Government failures will lead to ‘further waves’ of coronavirus in Britain, warns leading doctor

Professor Anthony Costello, Professor, UCL Institute for Global Health gives evidence to the Commons

Professor Anthony Costello, Professor, UCL Institute for Global Health gives evidence to the Commons Health Committee via video link on Covid-19. Photograph: PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Britain will face 'further waves' of coronavirus because the government was 'too slow' to act, a leading physician has warned.

Professor Anthony Costello, of University College London's Institute for Global Health, told a committee of MPs that the 'harsh reality' is that 'we were too slow with a number of things'.

'If we're going to suppress the chain of transmission of this virus in the next stage we all hope that the national lockdown and social distancing will bring about a large suppression of the epidemic so far - but we're going to face further waves,' he said.

'And so we need to make sure that we have a system in place that cannot just do a certain number of tests in the laboratory, but has a system at district and community level.'

Prof Costello, giving evidence to the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said we 'should not have any blame at this stage' but that 'we can make sure in the second wave we're not too slow'.

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The physician said he was 'not sure we need 100,000 tests per day in reality if we can get this epidemic damped down' and that it was 'more important to have the systems in place'.

'How are they restructuring the public health teams? Have they got plans in place? Will they need extra volunteers, for example?'

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He also suggested offering incentives to 10% of the population to stay socially isolated in order to get the economy going again.

'We have to get the economy going and if it means locking down 10% of our population, even giving them incentives to stay in quarantine and with digital apps to help monitor their symptoms and give them support, that's the way to really keep this going until we get a vaccine and safe herd immunity.'

MPs were also told that healthcare staff are 'genuinely concerned' about the safety of patients being compromised if workers are spread too thinly.

Dr Alison Pittard, dean at the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, said: 'We've had to spread ourselves more thinly and we have developed guidance to try and make sure that continues to be safe, but if we have to expand even more and spread ourselves even more thinly, there would be concern that safety could be compromised.

'So everyone is working really well, we're doing everything that we can but staff are genuinely concerned.'

And Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, told the committee sick NHS workers are being forced to drive two hours away to be tested.

She urged: 'We need some really clear direction on how we can access testing both in the NHS but more so for social care, because they don't have the same infrastructure as the NHS.'

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