‘Another lockdown would wreak havoc on mental health’ – here’s what Greater Manchester doctors say we should do instead


Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that no one is calling for his Covid ‘plan B’ rules to be implemented now.

However, some of the country’s most prominent medical leaders up and down the country are crying out for ministers to move to plan B now – including compulsory mask-wearing, Covid passes for crowded events, Covid passports and working from home – to stop the NHS crippling under yet more pressure as winter sets in.

Speaking at the G20 summit in Rome, it was reported in the Independent, the Prime Minister said: “I see no evidence whatever to think that any kind of lockdown is on the cards.”

“Yes it’s true that cases are high, but they do not currently constitute any reason to go to plan B,” he added.

“I think that’s agreed among absolutely everybody – apart from possibly the Labour Party.

“So we are sticking with the plan and I think, rather than thinking new restrictions, the best thing everybody can do is get that booster jab as soon as you’re offered it.”

The message comes as a contrast to that of a myriad of bodies calling for action now, including Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, the leader of the membership organisation for NHS authorities and trusts.

At the end of last month, he said: “It is time for the government to enact plan B of its strategy without delay because without pre-emptive action, we risk stumbling into a winter crisis.

“We are right on the edge – and it is the end of October. It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.”

The head of the British Medical Association (BMA) also mirrored the warning, taking aim at the the government’s refusal to take further preventative action and branding it “wilfully negligent”.

Meanwhile, the government’s scientific advisory group, Sage, said plans for reintroducing stricter Covid restrictions in England should be prepared for “rapid deployment”

And most recently, England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has urged people to “be very careful” and wear masks in the coming months, as he warned of a “problematic” Christmas period.

The calls have had some backing from regional leaders.

Although Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has largely ruled out any form of lockdown, claiming it would wreak havoc on the city’s economy again, he continues to encourage the wearing of face masks on public transport – though this is just guidance, not a hard rule.

But as coronavirus rates remain above 400 cases per 100,000 people for more than half of the boroughs in Greater Manchester, the region’s medics are urging those who could end up becoming their patients to be cautious.

‘You’d struggle to find a medic who doesn’t think masks are a good idea’

After months of not socialising, hospital beds are filling up not just with Covid patients but with people falling ill from bugs that have long been suppressed and are now coming back with a vengeance, as they spread through places that are once again crowded.

In an effort to curtail general infections, doctors in Greater Manchester say we should all be wearing masks again.

“From my knowledge of speaking to GPs, they’re a little bit scared at what is coming in the winter,” explains Dr Faisal Bhutta, a GP and doctor on the extensive care team at Tameside Hospital.

“We normally have a relatively quiet summer before you get hit by the winter. This time the summer has been like the winter as well.

“We have already seen loads of young children, particularly, coming in with coughs, colds, viral infection-type symptoms. The reason being is because, for the last 18 months, schools have been closed, the economy was shut. People weren’t really mixing and have not been exposed to traditional flu and respiratory viruses that children usually get.

“This year, people are going out and about and they are all going to get exposed to these new viruses that we would normally see in the winter, it’s definitely going to hit health.

“We’re getting around 40,000 cases a day, and somewhere between 100 to 200 deaths as well. These are quite high numbers for both cases and death, if you compare them with similar sized countries in Europe, we are quite high.

“The hospital admissions, although they’re not comparable to the first peak, are high too, we’re still having loads of patients in hospital, on Covid wards and ICUs as well.

“Potentially, it’s not really looking good for primary care services as well as hospitals. Politicians need to decide, but from a health point of view, they still can do lots of soft things.

“Not a full blown lockdown, but one of the easiest things would be to ask people to wear masks indoors, that would have a huge impact on the exposure to respiratory viruses, flu and Covid.”

Sign up to the free MEN email newsletter

Get the latest updates from across Greater Manchester direct to your inbox with the free MEN newsletter

You can sign up very simply by following the instructions

“I think you’d struggle to find a medic that didn’t think wearing masks in crowded places wasn’t a good idea in the current health climate,” says Bolton GP, Dr Helen Wall, who is also the clinical director of commissioning for Bolton CCG and the senior responsible officer for the borough’s Covid vaccine programme.

“It definitely seemed to reduce all manner of respiratory diseases last year, albeit people weren’t mixing as much.

“This year we seeing outbreaks of respiratory infections, gastro bugs and COVID – way more than previously.”

Dr Murugesan Raja, a GP working in Fallowfield, says he wants to see a better understanding of Covid-19 return.

“There are lots of things in plan B, like going back to working from home, but one of the crucial things is understanding Covid,” he said. “We have to understand that it’s still not gone and it’s transmitted by air.

“That is why masks are helpful and why we still have that rule in health care settings. We wear masks as do patients.

“But the rules have been relaxed everywhere else and that does increase the risk, for example, on public transport where people can get into close contact.

