The UK oil industry has slammed the government for refusing to provide it with the means for blanket testing for Covid-19, Bloomberg reports, noting that, according to the government, it has the capacity to test 300,000 people daily.
Offshore platforms—where almost all of UK crude oil is produced—are one of the riskiest places to work in a pandemic because of the confined space and the fact it is shared by a lot of people.
“Oil platforms are just like cruise liners” an oil workers’ union official told Bloomberg. “The confined space, the communal areas, food handling, hygiene, everything.”
And yet the government is only providing testing for people already exhibiting symptoms—that’s the type of testing it can do for 300,000 people daily. Asymptomatic testing, or the testing of people who have not yet exhibited symptoms of the disease, is only reserved for frontline workers in the National Health System.
According to the regional government in Aberdeen, Scotland, which is the center of the UK’s oil industry, asymptomatic testing of offshore platform personnel “would not remove the risk of people incubating the disease becoming symptomatic offshore.”
Still, according to industry officials, the blanket testing is worth doing, as offshore workers are no less critical than other groups identified as such as provided with asymptomatic testing.
The U.K. is reliant the North Sea for domestic energy supply, so the personnel that produce it are “absolutely critical,” the oil workers’ union official, Jake Molloy, told Bloomberg, adding that offshore workers should be treated as shop assistants and taxi drivers, who are being tested asymptomatically.
Covid-19 has burdened additionally the already troubled North Sea oil industry, just as it has burdened oil industries across the world. Recently, energy industry officials warned that as many as 7,500 jobs have disappeared from the North Sea platforms with more to follow. Exploration for oil and gas in the North Sea had effectively come to a stop because of the pandemic, one professor from Heriot Watt University told the UK Parliament.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com