Government ministers are said to be meeting later today to decide whether or not to scrap mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for NHS staff in England.
According to reports, it’s thought that around 77,000 NHS staff in England are currently unvaccinated, but, as announced last November, all frontline workers must be fully-vaccinated by 1 April, meaning they need a first dose by Thursday, and if they are not jabbed by that date, they will be redeployed or dismissed.
Yet, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has been under growing pressure to scrap the rule.
After there have been significant concerns that the sector could be left with a massive staffing crisis due to the number of workers refusing to be vaccinated, the Health Secretary said last week that the jabs requirement was being “kept under review”.
Although he said that he believes it’s the “professional duty” of NHS staff to get vaccinated, Mr Javid told the Health and Social Care Select Committee last Tuesday that, when the mandatory vaccination policy was announced, the dominant COVID variant was Delta, and it was right to “reflect” now Omicron was dominant.
It is understood that no final decisions have been made as of yet, but the Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that Mr Javid will meet ministers on the COVID operations cabinet committee today, where he is expected to confirm the U-turn.
The newspaper said the government is ending the policy because Omicron is milder than previous variants of the virus.
These recent reports that the government ministers are meeting today comes just a week after the Department Of Health And Social Care said there were no plans to change the policy as it was “the right thing to do to protect patients”, despite previous reports suggesting ministers were considering a delay in its implementation.
The UK Health Security Agency says vaccines have proven to be effective against hospitalisation, mortality, infection and transmission.
But both the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had urged for the deadline of mandatory vaccination to be postponed and the British Medical Association called for an “urgent impact assessment” on how the policy would affect staffing numbers.
Patricia Marquis – Director of RCN in England – said: “If these reports are correct, this climbdown by government is long overdue.
“Vaccination is hugely important but this was the wrong policy, especially as it added to the current pressure on NHS and care services, and it was never in the interests of patient safety to threaten tens of thousands with dismissal in the middle of staffing crisis.
“We will continue to support government and employers to make the case for vaccination.”
Featured Image – Flickr
Warning after terrifying video shows party decorations catching fire in a Manchester bar – again
Fire crews in Greater Manchester are warning bars and restaurants to be careful after footage emerged of party decorations catching fire above customers’ heads.
In just seconds, the entire ceiling is ablaze, with terrified customers scrambling for the exit.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue service released the video in a bid to raise awareness and prevent any similar incidents at hospitality venues in the city-region.
The shocking incident occurred in a shisha bar in Rusholme, in May this year.
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, but several people were taken to hospital with suspected burns.
In both this instance and in the One Eight Six incident, the cause of the blaze was determined as being ‘indoor fireworks igniting decorations, which then burned rapidly allowing the fire to spread’.
GMFRS is now working with licensing teams from the 10 councils in Greater Manchester to offer free information and advice sessions to owners and managers of cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants in advance of the Halloween, World Cup and the Christmas party season.
Leon Parkes, GMFRS’s director of prevention and protection, said: “Hospitality venues have a responsibility to keep their customers and staff safe and at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service we want to help businesses to understand their legal responsibilities and take action to protect their property, staff and customers from fire.
“We have seen a couple of instances in the past year in Manchester where fires have broken out in venues caused by indoor fireworks setting light to decorations.
“While fortunately fires don’t occur very often, the impact of a fire can be devastating and many businesses don’t recover.
“Pubs, bars and other venues will be very, very busy during October, November and December. It’s important that staff prepare by getting trained in what they need to do and that they don’t inadvertently create a fire risk.
“We know that the last two years have been really difficult for hospitality businesses and hopefully the forthcoming World Cup and Christmas period will be a boost for them. We gave out fire safety advice in May last year as Covid-19 restrictions eased and we are now working with our partners to help hospitality businesses be safe and stay safe.”
‘Significant risk’ of UK gas shortages this winter, regulator warns
Energy regulator Ofgem has warned that the UK faces a ‘significant risk’ of gas shortages this winter.
According to reports in The Times, the regulator has unveiled concerns that the country could face blackouts over the coming months thanks to an undersupply of gas to Europe caused by Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Warning that a “gas supply emergency” could be looming ahead, the energy regulator has said that some gas-fired power plants could see their supplies cut off, which in turn would stop generators from producing electricity.
The alert comes just days before an expected update from the National Grid on the likelihood of countrywide power cuts this winter.
Responsing to arequest from SSE, which owns several gas power stations, Ofgem outlined what is set to be a huge issue of concern given that the UK relies on large gas plants to produce the biggest share of its electricity supply.
The regulator also pointed to rules that could see power plants penalised as a result of shortages, warning of a worst-case scenario that would see the “potential insolvency of gas-fired generators” caused by rules that require plants to pay huge charges if they fail to deliver on promised quotas.
Adding that the issue must be addressed to prevent a “significant impact on the safety and security of the electricity and/or gas systems”, the regulator echoed concerns now widespread in Europe as its comments followed a similar statement made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) this morning.
Europeans are already being told they must lower their thermostats and boilers in preparation in case gas supplies are cut off, with Paris-based agency IEA warning today that the EU must focus on getting underground gas reserve levels to 90% of capacity in case of a complete Russian supply shut-off.
Preparation are already being made in Europe with the German government having approved a set of energy-saving measures for the winter to limit use in public buildings. In France, meanwhile, companies have already been warned they may face energy rationing this winter.
Whilst the UK government is yet to announce any energey saving measures, Ofgem has said that it expect s“this winter to be more challenging than last year” and that it is taking “reasonable regulatory steps to mitigate and reduce the risks”.