Doctors have announced that the lifting of England’s second lockdown must be handled better than the first, in order to avoid a sudden surge in Covid-19 cases that could overwhelm the NHS.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has said that the tiered system introduced in England to fight Covid-19 is “inadequate” and “did not contain the spread of the virus.”
The BMA also added that the system was “inconsistent” in the way that it was applied, and that it should be “urgently revised” before the country emerges from its second lockdown on 2 December.
What has the BMA said?
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chairman of council, said, “We must not squander the efforts of the many people who have followed the law, stayed at home, sacrificed freedoms and incurred financial loss in order to contain the virus.
“When the first lockdown ended, there was no coherent plan for keeping Covid-19 at bay, no clear and simple public messaging; this was followed by spiralling infection rates, more businesses failing, new local lockdowns, and now we have a death toll at more than 52,000.
“As England prepares to exit its second lockdown, it is unthinkable that we make the same mistakes again because this time, the impact will be far worse. It’s reasonable to conclude that without these measures, the NHS will not be able to cope with caring for even the most critically ill patients.
“This report demonstrates a sustainable plan for reducing the level of infections from Covid-19 until a vaccine programme is underway.”
What does the BMA propose?
The BMA proposes a number of measures to ensure that England exits its lockdown in a safe manner, which includes measures such as:
Replacing the rule of six with a two household rule insteadRestricting non-essential travel between tiersImplementing “more robust” quarantine procedures, which could include “provision of transport for those returning home or to other locations in order to quarantine and could include facilities for quarantine close to ports of entry”Two metre distance between tables in pubs and restaurantsContinuing to encourage people to work from homeFace masks should be worn in all indoor settings where social distancing is not possible - and also outside in some circumstancesEnsuring the Test and Trace programme is fit for purpose before lockdown endsMore financial support for businesses to fit Covid-19 screens and signs
The report also added, “Crowded restaurants and pubs with little social distancing, as soon after the first lockdown, encouraged by the Eat Out to Help Out initiative, represents a danger to public health.”
‘Support bubbles should be extended’
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, suggested that support bubbles could be extended to help families meet at Christmas.
Speaking to BBC 4’s PM programme on Tuesday, Professor Ferguson said that this proposal would increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission, but in a “controllable way.”
He commented, “There are ways of going part way which still reduce the risk - basically extending what are called bubbles - social bubbles, support bubbles.
“You could think of allowing three or four households to bubble together for a week but no contact with anybody else, which would give more opportunity to see loved ones but not a free-for-all.
“And that, modelling would suggest, increases risk somewhat but in a controllable way.”
Professor Ferguson added that reopening of pubs and restaurants in the lead up to Christmas would likely lead to rising infection levels.