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Plans to end lockdown ‘deeply worrying’ for NHS, says BMA


By Eleanor Philpotts
24 November 2020

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The Government’s plans for how to come out of lockdown next week are ‘deeply worrying’ to doctors and risk undoing progress made towards preventing an NHS ‘collapse’, the BMA has warned.

The doctors’ union pointed out that the plans to end England’s national lockdown on 2 December and allow the reopening of pubs and bars, as well as a return to spectator sports, come ‘at a time when infection rates and Covid-related hospitalisations and deaths remain high’.

It comes as the Prime Minister announced yesterday that the current measures will be replaced with a new three-tier system, although local areas are yet to be informed in which risk tier they will be placed.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The Prime Minister says the new measures are tougher than October when in reality many are far more relaxed, at a time when infection rates and Covid-related hospitalisations and deaths remain high. For doctors and NHS staff who are already working under incredible pressure, the potential impact on NHS services is deeply worrying.’

He said this comes despite the Government having had ‘nearly a month to devise a realistic plan to halt the spread of Covid-19, in order to protect people’s health and prevent the NHS facing collapse’.

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘Worryingly, the Prime Minister has revealed a plan that is full of risks and threatens to undo the progress and undermine the difficult sacrifices the public have made in that time.’

“It’s extremely concerning that outdoor events with crowds of up to 4,000 people will be allowed to go ahead and groups of 1,000 will be allowed to congregate indoors as many of these proposed measures are more relaxed than Tier 3.

‘And there’s no change to the illogical Rule of 6 applying indoors– when the government itself has repeatedly said that mixing of different households indoors is the greatest cause of spread of the virus. A “rule of 2 households” as proposed in the BMA’s own exit strategy, would do far more to prevent transmission.’

Dr Nagpaul went on to urge the Government to ‘not repeat the same mistakes and risk accelerating the spread of the virus’ now that it is ‘equipped with knowledge of the failings of the first three-tiered system, which led to another national lockdown’.

‘Short of reconsidering these measures, at the very least the Government must be stringent when allocating Tiers from the offset rather than waiting for the situation to get worse in areas as we have seen before,’ he added.

The BMA also emphasised that the recent vaccine news should not result in ‘complacency’ while NHS pressures remain high.

‘Tighter restrictions in the short-term will give us a greater chance of returning to normality in the longer-term – we must not lose sight of the end goal,’ the North London GP said.

It is not the first time the BMA has contested the lockdown rules, previously predicting that lifting them without new measures in place would ‘overwhelm’ GP practices.

The Prime Minister further outlined plans to expand the use of new rapid lateral flow Covid testing yesterday – including to allow GPs and other NHS staff to avoid isolating if identified as a close contact.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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