Health charities express dismay at plan to make face masks voluntary

Charities representing those with weakened immune systems have expressed dismay that people will be able to ditch face masks in England after July 19.

The MS Society and Blood Cancer UK said the Government had offered no support plan for those still vulnerable to Covid-19, and the day did not mark “freedom day” for many.

Phillip Anderson, head of policy at the MS Society, said: “Emerging evidence shows vaccines may not work as well for people with suppressed immune systems, including some living with MS.

“This is especially concerning given many of the same people are defined by the Government as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ to Covid-19.

“Yet as the country prepares to take less precautions, the Prime Minister has failed to make clear how those most at risk will be supported to stay safe.

“It is imperative the Government ensures vulnerable people are not pressured to stop working from home, as well as ensuring they can get food and medical care without facing crowded shops or hospitals unnecessarily.

“Clinically extremely vulnerable people should also be able to view the most up-to-date assessment of risks to give them much-needed reassurance that this next phase will be safe for them.”

During a Downing Street briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he himself would continue to wear a mask in crowded spaces but that people should be given the discretion to make their own decisions.

But Gemma Peters (pictured), chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said the move could make more vulnerable people feel less safe in public.

“People with blood cancer are both at high risk from Covid and the vaccines are unlikely to have worked as well for them because of their compromised immune systems,” she said.

“The fact is that the less people wear masks and keep their distance from others, the less safe some people with blood cancer will feel to be out in public.

“This means that for many of them, July 19 will not be freedom day in England but the day more freedoms are taken away from them.

“The worrying thing is that the Government seems to have no plan to help keep them safe beyond asking the general public to be considerate.

“This is not a substitute for a plan. It is no good to the people with blood cancer in England who work in factories, shops and other busy workplaces, and so who will every day have to make a choice between their finances and their health.

“In the face of government inaction, we would appeal to everyone to help protect people with blood cancer safer by continuing to wear masks in public and continue to respect people’s social distance even after July 19.

“There’s no way of knowing if the person next to you in the supermarket or in the pub has a compromised immune system, so the more considerate you are, the safer immunocompromised people will feel.”

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