Doctors call for travel ban between lockdown tiers and ‘rule of two’ at Christmas
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Top doctors have called for a travel ban across Covid-19 lockdown tiers and a "rule of two" at Christmas to save the NHS this winter.
England's tiered system of restrictions is "inadequate", "inconsistent" and did not contain the spread of coronavirus, the British Medical Association (BMA) warned.
Without tough measures in place when the national lockdown ends, the NHS won't be able to cope, leading medics said amid reports of a plan to briefly relax household mixing around Christmas.
The Government will decide next week how to end the second national lockdown as ministers come under pressure to outline any restrictions which could be in place over the Christmas period.
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The Sun reported a five-day temporary relaxation of restrictions, allowing different households to mix indoors, was among the options being considered by health bosses.
Ministers have insisted it is too early to tell whether the lockdown has succeeded and virus infection levels will be low enough to allow festivities to go ahead but Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said it was his "very firm expectation" that measures will be eased significantly in December.
Downing Street has insisted England's lockdown will end as planned on December 2.
The BMA says there should be a "rule of two" this winter
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The daily number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK
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Now the BMA, which represents doctors, has presented its own three-phase blueprint for leaving lockdown including "triggers" under which areas would move up and down the tiers.
A blueprint is needed to "keep infection rates low" and "pull back the NHS from collapse this winter", the medics warned.
Phase 1 (before lockdown is eased)
The first phase calls for a wide-scale reform of the testing and contact tracing programme, and any necessary changes to the current tiered system.
The BMA also wants tougher prevention control measures and greater support for vulnerable groups.
Phase 2 (after lockdown ends)
In phase two, the BMA said, the rule of six should be replaced with a "rule of two households", and non-essential travel between tiers should be banned.
Social mixing should be encouraged to take place outdoors and there should be a two-metre distance between tables in pubs and restaurants, according to the proposals.
The BMA also said "more robust" quarantine procedures should be put into place.
There should be a one-stop NHS app that tracks contacts and provides local infection level data and public health information.
Other demands include Covid-secure public settings and workplaces, and consistent and widespread face mask wearing where people are less than two metres apart.
Workers should continue to be instructed to work from home where possible, the BMA said.
Top doctors are urging the Government to tighten restrictions this winter
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Phase 3 (planning for vaccine)
The BMA said the Government should have a plan for the delivery of an effective vaccination programme.
The blueprint also calls for a campaign aimed at providing transparent information about the vaccine to build public trust, and debunking misinformation spread online by anti-vaxxers.
Will restrictions be eased at Christmas?
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said on Wednesday it is "too early" to know whether social distancing restrictions could be eased around Christmas.
Asked about reports that measures could be relaxed for five days, he told BBC Breakfast: "I want to have my mum and dad around, I want to have members of my family around that Christmas table.
"I just think it's too early to be reaching any conclusions on that. What none of us knows right now is what the infection rate is going to be in different parts of the country."