'Wilfully negligent': Doctors call on Government to enforce Covid 'Plan B'

21 October 2021, 06:30 | Updated: 21 October 2021, 08:02

The Government has been criticised for not enforcing Plan B over winter.
The Government has been criticised for not enforcing Plan B over winter. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The British Medical Association (BMA) has accused the Government of being "wilfully negligent" by not implementing the Covid 'Plan B' for winter.

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It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid gave a Covid update at Downing Street on Wednesday.

He confirmed that there were no plans to enforce 'Plan B' for the winter months, despite rising cases and hospital admissions approaching 1,000 a day.

However, the BMA criticised the decision, suggesting "far more extreme measures" would have to be reintroduced late down the line if the Government did not "learn the lessons of the past and act fast".

The back-up plan would see the return of restrictions such as mandatory face masks, working from home and, as a last resort, lockdowns.

Read more: Javid's jabs plea: Health Sec says 'get your booster' as he rules out Covid Plan B

Read more: Govt secures two new antiviral drugs to help treat vulnerable Covid patients this winter

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "The Westminster Government said it would enact ‘Plan B’ to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed; as doctors working on the frontline, we can categorically say that time is now.

"By the Health Secretary’s own admission we could soon see 100,000 cases a day and we now have the same number of weekly Covid deaths as we had during March, when the country was in lockdown.

"It is therefore incredibly concerning that he is not willing to take immediate action to save lives and to protect the NHS. Especially as we head into winter, when the NHS is in the grips of tackling the largest backlog of care, with an already depleted and exhausted workforce.

"The Government has taken its foot off the brake, giving the impression that the pandemic is behind us and that life has returned to normal. The reality today is an unacceptable rate of infections, hospitalisations and deaths, unheard of in similar European nations."

Read more: Government must enforce Covid 'Plan B' to avoid winter crisis, says NHS chief

He went on to say: "It is wilfully negligent of the Westminster Government not to be taking any further action to reduce the spread of infection, such as mandatory mask wearing, physical distancing and ventilation requirements in high-risk settings, particularly indoor crowded spaces. These are measures that are the norm in many other nations.

Dr Chaand also addressed the announcement of two more antiviral drugs to help treat vulnerable Covid patients with weakened immune systems.

"While new treatments are always welcome, the UK Government itself has said these will not be available to patients until at least the end of the year," he said.

"But urgent action is needed now to stem the scale of suffering and the real risk of overwhelming the NHS."

Dr Chaand added: "It’s vital that the Government does everything to ensure it is made as simple and easy as possible for people to receive their booster, or even their first and second jab, especially in groups where uptake is lower.

"However, relying on the vaccination programme alone without other measures will not be sufficient to prevent rising infection rates, illness and deaths, given that no vaccine is 100% effective.

"Only last week, two select committees found the UK was an international outlier when it came to public health policy during this crisis.

"We are rapidly approaching a position where, yet again, the Government is delaying for too long, and equivocating over taking action.

"This is the time to learn the lessons of the past and act fast, or else we will face far more extreme measures later."

Read more: 'Don't wait for Plan B': Mayor of London calls on the government to reintroduce face masks

It comes after Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told LBC on Wednesday that the country would not return to a lockdown over winter.

"We’ve worked really hard to get to the point that we could actually open up the economy,” he said.

"We’ve got a fast growing economy, people getting back to work, getting back to normal life.

"I think any talk of lockdowns is just not at all helpful and it’s not going to happen."