Unions must take strike action to stop lifting of Covid-19 restrictions on July 19th!

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HE BRITISH Medical Association (BMA) doctors’ trade union has spelt it out that pressing ahead with lifting final Covid-19 restrictions in England on July 19 is ‘irresponsible and perilous’.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: ‘It’s irresponsible – and frankly perilous – that the government has decided to press ahead with plans to lift the remaining Covid-19 restrictions on July 19. In doing so, the government is reneging on its own promise to be led by data and impact on the NHS.’

He added: ‘Scrapping the remaining restrictions next week – when a significant proportion of the population will not have been fully vaccinated – will give this deadly virus an opportunity to retighten its grip; pushing infection rates up, increasing hospitalisations and people ill with Long-Covid, risking new vaccine-resistant variants developing, and putting more lives at unnecessary risk.

‘While the government has said it will continue to encourage the wearing of face coverings after the 19th, within the same breath ministers confirm that masks will not be mandatory. This is contradictory and shows the government absolving itself of responsibility while heaping pressure on the public, confused by mixed messaging of the highest order.’

BMA concludes: ‘The Prime Minister repeatedly emphasised the importance of a slow and cautious approach, but in reality the government is throwing caution to the wind by scrapping all regulations in one fell swoop – with potentially devastating consequences.’

The Unite union has said: ‘Mask wearing in hospitals, clinics and other NHS buildings should remain compulsory when Covid restrictions are eased next Monday (19 July).

Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, understands that although some NHS trusts in England will insist that masks continue to be worn by staff, patients and visitors after Monday, this should be underpinned by law.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: ‘We believe that social distancing and mask wearing in hospitals, clinics and other NHS buildings should continue for the foreseeable future in order to protect the public and our members working in the health service.’

Unite also represents tens of thousands of bus drivers. It has written to its bus driver members reminding them that under section 44 and section 100 of the Employment Rights Act, workers have a right to remove themselves from the workplace if they believe that by continuing to work their health is being placed in serious and imminent danger.

Unite national officer for public transport Bobby Morton said: ‘If workers do feel that they cannot work safely, this will inevitably cause delays and disruptions in services. I hope that the general public appreciates that this is a problem entirely of the government’s making.’

Transport union RMT has also slammed the ‘reckless and irresponsible gamble’ by government over the July 19th announcement. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘This is a reckless and irresponsible gamble with the health of millions.’

RMT has pointed out that many of the Covid measures that are currently in place in the transport sector are as a result of consultation and agreement with the RMT and other unions and, as such, all measures to address the pandemic must remain in place unless, on the basis of the evidence, there is agreement with the unions to do otherwise.

Mick Lynch said: ‘This week we risk seeing a bonfire of the very regulations that have protected passengers and workers. As well as scrapping such obvious protections of face coverings we are also concerned that operators will want to scale back on other protections such as enhanced cleaning.

‘This could be a fatal folly and also entirely unnecessary when there is no reason why our political leaders could not take a more cautious approach, especially when infections are soaring.’

There must be an immediate meeting of the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) General Council on these burning issues.

The government has confirmed that it intends to go ahead with plans to lift the remaining Covid-19 restrictions on July 19 to test out its ‘Herd Immunity’ survival of the fittest theories.

On health and safety grounds the TUC must call a general strike to bring down the government and go forward to a workers’ government.