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Tags Current Affairs

Sikh doctors protesting in UK

Date: 06 May 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Some British Sikh doctors in the UK, who are part of the National Health Service (NHS) and at the frontlines of the Covid-19 outbreak, are protesting after they were forced not to take up key roles due to their beards.

 

Background

The Sikh Doctors Association (SDA) reported that at least five Sikh doctors were removed from their usual shifts at NHS hospitals for refusing to shave their beards and failing the “fit test” for critical facial protective gear.

 

Details

  • Sikh doctors have been recognised as a risk group whilst treating Covid-19 patients since many keep beards as a result of which face masks do not properly fit them and increase their risk of getting infected.

  • While treating Covid-19 patients, healthcare workers are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes face masks.

  • While there are no official guidelines requiring workers to shave their beards, NHS employers have been asked to speak to staff and local faith groups to explain why facial hair is a concern while treating patients.

  • If staff is not willing to shave their facial hair, NHS employers have been given the option to shift clinical staff to non-clinical areas.

  • An alternative to using masks are hoods or helmets, or specialist facial protective masks called Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs). However, these are more expensive, in short supply and require more training time, which makes them less feasible than the traditional masks.

  • This shortage is the reason that British Sikh doctors are protesting, calling for a better procurement strategy of the specialist face masks by the NHS, which would allow them to maintain a beard while working.

  • While some argue that moustaches and certain types of beards do not impact face masks, research carried out in the UK in 2015 found that even a 24-hour stubble can affect the quality of protection a mask is able to provide.

  • Beards are a key article of the Sikh religious faith and identity. Shaving of facial hair for Sikhs goes against their religious faith. The Sikh faith requires adherents to follow certain rules. Among these, hair is not to be cut.

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