Responding to the Government’s announcement that the lifting of all remaining Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted in England on July 19th, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“It’s irresponsible – and frankly perilous - that the Government has decided to press ahead with plans to lift the remaining Covid-19 restrictions on July 19. In doing so, the Government is reneging on its own promise to be led by data and impact on the NHS.
“We do not accept that there is no good time to ease restrictions further. We have been clear that any relaxation should be dependent on the overwhelming majority of the population being fully vaccinated, ensuring they receive maximum protection and which would result in new cases being controlled.
“Scrapping the remaining restrictions next week – when a significant proportion of the population will not have been fully vaccinated – will give this deadly virus an opportunity to retighten its grip; pushing infection rates up, increasing hospitalisations and people ill with long-Covid, risking new vaccine-resistant variants developing, and putting more lives at unnecessary risk.
“While the Government has said it will continue to encourage the wearing of face coverings after the 19th, within the same breath ministers confirm that masks will not be mandatory. This is contradictory and shows the Government absolving itself of responsibility while heaping pressure on the public, confused by mixed messaging of the highest order.
“Only today, a BMA survey found that 90% of doctors think face coverings should remain compulsory on public transport, with another 75% supporting mandatory social distancing on public transport too. Doctors will also be incredibly worried if the requirements around face coverings and social distancing are scrapped for healthcare settings – putting both staff and incredibly ill patients at higher risk – and it’s imperative that an exception is put in place now and communicated to the public.
“The BMA has repeatedly warned of the rapidly rising infection rate and the crippling impact that Covid-related hospitalisations continue to have on the NHS, not only pushing staff to the brink of collapse but also driving up already lengthy waiting times for elective care. We already know hospitals are struggling – with at least one already cancelling cancer treatments – so how will they cope with the 1,000 to 2,000 Covid hospital admissions the Government’s own modelling projects as a result of today’s changes?
“This is all before we consider the significant number of people at risk of, or already living with, long-Covid – and the long-term impact this will have on individuals, the health service, education and the economy.
“The Prime Minister repeatedly emphasised this evening the importance of a slow and cautious approach, but in reality the Government is throwing caution to the wind by scrapping all regulations in one fell swoop – with potentially devastating consequences.
“Furthermore, the Government says it will launch a review into Britain’s preparedness for autumn and winter when the best preparation it can undertake, is to stem the rise in cases now.
“Therefore, ministers must urgently reassess its decision to lift the remaining restrictions on July 19. Until then, we urge the public to continue taking every precaution by wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing, and meeting outside where possible.”
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.