Mixing between more than two households and travel between tiers should be banned in England until a vaccine is rolled out to prevent the NHS being swamped after lockdown, the main doctor’s organisation has warned.
With ministers due to announce next week a return to regional tiers of coronavirus restrictions from 2 December, the British Medical Association (BMA) said that without tough action, hospitals and GPs will become overwhelmed.
A BMA report argues that robust measures will be needed until an effective vaccine is widely available, and that ministers must learn from what it called the over-lax exit from the last lockdown.
As well as a two-household maximum for mixing and a ban on travel between areas in different tiers, the BMA says people should be urged to continue working from home where possible, and that guidance on Covid measures in workplaces and businesses must become compulsory.
The report also calls for “wide-scale reform” of the test-and-trace system, with more funding given to local public health teams and a more effective app.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA council, 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.”
The report came as a hospital in Kent declared an internal critical incident after coming under serious pressure from treating what is thought to be around 110 patients with Covid-19.
The Medway NHS trust, which runs Medway Maritime hospital in Gillingham, took the action after a sharp increase in Covid cases in recent weeks, the Health Service Journal reported. It is thought to be the first trust in the south-east, which has so far seen many fewer cases in the second wave than the north and Midlands, to declare an internal critical incident.
Meanwhile, public health experts said people should prepare for a low-key Christmas, or even one spent outdoors, because the second lockdown may not significantly suppress the rate of coronavirus infections.
Video: Medicines chief on Covid vaccine: ‘Safety of the public will always come first’ (The Independent)
Officials and ministers are still awaiting key data on the effectiveness of the four-week restrictions imposed across England, meaning a promised update to parliament on the next steps is unlikely to happen before late next week.
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Scientists said that while they accepted the economic need for shops and hospitality businesses to reopen before the crucial festive season, the advent of seemingly effective vaccines meant people could consider postponing big family get-togethers.
“We really have to be careful that we don’t just focus on what is going to happen