Blog: ‘Reckless’ decision on COVID will put lives at risk

The Living with COVID strategy is an appeasement of Conservative backbenchers that will also have a profound impact on the delivery of services

Portrait of Christina McAnea

The UK government’s reckless decision to scrap all remaining COVID-19 rules in England this week will have a profound impact on the delivery of our public services, as well as putting lives at risk. 

The Living with COVID strategy is, in fact, the government ditching its responsibility, just to appease backbenchers.

Allowing individuals and workplaces to make up their own rules will force workers into impossible situations and risks, increasing staffing pressures in public services and ultimately, service delivery. 

For many workers – especially those on precarious contracts – they’ll have to make a nightmare choice between working while infected with COVID, or risk losing pay while staying at home. For professions like health and social care, this could mean putting vulnerable adults at risk. 

Along with other education unions, UNISON has pointed out that scrapping the rules could cause chaos and mean millions of hours of lost learning in schools.

Free testing and self-isolation rules should continue – to keep everyone safe. Parents, teachers, teaching assistants, school meals workers, caretakers – will all be unsure about what to do each day. 

And on the science – the supposed guiding principles behind all these decisions – allowing the virus to run rampant – will surely result in more variants. Last night, the prime minister stated he wanted to make sure “we spot any new variant as soon as we can”, to enable “surge testing”.

As an important part of testing is screening for new variants, the chances of spotting new variants will be almost impossible without free community testing, while ramping up surge testing would, once again, heap substantial pressure on to our public services.

Our public services have taken a battering over the last two years, while being directly responsible for delivering for everyone throughout. There are backlogs in the NHS, financial trouble across almost every sector, and an exhausted workforce.

This foolish move is reckless and lacks the foresight that we so desperately need from politicians. 

While we all want more freedom back, safety and responsibility must come first, to make sure we aren’t putting lives and livelihoods at risk.