Christmas relaxation will overwhelm services

To protect the NHS, the UK government must abandon plans for household mixing, say journal editors

The government should reverse its rash decision to allow household mixing and instead extend the tiers over the five day Christmas period, argue Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief at The BMJ and Alastair McLellan, Editor at the Health Service Journal (HSJ) in a joint editorial.

With current restrictions failing to control the virus, they calculate that hospitals in England will have just short of 19,000 covid patients on New Year’s Eve – almost exactly the same as the 18,974 peak of the first wave on April 12.

They believe the government “is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives” and warn that “if our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be ‘protecting the NHS.”

The government was too slow to introduce restrictions in the Spring and again in the Autumn, they argue. The planned relaxation of restrictions over Christmas “will boost the numbers further as the NHS also struggles with the additional demands of winter.”

They urge members of the public to mitigate the impact of the third wave by being as careful as possible over the next few months. But they warn that many will see the lifting of restrictions over Christmas as permission to drop their guard.

Rather than lifting restrictions over Christmas as currently planned, the UK should follow the more cautious examples of Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, they conclude.

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