COVID-19: England's 'inadequate' tier system 'did not contain the spread of coronavirus', say doctors

·3-min read

The tiered system introduced in England in an effort to fight COVID-19 is "inadequate" and "did not contain the spread of the virus", according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

The BMA has also said it was "inconsistent" in the way it was applied, and that it must be "urgently revised" before the country exits its second lockdown on 2 December.

In a blueprint for exiting the strict measures, leading medics have suggested a new system should have "triggers" whereby different areas would move up and down different tiers - and that non-essential travel between tiers in higher and lower prevalence areas should be "restricted".

On clearer guidance being needed for the hospitality industry, the report adds: "Crowded restaurants and pubs with little social distancing, as seen after the first lockdown, encouraged by the Eat Out to Help Out initiative, represents a danger to public health."

Council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "We must not squander the efforts of the many people who have followed the law, stayed at home, sacrificed freedoms and incurred financial loss in order to contain the virus.

"When the first lockdown ended, there was no coherent plan for keeping COVID-19 at bay, no clear and simple public messaging; this was followed by spiralling infection rates, more businesses failing, new 'local' lockdowns, and now we have a death toll at more than 52,000.

"As England prepares to exit its second lockdown, it is unthinkable that we make the same mistakes again because this time, the impact will be far worse."

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Ministers have implied that England will return to a tiered approach when its lockdown ends next month.

The BMA blueprint has made several suggestions, including:

  • The "rule of six" should be replaced with a "rule of two households"

  • A "more robust" quarantine procedure - which could possibility include: "provision of transport for those returning home or to other locations in order to quarantine and could include facilities for quarantine close to ports of entry"

  • Criteria should be published for establishing and removing travel corridors

  • The government should produce an "airline safety-style" video telling people how to properly wear masks

  • Social mixing should be encouraged to take place outdoors

  • There should be a required 2m distance between tables in pubs and restaurants

  • More financial support for businesses to fit screens and signage

  • The "work from home where possible" message should continue

  • Masks should be worn in all indoor settings where social distancing is not possible. Face coverings should also be worn outside in some circumstances

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Dr Nagpaul continued: "It's reasonable to conclude, that without these measures, the NHS will not be able to cope with caring for even the most critically ill patients.

"This report demonstrates a sustainable plan for reducing the level of infections from COVID-19 until a vaccine programme is under way."

The BMA also said that before lockdown ends, the government should ensure that the Test and Trace programme is fit for purpose.