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The Government’s weak messaging will cost lives


lukewarm praise


The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday around radically easing lockdown measures was pretty well received by the general public, and understandably so. But I haven’t heard many GPs in full support.

We can all understand the reasons for coming out of lockdown. As I have said many a time, taking into account economic factors is not necessarily a heartless act: a deep recession may itself lead to many deaths and ruined lives. And the mental health effects of lockdown on people – especially those who are shielding – may be devastating.

But let’s not pretend that we are coming out of lockdown because it is ‘safe’. The daily death count yesterday was 171. As the BMA pointed out yesterday, there are currently 35,000 people infected – one in every 1,700 people. There were 6,700 infected when we entered lockdown. And the R is hovering only just below 1.

Of course, there are differences between now and when we went into lockdown: we have better (though certainly not perfect) testing, people are more aware of the basics of infection control and we now have (some semblance of) contact tracing.

But the messaging is key here. In order to stop the death toll rising, we need the Government to tell the public straight that there are still major risks in living a ‘normal’ life. And they need to hammer home the message that, although the rules are not as strict as before, they still must be adhered to or else any progress we made will be lost.

I don’t feel this is happening, however. Mr Johnson says ‘currently’ there is no risk of a second wave. Beyond the fact this is meaningless (the reason there is no risk of a second wave is because we haven’t yet finished the first wave) this is giving the message that we are reaching the end game. And the number of people I have seen planning on going to the pub on 4 July suggests to me that the correct message is not getting through.

I sincerely hope that I – and many GPs – are wrong. But I fear we may be going back into lockdown as quickly as we came out.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at editor@pulsetoday.co.uk

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