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A&E doctor urges London residents ‘lock-down now’ as first London hospital declares critical emergency over coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 16:47 20 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:57 20 March 2020

Children’s A&E registrar Alex Armitage

Children’s A&E registrar Alex Armitage

Alex Armitage

A north London doctor has warned people to “lockdown now” to stop coronavirus spreading like wildfire amongst the community and overwhelming the NHS.

Children’s A&E registrar Alex Armitage, of Dalston, has criticised the government for departing from World Health Organisation recommendations in its response to the coronavirus.

His comments come as the first London hospital has declared a “critical emergency” due to a surge in coronavirus patients.

In a message to staff, Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow said it had no critical care capacity left and has contacted neighbouring hospitals about transferring patients who need critical care to other sites.

It has since opened up some more critical care beds and stood the incident down in the last hour.

Italian experts have also warned that Britain must enter stricter lockdown as soon as possible to stop a “tsunami” of coronavirus patients overwhelming hospital intensive care units.

Dr Armitage, who stood as the Green candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in December, said: “All the time we’ve not put those interventions in, this disease is spreading in our community and the risk is we are storing up a much more severe level of disease for the NHS to cope with.”

“This is a political issue about how the government has decided to approach this and the government has deliberately decided to depart from international best practice and what the World Health Organisation recommends.

“I feel the government could have prepared better and needs to be doing more right now.

“We haven’t seen the government taking up enough mechanisms to prevent viral transmission. I feel I should speak out because it’s my duty as a doctor to take action when I see there’s a threat to public health.

“The risk is that the NHS will be overwhelmed. It’s the job of a responsible government to do everything in its power to protect and provide care for us when we need it.”

Strict quarantine and social distancing measures have been implemented in China, Italy and Spain, where the military have been patrolling the streets to prevent people from going out unless they are key workers or need to shop for essential items. If there are queues at shops, people are told to keep a distance between themselves and others.

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The government has now closed schools but has only gone so far as asking the public to stop visiting pubs and restaurants, to work from home where possible and to self-isolate for up to 14 days if anyone in their home shows symptoms.

Dr Armitage’s view is shared with chair of the health select committee Jeremy Hunt who has raised concerns the government is allowed schools to remain open until today, and continues to allow large gatherings to go on as normal - a position which has made the UK an “outlier” when compared with other countries that have taken more robust measures.

This week the government conceded if it continued with its “herd immunity” strategy to not contain the disease then the predicted “worst case scenario” of 800,000 dead, would be a more likely outcome.

A study published this week by Imperial College London and Columbia University has shown that 80 per cent of coronavirus cases are being passed on by people with no symptoms, which explains its rapid geographic spread.

“When everyone else is playing it one way and the government departs from best practice, they are basing it on what they call “behavioural science” and they have talked about people “getting fed up of being in quarantine”,” said Dr Armitage.

“When people can see the NHS becoming overwhelmed, people aren’t going to get fed up of being in quarantine.

“The government hasn’t shared the behavioural science that they say is important in their deliberations, but I would question the idea that you can have behavioural science when we haven’t had a pandemic since 1918. What’s this behavioural science been based on?”

He thinks that no one but essential workers should be allowed out except for the purpose of solo exercise and in the case of emergency, and that anyone who can work from home should do so.

“If people have jobs that aren’t essential like providing health care or the emergency services or providing food, they should not be working and should be economically supported by the government if necessary,” he said.

“People should be allowed out to get food but as far as possible people should stay I their households and absolutely avoid social contact outside of their homes and the easiest way to do that is to stay in,” he said.

“This is a really serious issue and we need to have national mobilisation.

“I’m really worried about my grandmother and my parents. We all have parents and elderly relatives and appreciate their lives and that’s a huge motivating factor.

“We know if we do take all these measures we can successfully suppress it.”

For the latest coronavirus news from across London follow our live blog here, or visit our coronavirus page.


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