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Doctors urge Boris Johnson to cancel relaxed Christmas restrictions to protect NHS

‘They can no longer claim to be protecting the NHS’

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A joint editorial post from the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal has called for the PM to ditch the household mixing planned for over Christmas.

The two medical journals have come together on a rare joint editorial which calls for prime minister Boris Johnson to scrap plans that allow household mixing over Christmas in order to protect the NHS.

The first joint editorial in 100 years, the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal have called for the prime minister to change tactics due to the rising cases in England.

The BMJ is published by the doctors’ union, British Medical Association, and the HSJ is read by NHS staff, managers and professionals.

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It warns that hospital bed capacity risks being overwhelmed due to the Christmas relaxation of rules, calling on the government to ‘reverse its rash decision to allow household mixing […] in order to bring numbers down in the advance of a likely third wave’.

Crucially, the journals point out that a third peak in Covid-19 will hit non-Covid treatments the hardest. They warn that it could ‘wipe out’ almost all the reductions in wait times that have been achieved in the past 20 years.

They added: “This joint editorial is only the second in the more than 100-year histories of The BMJ and HSJ.

“We are publishing it because we believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives. If our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be protecting the NHS.”

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The prime minister confirmed a controversial five-day period of relaxed rules which will allow three different households to mix from December 23rd to December 28th, including overnight stays. 

London and other parts of the South East are now being moved to the highest tier from December 16th, and the falling cases of Covid elsewhere are beginning to flatten, causing the plan to come under scrutiny. 

Based on current projections, the joint editorial warns that hospitals in England could have ‘just short of 19,000 Covid patients on New Year’s Eve’, the same as the peak of the virus in April.

Stating that: “This figure, derived by extrapolating a straight line from December 5 to December 14 through to December 31, would be almost the same as the 18,974 peaks of the first wave on April 12.”

The journal also added scathing reviews of the government’s Test and Trace service, explaining: “‘NHS Track and Trace’, which has almost nothing to do with the NHS, continues to squander money on failure. So too does the mass testing of asymptomatic people using lateral flow tests that are not fit for purpose.”

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The joint editorial advises that rather than lifting restrictions, the UK should follow the cautious examples of Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

It goes onto explain that should a third resurgence of the wave be similar magnitude to the second the health service should manage. However, they add that this will only be the case if the resurgence starts at a similar caseload of Covid-19 inpatients as was in the beginning of the second resurgence, which was around 450.

They say that as the current restrictions continue to fail to control the virus, this figure will be more than 40 times higher. Adding to that is the additional demands of winter on the NHS.

In the past two weeks, despite much of the country in the highest form of restrictions – Tier 2 and  3 – the number of Covid inpatients has begun to rise again. This is despite the decline following the second lockdown on November 5th.

By December 5th, there were 12,968 inpatients, if the rate of decline had continued there would be 11,000 on December 31st. However, by December 14th – the latest data available – Covid bed occupancy is back to 15,053.

The journal concludes that unless something changes to this trajectory, England will have just short of 19,000 Covid patients on New Year’s Eve. 

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The impact of this will be felt most prominently by non-Covid patients as in order to manage a large influx of patients, staff and resources will have to be diverted from non-Covid patients. 

The journal highlights how much the NHS is currently overstretched, delivering the largest vaccination programme in its 72-year history as well as seasonal outbreaks of norovirus and increased admissions of frail older people. This is all during a time where staff absence is also at its peak. 

A particular concern is the impact this will have on staff, who have already worked through the hardest nine months of their professional lives. The journal explains that levels of burnout and sickness absence are likely to exceed those already experienced.

The journal concludes that the public should ‘mitigate the impact of the third wave by being as careful as possible over the next few months’. Adding that the government was too slow to introduce restrictions in spring and again in autumn. 

They explain that the government should review its ‘rash’ decision to allow household mixing and instead extend the tiers over the five-day Christmas period. They should also review the tier structure.

It concludes: “This joint editorial is only the second in the more than 100-year histories of the BMJ and HSJ. We are publishing it because we believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives. If our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be ‘protecting the NHS'”, and is signed Alastair McLellan, Editor, HSJ and Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief, The BMJ. 

