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COMPULSORY Covid-19 vaccines for NHS workers will “deepen the staffing black hole” in health services, health union GMB warned after Labour helped Boris Johnson get the measure through the Commons.
Last night, former party leader Jeremy Corbyn was joined by 22 Labour rebels and 61 Tory dissenters in rejecting the move to impose mandatory jabs for NHS and non-residential social care staff from April.
Shadow culture minister Rachael Maskell and Labour parliamentary private secretary Mick Whitley resigned from the party’s front bench to oppose the measure, but it passed by 385 votes to 100 after leader Sir Keir Starmer supported it.
GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said that the union is opposed to “heavy-handed legally enforced medical procedures as a condition of employment” which could exacerbate a staffing exodus from the NHS.
“Against the backdrop of Covid, there is a cost-of-living crisis, key services face an understaffing crisis and the people delivering them are enduring a wage crisis,” she warned.
“Our key workers must be paid properly – it’s the least they deserve.”
The introduction of Covid-19 passes to access nightclubs and larger venues in England also became law, largely thanks to Labour support, after 100 Tory MPs defied the whip to reject it – by far the biggest rebellion against the Prime Minister’s premiership to date.
Sir Keir did not seek concessions from Mr Johnson, despite the PM relying on Labour to get parts of his agenda through.
Mr Corbyn also voted against the latter proposal, telling MPs that mandatory jabs and Covid-19 passes are “counterproductive and will create division when we need co-operation and unity.”
Thirty-eight Tory MPs also rebelled over the compulsory use of face masks in most indoor settings, but it passed comfortably with 441 votes to 41.
Changes to self-isolation rules, allowing close contacts of people with the virus to take daily tests instead of staying at home, passed without a vote.
At the last Prime Minister’s Questions before the Christmas break today, Sir Keir called on the PM to “get his house in order” as he had lost the trust of his MPs and the authority to lead.
Mr Johnson accused Labour of engaging in “partisan trivia” and claimed ministers are taking a “balanced and proportionate approach” to restrictions as the omicron variant spreads.
But he did not rule out recalling Parliament during the holidays if further restrictions are needed.
The United Kingdom recorded the highest daily total of lab-confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began today, as the omicron variant continues to spread.
Official figures show that there had been 78,610 new cases recorded as of 9am today, surpassing the previous peak of 68,053 cases, reported on January 8.
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