The media is abuzz with talk of relaxing and lifting lockdown restrictions and virus cases are low in Britain at the moment. But that doesn’t mean that the risks have gone away completely.
The government was expected to release its list of permitted international travel destinations later this week.
But the deadline set by the Commons Transport Select Committee for grading the safety of countries using a traffic light system has been missed.
This is due to the discovery of several cases of the Brazilian and South African Covid-19 variants in Tower Hamlets, east London.
The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that surge testing will now be implemented in the borough.
The ban on overseas holidays will be lifted on 17 May with only a restricted number of countries categorised as safe.
But the allowed travel destinations, as shown in the previous lifting of travel restrictions, have already raised some concerns.
This has led some in parliament to oppose the lifting of the travel ban in fear of new variants and virus mutations. The All Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus asks the government to “discourage all international leisure travel”.
They added airports are a “breeding ground for infection” and new variants could lead to “further lockdowns and inevitably further loss of life”.
Travellers returning from green categorised countries will also have to take a less reliable rapid Covid-19 test when they return to Britain. And they will also no longer have to self-isolate.
This makes new virus variants harder to detect, which could potentially mean Britain could face more waves of the virus.
Just 27.5 percent of adults in Britain have had both vaccine doses. This leaves a significant number of people vulnerable.
In the face of the continuing danger that the virus poses to workers, some are fighting back to demand bosses end attempts to force them back into unsafe working conditions.
Workers at a major Driver, Vehicle and Licensing (DVLA) workplace in Swansea began their second round of strikes, for four days, on Tuesday.
Workers are demanding that bosses allow more of them to work from home. In negotiations, DVLA bosses offered the PCS union a plan for a phased return to the workplace.
But the union says more workers should be working from home.
One striker told Socialist Worker, “They’ve tried to give us a managed return to the office—but we’re asking for a reduction of numbers on site.”
More than 1,400 workers joined the strike last month and more are expected to join this time around.
“The previous strike was a success,” the striker added. “We’ve reached a record membership of over three and a half thousand. People are feeling more organised this time.”
School staff can’t cope
Throughout the pandemic schools have been a breeding ground for the virus. The easing of lockdown without vaccinations available to most younger people is likely to lead to an increase of infections among students.
And historical cuts to the jobs of health workers in schools has only made the virus much harder to manage.
Professor Gabriel Scally of the Independent Sage group said, “The difficulty with mobilising school staff (to manage the pandemic) is that we’ve got such poor levels of staffing.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we have 2,000 school nurses in all of England. Ten years ago there were 3,000.
“In New York one of the first things they did at the start of the pandemic was they recruited more nurses so they had a full-time school nurse for every school.
“That level of staffing is what’s needed.”
The need for more school nurses has been noted in Scotland. The county of Lanarkshire is currently looking to triple school nurse recruitment in order to deal with increased demands.
Stress pushing workers to quit their NHS jobs
The NHS is not prepared for another coronavirus wave.
Long hours, low pay, punishing shift patterns and the impact of Covid-19 are forcing health workers out.
One analysis showed the number of nurses and health visitors leaving the profession last year was up by 50 percent since 2010-11.
And the figures showed a 182 percent increase in nurses and health visitors quitting over work-life balance.
And on top of that thousands of doctors are planning to quit the NHS.
Almost one in three are thinking about retiring early while a quarter are considering taking a career break. And a fifth are weighing up quitting to do something else according to British Medical Association findings.
The government’s refusal to recommend more than a 1 percent NHS pay rise is adding to the pressures
Labour’s shadow Health Minister Justin Madders said, “The last year has seen NHS workers perform heroically but for many, the offer of a real terms pay cut will be the last straw so government need to urgently reconsider their approach otherwise the exodus we have seen in recent years will become a flood.
“Years of pay freezes, record vacancies and relentless pressure are having their effect with hard pressed staff voting with their feet.”
Good words, but Labour doesn’t back the 15 percent pay rise workers want.