Leading doctors have urged the UK government to think again before it completely eases restrictions on 19 July, as Covid cases continue to rise at an “alarming” rate.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has advised that keeping measures in place would help reduce the risk of cases having a “devastating impact,” as an “all or nothing” approach is unnecessary.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul BMA council chair, added that “sensible, cautious” measures would be “crucial” in ensuring people’s lives, as well as the NHS, education and the economy were not catastrophically affected again.
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“As case numbers continue to rise at an alarming rate due to the rapid transmission of the Delta variant and an increase in people mixing with one another, it makes no sense to remove restrictions in their entirety in just over two weeks’ time” he said.
“The promise was to make decisions based on data and not dates, and while we were pleased to see the government react to data in delaying the easing on 21 June last month, ministers must not now simply disregard the most recent, damning, numbers by rushing into meeting their new 19 July deadline.”
He stressed that the BMA did not want a “full delay” of the lifting of restrictions, but a series of “targeted measures” to help reduce the Delta variant spreading.
“Even if people aren’t getting admitted to hospital at the same rate, spiralling levels of community transmission provides a fertile ground for new, potentially vaccine-resistant variants to develop,” he explained.
The concerns were raised after reports suggested new Health Secretary Sajid Javid was preparing to allow fully vaccinated Brits to avoid isolating if they come into contact with infected persons, as well as not being required to take daily tests.
Back to normal
The Times reported that, as early as Monday (5 June) ministers could meet to decide whether fully vaccinated people will only “advised” to take daily tests but not be required to do so.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to express his confidence that ‘freedom day’ will go ahead on 19 July, with England able to “get back to life as close to it was before Covid”.
Javid echoed the PM’s confidence, saying he was sure Step 4 of the road map would go ahead at that point, but did not confirm that every restriction would be lifted.
The Times also alleges that Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, expects face masks to continue to be a requirement in confined spaces post-19 July.
The Delta variant, which was first identified in India, continues to account for approximately 95% of confirmed cases of coronavirus across the UK.
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that about one in 260 people in private households in England had Covid in the week to 26 June.
This is up from one in 440 in the previous week and the highest level since the week to 27 February.
Nagpaul expressed his gratitude for the continued patience of the public, as coronavirus restriction continues to limit aspects of socialising and confine the hospitality sector to operating with reduced capacities.
“Everyone appreciates the efforts and sacrifices we have all made so far to suppress the spread of the virus, and it would be tragic if we were to undo this good work now,” he said.
“We are not asking for a full delay on 19 July, rather a series of sensible, targeted measures that will help prevent transmission of the virus while having a minimal impact on people’s daily lives.”