Responding to news that the UK has recorded more than 150,000 Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“Today marks a sombre and deeply tragic milestone in our fight against this devastating virus. Each of the 150,000 who have died have left loved ones and friends behind, and our thoughts and sympathies go out to them for their loss.
“This figure is a stark reminder that Covid-19 remains serious and deadly, and means that in less than a year the UK has seen another 50,000 deaths from the virus – it was only on January 26, 2021 that we mourned the loss of 100,000 people.
“We must not play down the impact of Omicron as a mild illness, especially with increasing numbers of patients being hospitalised. Today, there are almost 18,500 people in hospital with Covid – a figure which has more than doubled since Christmas. Two-dozen hospital Trusts have now declared critical incidents, and ambulance services are failing to meet deadlines to reach patients with life-threatening illnesses. This is on top of pressures from the record-breaking waiting list of almost six million patients.
“Omicron is also resulting in soaring NHS staff absences across hospitals and general practice, with reductions in appointments and services. Even the Army is now being deployed to provide support.
“It is vital that NHS staff are protected from infection at work in order to reduce staff illness and absences. This is exactly why we’re calling for higher-grade respirator PPE masks, which can filtrate airborne spread of the virus which normal surgical masks do not.
“The vaccination programme has made a huge difference in reducing deaths from Covid. Everything possible needs to be done to make sure everyone who is eligible is vaccinated, including with the booster which is needed to protect against Omicron.
“In the meantime, Government must do all it can to get control of Omicron1 with immediate public health measures, not only to protect the health service, but also more people from unnecessarily losing their lives.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
- The BMA is calling for:
- Limits to social mixing and reducing contacts between households, such as those being recommended in Scotland;
- Cancellation of large social gatherings;
- Better protection for healthcare workers – including the clear recommendation and supply of high-grade FFP3 masks for staff coming into contact with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases, and FFP2 masks for all other patient-facing staff;
- Mask wearing in all indoor public settings, including hospitality settings when people are not eating or drinking;
- Reintroduction of social distancing;
- The introduction of ventilation standards in public venues;
- Re-introduction of universal mask wearing and social distancing in schools;
- Negative lateral flow test results to be a requirement in Covid certification – rather than double-vaccination, given the Government’s own admission that two doses of vaccine are not enough to protect against Omicron;
- Financial support for businesses and individuals impacted by any new measures.