Lockdown exit risks magnifying ‘incredible pressure’ on doctors, BMA warns

The government’s plan to exit the national lockdown is ‘full of risks’ and could impact severely on NHS services - adding to the ‘incredible pressure’ doctors face, the BMA has warned.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has unveiled plans to return to a 'tighter' version of the previous three-tier system when lockdown ends on 2 December.

However, BMA leaders say the plans are ‘far more relaxed’ than those seen before the second lockdown - and risk accelerating the spread of the virus.

The association insists that tighter restrictions in the short term offer the best chance of a faster return to normality, warning against complacency in the face of an imminent COVID vaccine.

Three-tier system

On 26 November the government will announce which tier of restrictions will apply in each part of England. New rules state that crowds of up to 4,000 people could be allowed to gather at outdoor events - with crowds of up to 1,000 allowed at indoor 'spectator sport and business events' even in 'high risk' tier two areas.

The BMA has labelled this rule ‘extremely concerning' and warned that that the return of the 'rule of six' for people meeting indoors is ‘illogical’ when the government has repeatedly said mixing of this sort is the greatest cause of the spread of the virus. The BMA has called for ‘a rule of two households’ instead.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the government risked undermining the ‘difficult sacrifices’ made by the public in recent weeks. He said: ‘For doctors and NHS staff who are already working under incredible pressure, the potential impact on NHS services is deeply worrying.

‘The prime minister says the new measures are tougher than October when in reality many are far more relaxed, at a time when infection rates and COVID-related hospitalisations and deaths remain high. For doctors and NHS staff who are already working under incredible pressure, the potential impact on NHS services is deeply worrying.

Spread of virus

‘Now equipped with knowledge of the failings of the first three-tiered system, which led to another national lockdown, the government must not repeat the same mistakes and risk accelerating the spread of the virus.’

GPs have been asked to prepare to deliver COVID-19 vaccines - an effort which could begin as early as December. But Dr Nagpaul said the government could not be blinded by recent breakthroughs.

‘Despite news of a potential vaccine there is no room for complacency. With the virus still very much a threat, hundreds of lives being lost daily and pressures on the NHS escalating, tighter restrictions in the short-term will give us a greater chance of returning to normality in the longer-term – we must not lose sight of the end goal,’ Dr Nagpaul said.

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