Royal Mail reveals areas on ‘Covid black list’ that are not receiving regular deliveries because of virus
Royal Mail has published a Covid ‘black list’ consisting of areas of the country which no longer receive regular post because of the virus.
Tens of thousands of people living in 28 specified areas, including swathes of London and the south East and Leeds in the North, are only getting "limited" deliveries because so many Royal Mail staff are off sick or self-isolating.
Some residents on the list said they had not received post for more than a month.
The delivery issues were revealed on Monday, as Matt Hancock said the UK was on track to vaccinate around 14 million people in the top four priority groups by the middle of February.
But MPs have raised concerns that appointment letters may not be delivered on time and should be prioritised by Royal Mail.
Royal Mail has faced severe pressure over winter
Credit: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
Some 130,000 letters have already been sent to people aged 80 or older who live about 30 to 45 minutes’ drive away from one of seven new regional centres, while 500,000 more are being sent out this week.
One Royal Mail insider told the Telegraph: “We’re really struggling”, while the Communications Workers Union called for postal workers to receive priority access to the vaccine.
On Monday, Royal Mail confirmed that a number of staff who work at the delivery office in Lincoln are currently self-isolating, and there have also been coronavirus outbreaks in Daventry and Northampton.
Last week, seven postmen in Horsham contracted the virus and have not been able to work, while 21 people at the Margate delivery office have been forced to self-isolate after three staff members fell ill.
In Ilford, the system appears to have ground to a halt.
Local resident Valerie Wallbank said that she had received any mail to her home in Hainault since December 12.
"It’s quite serious,” she told the Ilford Recorder.
“Some people are not bothered because they do everything online but for some of us it’s quite important."
It is understood that in the run-up to Christmas, as much as 40 per cent of the postal workforce in the area was off sick or self-isolating.
Wes Streeting, the local MP told the Telegraph that while it was understandable that Royal Mail’s performance was being severely affected by the virus, it is having a “serious knock on impact on people getting important NHS correspondence, both about their vaccination and also other routine appointments.
“I have been told locally that Royal Mail are prioritising the delivery of parcels to get the backlog down, but I wonder if there is a way for NHS correspondence to be clearly labelled as such and prioritised for delivery.
“No-one wants to see a situation where people are missing their vaccination appointments.”
Sarah Jones, MP for Croydon central also said she was receiving emails from anxious pensioners about the same issue.
She told the Telegraph: “It is very concerning that people in Croydon have been waiting more than a month for post. Royal Mail staff are under immense pressure and Covid is obviously reducing staff numbers significantly.
“The Government must urgently work with and support Royal Mail to ensure that important NHS letters about hospital appointments and vaccine notices are not delayed from reaching people.”
Royal Mail's list of areas with "limited deliveries"
In response to the concerns raised, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We will work with the Royal Mail to help ensure letters from the NHS inviting people for their vaccinations are delivered on time, but patients should also get a phone call, email or text inviting them for an appointment.
“NHS staff in all services are going the extra mile to ensure appointments are not postponed and are re-booking appointments as quickly as possible.”
A Royal Mail Spokesperson said: “All Royal Mail operational sites across the UK are working hard to deliver the most comprehensive service we can to all our customers in challenging circumstances.
“In common with most organisations, we have a number of employees who are self-isolating in line with official regulations. This has a direct impact on our staffing levels.
Deliveries are being made every day and we are working hard to deliver as normal service as we can, drawing in extra resource where possible.
Despite our best endeavours, some areas of the country may experience a temporary reduction in service levels due to unavoidable staff absences and essential social distancing measures. In such cases, we always work hard to get back to providing a normal service as quickly as possible.”