'Shocking': NHS doctors criticise London anti-lockdown protest

25 April 2021, 19:46 | Updated: 25 April 2021, 19:49

Doctors have criticised the Hyde Park anti-lockdown protest
Doctors have criticised the Hyde Park anti-lockdown protest. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

NHS doctors have blasted the "shocking" and "disappointing" anti-lockdown demonstration attended by crowds in London.

Three doctors have said they accept the right to protest but fear demonstrators are driving social distancing measures they rail against by gathering.

One warned that if restrictions hadn't stopped exponentially rising cases in the UK, the healthcare system would have broken down – as in India, where surging cases look to be overwhelming doctors.

Dr Ajay Verma, a consultant gastroenterologist and physician in Northamptonshire, told the PA news agency: "There is a small minority of people who seem to believe there's a conspiracy going on, which is upsetting, and the worst thing is they're putting themselves at risk by gathering in a crowd.

Read more: Hyde Park: Eight police officers injured as they disperse crowds amid lockdown protest

"They're protesting against the measures they're driving themselves by gathering in a crowd.

"It is very disappointing, I have to say."

Dr Verma said it was "very upsetting" to see some wearing yellow stars, apparently a reference to symbols that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.

Dr Ajay Verma hit out at the anti lockdown protest
Dr Ajay Verma hit out at the anti lockdown protest. Picture: PA
Dr Karan Rajan said he was disappointed by the scenes
Dr Karan Rajan said he was disappointed by the scenes. Picture: PA

"I thought to try and use the metaphor and suggest that lockdown measures and vaccinations and masks are like genocide is very troubling," he said.

"There were times in January, and last April, where if the trends had continued as they were we would have seen what we're seeing in India now - a breakdown of the health service.

"People don't seem to realise, we were days, not weeks, days, to the brink."

Read more: Over half of UK adult population has now had at least one Covid-19 vaccine

Read more: Vaccines 'significantly reduce Covid-19 infections and likely cut transmission'

India is facing a severe shortage of oxygen as it recorded more than 314,000 cases over 24 hours last week – the highest daily total for confirmed cases anywhere in the world.

The UK has dispatched life-saving equipment to help the country fight rising infections.

On Saturday, two officers were taken to hospital after dispersing a crowd in Hyde Park, where protesters gathered. They also marched down Oxford Street.

Eight officers were injured on Saturday
Eight officers were injured on Saturday. Picture: PA

Banners including "you don’t need proof to know truth" were seen.

Dr Karan Rajan, an NHS surgeon in Surrey, said: "I suspect it was a significant number of people who are anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists who got involved, and yet it's shocking to see.

"Although we know the vaccination rollout is going ahead nicely and we're getting back to normal with restrictions easing, it's still very worrying to see such huge gatherings without masks out in public, basically breaking the law, which is really concerning to see.

"And it's just really disappointing as well."

Dr Rajan added: "In this country we believe in autonomy when it comes to medicine so everyone has the right to make a decision over what goes in their body.

"If someone doesn't want the vaccine that is their decision at the end of the day, as long as they're fully educated."

"But it's important to ensure they don't encroach upon anyone else's right to decide, or right to feel safe."

Dr Jamie Parker, a GP from Nottingham, said: "So many people have given up so much throughout the lockdowns and we know that lockdowns have their drawbacks, but throughout all they are really the only thing that have had worked before the vaccines, it's the one thing that has brought down numbers and has saved lives."

In the UK, 33,666,638 first doses and 12,587,116 second jabs have been given out.

All four countries in the UK have continued to ease restrictions, with Scotland and Wales accelerating their timetables given the promising Covid data.