International news

UK: HSE advice on temperature during heatwave

While our editor was putting together SafetyNet on a cold and very wet winter's day in Melbourne, an email came through from the UK's regulatory body, the HSE - Heatwave: Temperature in the Workplace.

The email starts off: "With temperatures soaring in parts of Britain this week, make sure you have the right advice and guidance to work safely" and then sends the reader to the HSE's  workplace temperature website. Britain's meteorological office issued its first ever heatwave alert (see: The New York Times) with temperatures reaching... 33 degrees celsius!

Workers in England have greater issues to be concerned about this week, however, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson removing ALL COVID-19 restrictions on Monday July 19.  

July 19 "Freedom Day" 

Doctors and scientists have warned about the rise in COVID-19 infections as people across England ditched masks and social distancing on what has been dubbed "Freedom Day". A 7 July 2021 letter published in The Lancet and signed by more than 100 scientists and doctors from around the world accused England's ministers of conducting a “dangerous and unethical experiment.” The signatories blasted the “unethical and illogical” approach which could see millions develop “long COVID” postviral health problems. The letter stated: “The UK government must reconsider its current strategy and take urgent steps to protect the public, including children. We believe the government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment, and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on 19 July 2021.”

But the government went ahead: Monday marked the end of laws mandating the wearing of masks and the enforcement of social distancing in England, with the last remaining closed businesses, such as nightclubs, reopening.

Media reported that across the country young people, including many 18 and 19-year-olds who had never been out in nightclub, celebrated as the clock struck midnight in reopening parties. 

But, despite being the one who made the decision, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged caution as coronavirus case numbers continue to rise. The government is betting the UK’s massive vaccination rollout (68 per cent fully vaccinated, 87 per cent one dose) will prevent mass COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths. So far this has been the case, with about 40 deaths per day, down from a peak of over 1,800 when daily infections were at a similar level in January.

However, with no restrictions in place and the majority of cases being the highly transmissible Delta variant, the current daily new case rate of approximately 50,000 is likely to double to 100,000 by next month. A senior government health advisor has warned that daily cases could reach as many as 200,00! Read more: ABC news online Deepti Gurdasani, and others. Correspondence. Mass infection is not an option: we must do more to protect our young, The Lancet, Online First 7 July 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01589-0

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