The UK governments should act now to bring Covid-19 to ‘near elimination’ to avoid a longer lockdown down the line, the BMA has said.
The demand was passed as a motion at BMA’s annual representative meeting.
It noted that this comes as ‘in the past few weeks, we have seen alarming rises in the rates of new Covid-19 infections to a higher level than when we went into lockdown’, with the vast majority of doctors predicting a second spike by winter.
The motion said: ‘In order to prevent the need for further national lockdowns, with all of the adverse impacts that this may have on the education of our younger generation, the economy, older adults in care, mental health and social isolation, this meeting calls on governments to pursue a policy of near-elimination of SARS-COV-2.’
The BMA’s suggestions for stricter measures include setting a ‘trigger point’ whereby a national or local lockdown comes into force, with clear targets on acceptable numbers of new cases of coronavirus.
It also wants enhanced PPE for healthcare workers, even in ‘low risk’ settings, and regular testing of asymptomatic health and care staff.
It also wants home working to continue to be encouraged and stricter guidance on the wearing of face masks in public places.
The BMA also called on the Government to sort out the ongoing problems with NHS Test and Trace, which has seen patients and GPs unable to access tests when experiencing Covid symptoms.
Yesterday, the BMA’s ARM also voted to demand a public inquiry into the UK Government’s handling of the pandemic.
BMA public health medicine committee chair Dr Peter English said: ‘Instead of the number of cases going down, we are seeing a steady rise as the Government is clearly failing to get a grip on the virus with the current approach. The chaos we have seen unfolding with the test and trace system this week – with members of the public and healthcare workers struggling to get tests – is all the more evidence that the current strategy is failing. If the system cannot cope now, we are in real trouble as we move closer to winter and the possibility of a second peak.
‘Rather than instilling a sense of confidence and adherence with each new measure the Government introduces, there is a greater sense of confusion and frustration among the public as one rule seemingly contradicts another.
‘A near elimination approach is really about putting the long-term needs of the public first. This is about sacrificing in the short-term to ensure that we can avoid a large-scale prolonged lockdown that would be ultimately much more detrimental to the health of our society.’
The BMA proposed these stricter measures should be brought in now:
- more widespread and visible public messaging;
- setting and communicating clear targets for daily and weekly incidence (new cases)
- actively hunting out cases rather than waiting for symptomatic outbreaks;
- trigger points for the implementation of specific additional measures both locally and nationally;
- enforcing greater and consistent use of face coverings in settings where social distancing is not possible
- regular testing of asymptomatic staff in health and social care settings;
- enhanced PPE, even in ‘lower risk’ settings;
- a stricter approach to quarantining individuals arriving from overseas and more strict criteria for non-essential travel;
- monitoring and enforcement of Covid-secure arrangements in public settings and workplaces;
- more active encouragement and digital enablement of home working where appropriate
- addressing issues with the test and trace system to ensure it has sufficient capacity and agility to identify local outbreaks, trace contacts and isolate individuals who have come into contact with positive cases.
Motion in full
This meeting notes that in the past few weeks, we have seen alarming rises in the rates of new Covid-19 infections to a higher level than when we went into lockdown, albeit in a younger population with a lower risk of admission to ITU and subsequent death.
In order to prevent the need for further national lockdowns, with all of the adverse impacts that this may have on the education of our younger generation, the economy, older adults in care, mental health and social isolation, this meeting calls on governments to pursue a policy of near-elimination of SARS-COV-2.