Don't forget: “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives”? We haven't - and nor should you.
Although this advice from government came much later than it should have done, there is no doubt that when implemented, pressure on an already weakened NHS was reduced, and despite the huge death toll things could have been much worse. The government stipulated five tests for the easing of lockdown, but while only one of these has been met we now have the Prime Minister telling us it is time to get back to work. Unfortunately his messaging as usual was incoherent and contradictory – urging the country on the one hand to take its first steps out of lockdown while simultaneously declaring that: “this was not the time simply to end the lockdown”. Among other questions, workers have been left pondering how they can get to work if they should not use public transport or must travel while observing two metre distancing, and teachers are struggling with the concept of explaining and enforcing social distancing with five year olds. The new rallying cry for the population is the meaningless “stay alert” (possibly a piece of advice to the prime minister?).
This has already incensed leaders of devolved governments who claim it will mean “people will die unnecessarily”. Leading doctors in the British Medical Association have condemned the plan as: “too fast, too confusing, and too risky”, pointing out the likelihood it will usher in a second spike of the virus (4). The trade union ‘Doctors in Unite’ have also demanded a number of preconditions must be met before lockdown is ended: freely available testing together with rigorous contact tracing through restoration and updating of local communicable disease control; frequent epidemiological studies of appropriately sized, randomised community cohorts to determine the prevalence of Covid-19; appropriate PPE supplied to all public facing workers; trade union oversight and control of acceptable safety measures on return to a particular workplace. Now is not the time for easing lockdown - now is the time for putting people before profit.
- The article 'England plan to ease lockdown is “confusing” and “risky,” say doctors' which appeared in the British Medical Journal is essential reading and should be shared widely.
- Likewise Keep Our NHS Public fully endorses the Doctors in Unite statement, from March 8th, 'Our exit from lockdown must be safe and sustainable' and believes is still as relevant today as it was then.
- KONP also fully supports the excellent camapaign initiative from the National Education Union, read about the #FiveTests here and their statement in response to Boris Johnson's Sunday 10 May announcement here.
It is vital we support all frontline workers who are at risk by giving them proper testing and PPE but it is also essential we continue the lockdown to prevent further needless deaths.