Senior doctors have expressed concern at ‘mixed’ government messaging about face masks, pleading the public to help prevent a second wave that will ‘devastate’ the NHS.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said a second peak of COVID-19 combined with seasonal flu could be ‘devastating for the NHS’ and have voiced criticism of government guidance on the use of face masks.
Previously, wearing face coverings has been compulsory on public transport and will be compulsory in shops in England from Friday.
They have warned that a hefty £100 fine will be issued to those who ignore this new law.
However, there has been significant confusion as to why masks aren’t compulsory in other situations where social distancing is difficult to maintain such as offices or pubs and restaurants.
Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Prof Carrie MacEwen, said that medics and healthcare workers felt ‘totally reliant on the public understanding that this has certainly not disappeared and could come back and cause even more suffering for the population’.
Dr Alison Pittard, head of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine also said: “People might think COVID is over with, why do I have to wear a face mask, but it isn’t over. We still have COVID patients in intensive care. If the public don’t physically distance and don’t wear face coverings we could very quickly get back to where we were earlier this year.”
Downing Street has announced that its scientific advice shows that new infections are falling at a rate of between one and five per cent a day across the UK.
On Sunday, the Scottish government confirmed new cases for the fifth consecutive day and reaching their highest daily rate since June 21st.
Meanwhile, Dominic Harrison, director of Public Health said that the national tracing system is only managing to reach half of those who had been in close contact with a coronavirus patient, reports the Guardian.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said: “When you’re in close proximity with somebody that you have to work closely to, if you’re there for a long time with them, then a mask doesn’t offer that protection.”
Council chair of the BMA, the trade union and professional body for doctors in the UK, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said “Everyone has their role to play, but there needs to be clear, concise public messaging,”
“To introduce measures for shops, but not other situations where physical distancing is not possible – including some workplaces – is illogical and adds to confusion and the risk of the virus spreading.”
The warning from medics comes after the government continues to ease national restrictions as the reproduction rate stands between 07 and 0.9, meaning the virus is not growing exponentially.
Last week, the Academy of Medical Sciences said a second wave could kill 120,000 people in a worst-case scenario, despite Boris Johnson saying a second national lockdown would not be necessary and that normality could return by Christmas.
As part of the new lockdown easing, Johnson has instructed that the ‘work from home where possible’ advise will be lifted, conflicting with the Chief Scientific Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance who told MPs he could see ‘absolutely no reason to change’.
When asked to clarify the position by reporters Johnson said: “We want to encourage people to think it is safe to come into work, provided employers have done the work … to make their premises COVID-secure.”
The Department of Health and Social Care has defended the track and trace system, which this weekend emerged was finding 37% of people with COVID-19 when this number needs to be 50% to be effective.
A spokesperson said.“It has already helped test and isolate more than 180,000 cases – helping us control the spread of the virus, prevent a second wave and save lives,”.
The government is set to allow local councils to access names and data of people in areas who have tested positive which may improve the performance of the system.
MacEwen explained that a second surge could be bigger than the last, could ‘economically cripple us’ and ‘damage the NHS in the long-term’.
She said: “Going into winter the situation is much bleaker [than handling a pandemic in spring] and against a background of economic disaster. The public has begun to think we are free of this, but we are not.”
She added: “The most important thing about being prepared for this winter is the population gets the flu vaccine if they need it and they behave in a way that reduces the risk of them catching COVID which is to socially distance, wash hands, wear masks and isolate if symptomatic or told to do so by test and trace.”
Pittard added that the public is vital in this and that “it is down to the public again”.
Around 20 people involved in mass brawl ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens
The violence spilled out into the street
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.
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.
Leading scientists call for end of face masks and social distancing by June
Do you agree?
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.
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”.
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.”
Boris Johnson is regarded as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters
It follows weeks of allegations against the PM
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%.
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.”
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.