Stricter short-term COVID-19 measures needed to avoid second national lockdown, BMA warns

COVID-19 infection rates will ‘soar’ and the NHS will ‘once again be crippled’ if the government fails to introduce stricter social distancing measures quickly, the BMA has warned.

Doctors have argued that stronger actions are needed in the short term to drive down cases to lower levels and avoid another national lockdown and its damaging impact on the health service, the economy and education.

The association has suggested that the government should review its ‘rule of six’ measure and ‘actively encourage’ working from home to curb infections. It has also asked for better enforcement of rules, admitting recent restrictions have been ‘inadequate’.

‘Better guidance, monitoring and enforcement’ of the practical steps people need to take in public settings and in workplaces is needed to halt the spread of the infection, BMA leaders say.

Second wave

Calls for stricter social distancing measures come as prime minister Boris Johnson admitted on 20 September that the UK was experiencing a ‘second wave’ of the virus - and as the government's top medical and scientific advisers warned that the country could be on track for 50,000 cases a day by mid October.

The UK reported 4,422 cases of COVID-19 on 19 September - the highest daily total of cases since 8 May.

The BMA has suggested that people over 60 and who have underlying conditions at risk of serious ill health from COVID should wear medical grade masks in accordance with WHO guidelines. It said targeted protection of those at high risk of hospitalisation is important with the virus spreading rapidly once more.

‘Greater clarity and strict adherence’ to COVID-secure arrangements in bars, pubs and restaurants is also needed according to the union, which insists on strict distancing of tables and the recording of customer details.

COVID-19 guidance

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul insisted that focus on infection control among the public was important as ever, he said: ‘The government should take every step necessary to enforce this. Staff in workplaces, shops, pubs and eateries should be required to wear a face covering when within two metres of other people and at all times when serving customers.

‘The government should provide clear guidance and support as necessary to businesses and employers to deliver robust covid-secure environments.’

‘It is also vital to reduce avoidable mixing of people at a time when the infection is spreading without the testing capacity to identify those with the infection. This requires revisiting the rule of six which allows members of six different households to meet indoors compared to a maximum of two previously,’ he added.

Dr Nagpaul added that the government had to supply people with better ‘real-time local infection rates’ and called for clarity on how national lockdowns and other restrictions are made.

Doctors warned the government to 'get a grip' on testing capacity at the star of September with COVID cases rising exponentially. The BMA has also asked for GPs to be given priority testing as to not weaken the workforce.

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