POSTMEN in Oxford have said they are currently facing ‘Christmas every day’ and have called for people to be mindful about what they are buying online.

Royal Mail postal workers are classed as key workers and have continued working from their depots across the UK during the coronavirus lockdown.

Two Oxford workers have shared their increasingly stressful experiences, but also said they had felt a lot of public support.

Also read: Sainsbury's bans couples shopping together due to coronavirus

Meanwhile the Communication Workers Union which represents postal workers has called for better protection for its members from the Covid-19 virus.

Graham Cox has served as an Oxford postman for 17 years and delivers in the Botley area.

He said the job had ‘definitely changed’ in recent weeks.

Oxford Mail:

Graham Cox.

Mr Cox said: “It feels like Christmas pressure. It feels like doing Christmas every day.”

Before the crisis, Mr Cox used to deliver to about 300 houses a day, which take no more than four hours.

Now, he is delivering to around 500 homes, taking up to six hours.

While out on the job, he said there had been a lot of community spirit, with some people offering cups of tea.

Read also: 16 arrested and charged with breaking lockdown rules

But he added he wanted young people especially to be more aware of social distancing to help protect him and his co-workers.

He also added he and his colleagues wanted better protective equipment as the extras they have currently been given – rubber gloves – often split.

Mr Cox used to share his postal van with Shafique Rahman, but because of social distancing guidance, the pair have now had to separate their rounds into two different vans.

Oxford Mail:

Shafique Rahman.

Mr Rahman, who has worked for Royal Mail for 31 years, said: “Two drivers used to go out together, but now one is going out and the other is staying behind and doing their deliveries afterwards.”

This new practice, Mr Rahman said, was part of the reason the postmen’s workload had increased.

Mr Rahman said he had also seen kindness and community spirit on the streets of Oxford while doing his rounds.

Also read: 'Festival of ideas' postponed until 2021

He said: “One of my colleagues, they were doing their deliveries, and people on a street started clapping for them as they were going by.”

But he added: “More people are going to online retailers to buy.

" It means there is less room on the floor at the moment in the warehouse and social distancing is difficult. Some people are not taking it seriously enough.”

Steve Gill, a Communication Workers Union representative in Oxford, called on the public to be mindful of what they were buying at the moment.

Oxford Mail:

Steve Gill.

Mr Gill said: “All we are asking is that they think before they order something online.

"Do you really need to order it when we also have to deliver important medical packages? That’s what we are saying.”

He added the CWU was calling for better protective gear for postmen across the UK, and said the public needed to know the work they were doing was ‘high risk’ as it put them in contact with people who may have the coronavirus on a day-to-day basis.

Mr Gill said: “From a union point of view we want to do the best for the health and safety of our members.”

He also said Royal Mail management needed to enforce stricter social distancing at depots.

Read also: While Waitrose shoppers queue in the cold, this greengrocer opposite is doing a roaring trade

At the end of last week, the CWU’s general secretary Dave Ward made a call for Royal Mail to only focus on the most essential deliveries during the coronavirus outbreak.

He added there was a ‘very, very clear’ message that if there was not adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in place at Royal Mail sites, then union members should not be working.

The Royal Mail said it ‘takes the health and safety of its colleagues, its customers and the local communities in which it operates very seriously’.

Its spokesman added there was ‘a comprehensive range of preventative measures to protect both our customers and our colleagues in line with guidance from Public Health England.’

They said: “We have introduced a new social distancing policy which has been implemented in the vast majority of our sites.

“Public Health England guidance says there are no additional precautions needed for handling post or packages.”

OPINION: Give a round of applause to our plucky postal workers

WHEN we think about the key workers putting themselves at risk by keeping the country going, our minds inevitably turn to the doctors, nurses, frontline medical staff and other emergency workers who are fighting to keep us alive.

But there are many other people bravely soldiering on, without whom we would not be able to survive the lockdown. Today we report on the conditions endured by one of those professions – the postal workers.

Important in 'normal' times, the 'postie', and the many people who work behind the scenes to ensure the mail arrives, are now crucial to survival.

With shops closed, even more of us are ordering items online. But there is a limit to what they can deal with. Unprecedented numbers of items are making working conditions in sorting offices cramped and hampering attempts at social distancing. And, of course, there is a lack of effective personal protective equipment. Postal workers know that if even medical staff can't get PPE then they have little chance, for now.

So next time you see a postal worker, stand back (at least two metres!) and express your heartfelt gratitude. After all, they are risking all to help us carry on.