Coronavirus lockdown measures ‘starting to bite but some could be in place for six months’

Coronavirus lockdown measures ‘starting to bite but some could be in place for six months’

IT is too early to predict when coronavirus will peak – but lockdown measures are showing promise, says one of the UK’s top doctors.

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said that social distancing restrictions enforced earlier this week are helping to move the country “in the right direction”.

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Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said that social distancing restrictions enforced earlier this week are showing promise
EPA

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said that social distancing restrictions enforced earlier this week are showing promise[/caption]

But she told a Downing Street press briefing tonight that some of the measures could remain in place for six months.

Asked when we might expect the virus to peak, she said: “I’m not going to predict an exact timing for that.

“The reason is we are only just starting to see a bite in the interventions in social distancing that have been put into place.

“It would be far too early to predict that.”

Dr Harries did say however that the country is starting to see “some helpful movement” in the curve.

She continued: “What we will be looking for is a change in the slope rather than a very steep curve upwards, we will be looking for it to be a gentler slope.

“But we must not take our foot off the pedal.

“People have been really co-operating and in the last few days – the public have really understood that this is something very serious and their actions, wherever they are, will saves lives.

“So, too early to say yet but starting to move in the right direction.”

Six month measures

She was also asked how long Britain could expect to remain under social distancing measures.

Dr Harries said: “We may see measures of lockdown going forward over the next six months.

“That would not be an implausible outcome.

“But I also said I think that as were watching the curve, it may be possible… to start moving that.”

Her comments came as the death toll from Covid-19 jumped by 113 from last night to 578 deaths in the UK.

On Wednesday, Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London and one of the scientists advising the Government, said that if current measures continue, intensive care demand will peak in two to three weeks and should decline after that.

Dr Harries also urged people to look after their physical and mental health, adding that the 1.5 million people told not to go out for 12 weeks had been sent letters with links to ways they can protect their mental health.

More free time

Speaking about everybody else, she said: “If people are not going out to work and often that creates quite a stress in terms of travel time, they have more free time to themselves.

“And it might be the best opportunity the whole country has to say ‘I’m going to use my one exercise session every day to ensure that by the time this is over I’m super fit and so is my family’.

“And in fact if you have something restricted it suddenly becomes quite a pleasurable event

“Even if you might not have wished to jog along the street before, doing so now might be quite a relief and quite a positive thing for us all to do.”

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It comes as the British Medical Association today warned that Government has so far failed to prioritise getting self-isolating medical staff back on to the front line through testing despite Boris Johnson’s assurances.

Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul told the health and social care committee that instructions to self-isolate if showing symptoms of Covid-19 were handicapping the NHS’ ability to deal with the crisis.

He said: “At this time of year, it is estimated that 10 per cent of the population could have a symptom of a temperature or a cough in a non-Covid situation.

“We had situations where many GP practices and hospitals were understaffed, the staff themselves who were self-isolating were telling us they felt able to work but were following the guidance, and that if they were able to be tested they would come back to work.

It seems counter-intuitive that we are reducing our workforce when we need our NHS workforce the most

Dr Chaand NagpaulBritish Medical Association

“It seems counter-intuitive that we are reducing our workforce when we need our NHS workforce the most.

“On March 16 we heard from the Prime Minister an announcement that healthcare workers would be prioritised but that hasn’t materialised.”

Dr Nagpaul said there were issues with both the “adequacy and the supply” of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff.

He said the experience of ringing the NHS PPE hotline was for doctors to buy their own equipment.

“We are flooded with anxieties and concerns by doctors – it is the single biggest issue at the moment,” he told the committee.

“I know we have had assurances around deliveries being escalated but we are still finding far too many of our members telling us that hasn’t translated on the ground.

“Even this morning, I’ve had emails from doctors saying masks have run out, that they are having to wear them for longer than they should and so forth.

“In general practice, when we ring up the helpline we are told to buy them ourselves – that is the advice we are getting.”


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