'It's not safe!' Lives in danger as Omicron sidelines hundreds of firefighters

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London Fire Brigade data highlighted that over one-third of the city’s fire engines are not able to respond to crises as there are not enough staff to man them. On Christmas Day, 50 of London’s fire engines could not be operated, up from 42 on Christmas Eve.

In total, there are 142 fire engines ready to attend emergencies in the capital.

Most shifts for firefighters from December 24 to December 27 saw a shortage of at least 40 fire engines.

This also meant that a new ladder appliance stretching 64 metres – purchased in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster- was not available for emergencies from the evening of December 24 through the daylight hours of Christmas Day.

This comes as staff shortages hit various sectors, from emergency response services to hospitality, transportation and healthcare.

The London Fire Brigade reports that on December 27, over 15 percent of its workforce could not come in for their shifts.

COVID-19 meant that 740 firefighters on this day had returned a positive test or had to self-isolate in accordance with current guidelines.

This was an increase from December 16 of 10 percent, with the statistic for unavailability across the Christmas weekend at 14 percent.

London regional secretary for the Fire Brigade Union Jon Lambe described the debilitating effect of the Omicron variant on the capacity of the service to do their job.

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“London and Londoners pay their taxes for a level of service and fire cover that they are being denied due to Governmental cuts and mismanagement.

As a union we are highlighting this because it’s simply not right and it’s not safe”.

Staff shortages caused by the spread of the Omicron variant have worried many sectors of the economy, and have fuelled calls for Boris Johnson to slash the isolation period for those who test positives with COVID-19.

The Prime Minister reduced the mandatory quarantine period from 10 days to seven on the condition of two negative tests earlier this month.

He is now facing demands to follow the example of the USA, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced the quarantine period for asymptomatic cases to five days.

People released under these guidelines are urged to wear facemasks for the remaining five days.

The Government has so far put off making a decision on a five-day quarantine period until more data has been collected on the impact of the seven-day isolation period.

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