The government on Tuesday announced its Plan A to tackle coronavirus throughout the winter months, which includes booster jabs and mandatory vaccines for NHS and care staff.
But Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said since COVID restrictions were scrapped in July, the UK is seeing several hundred deaths every week.
McKee, who is also a member of Independent Sage and the president elect of the British Medical Association (BMA), admitted that there had not been the predicted dramatic rise in infections, but wrote in the British Medical Journal (BMJ): “In effect, it is as if a jumbo jet was crashing every few days.
“This is a toll of suffering and misery that, we are told, we must simply live with.”
McKee said that that the government can “decide that it no longer wants to assume the responsibility for safeguarding us from threats to health”, adding: “But if it does, it should at least be honest about it.”
Other measures for the government’s initial plan to tackle the pandemic this winter also includes encouraging people to meet outdoors, while business are urged to consider using the COVID pass to check the vaccination or test status of customers.
But the British Medical Association (BMA) warned that vaccines alone will not be enough “to curtail the escalating impact of COVID infections”.
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The union’s council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul accused the government of “doublespeak” by offering advice rather than making certain measures mandatory.
He said: “We’ve had this kind of doublespeak before, which has resulted in action not being taken until it is too late.”
He urged ministers to “open their eyes and realise that now is the time to act”.
If cases surge in winter, the government says its Plan B would include introducing mandatory vaccine passports and masks, while advising that people work from home.
But Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner lashed out at the “chaos and confusion” of the government’s announcement.
She tweeted: “So in the space of a week COVID passports have gone from being the winter plan to being scrapped to being Plan B, but the government can't tell us when Plan B will kick on or how businesses will be supported to deliver vaccine passports.”
Labour’s junior shadow minister for social care, Liz Kendall, added: “Where is govt’s winter plan for social care?”
Dr David Nabarro, World Health Organization (WHO) special envoy for the global COVID response, said that the government needed to be prepared to move very quickly from Plan A to Plan B in its winter plan.
He told Sky News: “Speed is of the essence. We’ve been through this before and we know, as a result of past experience, that acting quickly and acting quite robustly is the way you get on top of this virus, then life can go on.
“Whereas if you’re a bit slower, then it can build up and become very heavy and hospitals fill up, and then you have to take all sorts of emergency action.
“So I really like what the UK is doing. I think this emphasis on people learning to live with the virus is also the right one.”
He added: “I just hope there won’t be a need for lots more restrictions because as humanity, we need to be able to learn to live with this virus and to hold it away and stop it from wrecking our lives.”
The government’s plans to control the spread of coronavirus in the coming months have also been welcomed as “sensible and proportionate” by NHS Providers.
However, scientists advising the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned the burden on the NHS could rise “very quickly” as people returned to their offices after working from home.
But speaking on Sky News, health secretary Sajid Javid said there were no “risk-free” options.
He added: “It is the act of a responsible government to set out this is our plan, this is how we are going to protect the gains, but just in case things are not quite as we want them to be we have got to have another plan and get that ready too.”
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