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Independents' Day

Public needs to access Covid case count as easily as weather forecast, says BMA

The public should be able to access information on the local situation for Covid-19 cases in their local area as easy as they find news on the weather or traffic situation, the BMA has said.

The doctors' union wants the reports to be accompanied with a traffic light system, such as is currently available for pollen counts, indicating the severity of the sitiuation in local areas.

It has made the call ahead of major easing of the Covid-19 lockdown in England this weekend which includes the re-opening of pubs, bars and restaurants, warning that the pandemic is 'not over'.

The BMA wants Public Health England to work with local news media and tech companies to cascade the information.

It said that while data on cases are currently available to the public, this was not necessarily easily accessible.

Dr Peter English, BMA public health medicine committee chair, said: 'Now that this information is finally being published, it is crucial that it is made available to the public in a way that is instantly understandable. People should not have to look hard to find this vital information. In the same way that I can find the temperature or weather forecast in my area, I should just as easily be able to find the current infection rate.

'During a pandemic this is the least the public should know, so that they understand what the situation is in the area in which they live.'

Dr English said this should be accompanied 'by an easy-to-understand traffic light system of the level of risk – and a transparent government approach to triggering local and national action to tackle local flare-ups'.

He added: 'The pandemic is not over, and as certain restrictions are eased, this easy-to-digest information would serve as an important reminder to people that they should stay vigilant, and continue to practise social distancing and good personal hygiene.' 

Public Health England publishes the rate of new weekly Covid-19 infections per 100,000 people for local authorities since this week, while a Government’s dashboard shows the total rate for local authorities.

The BMA is also continuing to recommend that the public wear face masks when mixing with others indoors and where social distancing is not possible.

The BMA's call for Covid-19 'weather' report

What the BMA wants:

  • Data on current prevalence (the number of infected people per 100,000 population) in local areas is presented in an accessible way. For example, in the same way local information including weather, traffic or pollen counts are made available - on search engines, social media, local media, and on or inside public buildings.
  • Public Health England and local authorities work together with local media and tech companies to ensure information is cascaded appropriately.
  • This data is visualised with an easy to understand 'traffic light system' indicating the severity of the situation in local areas.
  • The Government set 'trigger points' at which decisions will be made to enforce measures to tackle local flare-ups.

Source: BMA

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