Commenting on the decision of the European Commission not to put Covid-19 in the highest risk category of the Biological Agents Directive, ETUC Deputy General Secretary Per Hilmersson said:
"While the ETUC welcomes the fact that the Covid-19 virus will be included in the Biological Agents Directive, we regret that the decision today, if confirmed by the Commission, would mean that it will be classified as an agent belonging only in the second highest risk group.
"Research shows that the characteristics of the virus justify its classification in the highest risk group, not only because of the lack of effective treatment or vaccine, but because of the high risk of workers who are in contact with the public spreading the virus to the community.
"A classification of Covid-19 in the highest risk group would give a stronger protection for workers in hospitals and elderly care homes, and all workers in contact with the public. It would improve occupational health but also strengthen the possibility of reducing the spread of the virus, and thereby the mortality, among the general population. However, as soon as there is effective treatment or vaccine available, the risk group classification should change.
"The decision today does not hinder member states to implement stricter measures. The ETUC therefore calls on member states to classify the Covid-19 virus in the highest risk group."
There are four categories of risk in the Biological Agents Directive, with four being the highest.
The Commission said Covid-19 does not meet the following definition for category four:
“One that causes severe human disease and is a serious hazard to workers; it may present a high risk of spreading to the community; there is usually no effective prophylaxis or treatment available”.
Instead, the Commission placed the disease in category three, which has a weaker definition:
“One that can cause severe human disease and present a serious hazard to workers; it may present a risk of spreading to the community, but there is usually effective prophylaxis or treatment available”.