United Kingdom

Doctor calls unlocking plan ‘irresponsible’ amid warnings of 200 daily deaths

The government has confirmed its plan for July 19 – but not everyone is convinced (Picture: Getty/AP)

A senior doctor has launched a blistering attack on Boris Johnson’s plan to ease social-distancing measures next week.

The Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that most remaining Covid-19 laws will be lifted on July 19, including the legal obligation to wear a mask.

Cases are rising across the country and expected to spike sharply in coming weeks as people return to offices and nightclubs reopen. 

Government modelling released shortly after the PM’s announcement forecasts there could be up to 2,000 admissions and 200 deaths a day by mid-August.

Health secretary Sajid Javid defended the plan in the Commons by saying there is ‘no perfect time’ to ease restrictions.

But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who chairs the British Medical Association, has called the strategy ‘irresponsible – and frankly perilous’.

He said: ‘We have been clear that any relaxation should be dependent on the overwhelming majority of the population being fully vaccinated, ensuring they receive maximum protection and which would result in new cases being controlled.

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The scientific community is divided on some elements of the plan, including masks (Picture: Getty)

‘Scrapping the remaining restrictions next week – when a significant proportion of the population will not have been fully vaccinated – will give this deadly virus an opportunity to retighten its grip; pushing infection rates up, increasing hospitalisations and people ill with long-Covid, risking new vaccine-resistant variants developing, and putting more lives at unnecessary risk.’

Mr Johnson’s language on masks was notably different to previous statements, with a shift to ‘personal responsibility’ tempered by his insistence that the government ‘expects and recommends’ face coverings to be worn in crowded indoor settings.

Dr Nagpaul pointed to a BMA survey of doctors which showed 90% support for compulsory masks on public transport before calling for stricter rules on their use in healthcare settings.

Nightclubs will be able to reopen next week despite a surge in infections among younger people (Picture: Getty)

He called the July 19 approach on masks ‘contradictory’ and said it ‘shows the government absolving itself of responsibility while heaping pressure on the public, confused by mixed messaging of the highest order’.

Dr Nagpaul warned the projected summer wave will have a ‘crippling impact’ on the NHS by ‘pushing staff to the brink of collapse’, driving up waiting lists and creating long-term pressure though increased numbers seeking treatment for long Covid.

Mr Johnson told the country yesterday that ‘we cannot simply revert instantly from Monday July 19 to life as it was before Covid’.

There was also a significant shift on vaccine passports, with businesses warned the government may act to make them mandatory if sufficient numbers don’t adopt them voluntarily

But the shift in tone has not appeased the BMA, with its chair saying: ‘The Prime Minister repeatedly emphasised this evening the importance of a slow and cautious approach, but in reality the government is throwing caution to the wind by scrapping all regulations in one fell swoop – with potentially devastating consequences.’

Office for National Statistics figures show one in 160 people in England and one in 100 in Scotland are thought to have Covid-19, up by 58% in a week.

An estimated 332,900 people had the virus in the week ending July 3, which is similar to mid-October levels, one month before the PM declared a second national lockdown.

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