Keep ‘sensible’ Covid rules after 19 July, say doctors

Here, on one escalator, “Watchers” can see every variation of mask being used in a crowded space.

Leading doctors from the British Medical Association (BMA) are urging the government to keep some measures in place after 19 July in England to restrict the spread of coronavirus amid an “alarming” rise in cases.

The association warned that maintaining some protective measures was “crucial” to halt the spread of the coronavirus delta variant, which accounts for approximately 95 per cent of confirmed cases across the UK.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that about one in 260 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to 26 June – up from one in 440 in the previous week and the highest level since the week to 27 February.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, is confident he can go ahead with the final phase of his plans to end England’s lockdown on 19 July to “get back to life as close to it was before Covid”.

Earlier this week, the new health secretary, Sajid Javid, also confirmed his intention to go ahead with Step 4 of the road map but didn’t explain to MPs what that would entail.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said easing restrictions was not an “all or nothing” decision and that “sensible, cautious” measures will be vital to minimise the impact of further waves, new variants and lockdowns.

The measures would include the continued use of wearing masks indoors and on public transport and “significantly improved” public messaging stressing social distancing and meeting outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces.

Dr Nagpaul welcomed the government’s decision to push back on the lockdown easing last month based on data. Still, he warned that the ministers must not simply disregard the most recent, damning numbers by rushing into meeting their new 19 July deadline.

“We have made excellent progress with both the vaccination campaign and individual action from people across the country over the last 18 months, and the government must absolutely not throw this away at this critical juncture.”

Despite an uptick in Covid infections, Dr Nagapul said that the hospitalisations remained low and stressed that the BMA was not asking for a “full delay” of 19 July but a series of “targeted measures” to help prevent transmission of the virus.

Public Health England figures show a total of 161,981 confirmed and probable cases of the Delta variant, up by 46 per cent on the previous week.