Royal Mail has published a list of 28 areas in the UK which are currently experiencing limited delivery services as more and more of its workforce is affected by coronavirus. The zones, which comprise of 27 in England and one in Northern Ireland, are no longer getting post because of the high numbers of Royal Mail staff who are off sick or self isolating. The affected areas include 13 near or in London, while others include Leeds and West Yorkshire, Chelmsford in Essex, Widnes in Cheshire and Margate in Kent.
Valerie Wallbank from Hainault in north-east London told reporters she had not received any post since December 12.
Ms Wallbank said: “It is quite serious. Some people are not bothered because they do everything online but for some of us it’s quire important.”
There are increasing fears that elderly people won’t receive their NHS letter to sign up for a vaccine appointment.
The issue has prompted calls, including from MPs and the Communication Workers Union (CWU), for postal workers to be added to the priority list of people being vaccinated.
READ MORE: How to complain if your post hasn’t been delivered
On its website, Royal Mail advises people in the affected areas who have been left a ‘Something for you’ card from the service to check its website to learn revised opening hours for when they can collect the item.
The advice reads: “If we’ve not left a ‘Something for you’ card, and you do not have alternative arrangements in place, we’re sorry that your mail will not be available for collection.”
Mr Streeting said while it was understandable Royal Mail was being affected by the ongoing situation, the problems have been having a “serious knock-on impact on people getting important NHS correspondence, both about their vaccination and also other routine appointments”.
The Ilford MP added: “But I wonder if there is a way for NHS correspondence to be clearly labelled as such and prioritised for delivery.
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“No one wants to see a situation where people are missing their vaccination appointments.”
Mr Streeting went one step further in his appeal to have NHS letters prioritised by tweeting Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi.
The MP tweeted: “More than half a million letters inviting people to be vaccinated will be sent in the coming days. @RoyalMail delays have been so bad – because Covid is knocking out staff – that I am worried about them arriving. Is there a way to prioritise these letters, @nadhimzahawi?”
In a statement on its website, Royal Mail said it was “working hard to deliver the most comprehensive and high quality service we can to all our customers” despite the pandemic and associated rise in pressure on delivery resources.
The statement read: “The combination of greatly increased uptake of online shopping, and the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, mean that all delivery companies are experiencing exceptionally high volumes.
“Every single parcel and letter is important to us. Despite our best efforts and significant investment in extra resource, some customers may experience slightly longer delivery timescales than our usual service standards.
“This is due to the exceptionally high volumes we are seeing, exacerbated by the coronavirus related measures we have put in place in local mail centres and delivery offices to keep our people and customers safe.
“In such cases, we always work hard to get back to providing our usual level of service as quickly as we can.”