The Government must take ‘cautious approach’ to lifting lockdown restrictions otherwise the NHS will be overwhelmed, the BMA has warned.
The doctors’ union further said the easing must be connected with measurable metrics and targets on virus circulation – which should be at a ‘near elimination’ level – rather than a calendar date.
The BMA warned the lockdown easing it must be accompanied by clear messaging and strong steps to prevent re-importation of the coronavirus.
The report said: ‘The BMA has consistently called for a comprehensive and robust approach to reducing transmission of COVID-19, and supports a ‘near elimination’ strategy intended to drive spread of the virus down to a low level. There is growing consensus that achieving and maintaining a 7-day case rate of 10 infections or fewer per 100,000 of population – under
1,000 new cases per day – would enable rapid and effective containment of any local outbreaks through testing, contact tracing, self-isolation and support for new cases.
‘It is vital that any significant easing of current restrictions is linked to such metrics, rather than fixed to an arbitrary date.’
The BMA argued that while the Covid vaccination campaign ‘will help to protect those most at risk from the virus and may also have a wider impact on transmission of the virus’, ‘it will take time to achieve high levels of vaccine coverage across the UK population’.
And while the majority of severe illness, hospitalisation and death occurs among older adults, younger people – including many healthcare workers – are affected by long term effects of the virus, the BMA stressed.
It said: ‘Uncertainty around the impact of these longer term consequences of COVID-19 lends further support to the adoption of a cautious and measured approach to easing restrictions.’
BMA deputy chair of council Dr David Wrigley said: ‘This is a pivotal moment in the next phase of this pandemic, which is why we must proceed with absolute caution when it comes to considering how and when lockdown restrictions might be eased…
‘It is only by looking at both NHS pressures and rates of infection that we can accurately gauge when to start easing the current lockdown, not only to prevent our health service from crumbling, but also to prevent the immeasurable grief for more families from losing someone close to this dreadful virus.’