By Kris Jepson

Thousands of people in the North East are still working after being classified as "key workers" by the government, who need to continue delivering essential services during the coronavirus lockdown.

These include, not just health and medical staff in the NHS and care homes, but delivery people, some shop workers and civil servants.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

The Milkman

Russell Gibson is a milkman in Newton Aycliffe, Count Durham. He set his business up just two years ago, but told ITV News Tyne Tees he has never been busier than now during the pandemic lockdown.

He said he is now receiving orders online from areas outside of his usual Newton Aycliffe patch and that customers are telling him he is "a life saver".

He modestly told us "I'm not a life saver, I'm just doing my job".

The business grew like 300 per cent within like three or four days. The enquiries they’re still coming through thick and fast now. I can only do so much... So the milk side of it, the supply is quite fine. I don’t think we’ll run out of milk for a while yet, but it’s the auxiliary side, like the bread, the juice, eggs, things like that, they’re becoming more difficult to source, which obviously makes it difficult to pass them on.

Russ Gibson, Milkman
Milkman Credit: ITV News

The Binman

Durham County Council has the large task of maintaining waste disposal during the crisis, which has become an ever more important public service, with many more people now staying in residential areas 24/7.

The Waste Operations Manager, James Lee, told ITV News the council has received a large number of offers from people volunteering to help with the service.

He said "we’ve had volunteers from our highways, leisure, clean and green, neighbourhood wardens. We’ve had a lot of staff coming forward to help us with this essential service, when their service has depleted or completely ceased."

Refuse & Recycling operative, Vince Walker, said each time he begins his shift, he realises he is putting his own life at risk.

I feel I am putting myself at risk, although I am proud to be a key worker, you know, I feel I am putting myself at risk, but the precautions I am taking, as well as my colleagues, I think is minimising those risks. Residents have been really nice and really good to us, you know, they’ve thanked us for the jobs that we are doing, you know, they’ve given us little gifts, they’ve given us little things on top of the bin advising us to stay safe.

Vince Walker, Refuse & Recycling Operative
Binmen Credit: ITV News

The Grocer

In Wylam, South Northumberland one local greengrocers has had to close up shop.

A J Stobo & Son have increased their home delivery service since the lockdown began and told ITV News the demand is increasingly high.

Ann Smith is currently in isolation with her husband and said the deliveries are so important. She said "The staff are always friendly and helpful. They take my order and then the next day or now, sometimes it’s the day after because they’re so busy, they deliver it as Marion has just done now. It’s a wonderful service for a village."

The grocer is providing this essential service for families and older people who are in isolation, but said it is expecting this new way of working to impact on the business.

Each order isn’t as much, we’re having to pay extra staff, the price for delivering orders will obviously take its toll, and in the end people aren’t buying as much as they would if they were to come in and shop with their eyes, so in the end I think we’ll be probably on par or a little bit less, profit wise. It’s a frightening time for everybody and it’s just nice to put their mind at rest, once you get there and drop their order off at least. Everybody is getting the hang of it now, doing it like this, phoning up and just having it dropped off and it’s, yeh, we wouldn’t not do it. It’s just something we have to do yeh.

Marion Stobo, Greengrocer
Grocers Credit: ITV News

The full list of "key workers" includes:

  • Frontline health workers such as doctors and nurses

  • Some teachers and social workers

  • Public services like the justice system, religious staff and journalists

  • Local/national government staff who deliver essential public services

  • Food production processing, distribution, sale and delivery workers

  • Public safety workers, police, armed forces, firefighters and prison staff

  • Essential air, water, road and rail transport workers

  • Utilities, comms and financial services, including postal workers and waste disposal workers