Responding to the announcement made by the PM on his decision to relax Plan B Covid restrictions, British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “Today’s announcement from the Prime Minister risks creating a false sense of security when the levels of infection and illness remain high, and the NHS is still under crippling pressure.
“This decision clearly is not guided by the data. When Plan B was introduced in December, there were 7,373 patients in hospital in the UK- the latest data this week shows there are 18,979. Case numbers too are nearly twice as many.
“The pressures on the NHS are clear for everyone to see. We have a record backlog of 6 million patients at a time when hospitals are cancelling operations, Trusts are declaring critical incidents and ambulance delays are jeopardising public safety. Removing all restrictions risks a rebound in the number of infections across society, would inevitably increase hospitalisation rates, further destabilise patient care and drive up the rate of staff absences and the number of people with long Covid.”
Dr Mary Bousted of the National Education Union highlighted the ongoing failure to provide funding for ventilation in schools. “The danger is we lift restrictions too quickly before the effects of returning to school are clear. This will result in more education disruption which is extremely worrying particularly for pupils taking national exams this year whose education has been so badly disrupted already.
“Rather than announcements aimed at saving Boris Johnson’s job, Government should be exercising a duty of care to the nation’s pupils and the staff who educate them. This disruption is at the door of the Government who should have got ventilation and filtration solutions in place before Omicron as advised by SAGE and they should be getting these solutions in place urgently now to ensure interruption of education remains at the minimum.”
Usdaw, the union for retail workers, criticised the decision to ditch masking in public places including shops. General Secretary Paddy Lillis said “There is no reason why, when lifting other Covid restrictions in England, the Government could not keep the requirement to wear a face covering in busy public places like shops. Their flip-flopping so far on basic and sensible Covid measures and the different rules across the UK create confusion, reduce compliance and can lead to conflict.
“Many shopworkers are at a greater risk of catching the virus and taking it home to their families. Yet they have worked throughout the pandemic to keep the country supplied with essentials. These key workers must be valued, respected and protected.”