Mask wearing in hospitals, clinics and other NHS buildings should remain compulsory when Covid restrictions are eased next Monday (July 19), Unite said this week.
Responding to Boris Johnson’s press conference on Monday (July 12), Unite said that mask coverings and social distancing should remain in place for the foreseeable future within the NHS as infections rates are still rising.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, understands that some NHS trusts in England will insist that masks continue to be worn by staff, patients and visitors after next Monday, but the union said that it should be underpinned by law.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said, “We have serious questions about Boris Johnson’s laissez-faire approach to the widespread easing of restrictions from 19 July. All bets have been placed on the vaccination programme holding the line, but there is no guarantee that this will be a completely successful strategy.
“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,” he added.
“We understand that a number of trusts in England will insist on the wearing of masks after next Monday – and this should be backed up by the law.
“What the prime minister is doing by his ‘mixed’ messaging is causing confusion to NHS staff and the public,” Jarrett-Thorpe continued. “What is needed is clarity in the same way that you know you can’t legally smoke in public places.
“Public opinion is in favour of continued mask wearing and the prime minister should urgently reflect that concern, especially as vulnerable groups could be at risk with the responsibility for mask wearing now being up to the individual,” he went on to say.
“Our members have been fighting coronavirus for the last 17 months and they are exhausted. An increase in hospitalisations which will follow from 100,000 infections a day will add to their immense workloads – the pandemic has not ended.
“Already we are hearing reports from our members of holidays being curtailed to meet the expected demand. Anything that could ease the burden on the NHS, such as mask wearing, should be employed.”
By Shaun Noble