Christmas Covid policy a ‘terrible mistake,’ says doctor

A CAMPAIGNING North-East doctor fears relaxing Covid restrictions for Christmas “will cost many lives”.

Consultant clinical oncologist Clive Peedell branded the Government’s decision to relax the tier system across the UK between December 23 and 27 a “terrible mistake”.

On Twitter yesterday, Dr Peedell said: “As an oncologist who is on a Covid 19 ward rota to help out our amazing acute medicine colleagues, I think it is crucial to publicly state the Christmas relaxation of public health measures is a very bad policy mistake.

“It will cost many lives.”

The doctor, who works for South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and stood against Prime Minister David Cameron in the 2015 general election, added: “I won’t be seeing my parents this Christmas, because as an NHS doctor I have seen the tragic consequences of Covid 19.

“I strongly believe that relaxation of Covid 19 restrictions over Christmas is a terrible mistake.

“Let’s get the population vaccinated and then celebrate and party, big time.”

Dr Peedell’s comments came as NHS bosses warned Boris Johnson that relaxation of the tier system may trigger a third wave of the pandemic at the busiest time of the year for hospitals.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, NHS Providers urged “extreme caution” in moving any area of the country to a lower tier.

The first review of England’s tier allocation is due take place on Wednesday, two weeks after the three-tier system was brought in following the end of lockdown.

But areas should be moved into the highest tier of restrictions “as soon as this is needed, without any delay”, according to the letter from NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England.

Chief executive Chris Hopson told the BBC: “We’re about to hit our busiest time of year so people are really worried that if we relax the restrictions now the NHS simply won’t be able to cope with all of the work that it needs to do in late December, January and February.”

The letter did not call for a review of the temporary relaxation of measures over Christmas, but said it was “vital” the public understands the risks of extra social contact during the festive period.

A Government spokeswoman said ministers will not “hesitate to take necessary actions to protect local communities” and that decisions are made based on the latest available data.

“We have introduced strengthened local restrictions to protect the progress gained during national restrictions, reduce pressure on the NHS and ultimately save lives,” the spokeswoman said.

“On top of our record NHS investment, this winter we are providing an extra £3 billion to maintain independent sector and Nightingale hospital surge capacity and a further £450 million to upgrade and expand A&Es.”

The lead researcher behind the Oxford jab, Professor Sarah Gilbert, said that travelling and mixing with others over Christmas could hinder the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the new year.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Prof Gilbert said life could be “more or less” back to normal by next summer – but that depends on transmission rates in January.

“What we’ve seen in the US is that after Thanksgiving, when people were travelling and mixing, there’s now been a big surge in infections and they’re seeing 3,000 deaths a day now – the highest rate there’s ever been in any country,” Prof Gilbert said.

“If we have that kind of thing happening over the Christmas holidays in this country, with very high transmission rates then possible in January, it’s going to take so much longer to get things back to normal.

“Because partly, all the vaccination clinics will be disrupted. It’s not possible to run vaccination clinics when staff are off sick, and there’s a very high transmission rate affecting people’s ability to come to be vaccinated.

“So I think what we do over the next few weeks is really going to have a big impact on how long it’s going to take to get back to the normal.”

She added: “Hopefully we could be more or less back to normal by the summer, but that’s not going to be possible if we’re starting from a very bad position in January.”

The Northern Echo | Teesside