COVID-19: UK in the final fight against the pandemic

  • UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says Britain is its final lap in the coronavirus fight
  • Restrictions on the number of funeral mourners to be lifted on May 17th
  • Some European countries desperate to welcome British tourists
  • NHS England facing an exodus of staff post-COVID pandemic

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said that Britain is in the “last lap” of its fight against the coronavirus. His comments come ahead of plans for the next round of lockdown easing to commence on May 17th.

During an interview with Sky News, Dominic Raab commended UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s exit roadmap strategy and went on to say that the cautious approach is still the “smart way to go”.

Although some ministers have pressured Mr Johnson to lift COVID restrictions early, Mr Raab said that the steady easing of coronavirus restrictions is what has enabled the UK to “really turn the corner” on the pandemic.

Dominic Raab also warned: “We still need to be careful to avoid seeing the gains lost and the sacrifices that have been made undone.

“There’s only a little more time to go before almost all social distancing rules are lifted on June 21st, so we must continue to err on the side of caution during the last lap.”

The next round of coronavirus lockdown easing is scheduled to commence on May 17th. From this date, most remaining shuttered businesses, such as indoor hospitality firms and large sports stadiums, can reopen their doors. 

Groups of six or larger parties of two households can also meet indoors, while gatherings of up to thirty people will be permitted outdoors.

Indoor events with a capacity of up to 1,000 people will also be allowed, while outdoor events can have a maximum capacity of 4,000 or must only be half full. 

A pilot festival in Liverpool on Sunday saw the largest number of people gather in a small space since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Approximately 5,000 fans participated in a euphoric night of festival fun as part of an official government trial researching how mass events can resume safely.

The UK government will also remove limitations on the number of people able to mourn loved ones at funerals in England later this month.

Restrictions on the number of funeral mourners to be lifted

Under the next round of lockdown easing, the UK government will lift the 30-person legal limit on the attendance for funerals – a month earlier than previously planned.

From May 17th, there will be no limitations on the number of mourners at funerals, providing that the venue is complying with social distancing rules.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, most mourners have been forced to watch funerals via televised streams, making the grieving process more difficult for many people. Meanwhile, those that have attended have been unable to physically comfort one another due to social distancing rules.

The UK government insisted that more guidance will be given on hugging and social distancing by May 17th.

Nonetheless, removing the legal limitation on the number of people that can attend funerals means that funeral mourners will no longer be forced to make those deeply painful sacrifices.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick also vowed to work with faith leaders and funeral homes to introduce new arrangements that ensure people will remain safe when the limit is lifted.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that “some safeguards” will need to be kept in place even as legal restrictions conclude, with some of the measures expected to continue, including mask-wearing and social distancing.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has also advised the UK government to discourage foreign holidays after experts raised concerns about the growing threat of new COVID-19 variants.

It comes as UK travel and tourism agencies prepare for a surge in holiday bookings after the EU announced plans to welcome British tourists to the continent this summer. 

Several European countries, including Greece, Cyprus and Spain, are desperate for British tourists to return. Sky News revealed that most of Mallorca’s businesses had struggled dramatically in the absence of British holidaymakers as they rely on their spending to survive.

Needless to say people on both sides of the Channel are eager to return some semblance of normality.

Reports have also circulated revealing that NHS England could start offering children over 12 coronavirus vaccines from September.

While Mr Raab refused to elaborate on the UK government’s post-lockdown ambitions, he did say that “different contingencies” were being considered.

NHS England could offer vaccines to children over 12 in autumn

According to recent reports, the NHS has drafted proposals to administer vaccines to secondary school children at the start of the new school year to prevent the risk of school closures if the infection rate increases when COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted

However, a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said: “The NHS has made no decisions on whether students should be offered vaccinations, and we will continue to take guidance from experts once we receive the clinical trial results.”

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) also stated that any decision to vaccine children over 12 would be guided by scientific and medical advice. JCVI officials said that only children at high risk of contracting severe COVID should be offered coronavirus jabs. 

It comes as official data revealed that the infection rate among ten to nineteen-year-olds is far higher than any other age group in England.

That said, they remain significantly lower than levels seen during the previous COVID-19 wave, and statisticians have noted that the increase could be partially due to new testing measures introduced at schools.

Furthermore, if community transmission levels continue to decrease, plans to offer vaccines to school children could be scrapped.

NHS England is also preparing to launch a vaccine booster programme this autumn to protect against mutant strains of the virus and increase immunity levels ahead of the winter months when the risk of transmission is expected to rise again.

It comes amid data revealing that as of May 4th, 34,588,600 people have received their first COVID jab, while 15,500,949 are fully vaccinated bringing the total number of doses administered to more than 50K.

However, thousands of British doctors’ plan to resign from the NHS post-pandemic, with workload exhaustion and a deterioration in mental health cited as the main reasons for their decision.

An exodus of doctors could leave the NHS post-pandemic

According to a survey conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA), approximately one in three doctors consider early retirement. Meanwhile, one-fourth of participants are contemplating a career break due to the strain of working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Approximately a fifth of survey participants said that they are mulling over the idea of quitting the NHS for a complete career change.

The BMA’s survey, which included a sample of 5,521 doctors, found that long hours, wages, the strain of the pandemic, and unpleasant working conditions were among the factors that influenced their thinking.

The survey revealed that 31.9% of respondents or 1,352 doctors said they were more likely to retire early – a 14% increase from last year.

Meanwhile, 25% or 1,064 doctors stated that they were more likely to take a career break, 21% said they were considering a complete career change, 17% were contemplating work in another country, and 15% were mulling over the idea of becoming a placeholder or locum.

While the DHSC confirmed that the number of staff working at NHS England had hit record levels, the abundance of workers considering leaving would create new challenges for Britain’s health system, which has a backlog of care appointments due to COVID-19.

As a significant number of routine services were suspended to prioritise COVID-19 cases, hospital waiting lists in England are said to have increased to 4.7 million – the highest number in NHS history.

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