Ministers have been warned that urgent action is needed to prevent further loss of life and to protect the economy amid growing fears of a renewed outbreak of COVID-19 over the winter. Presidents of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, GPs and Nursing – as well as the chairman of the British Medical Association – said “local flare ups are increasingly likely”.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday the biggest easing to date of the coronavirus lockdown in England.
The Prime Minister said the two-metre social-distancing rule would be replaced with a “one-metre plus” rule paving the way for pubs, restaurants, hotels and cinemas to begin reopening from July 4.
In an open letter to the leaders of all the UK political parties published in the British Medical Journal, health leaders call for a “rapid and forward-looking assessment” of the state of national preparedness in the event of a renewed flare-up.
The experts wrote: “Several countries are now experiencing COVID-19 flare-ups.
“While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk.
“Many elements of the infrastructure needed to contain the virus are beginning to be put in place, but substantial challenges remain.
“The job now is not only to deal urgently with the wide-ranging impacts of the first phase of the pandemic, but to ensure that the country is adequately prepared to contain a second phase.
”They called for the creation of a cross-party commission with a “constructive, non-partisan, four nations approach,” to be established to develop practical recommendations for action based on what had been learned so far.
They added: ”We believe this will be essential if the UK is to get ahead of the curve.”
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7.30am update: German coronavirus risk
German Health Minister Jens Spahn has stressed that the coronavirus remains a risk after the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday put two regions back into lockdown following an outbreak at a meatpacking plant.
Guetersloh and the neighbouring town of Warendorf became the first areas in Germany to fall back under lockdown measures that had been gradually lifted since the end of April.
He told German broadcaster ARD: “We’re seeing that if we make it too easy for this virus, it spreads very, very quickly again – we’re not only seeing that in Guetersloh – we’ve also seen it in Goettingen, in Leer, in Bremen and at churches and family celebrations.
“That’s why it’s important to keep making clear that although the numbers were low over many weeks, this virus is still there.”