‘The NHS won’t cope with a premature end to lockdown’, warns the chair of Britain’s medical union.
AS infection rates fall and the number of vaccines rises, there is more and more pressure on the government to lift lockdown restrictions in England.
But in reality, the government’s focus shouldn’t be on dates, but remain steadfastly on saving lives and preventing the NHS from being dangerously overwhelmed, argues Chaand Nagpaul, Council Chair of the British Medical Association.
“Have we forgotten that just a few weeks ago we passed the dreadful mark of 100,000 deaths, the highest mortality rate in Europe?” he reminds.
“While infections may be falling, they are doing so from dizzying and horrifying heights. And this decline masks the fact that the NHS remains in a precarious situation. (On Thursday, February 18) there were 20,000 patients in hospital with Covid-19, and 2,700 fighting for their lives on ventilators – 20 times the level just six months ago.”
Nagpaul added that the NHS is additionally facing its largest ever backlog of care, with more than 200,000 patients waiting over 12 months for operations, millions yet to be seen in clinics, and even delays for life-threatening cancer care.
“Its workforce has been stretched like never before with staff exhausted and many burnt out. Put simply, our health service is unlikely to cope nor have the resilience to deal with another Covid surge.
“Which is why, on Monday, February 22) when Boris Johnson sets out his roadmap for easing current restrictions in England, it’s vital that he doesn’t simply set an arbitrary date for the end of lockdown. To do so would risk a rebound in infection rates exactly as we saw last summer.”
“The current restrictions should be eased only when infection rates have been brought down enough to assure us that this really will be our last lockdown, with experts including former Health Secretary and current Health Select Committee chair Jeremy Hunt, NHS Providers chief Chris Hopson, and Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar placing this threshold at roughly 1,000 cases a day.”
The BMA has prepared a paper that sets out principles and policy ideas it believes should “inform a sensible and safety-first approach to easing the lockdown”
“It is abundantly clear—scientifically and morally—that taking a cautious approach to easing restrictions will benefit not just our physical and mental health, but also the social and economic life of our country,” said Nagpaul.
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