London: Over 100 scientists and medics, including Indian-origin experts, issued a joint letter on Thursday, warning the UK government against a “dangerous and unethical” experiment of ending all legal lockdown restrictions from July 19.
The 122 signatories of the letter published in “The Lancet’ medical journal include Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Council Chair for the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr Deepti Gurdasani from Queen Mary University of London, Dr Bharat Pankhania from the University of Exeter, and Professor Sunil Raina from the RP Government Medical College at Tanda in India.
The senior experts warn an exponential growth of the deadly virus will likely continue until millions more are infected, leaving hundreds of thousands with long-term illness and disability.
“The UK government must reconsider its current strategy and take urgent steps to protect the public, including children. We believe the government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment, and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on July 19, 2021,” reads the letter.
Under the current plans laid out by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week, the government will take a final decision on Monday to remove all legal requirements currently in place to mitigate the spread of coronavirus from July 19.
This will mean an end to the directive for people to work from home where possible, ensure one-metre plus social distance at gatherings and wearing face masks in all indoor settings.
Johnson has said the decision is being made because the link between a positive COVID-19 test and hospitalisations and death has been weakened due to a successful vaccination programme.
“The link between infection and death might have been weakened, but it has not been broken, and infection can still cause substantial morbidity in both acute and long-term illness” the government should delay complete re-opening until everyone, including adolescents, have been offered vaccination and uptake is high, and until mitigation measures, especially adequate ventilation (through investment in CO” monitors and air filtration devices) and spacing (by reducing class sizes), are in place in schools,” the letter warns.
Dr Deepti Gurdasani, the epidemiologist who organised the letter, described the government’s plans as unethical and unacceptable.
“The government has made a deliberate choice to expose children to mass infection, rather than protect them in schools or vaccinate them. This is unethical and unacceptable. Our young have already suffered so much in the past year, and are now being condemned to suffer the consequences of this dangerous experiment,” she said.
The intervention comes as the UK recorded another 32,551 coronavirus cases on Thursday, similar to the number on Wednesday, which marks the highest infection rate since earlier this year. The daily deaths from COVID-19 stand at 35 on Thursday after Wednesday’s 33 fatalities.
Johnson has said he wants to move from “government diktat” towards personal responsibility from July 19, dubbed “Freedom Day” as it marks an end to lockdowns within the UK Prime Minister’s “irreversible” roadmap.