‘Creating real pressure’ Top NHS boss warns face masks and social distancing may return

Chris Hopkins, CEO of NHS Providers, has called on Government ministers to consider “sensible precautions” to protect the health service as they move forward with their ‘living with Covid’ strategy. He commented there “is concern across the NHS that the government doesn’t seem to want to talk about coronavirus anymore”, adding that current infection figures are down to a belief that coronavirus “doesn’t exist any more and that nobody needs to take any precautions”.

He said: “But we think we need a proper grown-up national debate about what living with Covid actually means.”

Mr Hopkins said the issue of coronavirus measures was “not all or nothing”, and that an “intermediary point” could be the answer to pulling down prevalence rates in the UK.

Recent estimates by the Office for National Statistics show around one in 13 people across England and Wales currently have COVID-19.

Over 28,000 healthcare workers cannot turn up to work each day due to Covid, and more than 20,000 patients with the disease are occupying hospital beds.

Mr Hopkins told The Times: “Nobody is arguing we should go back to draconian lockdown restrictions, but this is not all or nothing.

“There’s an intermediary point which is where most other European nations are, which is their political leaders are explaining what the level of risk is, and they’re basically saying therefore you need to think carefully about: do you want to wear a mask in a public place?

“Do you want to ensure that if you’re inside with people you don’t normally mix with, there’s proper ventilation?

“Do you want to maximise the amount of time that you spend outdoors meeting people rather than indoors?”

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Professor Neil Mortensen, who heads up the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to cause major disruption in the NHS, with high staff absences in recent weeks.”

Professor Mortensen told the Guardian: “We have heard that planned surgery is being cancelled again in different parts of the country due to staff being off sick with the virus.

“This is understandably frustrating for surgical teams who want to help their patients by getting planned surgery up and running again.

“It’s also very distressing for patients who need a planned operation.”


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