Nurses whose work was celebrated at a St Paul’s service marking the 73rd anniversary of the NHS have said they are worried that the final lifting of coronavirus restrictions will put “immense pressure” on the health service.
Luki Obro, 40, a dementia nurse at Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust, has said she was “honoured” to have been invited to the ceremony, but like many others was worried about the rules being scrapped.
The Prime Minister, who also attended the celebration along with the Duke of Cambridge and hundreds of NHS frontline staff, is expected to confirm on Monday evening that all coronavirus rules in England will be lifted on July 19.
Ms Obro, 40, originally from Sierra Leone, said: “I think it is going to put immense pressure on the NHS definitely, and I think the virus is going to spread and knowing that winter is coming…
“I will continue wearing a mask and most of my colleagues also will do the same.”
When asked whether face coverings should be scrapped completely, she said: “I think it should continue, especially for vulnerable people, and in a closed environment people should be encouraged to continue wearing masks.”
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England revealed he will also continue wearing a face covering in some settings.
He said: “If there is no longer a requirement for masks then I am sure people will be thinking around common sense and whether there may be circumstances that they want to continue wearing them.
“Before the pandemic you would see people wearing masks from time to time, and I’m sure after the next few weeks you will too.
“As far as I am concerned, there may be circumstances, crowded indoor environments, where I will choose to wear a mask.”
Julie Henwood, who was thanked personally by the duke on the phone for her role in implementing the vaccine schedule for Berkshire healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, added: “If they do reduce restrictions, I think there will be a lot of people who continue to wear face masks, still continue to socially distance and I think that’s important.”
Speaking about receiving a call from William, she added: “It was amazing, it was a really lovely and proud moment but I think it’s important to stress how much of a team effort all of this is.”
The duke had been due to appear at the service with Kate, but she did not attend after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
Sam Foster, who gave the first AstraZeneca out of trial vaccine, said she will be avoiding public gatherings even if they are allowed.
Ms Foster, the chief nursing officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “I am quite cautious still about public buildings and of course we will be keeping the NHS buildings very safe, I am sure we will be continuing to wear face masks and protecting the public so that they feel safe and so that our staff feel safe at work also.
“Outdoors it feels safe, but I think all of us have spent some time really not being in big public gatherings so it is going to be personal choice … but I will be avoiding big public gatherings if I’m honest.”
Boris Johnson will lead a Downing Street press conference on Monday where he will tell the public that the country must “begin to learn to live with this virus” in the clearest indication yet that he is preparing to do away with all remaining restrictions.