Saturday, 26 Sep 2020

GPs fear Boris has 'no plan' for second coronavirus wave

Public health experts, doctors and NHS staff are concerned the government has no strategy for a possible second coronavirus wave.

Boris Johnson is currently making strident steps towards ending lockdown across England, with more children returning to school and some shops expected to start reopening from June 15. The Prime Minister is said to be aiming for the country to be mostly back to normal by July.

The measures have sparked fears that there is no plan in place should the R rate begin to rise again. The R rate is the number of people each infected person spreads the virus onto, and the government has repeatedly said restrictions will only be lifted if it stays beneath one.

This week, research conducted by Public Health England and Cambridge University found that the R number for the North West of England has risen above one to 1.01.

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Prof Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, told The Observer ‘the criticism that we can’t see a strategy’ against a second wave of coronavirus ‘is a legitimate criticism’. He said the government’s self-imposed testing targets had got in the way of putting practical steps in place.

He continued: ‘We need a strategy for test and trace, for PPE, for the use of technology, for maintaining Covid services and opening up non-Covid services.

‘Clinicians working on the ground find it tiresome and difficult to work in an environment where things are changing every day and there’s no sense of direction as to where we’re heading.’

Prof Maggie Rae, president of the Faculty of Public Health, also noted that the death toll remains ‘high’ as she expressed concerns about the country’s joint biosecurity centre (JBC) not being up and running for some time.

The JBC is being set up as part of the NHS’ Track and Trace programme, and will advise the government on how to respond to spikes in infections. Health Secretary Matt Hancock previously stated that it could be used to put parts of the country into lockdown, should there be an outbreak in that area.

The NHS is also facing a backlog of cancelled appointments due to the pandemic, with around 8,000,000 people still waiting for surgery. Prof Derek Alderson, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said the country ‘certainly can’t handle a second wave’ that would continue into the winter.

So-far more than 40,000 have died with Covid-19 in the UK. Earlier today an infectious diseases expert said the government should have gone into lockdown earlier than March 23, stating that more lives would have been saved.

Professor John Edmunds, who attends meetings of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘I think it would have been hard to do it, I think the data that we were dealing with in the early part of March and our kind of situational awareness was really quite poor.

‘And so I think it would have been very hard to pull the trigger at that point but I wish we had – I wish we had gone into lockdown earlier. I think that has cost a lot of lives unfortunately.’

He added that the pandemic ‘is definitely not all over’ and warned that there is an ‘awful long way to go’. He continued: ‘If we do relax our guard this epidemic will come back very fast.’

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