Over 200 health and social care workers, from across the entire spectrum of specialties and grades of staff have signed an open letter addressed to Boris Johnson, calling on him to set out a coherent strategy that will effectively tackle the Covid-19 pandemic in England. They include professors, consultants, GPs, nurses, therapists, administration staff, theatre porters, paediatricians, psychiatrists and mental health nurses, obstetricians and midwives, haematologists, laboratory staff, radiologists, respiratory physicians; healthcare assistants, psychotherapists, administrators, chief executives, occupational therapists, pharmacists, immunological researchers, clinical directors, senior lecturers, social workers, palliative care specialists, speech and language therapists.
The letter states that slogans like “stay alert”, “control the virus” and “whac-a-mole” do not constitute a strategy. Given the terrible cost of the pandemic, both in terms of lives lost and lasting damage to the economy, we call on you urgently to set out an explicit strategy in relation to Covid-19”. The letter says there is a clear choice, between mitigation, i.e. accepting ongoing infections and deaths indefinitely until a vaccine or cure is found, or suppression, i.e. aiming to eliminate the virus. The letter says that the latter course clearly represents the best strategy in terms of both public health and protecting the economy.
The letter goes on, “This means having a much more ambitious target of suppressing the number of new cases to zero as soon as possible, and keeping it there. This requires continuing public health measures, such as maintaining social distancing, universal use of face masks in enclosed spaces, sensible travel restrictions, and setting up countrywide community based, efficient and rapid ‘find, test, trace, isolate and support’ infrastructure across the country, including at our borders. If done effectively and comprehensively this would successfully suppress the virus in a matter of weeks, and then keep it there.”
Dr Jackie Applebee, Chair of Doctors in Unite, the group who organised the letter, said “We cannot continue to drift on this rudderless course any longer. Flare ups like Leicester and in the meat and poultry packing plants show the dangers of this approach and if there are enough of these there will be a second wave, forcing us all back into lockdown.” Independent SAGE have called for a “Zero Covid” strategy; it is perfectly possible to suppress the virus in England as they have done in Scotland, with the right approach. For that to happen though we need an effective test, trace, isolate and support service, based in the community and run by Directors of Public Health, not the ineffective privatised and separate service we have now.
We ask the government, yet again, what is your strategy?
You can read the original letter here: