Be prepared to self-isolate if holidaying in England, warns BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Friday 26 June 2020

The BMA is today urging holidaymakers in England to take precautions and plan ahead in order to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19 when domestic tourism restarts.

With lockdown restrictions on overnight stays set to be lifted from 4 July, hotels, B&Bs and campsites will be allowed to reopen, provided shared facilities can be kept clean.

However, the doctors’ union is today advising tourists to ensure they follow a series of simple but important public health messages designed to protect themselves and others against the spread of the virus when tourism returns.

The BMA’s public messaging campaign1 urges people to:

  • Don’t travel if you’re ill, or have any symptoms of COVID-19 (eg cough, high temperature, loss of smell or taste)
  • Have a plan for self-isolation if you, or anybody in your ‘bubble’, develops symptoms or are told to do so by the official NHS Test and Trace service. You will likely be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • If you take medicines prescribed by your doctor, make sure you have enough with you to last for your time away
  • Practise good social distancing and hand washing while you are away from home
  • Wear a face covering whenever you are mixing with others outside your ‘bubble’ and cannot social distance, particularly when you are indoors.

The BMA’s public health information comes just days after pictures of a crowded Bournemouth beach raised concerns over social distancing.

Currently there is no clear guidance for tourists and so the doctors’ union hopes the advice can help reduce the spread of infection and ultimately prevent undue pressure being placed on local health systems, particularly those close to tourist hotspots.

The BMA has also produced a set of principles2 to be considered by tourist operators and other local stakeholders so that appropriate measures can be put in place to enable proper social distancing measures, or people to self-isolate if required to do so.

Dr Peter English, chair of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee, said:

“After months in lockdown it is only natural that people will be looking forward to finally being able to enjoy a ‘staycation’ at one of England’s many tourist areas or hotspots.

“However, the return of tourism will not be without risk as large numbers of people begin to travel across the country, potentially causing the spread of the virus between different regions.

“Easy to follow measures such as keeping to social distancing guidelines, washing your hands, ensuring you have any required medication for the duration of your trip, and making preparations if you are told to self-isolate will be crucial in helping to minimise the chances of spreading Covid.

“It is also important that tourist providers and relevant local authorities consider how they can mitigate against the risks and that any necessary measures are in place ahead of time.

“Not only will this help ensure that the public is not put at risk, but just as importantly it will help to protect against additional strain being placed on local health systems.

“These measures must go side by side with a suitable contact tracing system so that any new cases or local outbreaks are quickly identified and dealt with.

“Lockdown is being eased and many aspects of life are returning to some form of normality, however, it is vitally important to recognise that this deadly virus has not gone away. Covid-19 still poses a substantial risk to the public and to the NHS and so as we move forward, we must do so with extreme caution and do all we can to prevent a potential second wave.”

Dr Lucy-Jane Davis, chair of the BMA south west regional council added:

“We know that many people are looking forward to a holiday in the South West, along with other rural tourist hotspots across the country, but we also know this will present specific challenges as and when tourism returns. These areas are likely to see a large increase in population with visitors and seasonal workers. Our hospitals and GPs have been working flat out, but we have relatively limited and already stretched NHS resources, compared to the likely number of visitors.

“It is therefore vital tourist operators, local authorities, politicians and NHS leaders work together to ensure all risks are considered ahead of 4 July. It is only by minimising the spread of the virus that we will be able to minimise the illness.

“It is really important that plans are in place to ensure that guests will be able to self-isolate if they become unwell or are asked to by official contact tracers. Robust contact tracing is central to containing and reducing the spread of Covid-19, thereby protecting the public, but there must be facilities in place for enabling self-isolation if it's needed.

"Practical questions, such as will visitors be able to wash their hands regularly and practise appropriate social distancing must be considered and appropriate measures put in place in order to protect the public and also protect the NHS."

Ends

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.

  1. To support our advice to the public we have produced a poster that will be available for download (see infographic here).
  2. To read more about the principles see PDF here.