GPs need to have access to FFP3 masks as Covid-19 cases rise once more, the BMA has warned.
It follows the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, which showed an ongoing increase in the number of cases of Covid-19 in England and Wales.
The data suggests one-in-65 people in England and one-in-50 people in Wales are testing positive along with one-in-45 people in Scotland.
Last week data from the Zoe symptom study app, which is a bit ahead of the ONS data, suggested as many as one-in-32 people could be infected, and the UK Health Security Agency said hospital admissions were rising.
Dr Penelope Toff, chair of the public health medicine committee at the BMA, said the steady increase of Covid-19 infections in England was worrying.
She added it also showed why the Government must make every effort to ensure the booster vaccine programme is successful in helping keep infection rates low and reduce the numbers requiring hospital care this winter.
And while it was positive that the Government had recently called for the public to wear masks in crowded places, this was especially important in healthcare settings where infection rates and risk of contracting the virus are high.
‘With cases now on the rise in England, it is important that everything is done to keep staff and patients safe. This includes reinstating routine asymptomatic testing for staff and for patients being admitted to hospital, and ensuring staff have access to FFP3 masks when treating patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.’
It is also vital that GPs, who have been front and centre of the Covid vaccine roll-outs, continue to be properly supported so that they can deliver this next phase as effectively as possible, she added.
‘With longstanding issues already battering the NHS and staff becoming increasingly exhausted, the least the Government can do is make sure that any additional, avoidable pressures this winter are relieved.’
‘Staff are already seeing an increase of Covid hospital admissions, and are understandably fearful about what the coming months might bring if this latest surge in infection rates cannot be curbed.
‘The latest data from the Government’s Covid dashboard shows that the number of patients admitted to hospital in England increased by a staggering 48% in the seven days up to 26 September compared with the previous seven days.
‘With flu cases also expected to rise as we head into winter, we seriously risk a ‘twindemic’ hitting the NHS, on top of already record-breaking waiting lists, chronic staff shortages, and a growing backlog of care.’
Meanwhile, commenting on statistics showing the NHS in England has delivered over five million Covid-19 autumn boosters, NHS director of vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said: ‘Thanks to the continued unwavering efforts of NHS staff, just a month into the latest covid vaccine drive, we have already delivered five million doses of the autumn booster – protecting millions against the worst effects of coronavirus this winter.
‘With over 7,000 people currently in hospital with Covid-19, along with a difficult flu season in the Southern Hemisphere, we must not lose sight of why this life-saving vaccine is so important – that is why NHS staff are pulling out all the stops to keep the threat of the “twindemic” at bay this winter, delivering vaccines at thousands of sites across the country every day. I urge anyone eligible for a vaccine to book now either online or by calling 119.’