UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: EVENING STANDARD/JEREMY SELWYN
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: EVENING STANDARD/JEREMY SELWYN

London — Boris Johnson’s government must have tough new measures in place to curb the spread of coronavirus between the end of England’s lockdown and the potential rollout of a vaccine, doctors said.

The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents medics in the UK, warned on Wednesday that lifting the lockdown on December 2 without beefed-up regional restrictions risked a fresh surge in infections that would leave hospitals and family doctors “overwhelmed” and “unable to provide even the most critical of patient care”.

Ministers are set to announce a package of post-lockdown measures next week, according to the Daily Telegraph, which could see households across England banned from mixing until Christmas — when the government aims to loosen restrictions for a few days.

England is currently under a four-week lockdown in which pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops are closed and socialising restricted. Johnson has pledged to revert to the regional, tiered response to Covid-19 outbreaks in December, depending on the data.

But he was warned on Monday by Susan Hopkins, deputy director of public health England, that these tiers should be “strengthened” because the system in place before the lockdown was not wholly effective.

The BMA echoed this call, saying new measures must be brought in to bridge the gap between the end of the lockdown and the potential rollout of a new vaccine. It said the “rule of six” — which allows one person to meet up to five others from different households — should be replaced with a “two households” rule to reduce social mixing.

Ministers must not encourage people to go back to the office when it’s possible to work from home, the report said, and there should be no travel between different tiers. It also called for “wide-scale reform” to the testing and contact tracing programme, with more funding for local public health teams.

‘No coherent plan’

The BMA’s chair of council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said there had been “no coherent plan for keeping Covid-19 at bay” when the first lockdown ended.

“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,” he said. “It’s reasonable to conclude, that without these measures, the National Health Service (NHS) will not be able to cope with caring for even the most critically ill patients.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the government launched a new public information campaign on the importance of ventilation — highlighting how letting fresh air into indoor spaces can reduce the risk of infection by “over 70%”.

In a new short film, to run on social media and websites, the government underlines the importance of opening windows in the house — particularly when visitors or tradespeople come inside.

Public health minister Jo Churchill said: “As the weather gets colder and wetter, letting in fresh air in short burst helps to reduce the risk of coronavirus in our homes.”

Bloomberg

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