Directors of Public Health are increasingly concerned that the Government is misjudging the balancing act between easing restrictions with the risk of causing a resurgence of infections too quickly.
In a blog post the Association of Public Health Directors said that based on what is currently known, several leading scientists and public health experts have spoken out about a string of recent national policy announcements affecting England which project a degree of confidence that many – including ADPH members – do not think is supported by the science.
“Over the weekend we have seen signs that the public is no longer keeping as strictly to social distancing as it was – along with this, we are concerned that the resolve on personal hygiene measures, and the need to immediately self-isolate, if symptomatic, is waning. A relentless effort to regain and rebuild public confidence and trust following recent events is essential.”
They argue that an effective contact tracing system is vital to keep R consistently below one and have set out a ‘Statement of Principles’ to outline what needs to be in place to make this work.
However they say that the NHS ‘Test and Trace’ programme is currently far from being the robust operation that is now urgently required as a safeguard to easing restrictions and is calling for full implementation of all Phase 2 measures to be delayed until further consideration of the ongoing trends in infection rates and the R level gives more confidence about what the impact of these will be.
There also must be a renewed drive to promote the importance of handwashing, social distancing and self-isolating if symptomatic, positive for COVID, or a contact of someone who is, they say.
ADPH President Jeanelle de Gruchy said: “We have not spoken out in this way before. But we are concerned that if there is a spike, it will be in our communities. We need to be confident we can get on top of it, and we are not confident yet.”