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Almost 20,000 Amazon workers have tested positive for coronavirus

Margi Murphy
·2-min read
Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos - AP
Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos - AP

Amazon said that almost 20,000 American workers have tested positive for Covid-19, following concerns that workers delivering goods and working in warehouses throughout the pandemic may be at greater risk from the virus. 

The company, which is the first to release case rates, recorded 19,816 positive cases among its 1.37m Amazon and Whole Foods Market frontline workers between March 1 to September 19. 

This is below the number it would have expected when comparing with rates in the general population, it said, saying that adjusting for age and location, a similar ratio to the wider population would have been 33,952 cases. 

Amazon has been battling coronavirus in its warehouses, with it spreading to at least nine warehouses in the US in March as it rushed to cope with a flood of orders from people who had been told to stay inside

The occurrence of several virus outbreaks early on in the pandemic put Amazon under pressure to introduce social distancing and mass testing across its global sites.  It has hired dozens of lab technicians to build a laboratory in the US so it can avoid using up the general population's supply, and is conducting thousands of tests a day with a target of reaching 50,000 across 650 sites in the US by November. 

Amazon said that it will not be disclosing figures for the UK, where it has 50 sites and more than 40,000 permanent members of staff.

“National case reporting varies country-by-country making it difficult to share accurate and consistent comparisons of rates among Amazon employees compared with rates among the general public across different countries,” a spokesman said. 

“However we log every case reported to us, investigate it and, if confirmed, support the employee on full pay as they quarantine. We also inform other employees at the site.”

Amazon says it enforces social distancing in its warehouses and offices and uses video contact tracing to track who employees have been in contact with.  It said it hoped other large companies would release cases among workers to help improve its analysis and curb further spread. 

The UK's own test and trace system may be outsourced to the logistics giant. A tender for the management of the entire "end-to-end" supply chain will be issued next month, calling for a logistics firm to take over its running.