Johnson to remove restrictions – Putting transport staff’s lives at risk – warns RMT

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RMT members remember tube worker Belly Mujinga who died from Covid-19, believed to have been contracted at work

‘WE KNOW that we are going to see more hospitalisations and more deaths from Covid,’ Tory PM Johnson admitted at yesterday’s 5.00pm press conference in which he confirmed that the remaining Covid restrictions will still be lifted on Monday July 19 despite infections soaring.

He said: ‘We think now is the right moment to proceed when we have the natural firebreak of the school holidays in the next few days.

‘It is absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution and I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough. This pandemic is not over.

‘This disease continues to carry risks for you and your family.

‘We will stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions and to lift social distancing.

‘But we expect and recommend that people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with people you don’t ordinarily meet, such as on public transport.’

Earlier, Tory Health Secretary Sajid Javid addressed Parliament and also announced restrictions would be lifted.

Javid said: ‘This is about balancing the harm that the virus brings with the damage that the restrictions bring. So we have decided that the most responsible thing to do is to ease the restrictions and manage the risks.’

He added: ‘We simply cannot eradicate this virus. Whether we like it or not the virus is not going away.’

Admitting that cases were rising he said: ‘I want to be open about what the data is telling us. Cases are rising propelled by the new, more transmissible Delta variant. ‘At the moment the number of new daily cases has risen to 30,000 a day.

‘The case numbers will get a lot worse before they get better, we could reach 100,0000 new infections a day.’

Labour’s shadow secretary of state Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘We want to see the economy reopen in a balanced, safe and secure way.

‘This means putting in measures to limit transmissions. The secretary of state has taken a high-risk fatalistic approach. Instead of caution he has put his foot on the accelerator while taking the seat belts off.’

Caroline Lucas of the Green Party said: ‘The message about face masks on public transport has been downgraded from being a clear legal requirement to being an optional personal choice.

‘As over one hundred scientists and medics said last week in a letter to the Lancet “It is reckless and risks driving infections up”.

‘Frankly the government seems to be pursuing a Darwinian strategy relying on immunity by natural infection. Does he realise how dangerous this is?’

In a letter to Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, transport union RMT has warned of the ‘fatal folly’ of removing Covid transport protections.

In the letter, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch seeks assurances the governments will ‘not impose changes to existing Covid-19 protection arrangements that could result in increased risks of illness and death for workers and passengers.’

‘In the case of masks, for example, moving from a mandatory requirement to an optional requirement will not only reduce protection for passengers and workers but also create confusion and conflict throughout the transport system.

‘We are also concerned that many transport operators will seek to put profit before safety by scrapping enhanced cleaning regimes.’

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.

‘We are also calling for a more unified approach to avoid contradictory and confusing ar