An intensive care doctor says he feels it is still “too risky” to reduce coronavirus restrictions in the UK, adding he fears moving too soon could create a second wave of infections that’s “even bigger than the first”.
Dr Ron Daniels, a consultant at Birmingham Hospital, told the PA news agency he had seen a “chink of light”, with some capacity and bed space returning at his unit after weeks of battling the virus.
But he added: “The reality is that the effect of a second wave is just so unknown that it is too risky in most health professionals’ view to relax lockdown right now.
“We would like to see our capacity in NHS hospitals back down to below usual levels before we can safely do that.”
“Do we have enough beds to cope with a second wave if lockdown is relaxed too much? Absolutely not. We’re still over our usual capacity,” said Dr Daniels, 49, who is also executive director of Sepsis Trust UK.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to allow members of the public to spend time outside as often as they like, as long as they maintain social distancing.
However, the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all indicated that they would continue to encourage people to stay at home.
Dr Daniels added that the size and impact of any second wave was dependent on how many Britons had been infected – something that remains far from clear.
He said: “It may be, as some optimistic estimates suggest, as high as 60 to 80% of the public who have been exposed. That would mean that a lot of people had had exposure to (the virus) and not developed symptoms and just gone about their lives as normal.
“But the more pessimistic, the more wary estimates, suggest that somewhere under 10% of our population have been exposed.
“If that’s true, then we expect the second wave – if lockdown is relaxed too quickly and too aggressively – could even be bigger than the first.”
The UK Government also came in for criticism for its new “stay alert” messaging, described as potentially “catastrophic” by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Dr Daniels agreed that the messaging was “vague”, asking: “How do people stay alert? How on earth do they control the virus? We assume it means control the virus spreading.”
“My concern is that with these new guidelines being so vague they’re very open to interpretation, they’re open to almost gaming by members of the public who are frustrated at having to stay at home all the time that they’re going to be worth little more than the paper they’re written on.
“That’s the concern – we’re massively reliant now on the way the public behave.
“People are desperate to see their family, they’re desperate to see their friends. And if we allow that, and if people are allowed to flout the rules… we’re going to find ourselves in a situation where the R value starts increasing significantly.”