By Yuri Prasad
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Mask wearing ought to apply everywhere now

The Omicron Covid variant is spreading and the Tories won't keep us safe, writes Yuri Prasad.
Issue 2783
A young child gets vaccinated.

Ministers are reviewing whether to administer a second vaccine to children aged 12 to 15.

The Tories’ hatred of face masks that protect people from infection is creating regulation chaos.

From this week, it will be mandatory to wear a mask on public transport, in banks and Post Offices, and in hairdressers.

And government guidance advises people to wear masks in “crowded indoor spaces” and to take a lateral flow test before socialising with other people.

But keen to help out their rich buddies who own the hospitality industry, none of the rules apply to pubs and restaurants. 

With their large concentrations of people, moving around the building, spending sometimes hours in an often unventilated space, bars and eateries are prime infection sites.

Yet, “health minister”, Edward Argar said people standing at the bar are often only there for a short time, and will then “sip a drink on the way back to their table, where they’ll be seated”.

This is not always the case—toilet visits, socialising, cigarette breaks, dancing and more are all incredibly common in bars.

But to Argar apparently, there’s no need to wear a mask.

Tories’ plans fall short

Tory ministers toured TV studios last weekend to insist the government has a plan to deal with the spread of the Omicron variant.

Sajid Javid told the BBC it’s possible to quarantine contacts of those with the new strain for ten days because of a characteristic of some PCR tests.

Near instantaneous results would help slow the spread in Britain, he said.

Some PCR tests can indeed tell if someone is infected with the Omicron variant because the results show the “S” gene as not present.

But under Britain’s privatised testing, less than a third of people will get a “just in time” result. 

The equipment in most laboratories simply isn’t advanced enough to detect the S gene.

So the vast majority of tests will have to be “gene sequenced”—a process that takes days.

That means in most cases, health officials will not be able to tell the difference between someone with the Delta variant and those with the Omicron.

And it means close contacts of someone with Omicron won’t be required to isolate if they’re fully vaccinated—until they have the results of a gene sequenced test.

This delay will almost certainly allow the spread of Omicron.

‘Operation Rampdown’ 

The Tories are dismantling the £37 billion Test and Trace system at a time when it’s most needed.

A leaked dossier last week laid bare plans to axe the shambolic system in 2022. 

But a step to winding it down is already happening.

The tracing unit, run by Sitel and Serco, will end because there’s “no money left”.

The government’s plan is in a 160-page Whitehall dossier codenamed “Operation Rampdown”.

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