Ahead of the next phase of lockdown easing on the 17th May, the BMA is calling on the Government to stand by its ‘cautious approach’ amid concerns that large parts of the younger population remain both unvaccinated and at risk of transmitting the highly infectious Indian variant strain.
BMA public health medicine committee co-chair Dr Richard Jarvis said: “With key segments of the population still not vaccinated and clusters of variants, including the rapidly increasing Indian variant, becoming a growing concern, we must approach this next stage of easing lockdown with the utmost caution.
“We are urging the public, and young people in particular, to take a cautious approach to social and physical contact, to continue practising ‘hands, face, space’ and to meet outdoors wherever possible. People must look at their own personal risk and adjust their activities accordingly.
“It is a real worry that when further measures lift on the 17th May, the majority of younger people, who are often highly socially mobile and could therefore be most at risk of a more infectious strain, are not yet vaccinated. Despite having the highest rates of positive tests throughout the pandemic, they will now be able to mix in larger groups in hospitality venues without many of the mitigations that have helped to push infection rates lower and lower since the start of the year.
“Improving ventilation will be even more critical with the reopening of indoor venues and there is a need for explicit specifications on ventilation requirements. This must be underpinned by the necessary financial support for public, work, school and leisure settings, including in the hospitality sector such as restaurants, bars and pubs, to ensure they can operate in a viable but safe way.
“The BMA is clear that using lateral flow testing to enable social contact, including at large scale events, is by no means a green light for normal behaviour, and people need to understand it has limitations. A negative result from a lateral flow test should not be equated with the same low risk of spreading infection that comes from vaccination or recent proof of natural immunity through prior infection.
“Local public health services are already overstretched managing the current level of local outbreaks and providing surge testing. So as the country opens for business and people move around more freely, including between regions with different prevalence of the virus, it is vital that local public health teams in local authorities and health protection units have the additional funding and staff they need to serve their local populations and any visitors effectively.”
“While the public and businesses can take precautions to keep themselves as safe possible, it is the Government which is steering the ship and must stand by its ‘cautious approach’. To ensure we do not undo all the hard work and sacrifice of the previous lockdown, the Government must continue to monitor the situation with extreme vigilance and have the willingness to act quickly and apply the brakes if needed to prevent the situation getting out of control for a third time.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and 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.
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