Doctors call for ‘near-elimination’ policy as Government ‘fails to get a grip’ on Covid-19

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA. 

Location: England
Published: Wednesday 16 September 2020

Doctors at the annual BMA conferencehave voted for the Government to bring in measures to bring about near-elimination2 of the Covid-19 infection. 

Those joining the BMA’s virtual Annual Representative Meeting voted in favour of calling upon the Government to bring in measures capable of driving the incidence of new cases of Covid-19 down to very low levels; so low that any new cases could be controlled through testing and contact tracing to prevent onward spread.

While tougher in the short-term, the benefit of such a near-elimination approach would be to avoid the adverse impact of further large scale prolonged lockdowns on the education of the younger generation, adults in care, the economy and the wider impact of social isolation.

Examples of the types of measures include much more widespread and visible public messaging, setting and communicating clear targets for daily and weekly incidence (new cases), actively hunting out cases rather than waiting for symptomatic outbreaks, and trigger points for the implementation of specific additional measures both locally and nationally.

A near-elimination policy would also have measures to reduce transmission in potential ‘hot-spots’ through regular testing of asymptomatic staff in health and social care settings and enhanced PPE, even in ‘lower risk’ settings.

A stricter approach to quarantining individuals arriving from overseas and more strict criteria for non-essential travel may also be set. Additionally, a near-elimination policy would mean greater monitoring of Covid-secure arrangements in public settings and workplaces while taking necessary steps to enforce measures where they are not being complied with.

BMA public health medicine committee chair Dr Peter English said:

“Instead of the number of cases going down, we are seeing a steady rise as the Government is clearly failing to get a grip on the virus with the current approach. The chaos we have seen unfolding with the test and trace system this week – with members of the public and healthcare workers struggling to get tests - is all the more evidence that the current strategy is failing. If the system cannot cope now, we are in real trouble as we move closer to winter and the possibility of a second peak.

“Rather than instilling a sense of confidence and adherence with each new measure the Government introduces, there is a greater sense of confusion and frustration among the public as one rule seemingly contradicts another.  

 “A near elimination approach is really about putting the long-term needs of the public first. This is about sacrificing in the short-term to ensure that we can avoid a large-scale prolonged lockdown that would be ultimately much more detrimental to the health of our society.”

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union 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. For full information and to watch the event visit bma.org.uk/arm2020
  2. The full wording of the motion is as below:

For media enquiries please email [email protected] or call 020 7383 6448.

Motion:

This meeting notes that in the past few weeks, we have seen alarming rises in the rates of new Covid-19 infections to a higher level than when we went into lockdown, albeit in a younger population with a lower risk of admission to ITU and subsequent death.

In order to prevent the need for further national lockdowns, with all of the adverse impacts that this may have on the education of our younger generation, the economy, older adults in care, mental health and social isolation, this meeting calls on governments to pursue a policy of near-elimination of SARS-COV-2.