What are the latest coronavirus figures for where you live? Find out by adding your postcode.

“We need to remember that sometimes we do not know if we have Covid until perhaps two or three days later if you do a lateral flow test. You might get a positive even though you never had any symptoms.

“For me, one of the most important things is for the public to get behind masks and get serious about them.

“That itself will help cut down the transmissions that we have at the moment.

“Working from home is a difficult one, if it’s an indoor environment then making sure ventilation is there is crucial because all that air needs to have a place to escape if someone comes in with Covid and starts breathing that out into the air.

“We should be making sure that there is adequate ventilation in place. There are things like filters which are available, that’s not standard practice yet but it’s something that I think needs to be seriously considered.”

‘We don’t want a full blown lockdown’

Chatter has resumed over the possibility of a ‘Christmas lockdown’ over the winter months.

But Greater Manchester’s medics appear to have reached a consensus over the issue – another lockdown would cause more problems than it solves, especially ‘on the nation’s mental health’.

Dr Wall said a lockdown would have ‘too many other consequences now, while Dr Bhutta explained: “It’s certainly a possibility that we could have a lockdown during the winter – the Covid rates could double, triple, quadruple, because of all the Christmas shopping and events.

“But we could avoid that with simple steps now, although nobody can predict these things. If numbers keep progressing like they are, and they start translating into hospitalisations, that could potentially could be a reason for plan B restrictions coming into force.

“I’m not very keen on mandatory restrictions being brought back, I know people still have to go about their day-to-day life and I don’t think we’re really at that stage where we would need mandated restrictions. But there’s certainly no harm in the softer methods.

“I have seen lots of people with mental health issues related to lockdown, they have been affected by not being able to meet with their friends and families, to go out and do things.

“On any given day, one third of my surgery can be consultations around mental health. It has a huge impact, people really miss their personal contac t. Lockdown would be a backwards step in terms of the mental health of the nation.”

Dr Raja agreed, saying: “Lockdown can have serious adverse effects, and it takes time to recover from those. It’s about being sensible around how we interact with people when we’re outside and indoors, maintaining adequate social distancing, and being as cautious as you can be.

“Whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated, we all need to be taking equal precautions.”

‘We need to start doing simple things – but start now’

Doctors in the region say that we should be using easy methods to keep illnesses at bay, but it would help if the government sent out some ‘consistent messages’.

“I think we need to have a balance, we can avoid a lot of people getting poorly if we do a few simple things now,” Dr Bhutta told the Manchester Evening News .

“I think the population, overall, will genuinely be very understanding if there is a consistent message – even if it is just advice from the chief medical officers and politicians.

“If they say, ‘we have seen recent evidence of increased risk of viruses and the most effective prevention would be wearing masks’, I don’t even think it would have to be mandated, just a consistent message would have a big impact.

“I don’t think a full blown lockdown would be sensible, but we could advise the population to wear masks, wash their hands, trying to not to have big gatherings indoors.

“If possible, have them outdoors instead. Having properly ventilated spaces. Obviously, children have to go to school, but there should be a system in schools where there is ventilation within classrooms.”

Should guidance become rule?

Debate is swirling over whether advice coming from the nation’s chief medical officers should become hard rules.

For one doctor in Greater Manchester, such a move would help clear up any confusion.

“Sometimes, if it’s just guidance, it’s not clear whether you should or shouldn’t do something,” continued Dr Raja.

“The rules were clear and people then understood the importance of abiding by them. Even when we had rules, we always allowed exemptions.

“Now, because it’s guidance, it’s difficult for people to know what the right thing to do is. It creates confusion. You allow people who have knowledge of Covid to wear a mask because they know the risks, while those who think we’re back to normal don’t wear one.”

‘There are still many people who haven’t been vaccinated’

Boris Johnson has stated that people should continue to focus on getting both doses of the coronavirus vaccine, as well as a booster, saying: “I think people don’t quite realise that the first two jabs do start to wane. There is a waning effect on the first two.

“How sad, how tragic it would be if people who had other complications, other compromises in their health, got seriously ill because they were overconfident about their level of immunity and didn’t get their booster when they needed it.”

What is happening where you live?

That feeling is echoed by Manchester’s medics, who are reminding people not to forget about the jab, pointing out that there are still plenty of people – especially those under 50 – who have yet to have a dose.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:




More like this

Stocking Your Café: Essential Tips for Success

Stocking your café with the right ingredients, equipment, and...

Types of Home Assistance for the Elderly

As individuals age, they may require support to maintain...

Leasing a Range Rover Sport: A Smart Guide to Luxury and Performance

Introduction In the world of luxury vehicles, the Range Rover...

Discovering London’s Culinary Gems: The Best Chinese Restaurants

London, a vibrant and bustling metropolis, is renowned for...