delivered 15 tonnes of PPE down to the capital. It was all arranged in such a rush that we didn’t even have paperwork to prove who we were or what we had brought.


“Seeing that kilometre-long conference hall being readied for the arrival of thousands of ill or dying people was a game-changer for me.


“As a truck driver you spend about 90 per cent of your time in isolation anyway and I had been quite relaxed about coronavirus. But I was just shell-shocked by what I saw. I drove back to Birmingham that day without putting on any music in the cab, and afterwards told my boss that I would do the job for free.


“The government has relaxed laws that restrict lorry drivers’ working hours, enabling us to work for an additional four hours each week. Each driver now also carries an official letter issued by the government that gives us permission to be on the road as an essential worker.


“It’s long hours and you’re away from home for long periods of time, but I feel a real pride and responsibility in what I’m doing.


“Usually, everybody hates truck drivers. We are the bane of public life — these great big, slow-moving vehicles that slow down the traffic for everyone else.


“But since all this started, I’ve noticed people’s attitudes change towards us. There is more courtesy and respect.


“Sometimes you even see people standing on motorway bridges applauding us. Being valued — that’s a great feeling.”

The junior doctor: ‘I’m not doing heroics, I’m just doing my job’ Conor O’Malley, 30, is a junior doctor working in intensive care at a hospital in east London

“I’ve gone from never having experience of ventilated care to being the junior doctor responsible for eight ventilated patients.


“Something that’s been emotionally quite tough is that patients’ relatives can’t come to the ward. I recently had a Covid-19 patient who rapidly deteriorated and I had to call his family to tell them he was going to die. They wanted to speak to him — obviously he was asleep on the medications we’d given him — but I brought the phone over on speaker and held it to his ear for the family to say goodbye. That was really, really hard. I was standing there, part of a conversation that is usually so intimate, which was emotionally quite difficult.


“PPE is really physically hard to work in. The other day I missed lunch and was having to put a line into a patient’s neck while wearing double PPE to keep the area sterile. I had on: four pairs of gloves, two gowns, a mask, a visor and hat. I was so sweaty my fingers were slipping and I had to hand the procedure over to my colleague because I almost fainted. PPE makes you hot — it hurts your nose, your chin, it’s just uncomfortable.


“Since the pandemic started I’ve had friends texting me saying “Keep going you’re a hero”, but the hero label makes me feel uneasy. Yes my job is harder and yes it’s much more stressful, but I don’t feel like I’m doing heroics, I’m just doing my job.


“Personally I’m not really worried about catching the virus. I’m 30, fit and well. I can put my doctor head on and see that the chances of me getting seriously ill from this are slim — so I can rationalise that quite well. Obviously I don’t want to get it, but part of me would like to have had it to get it out of the way.


“PPE is really physically hard to work in. The other day I missed lunch and was having to put a line into a patient’s neck while wearing double PPE to keep the area sterile. I had on: four pairs of gloves, two gowns, a mask, a visor and hat. I was so sweaty my fingers were slipping and I had to hand the procedure over to my colleague because I almost fainted. PPE makes you hot — it hurts your nose, your chin, it’s just uncomfortable.


“Since the pandemic started I’ve had friends texting me saying “Keep going you’re a hero”, but the hero label makes me feel uneasy. Yes my job is harder and yes it’s much more stressful, but I don’t feel like I’m doing heroics, I’m just doing my job.


“Personally I’m not really worried about catching the virus. I’m 30, fit and well. I can put my doctor head on and see that the chances of me getting seriously ill from this are slim — so I can rationalise that quite well. Obviously I don’t want to get it, but part of me would like to have had it to get it out of the way.