The Covid-19 pandemic will get worse before it gets better and throwing away all precautions on 19 July would be “dangerous”, medical leaders have warned.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) said cases in the third wave of the virus were “rising dramatically” and the NHS was under “unprecedented pressure”, with hospitals experiencing what “is like the worst of a bad winter in July”.
The body called on the public and organisations to remain cautious and continue wearing face coverings in crowded indoor spaces.
“There is little doubt that things will get worse before they get better,” the academy said in a statement.
Boris Johnson is expected on Monday to confirm plans for the easing of restrictions in England on 19 July. But he is reportedly set to sound a note of caution amid purported “jitters” within Downing Street over the removal of all restrictions as infections surge.
Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the AoMRC, said she has been “profoundly concerned” about the idea of removing all measures and that returning to normal in July would be “dangerous”.
“We all want to make sure the public is fully aware that this pandemic is far from over,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “When the 19th comes, what we need is a responsible approach and a very cautious approach to relaxing restrictions.”
In a statement, the AoMRC said routine care continued to be postponed because of the number of health service staff having to isolate amid rising caseloads.
Ministers are considering plans to free fully vaccinated NHS staff of the obligation to self-isolate if “pinged” by the Covid app.
Prof Stokes-Lampard said this would be a sensible next step but people would need to be “ultra vigilant” with infection prevention and control measures.
Government figures on Friday showed an increase of 35,707 Covid cases in the UK, the highest daily increase since 22 January.
The AoMRC said: “There is no doubt that we will get to a position when this dangerous and erratic disease is largely under control for the population as a whole and we can ‘learn to live with’ Covid-19.
“However, we are not in that position yet and sadly, we have to expect things to get worse again.”
The warning came after NHS staff told The Independent emergency services were in “borderline meltdown” and braced for demand to soar.
Patients have been forced to queue for up to an hour outside one A&E department, with some waiting up to 20 hours for a bed earlier this week, while rising pressure has been piled on England’s NHS 111 system after a dedicated Covid telephone assessment service was scrapped as cases began rising.
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