The government is being “wilfully negligent” by not introducing measures to suppress the recent rise in coronavirus cases, the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul made the comments after the health secretary ignored NHS leaders’ pleas for the implementation of ‘Plan B’, which could see the return of mandatory mask wearing in indoor spaces and the need to work from home where possible.
Speaking at a No 10 press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Sajid Javid said the current pressure on the NHS was not “unsustainable”, noting that the contingency plan would only be introduced if hospitals were at risk of being “overwhelmed”.
However, Dr Nagpaul disagreed with the minister’s assessment, suggesting that the NHS was already reaching breaking point and that the government should follow through on its promise to protect the health service.
“By the health secretary’s own admission we could soon see 100,000 cases a day and we now have the same number of weekly Covid deaths as we had during March, when the country was in lockdown,” he said.
“It is therefore incredibly concerning that he is not willing to take immediate action to save lives and to protect the NHS.”
Dr Nagpaul described the government’s decision not to take further preventative action as “wilfully negligent”, branding the current rate of coronavirus infections and deaths as “unacceptable”.
Almost 50,000 new Covid-19 infections were recorded on Wednesday, while Tuesday saw the highest number of daily coronavirus deaths since March.
Elsewhere, a former chief scientific adviser told BBC Newsnight that the government’s current strategy was not likely to work.
Professor Sir Mark Walport said: “Am I worried? Yes. It’s very, very delicately poised. We’ve got a lot of cases at the moment.
“Winter is coming, flu is probably coming. It’s not a good place to be. The evidence is that the current measures are probably not holding things.”
Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised the health secretary for what he called a “casual” dismissal of the crisis threatening the NHS.
Speaking to Sky News, the Labour frontbencher said the health service was “not just under pressure, it’s underwater”.
For his part, Mr Javid reiterated the government’s message that the public should take responsibility for their actions. He said that people could do their “bit” by receiving their booster jabs, taking lateral flow tests more regularly or choosing to hold social gatherings outside.
“Am I saying if we don’t do our bit... We are more likely to face restrictions? Yes, I am saying that,” he added.
Additional reporting from PA
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