Covid: Doctors call for Covid Plan B to start in England

Health / Thu 21st Oct 2021 at 11:31am

AN “unacceptable” level of Covid cases means ministers should trigger their Plan B for the pandemic in England, doctors say reports the BBC.

The British Medical Association accused the government of being “wilfully negligent” for not reimposing Covid rules such as mandatory face masks.

Daily UK infections have been above 40,000 for eight days in a row.

Health Minister Edward Argar said the NHS is not under “unsustainable pressure” to justify restrictions.

He told BBC Breakfast there were about 95,000 beds in NHS hospitals, with 7,000 occupied by Covid patients and 6,000 currently empty.

“We know how those numbers can rise swiftly, which is why we’re looking at that day by day, hour by hour. But at the moment we do have the ability to manage,” he said.

The health secretary has warned daily cases could soon rise to 100,000 but is rejecting fresh restrictions right now.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference on Wednesday, Sajid Javid said that “at this point” the government would not bring in its Plan B measures – which include compulsory face coverings and Covid passports for entry to nightclubs and large events, as well recommending working from home.

But he warned insufficient vaccine uptake would make restrictions in England more likely.

Over the last seven days, the number of Covid patients admitted has risen by 11% and the number of deaths has increased by 21%, compared to the previous week, although they remain far below their peak in January.

Under the government’s plan for tackling Covid in England over the winter, the strategy currently in operation is Plan A.

It involves offering booster jabs to about 30 million people and offering a single vaccine dose to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds, as well as encouraging ventilation for indoor gatherings, hand-washing and face masks in crowded places.

Questioned on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Argar declined to say whether Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had advised moving to Plan B. Sir Patrick has previously spoken of the importance of taking Covid measures early.

But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA’s chairman, said doctors can “categorically” say that the “time is now”.

He stressed that case numbers were comparable to March, when England was in lockdown, and were “unheard of in similar European nations”.

“It is therefore incredibly concerning that [Mr Javid] is not willing to take immediate action to save lives and to protect the NHS,” he said.

Dr Nagpaul said the government had “taken its foot off the brake, giving the impression that the pandemic is behind us and that life has returned to normal”.

He said: “It is wilfully negligent of the Westminster government not to be taking any further action to reduce the spread of infection”, adding that compulsory face coverings, physical distancing and ventilation requirements in “high-risk settings” were “the norm in many other nations”. 

His comments echoed the demands of health leaders from the NHS Confederation this week.

And they came as Prof Sir Mark Walport, the government’s former chief scientific adviser, said “the current measures are probably not holding things” when it came to the spread of the virus.

“Am I worried? Yes. It’s very, very delicately poised,” he told BBC Newsnight.

“Winter is coming, flu is probably coming. It’s not a good place to be.”

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