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Around 20 people involved in mass brawl ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens

The violence spilled out into the street

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A large group of people were involved in a mass fight ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens last night.

Around 20 people were caught up in the large brawl on Monday evening, and according to reports some were armed with knives.

The fight took place outside Morrisons on the end of Oldham Street, and happened around 9:30pm.

Witnesses reported seeing some of the suspects carrying knives, although police didn’t recover any from the scene, and busses were forced to stop as the violence spread out onto the road.

Peter McDermott / Geograph

Someone who witnessed the fight said on Twitter: “Piccadilly gardens is the roughest place on earth… a lovely night out helping ruined by a group of young kids kicking each others faces in”.

Officers responded to the incident, but no arrests were made or serious injuries reported.

This incident was the third of serious violence in just a few days.

Saturday afternoon saw another incident outside Morrisons in Piccadilly Gardens, in which a man was slashed in the face.

And on Sunday a brawl involving two tables at Barca bar in Castlefield happened, with some involved arming themselves with weapons like bar furniture and a baseball bat.

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Leading scientists call for end of face masks and social distancing by June

Do you agree?

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Leading scientists have written to the UK government calling for social distancing and face masks to be scrapped from June.

In total 22 scientists have signed the communication, saying that these measures should finish on June 22nd – the same date limits on social contact are set to be scrapped in England.

One of the scientists who has added their name to the letter is Dr Roland Salmon, the former director of the communicable disease centre in Wales.

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Dr Salmon told BBC Radio Wales: “I am not venting my frustration but I do think some dialogue is well overdue.

“I have always felt that there has been little credible evidence benefit for many of the measures that we take.”

According to him, the letter was written to encourage the government to focus on protecting vulnerable people rather than the masses as we move forward.

Dr Salmon said we need to deal with the ‘here and now’ when asked about the threat of variants, going on to add that the vaccine has shown it helps prevent severe disease and death.

He added: “We can’t stop living forever while we wait for things to happen”.

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Scientists who’ve signed the letter include Prof Robert Dingwall from Nottingham Trent University, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG). 

There’s also Prof Anthony Brookes, a geneticist and health data scientist at the University of Leicester, and Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University.

The letter reads: “We are being told simultaneously that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true.

“We need to give more weight to the data on the actual success of the vaccines and less to theoretical risks of vaccine escape and/or surge in a largely vaccinated population.”



It continues: “Covid-19 no longer requires exceptional measures of control in everyday life, especially where there have been no evaluations and little credible evidence of benefit.

“Measures to reduce or discourage social interaction are extremely damaging to the mental health of citizens; to the education of children and young people; to people with disabilities; to new entrants to the workforce; and to the spontaneous personal connections from which innovation and enterprise emerge.”

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Boris Johnson is regarded as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters

It follows weeks of allegations against the PM

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According to a new poll Boris Johnson is seen as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters in Britain, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer seen as more trustworthy.

The poll from Ipsos MORI was shared by the Evening Standard, and comes after weeks of leaks and allegations about sleaze aimed at the prime minister.

The research found that Mr Johnson is trusted by just 35% of voters and deemed untrustworthy by 59%, while Sir Keir is seen as trustworthy by 42% and is untrusted by 41%.

No10 / Flickr

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: “On honesty Boris Johnson is clearly trumped by Keir Starmer, so this is an area of potential risk for him. 

“However, his own supporters still trust him, and the public overall have never seen it as one of his strongest attributes … and as previous leaders such as Tony Blair have shown, you don’t have to be ahead on trust to win elections. 

“The key question is whether and if these stories continue and start to change the public’s overall view on him as PM.”

No10 / Flickr

The poll was taken following weeks of reports about murky donations being used to refurbish the prime minister’s flat, as well as disclosures about covert lobbying.

However, it was undertaken before the most recent allegations that Mr Johnson said he’d rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than have another lockdown, so those reports won’t have been taken into consideration by those polled.

Despite all the recent controversy, the prime minister and government’s net satisfaction hasn’t changed much since March, with both Mr Johnson (44 satisfied/50 dissatisfied) and Sir Keir (36/46) having net negative ratings.

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1090 adults across the UK by telephone from April 16th to the 22nd – you can find full details here.

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