Government not doing enough to stop second wave of coronavirus, says British Medical Association chief


The government is not doing all it should to prevent a second wave of coronavirus from hitting the UK, the British Medical Association’s senior doctor has warned.

The intervention comes as Boris Johnson has pointed the finger at Europe and said “swift” action is being taken to prevent localized outbreaks identified on the continent from spreading to the UK.

But epidemiologists said The independent that government policy failures would likely play a role in an “inevitable” rise in the rate of infection in the UK – which still has a higher death rate than most of its neighbors.

BMA board chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul told MPs on Wednesday that the government’s muddled messages and the lack of a “systems approach” to policies such as mask wear and social distancing were in the spotlight. origin of a weekly increase in infections.

Having warned that there were “too many examples of potential spread,” he told a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on the coronavirus: “At the moment, we are not doing all we should to try to contain the virus.

“If I look at even something as simple as our social distancing posts: we’re told that social distancing is always two meters, or a meter more.

“Do you think a member of the audience understands what a meter plus means? What does most mean? Many don’t really get it because it’s not clear and they aren’t social distancing. ”

He also pointed to potential gaps in the government’s face protection policy, adding: “If you want to remove a virus, you don’t just make an ad and then let people wear it… you follow. then this. with a very systematic approach to making sure that happens.

“What I mean by suppression is that you take an attitude that says, we absolutely want to do everything to prevent the infection from spreading. It requires a much more robust approach. ”

He warned: “The point is, I’m not sure the feeling of a clear and resolute determination to do whatever we can is done and that’s what I mean by suppression: really take the attitude that yes. , we can get back to normal alive – you can go out, you can do things, but make sure we have very clear messages about what is expected of the public and workers to stop the spread.

“There are steps that can be taken and at the moment I think I see too many examples of potential spread, just walk down the main street and look through the storefronts. If a hairdresser wears a visor without a mask, it’s not going to remove the virus. Has this message been sent to all employers as to what needs to be done to stop the spread of the virus?

“If you look at the numbers right now, the latest ONS numbers from last Friday, the weekly numbers, the infection rate has gone up. We are currently seeing about 2,700 new cases per day compared to 2,500 the week before. And so I think the time has come to be a lot more robust and rigorous about how to mitigate the spread. ”

Boris Johnson said on Tuesday there were signs that a “second wave” of coronavirus would strike, but blamed Europe for the potential comeback. The UK still has a significantly higher death rate than other European countries, but some have seen an increase in the rate of infections in recent weeks.

Britain reported 119 more coronavirus deaths yesterday, bringing the official death toll to 45,878. 581 more people have also tested the policy, down slightly in recent days.

Academics said The independent that a second lockdown was unlikely due to a lack of public appetite, but further measures needed to be stepped up to prevent a serious resurgence of cases.

Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior communicable disease control consultant at the University of Exeter, said the message around lifting the lockdown had been “unfortunate” and it was “inevitable” that cases would increase.

“When the Prime Minister lifted the lockdown, I said it was incredibly premature. There were mixed messages – people are not listening to the Chief Medical Officer saying we need to do this with caution and take precautions because the virus is still there. But they listen to the Prime Minister say let’s go out to celebrate, and I think that was really unfortunate. The lifting of the quarantine was a risk and you could predict it was a risk, but we were under pressure from the travel industry and it takes courage to resist it, ”he said.

“It is inevitable that UK cases will increase when you open, unless you are careful. This “go safe” public health message simply does not exist. The virus is not gone. The only thing in our favor is that it’s summer and people are more likely to meet outside. This will reduce the number of cases in July and August, but I’m worried about September. ”

However, Dr Pankhania said it would not be appropriate to re-impose a full lockdown now: “There is no stomach for a new lockdown. People are losing jobs and businesses are going bankrupt. I don’t think we can go back to lockdown now, other steps should be taken.

Dr Gabriel Scally, chair of the epidemiology and public health section of the Royal Society of Medicine and a member of Independent Sage, said a larger second wave was unlikely, but localized outbreaks were to be expected .

“What we can expect in England for a while are localized outbreaks as the government has decided there is an acceptable level of Covid-19 cases. The Joint Biosecurity Center suggested in a May article that the “acceptable incidence” was 1,000 new positive tests per day. I think it’s way too high and there will be breakouts across the country. Hopefully the arrangements in place will help suppress these outbreaks, but if there are too many, the capacity at the local level will not be able to handle them and they will emerge like a wave, ”he said.

“A second wave is unlikely, simply because so many older people and those with underlying illnesses have lost a lot of faith in what the government says is or isn’t safe and they’re going to be very careful about their destination. what theyre doing. The outbreaks of new cases that we are currently receiving mainly concern young people. ”

The World Health Organization also warned on Wednesday that young people enjoying the summer appeared to be the source of the coronavirus spike and were hit the hardest.

Dr Scally also warned that there was “no government strategy to get rid of the virus”.

“If we were really serious about this, we would be doing a lot more public information than we currently do, on hand washing, social distancing and identifying symptoms. There are very few posts going on right now and I suspect that if you were to ask people what the four symptoms of the coronavirus were, you wouldn’t get a very high level of precision, ”he said.

“There is no government strategy to get rid of the virus. They released one on March 3, but the only strategy since then has been to lift the lockdown. We need to get better public information and better case detection, and to adjust our actions based on case location data. This equipment has to function like a well-oiled machine, which is not the case at the moment.


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