Prepare for ‘real risk’ of second coronavirus wave, health leaders tell Boris Johnson
The letter calls on the PM to ‘ensure that the country is adequately prepared to contain a second phase’ of Covid-19.
Britain must prepare for the “real risk” of a second wave of the coronavirus, health leaders have warned Boris Johnson, after the Prime Minister confirmed that a raft of lockdown measures will be eased in England.
The Prime Minister on Tuesday announced that England was beginning to end its “long national hibernation” with pubs, cinemas and restaurants among the venues that will be permitted to open up again on July 4.
But a joint letter from the leaders of Britain’s medical royal colleges, published in the British Medical Journal, says “substantial challenges” remain should the UK be confronted with a second widespread outbreak of Covid-19.
And it urges Mr Johnson to make sure Britain is “adequately prepared” for a second phase.
The letter has been signed by leaders including the presidents of the Royal College of Surgeons, Royal Colleage of Physicians, Royal College of General Practitions and the Royal College of Nursing. It has also been backed by the leader of doctors’ union the BMA and crossbench peer Lord Adebowale.
Sent to the leaders of all political parties, it says a “rapid review” of the Government’s response to the coronavirus is needed “if the public is to have confidence that the virus can be contained”.
While they make clear that study should “not be about looking back or attributing blame“, the group of health leaders want a cross-party commission that can produce “practical recommendations for action” on avoiding a second spike of the virus.
“Several countries are now experiencing covid-19 flare-ups,” they say.
“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.
“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.”
The group is calling on the Government to focus on key areas where they believe the UK is still vulnerable, including the procurement of key goods and services needed to tackle the pandemic; the coordination of the country’s disease control infrastructure; the “resilience” of the health service; and the shielding of vulnerable people.
They also want the Government to focus on the “disproportionate burden on black, Asian, and minority ethnic individuals and communities” — and say there must be a focus on international collaboration “especially to mitigate any new difficulties in pandemic management due to Brexit”.
The call came after Mr Johnson said he "will not hesitate" to re-introduce lockdown measures at a local and national level if Covid-19 infection rates spike.
The Prime Minister said that although he was happy to proceed with the reopening of large parts of the hospitality industry on July 4 — along with allowing two households to meet up indoors — he would reverse relaxations should the number of cases begin to climb again.
He said: “There is no doubt we are beating back this virus, and with your continued co-operation and good judgement, we will beat it once and for all."
Speaking alongside him at the final daily government press conference on Covid-19, the UK's chief medical officer Chris Whitty, said the easing of measures was "absolutely not risk free" and made clear the Government may have to "go back on" some decisions if infections rise.