The boss of a nursery firm which provides care for children of key workers in the West Country has pleaded with the Government to provide staff with Covid vaccines.
Cheryl Hadland is the managing director of Tops Day Nurseries, which cares for children living in Plymouth as well as Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
She has written an open letter to MPs and hospitals in the region, stating nursery staff should be tested for Covid-19 and considered for vaccinations.
This comes after a new national lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister on 4 January, which requires people to stay at home unless they have a valid reason.
Primary and secondary schools have also moved to remote learning, except for vulnerable children and those of critical workers.
Early years settings and nurseries will remain open, however, and Ms Hadland says she and her colleagues feel “ignored”.
"It's not just tests, we'd like some support from the Government,” she said.
"The schools and colleges and universities are sitting on boxes of free tests and they've missed us off the circulation list.
"We think we should be provided with some income to help us pay for a defog machine, the chemicals we are using and the additional cleaning we're having to do.
"Without us, so many people wouldn't be able to work. The hospital staff that we support, police, all kinds of critical workers can't work unless their under fives are looked after and educated at the same time.
“They need to respect us, pay us more per hour and support us with testing, and ideally the vaccine.”
In addition to the open letter, a petition has been started calling on the Government to prioritise teachers and those working in schools and nurseries with the vaccine.
It has already received more than 300,000 signatures.