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COVID-19 ‘does not disappear on 19 July’

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Mandatory masks will end on 19 July Mandatory masks will end on 19 July

The RCN has warned that public and frontline workers still need to be protected from the virus, as the government announces end to pandemic restrictions in England.

The government has announced that 19 July will bring an end to many pandemic measures, including mask-wearing and social distancing, despite a steady increase in COVID-19 cases.

Read more: Ending pandemic the priority, says new Health Secretary

‘When COVID-19 cases are soaring across the UK, we must not lose the benefits of a successful vaccine programme to rash decisions. We must continue to protect our most vulnerable and frontline workers,’ said Jude Diggins, RCN Interim Director of Nursing, Policy and Public Affairs.

‘This disease does not disappear on 19 July. No available vaccine is 100% effective. COVID-19 will remain a significant risk to the public's health and health care workers. Public mask-wearing is straightforward and well-established – the government will regret the day it sent the wrong signal for political expediency.’

Read more: Nurses’ response to COVID-19 pandemic hailed

Since late 2020, the RCN has been calling for a higher level of PPE for nursing staff. Last week, new research confirmed that wearing FFP3 face masks can considerably reduce the risk of health care workers becoming infected with COVID-19.

‘After these steps to reduce restrictions, nursing staff need even greater protection than they have been afforded to date – they still need higher-grade masks,” added Ms Diggins.

‘Political announcements must not cause yet more confusion in the health service and we will need clarity around public health measures.’

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