Responding to the latest Covid-19 measures laid out by Boris Johnson in the House of Commons today, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “It’s encouraging that the Government has, at last, recognised the need for more stringent measures to control the virus’s spread. But there are a number of further actions which the Government could take to prevent a second peak.
“The BMA has consistently argued that it was illogical for staff not to be required to wear facemasks in shops, pubs and restaurants as customers are, so we’re pleased to see this belatedly coming into force. However, given that the infection is equally like to spread in all indoor settings, these rules should also apply to offices and other workplaces.
“The BMA been clear that it was a mistake to encourage workers to return to offices at a time when infection rates were rising, and the reversal of this policy is a sensible and necessary step. But the Government must do more to ensure Covid-secure workplace environments for staff where homeworking isn’t possible – providing much clearer guidance and, where necessary, support for employers to put mitigating measures in place.
“The Prime Minister missed an opportunity today to revise the ‘rule of six’ which, as currently interpreted, allows members of six different household to meet indoors whereas previously members of only two households could do so. Data suggests that transmission between households is by far the biggest driver of infection, and this should therefore be rectified at the earliest possible opportunity.
“Defeating this pandemic will also depend on our ability to identify and respond quickly to local spikes in infection. The Government must do more to make the public aware of the rate of infection in their areas – people should be able to look up local infection rates in the same way they can the weather or pollen count. Members of the public want to do their bit to keep infection rates down – ministers must empower them with the information they need to take proactive action.
“Not only would these additional measures pose no risk to the economy in the immediate term, they could be key to preventing further lockdowns and significant disruption to business and economic activity. Indeed, putting the right safeguards in place to minimise the risk of infection is crucial to providing people with the confidence they need to go out safely and boost the economy.”
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.