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Chronic illnessDisability Groups call for continued mask wearing

Friday, 16 July 2021

Local disability groups have written to Tracey Brabin, the Mayor of West Yorkshire, and Tim Swift and Jane Scullion, Leader and Deputy Leader of Calderdale Council to encourage continued mask wearing and social distancing, and to improve ventilation on public transport. The letter reads as follows:

Tracy Brabin, Mayor, West Yorkshire Combined Authority
Tim Swift, Leader, Calderdale Council
Jane Scullion, Deputy Leader, Calderdale Council

When national restrictions are removed on 19th July, as many disabled people remain vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 despite double vaccination, the Public Sector Equality Duty requires that accommodations are made so that such people can continue to go about their daily lives, and are not excluded from public services due to COVID risk during the current outbreak with alarmingly high, and rising, community infection rates. And now rising daily death rates too.

Over 20% of the 57 million UK adult population are disabled, including neurodivergent people and those with learning disabilities and mental health conditions. Even if all of those 11.4 million adults are double vaccinated and 95% protected, that leaves more than 570,000 disabled adults unprotected against severe illness and death from Covid-19. Add to that number those who are unable to have the vaccination, or in whom the vaccination is ineffective due to underlying health conditions. Also add the one million disabled children without vaccine protection. Finally add the fact that 60% of Covid related deaths in the UK have been among disabled people.

We have many reports already from disabled and clinically vulnerable Calderdale residents that they will become more housebound and isolated when all restrictions are lifted, as essential daily activities such as shopping and using public transport will be less safe when other people are not wearing masks or social distancing. There are also many reports in the national press in the past week of the expected negative impact on disabled people's mobility, socialisation and mental health from 19th July.

We ask that WYCA and its constituent Local Authorities

  • require mask wearing (except for exemptions) - and social distancing where possible - on all public transport in the region, as has already been announced for London
  • take swift action to improve ventilation on all public transport
  • provide all public services, including social care services and education, in as safe a way as possible with attention to social distancing, ventilation and Personal Protective Equipment
  • work with local business organisations to maintain where possible social distancing and requirement for face coverings in shops, hairdressers etc.
  • encourage the continuation of optional working from home, which will enable many disabled people to keep their jobs

Although we realise that enforcement of such measures would not be possible, Local Government directives or regulations would influence many people's behaviour, and so help to keep Yorkshire as safe and inclusive as possible despite lack of national regulations. This would also help to restrict general infection levels and thereby keep more people in work instead of self-isolating due to Covid contact.

We thank you in anticipation of your co-operation.

From member organisations of Calderdale Covid-19 Disability Advisory Group:

June Eaton, for Hebden Bridge Disability Access Forum 01422 844914 - sechbdisabilityaccess@gmail.com

Malcolm Kielty MBE, Secretary, Disability Partnership Calderdale

Katie Clarke, Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum

Jonny Richardson Glenn, Chief Officer Healthy Minds, Calderdale