Leading doctors are urging the government to keep some measures in place in England after 19 July in a bid to stem the rate of infection. Latest figures show that coronavirus (Covid-19) cases continue to rise at an ‘alarming’ rate.
The call comes amid reports that ministers plan to drop all legal requirements, including self-isolation, for fully-vaccinated people who come into contact with someone who’s infected.
The Times reported that a meeting of the Covid operations committee will take place on Monday 5 July. Ministers are expected to sign off a plan that will mean the fully vaccinated will be “advised” to take daily tests but not be required to do so.
The Delta variant continues to account for approximately 95% of confirmed coronavirus cases across the UK.
‘It makes no sense to remove restrictions in their entirety’
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said easing restrictions was not an “all or nothing” decision. He said that “sensible, cautious” measures will be vital to minimising the impact of further waves, new variants and lockdowns.
As case numbers continue to rise at an alarming rate due to the rapid transmission of the Delta variant and an increase in people mixing with one another, it makes no sense to remove restrictions in their entirety in just over two weeks’ time.
The promise was to make decisions based on data and not dates, and while we were pleased to see the Government react to data in delaying the easing on June 21 last month, ministers must not now simply disregard the most recent, damning, numbers by rushing into meeting their new 19 July deadline.
Meanwhile, German chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed “grave concern” over the number of football fans being allowed to attend Euro 2020 matches at Wembley.
She also said travel restrictions are being reviewed for those who have received two coronavirus vaccinations, after holding talks with prime minister Boris Johnson on Friday 2 July.
Johnson has said he has increasing confidence that he can go ahead with the final phase of his plans to end England’s lockdown on 19 July to “get back to life as close to it was before Covid”.
The new health secretary, Sajid Javid, also confirmed his intention for Step 4 of the road map to go ahead at that point. But he stopped short of confirming to MPs that it will mean the end of every measure.
‘Sensible, targeted measures’
Nagpaul said that, while the hospitalisations remained low compared to the rise in cases, the numbers were “increasing at pace”. Twice as many coronavirus patients are in hospital beds and on ventilators than this time last month.
Even if people aren’t getting admitted to hospital at the same rate, spiralling levels of community transmission provides a fertile ground for new, potentially vaccine-resistant variants to develop.
Nagpaul stressed that the BMA wasn’t asking for a “full delay” of 19 July but a series of “targeted measures”. These would be to help prevent transmission of the virus. They include requiring people to continue wearing masks in enclosed public areas such as on public transport and in shops. And they also include “significantly improved” public messaging. This should emphasise that social distancing and meeting outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces, and wearing masks when this isn’t possible, remains the best way to reduce infections.
Everyone appreciates the efforts and sacrifices we have all made so far to suppress the spread of the virus, and it would be tragic if we were to undo this good work now.
We are not asking for a full delay on July 19, rather a series of sensible, targeted measures that will help prevent transmission of the virus while having a minimal impact on people’s daily lives.
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