16 July 2021

A coalition of concerned healthcare professionals and experts is urging the public to continue wearing masks and practising social distancing – even if the government relaxes official restrictions on 19 July.

They argue that giving up on masks and social distancing now – when infections and intensive care admissions are on the rise – would put the nation’s return to normal life in jeopardy.

Dr Christine Peters, Consultant Microbiologist and Co-Founder, Fresh Air NHS, a member of the coalition, said

“Like everyone, healthcare professionals are keen to return to normal life – but we have to do it safely. If we drop masks, good ventilation and social distancing now, infections will rise even more, meaning more restrictions will be needed in the future, and for longer.”

Jude Diggins, interim Director of Nursing, Policy and Public Affairs at the RCN, a member of the coalition, said:

“This disease does not disappear on 19 July. COVID-19 will remain a significant risk to the public’s health and healthcare workers. The public understands the importance of mask wearing, social distancing and vigilant handwashing. These must continue in order to protect patients and nursing staff, thus ensuring health and care services have the capacity to treat everyone who needs them if pressures keep increasing.”

Kamini Gadhok, CEO of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, a member of the coalition, said:

“With hospitals already filling up with Covid patients again, the reality is that too many people are not getting the care they need. This is particularly concerning for illnesses such as cancer and neurological conditions, where time is of the essence. Services are already at breaking point and this will only get worse if the public are encouraged to stop wearing masks too soon.”

Kevin Bampton, CEO of the British Occupational Hygiene Society, a member of the coalition, said:

“While the vaccine roll-out has been a real success to celebrate, it’s only part of the solution. We know from our members that increasing numbers of people who have been double jabbed are getting ill and being admitted to hospital with Covid. This reflects what’s happening in Israel, where cases are rising fast despite the most effective vaccine roll-out in the world.”

Dr Barry Jones, Chair of the AGP Alliance, which is part of the coalition, said:

“We’re asking the public and NHS workers to stay safe by continuing to use masks in enclosed spaces and to maintain distancing and good ventilation where possible.”

Notes to editors

Government sources at a recent meeting have confirmed:

  • The peak of the rise in COVID-19 cases is expected to happen in mid-August, with calculations showing numbers accelerating to between 2,000 and 4,000 admissions per day (4,000 is the same as the figures in January).
  • Data shows that 8% of cases are in those who have been vaccinated, demonstrating that vaccination does not provide full protection.
  • ONS data suggests that 1 million people are currently suffering long Covid, with access to services to support them patchy or non-existent.

List of partners supporting this statement:

AGP Alliance, which includes:

ARTP – Association for Respiratory Technology & Physiology

BAPEN – British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition

BASP – British Association of Stroke Physicians

BDA – British Dietetic Association

CBS – Confederation of British Surgery

College of Paramedics

CSP – Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

FreshAir NHS

GMB Union

HCSA – Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association

Medical Supply Drive UK

NNNG – National Nurses Nutrition Group

RCSLT – Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

Unite the Union

Doctors Association UK

Trident HS&E

Also supporting this statement:

Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics

Association of Occupational Health and Wellbeing Professionals

British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) – The Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection

Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing

Occupational Health Business Management

Royal College of Occupational Therapists

Royal College of Nursing

Society of Occupational Medicine