Lockdowns can't be a long-term solution to tackle coronavirus pandemic and we need exit strategy

LIKE millions of Brits, my heart sank when I heard we were going back into lockdown.

These new restrictions, which will potentially harm lives, livelihoods and mental health, are a bitter pill to swallow.

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But I know from experience why the government had to act. Back in March, I volunteered to go back to the front line because we were terrified that hospitals could be overwhelmed.

Thankfully, that never happened – but only because the NHS shut down many services, and because tragically many of our patients stopped coming.

This led to a huge backlog of cancer screenings, tests, procedures and operations which is still causing so much suffering.

Just as the NHS was getting back on its feet, we’ve been hit by a second wave of Covid admissions, with some hospitals already having to cancel operations.

The grim warning we received on Saturday was that this could soon happen all over the country.

 

We have to learn the lessons from the first wave and keep all NHS services running this time so we can save and improve lives from ALL causes – not just Covid.

I was very relieved that schools are being kept open this time, and we need to remind parents that schools are safe and the best place for our children.

But lockdowns are not a long-term solution and we have to use these four weeks to agree an exit strategy and make sure that we don’t have a cycle of lockdowns.

How well it works is up to us. We must avoid ending up with the worst of all worlds – with the economy suffering due to lockdown and the NHS collapsing because people don’t abide by rules.

The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Cheap and quick home Covid tests will soon be available and better treatments and vaccines should arrive by spring.

We will only get through this crisis by coming together and supporting each other through the coming weeks and months.

It is time to put aside our differences, compromise and come together in the national interest. I am ready to do my bit and go back to the front line, but every single one of us has a role to play.

By following the rules we can reduce infections and hospital admissions, save lives, keep our kids in school – and potentially be with our families and loved ones this Christmas.

  • Dr Raghib Ali is Honorary Consultant in Acute Medicine and Visiting Research Fellow of the Department of Population Health, University of Oxford

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