Do not ease COVID restrictions, warn doctors

by Phil Clark

The BMA urged the Government this week to rethink its plan to relax all restrictions owing to the surge in COVID-19 infection rates. 

Location: UK
Published: Friday 9 July 2021

The association has been a leading voice in the debate on the issue on the national and international media.

Senior BMA members including chair of council Chaand Nagpaul and co-chairs of the BMA’s public health committee Penelope Toff and Richard Jarvis co-signed a letter in The Lancet published yesterday – which described the easing of restrictions as ‘reckless’. 

Dr Nagpaul also appeared on the BBC's Newsnight on 9 July saying it was ‘folly’ for the Government to press ahead with easing all restrictions on 19 July. He pointed to the growing evidence of spiralling infections leading to growing hospitalisations as well as wider effects on public health.

‘We need to dispel the idea we’ve broken the link with hospitalisations. It’s diluted but we have about three times as many people on ventilators than this time last month and two and a half times more people in hospital than last month,’ he said and added that if the trends continue this will further increase the pressures on the NHS. 

Dr Nagpaul added that this was not simply a secondary care issue but there were now growing numbers of the population suffering from the condition not going to hospital many of whom will go on to have long COVID.  

Mask-up

Chaand Nagpaul NAGPAUL: Act defies logic

The BMA is arguing for the Government to maintain some targeted control measure in place after 19 July including the requirement to continue wearing face coverings in indoor public settings and improved messaging on social distancing and meeting outdoors where possible. 

Dr Nagpaul said full easing on the timescale proposed ‘defied public health logic’ – further unlocking of restrictions was a matter of timings rather than ‘indefinite restrictions’. Dr Nagpaul also appeared on CNN on Thursday arguing for targeted restrictions to remain. 

Following Monday’s press conference by the prime minister, the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser,  the BMA issued a statement describing the proposed easing of restriction as ‘incredibly concerning’.

‘There is a clear disconnect with the actions the Government is planning to take and the data and views of the scientific community and medical profession,' it says.

On Monday evening deputy council chair David Wrigley appeared on Channel 5 News  to reflect on the announcement and said getting rid of restrictions was ‘reckless’ and was a ‘recipe for seeing an increase in infections which is not good for the NHS and not good for patients’. 

The statement received coverage in the UK and internationally with mentions in Sky News, ITV News, BBC Radio 4, LBC, Mirror Online, The Guardian, The Sun, and many other national newspapers and dozens of regional outlet and radio stations.

International coverage was broad, reaching major European countries including Germany and France as well as China (in the China Daily) and across Asia (including the Telegraph India) and New Zealand and Australia. 

The BMA believes targeted measures and support are needed beyond 19 July