BRITAIN is at “real risk” of a second coronavirus wave and should prepare properly, top medics have warned.
Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to prevent further deaths amid growing fears of a renewed outbreak this winter.
Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updatesBritain is at ‘real risk’ of a second wave of coronavirus, health leaders have warned[/caption]
The Royal College of Physicians, Surgeons, GPs and Nursing – as well as the chairman of the British Medical Association – have appealed to the Government to take immediate action.
It comes after Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday the biggest easing to date of the coronavirus lockdown in England.
The Prime Minister said the two-metre social-distancing rule would be scrapped – paving the way for pubs, restaurants, hotels and cinemas to begin reopening from July 4.
Instead, people are advised to follow a “one metre-plus” rule, which means wearing a mask, regularly washing hands, sitting side-by-side – if a two-metre distance cannot be kept to.
In an open letter to the leaders of all the UK political parties published in the British Medical Journal, the health leaders call for a “rapid and forward-looking assessment” of the state of national preparedness in the event of a renewed flare-up.
“While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk,” they said.
“Many elements of the infrastructure needed to contain the virus are beginning to be put in place, but substantial challenges remain.
“The job now is not only to deal urgently with the wide-ranging impacts of the first phase of the pandemic, but to ensure that the country is adequately prepared to contain a second phase.”Boris Johnson, Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty at the final Downing Street press conference last night [/caption]
They called for the creation of a cross-party commission with a “constructive, non-partisan, four nations approach,” to be established to develop practical recommendations for action based on what had been learned so far.
“We believe this will be essential if the UK is to get ahead of the curve,” they said.
“It should focus on those areas of weakness where action is needed urgently to prevent further loss of life and restore the economy as fully and as quickly as possible.
“We think there’s a strong case for an immediate assessment of national preparedness, with the first results available no later than August, and that all its work should be completed by the end of October.”
Ministers have already said that the temporary Nightingale Hospitals set up in case the NHS was overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases will remain on standby over the coming months.
Announcing, the easing of the two-metre rule in England, Mr Johnson said the Government was taking a “cautious approach” and that ministers “will not hesitate to apply the brakes” in the event of an upsurge in the disease.
However at the final daily No 10 briefing, both the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and the chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty stressed it was not a “risk-free” move.
Prof Whitty said it was “absolutely critical” that people continued to observe social distancing, taking steps to mitigate the spread of the disease when it was not possible to stay two metres apart.
He warned the virus was likely to be present in the UK until at least the spring of 2021 and that if people returned to their normal patterns of behaviour “we will get an uptick for sure”.
Sir Patrick also warned that despite the falling numbers of people infected with the disease, the threat remained.
“Don’t be fooled that this means it has gone away. The disease is growing across the world. It is coming down in the UK but it hasn’t gone away,” he said.
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The easing of the two-metre rule was warmly welcomed by the hospitality sector which had warned that many pubs, cafes and restaurants would be forced to close if it remained in place.
Hairdressers, barbers, cinemas, museums and art galleries in England are now also preparing to open their doors to visitors again from July 4.
However “close proximity” businesses including nightclubs, soft play centres, indoor gyms, nail bars and beauty salons will remain shut, as will bowling alleys and water parks.