As a trade union rep for the Workers of England, I have spent the last two years defending our members against intrusive, ineffective and potentially injurious COVID-19 policies. Until three months ago, when the vaccine mandate in health and social care was revoked by the Government, almost all of my cases were workers who refused to take two or more injections to keep their jobs. Since then the battleground has shifted to mask-wearing rules (often involving the same employees).
Forcing staff to wear a mask for their entire working day is unprecedented in most healthcare settings. As it is now accepted by all but the shrillest of Covid zealots that morbidity of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is similar to influenza, many of the radical interventions from lockdown to face covering seem disproportionate, if not damaging.
A month ago, national guidelines for the NHS dropped ubiquitous masking in clinical areas. However, most NHS trusts were unwilling to relax from pandemic mode. Absurdly, no exemptions are accepted for face covering. And so we have had a steady stream of cases, with several members being threatened with dismissal despite valid health concerns.
In disciplinary proceedings I have challenged employers with a set of six questions:
- Do you consider masks as a medical intervention?
- Do you promote informed consent?
- Do you honour exemptions?
- Please provide evidence (in summary) that masks are effective
- Could you give assurance that prolonged mask-wearing is not detrimental to physical or mental health?
- Could you explain why masks are required for COVID-19 but not influenza?