The Prime Minister’s announcement on the dropping of guidance on masks, social distancing and working from home has been met with a mixed reaction.
The Prime Minister’s announcement that guidance on working from home, mask wearing and social distancing will end on 19th July in England has brought a mixed reaction.
IPSE, the organisation for the self employed, welcomed the announcement as “a huge relief” for many freelancers. However, it warned that the financial damage to the self-employed sector meant the Government must “monitor the situation of the worst-hit groups and be ready with a stimulus package to get them back on their feet”.
Others were not so welcoming. Although Boris Johnson warned people not to be ‘demob happy’ and to take “personal responsibility” and Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said he would advise people to continue wearing masks in some circumstances, including in crowded indoor spaces, some union leaders are worried that allowing people to go on public transport without masks will make many people feel anxious about travelling to work at a time when the Delta variant is rising across the country.
Teaching unions expressed concern, with the National Education Union accusing the government of “neglectful and reckless decision-making”.
UNISON assistant general secretary Jon Richards said: “Now isn’t the time to throw caution to the wind, especially with infections on the rise. The economy is important, but so is public confidence.
“People want clarity from the government as restrictions are eased. They don’t need a confusing free-for-all, with ministers absolving themselves of any responsibility for public health.”
He added: “Face coverings and well-ventilated workspaces provide a level of reassurance and security to staff who deal with the public. Safety laws also require their employers to keep these workers safe. While protective safety kit is likely to remain compulsory in hospitals and care homes, healthcare workers need assurances that this will be so.
“Many other employees, who’ve spent the past 16 months working from home, will be more reluctant to step on to crowded buses, trains, trams and tubes if masks are no longer compulsory.”
Already the Welsh government’s health minister has announced it will not rush into scrapping all restrictions on 19th July. It will announce details of its own plans on 14th July.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has also voiced concerns about public confidence if mask wearing on public transport is no longer compulsory.