Lockdown should not be eased yet with ICUs still ‘full to the rafters,’ senior medic warns

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Rebecca Speare-Cole
·3 min read
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An ambulance drives down Grafton Street in Dublin's city centre as a nationwide lockdown remains in place. The last week of January saw 317 deaths linked to Covid-19, more than 10% of all deaths up to that point. New data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that more than 250 people died of the virus every week in the three weeks up to January 29. Picture date: Friday February 5, 2021.
An ambulance drives down Grafton Street in Dublin's city centre as a nationwide lockdown remains in place. (PA)
coronavirus latest news
coronavirus latest news

A senior medic has warned that it is too soon to start lifting coronavirus lockdown measures with intensive care units still “full to the rafters”.

MPs have called for schools in England to return before the current target date of March 8 and for all restrictions to be lifted by May when over-50s and vulnerable groups have been vaccinated.

But Boris Johnson said on Friday that it was “early days” to be considering easing England’s lockdown.

It comes as almost 11 million people have received their first vaccine with projected supplies prompting the possibility for enough doses for all UK adults by the end of June.

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Anthony Gordon, professor of critical care medicine at Imperial College London, said ICUs were still "full to the rafters" and the public would have to wait longer for "relief".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Gordon said: “I think we’re all hoping that there is relief from all of this, from the lockdowns and so on eventually, but at the moment we are still very much in the thick of it for a little while longer.

“What I’m seeing is that we’re still extremely busy. We’ve expanded into these surge ICUs and they are still fully open and full with patients.”

As of Friday, a further 1,014 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 and there were another 19,114 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

Watch: COVID-19: Government aims for all over-50s to be reached in vaccine drive

In a sign that the current restrictions are working, the reproduction number, or R-value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK fell to between 0.7 and 1, according to the latest government figures - down from between 0.7 and 1.1 last week.

It has been suggested that, with falling case numbers, lockdown easing could pave the way for outdoor team and individual sports to resume, as well as outdoor gatherings, within weeks of schools returning in March.

The calls for classrooms to open after the half-term break come as the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland both announced that some primary schools year groups will return by February 22.

The Times reported that non-essential shops were being pencilled in for reopening in April by Downing Street, with the prospect of fans being in stadiums in time for the European championships in June.

With the Prime Minister due to set out his road map for reopening society later this month, the Sun reported that ministers are preparing to allow pubs to serve takeaway pints in April before fully reopening in May.

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Meanwhile, the Telegraph said the prospect of dry pubs was being discussed as an option to allow bars to open their doors in April.

However, Government sources were dismissive about the idea, asking what the "point" of a pub without alcohol would be.

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: "Opening pubs without selling alcohol is not 'reopening' pubs at all."

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