Reckless approach is risking undoing all of the progress our NHS has made in delivering the vaccine

Read Kate’s latest column for the Shields Gazette:

This week we pay tribute to and celebrate the 73rd birthday of our NHS.

I strongly believe that scrapping masks will put shop and transport workers at greater risk.

Throughout the past 16 months and beyond, our health and care work force have shown unbelievable commitment and bravery during this pandemic.

Their reward should be an acceptable pay rise not a real-terms pay cut, which is quite frankly an insult and a kick in the teeth for all those hard-working NHS staff.

They, like us all, want to see this painfully difficult period come to an end but Boris Johnson is hell bent on ploughing full steam ahead with the removal of Covid restrictions in this country – despite saying that new Covid cases could reach 50,000 a day before 19th July.

The Government have shifted the onus on people’s personal responsibility which is a huge gamble that flies in the face of expert medical advice.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty recently warned that we are still in the middle of an epidemic and the government’s own scientists fear that the surge in Covid cases could pose such a risk that restrictions would have to make a return.

I understand that this is a hugely difficult judgement call for anyone to make, but to remove nearly all restrictions at the same time when the Covid rates are increasing at a worrying rate, is completely reckless.

The Prime Minister is intent on meeting his July 19th deadline by hook or crook, with little thought about the consequences.

Key protections such as face masks should remain compulsory on public transport and in shops once the Covid restrictions are lifted. I strongly believe that scrapping masks will put shop and transport workers at greater risk.

Although hospital admissions are down, the Government are not taking into account the possible impact of long Covid and the potential added strain on our NHS.

By failing to control the borders this government has let the highly transmissible Delta variant take hold, disrupting the education of hundreds of thousands of school children who have already missed out on a huge chunk of their learning over the past year.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has failed to keep school children learning throughout the pandemic following the publication of figures showing that 623,000 children were out of school due to Covid last week.

Williamson has gone from one disaster to another, having already presided over the A-level assessments fiasco, botched the reopening of schools, and failed to provide enough funding to help children catch up with lost learning.

He – and his Government – have let down each and every one of all the teachers and staff in our schools and their pupils, and their parents who have done so much over the past 16-months to keep young people learning.

Children have had a traumatic year and they need to be in class, learning and spending time with their friends. However, the Government’s inadequate testing regime, failure to improve ventilation and their failures to secure the border have put our children’s education at risk. This is unforgivable.

Here we have an incompetent, negligent Government who have made a complete mess of this pandemic and are gambling with people’s lives.

The phenomenal success of the NHS-led vaccination programme owes so much to the extraordinary efforts made by our universal healthcare system, not to the competency of Boris Johnson and his Cabinet Ministers.

I, like you, want to see an end to lockdown, but this Government’s haphazard and reckless approach is threatening to undo all of the progress our NHS has made in delivering the vaccine.

We need better financial support for those who self-isolate, continued mask wearing in shops and public transport, and good ventilation and support for children to prevent another repeat of the past year’s failings.