Fear of Indian variant grows among hotel workers as bars and restaurants reopen
Unions have called on employers to do everything possible to ensure the protection of workers and the public as reception venues prepare to reopen on Monday amid growing concerns over the spread of a new Indian variant of Covid-19.
Thousands of employees are expected to return to work in pubs, bars and restaurants across England this week under the latest easing of restrictions, which allows meals and drinks inside to resume.
The TUC has warned that high vaccination rates are ‘no excuse’ for loosening the enforcement of Covid safety measures for staff and customers, while Labor has accused the government of neglecting protections at the workplace. work throughout the pandemic.
Unite said it has found that some hospitality workers fear employers will not properly implement social distancing when they greet the expected flood of customers next week.
Dave Turnbull, Unite’s national hospitality manager, urged people not to be complacent when they return to indoor venues for the first time in months.
“Our members are eager to resume serving customers in restaurants, pubs and fast food outlets starting Monday after 15 traumatic months that have taken their toll on the industry,” he said.
“However, there is no room for complacency on the part of the public as there seems to be a widespread perception that the crisis is now over – with the alarming news about the spread of the Indian variant, it is far away. to be true.
“Our message to customers is simple: have a good time, but please respect your wait staff, bartenders and counter workers.”
He pointed out that many people working in pubs, bars and restaurants are young and may not have received a first dose of the Covid vaccine yet.
“Our members are concerned about the possible lack of social distancing between colleagues and clients, as well as the lack of sick pay if they are forced to self-isolate,” added Turnbull.
The call came as the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned that the Indian variant may be 50% more transmissible than the Kent variant, which spread rapidly in the UK by late from last year.
Sage said vaccines may offer less protection against infection with the Indian variant, which means people who have been vaccinated but infected can pass it on to those who are not yet protected.
“At this point in the vaccine rollout, there are still too few vaccinated adults to prevent a significant resurgence that could ultimately put unsustainable pressure on the NHS,” the panel wrote in a report released after the press conference. Downing Street Friday.
The prime minister told the nation that the Indian variant could “seriously disrupt” plans to ease the restrictions and “could make it more difficult” to remove them in June.
Mr Johnson has announced that those over 50 will receive their second vaccination after eight weeks instead of 12 due to concerns over the Indian variant, which is currently concentrated in local areas such as Blackburn, Bolton and Bedford.
But there was no mention of young workers returning to work on Monday.
Labor shadow labor and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said businesses must be supported to reopen safely.
“Everyone has the right to return to a workplace secured by Covid, but the Conservatives have neglected workplace protections throughout the pandemic.
“Covid must be classified as a serious risk in the workplace and inspectors must be given the powers they need to keep everyone safe.”
TUC figures released this week show that less than one in 200 hospitality locations underwent a safety inspection between March 2020 and April 2021.
The union body said the lack of safety inspections during the pandemic was dangerous and stressed that no employer had been prosecuted and fined for exposing workers or the public to the risk of contracting the disease. Covid-19.
“Workplaces secured by Covid are vital to beating this virus once and for all,” TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said.
“But if employers relax workplace safety, coronavirus cases could get out of hand again.
“Good ventilation for workers inside the hotel industry is essential. Doors and windows should be open and all suitable outdoor spaces should be used.
“We still need more government action to prevent people from getting into trouble following the self-isolation rules. Sickness benefits should be raised to at least the value of the real living wage, so that each worker can afford to isolate himself. “
Jonathan Ashworth, Labor shadow health secretary, accused the prime minister of a “reckless failure to protect our borders” by allowing the Indian variant to spread to the UK.
“Just a few weeks ago, we urged Matt Hancock to point this out as a worrying variant and to respond with speed and determination.
“As public health experts on the ground say, we now need ‘surge vaccinations’ in areas of prevalence, improved contact tracing and – most importantly – to adjust sickness benefits and support to patients. isolation. Having come this far, we don’t want to be back now.