Responding to the latest ONS infection survey, Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said:
“Whilst the latest ONS survey figures show that infection rates are coming down with around one in 115 people in England reported to have had COVID-19 last week, these numbers are still high and are similar to infection levels seen at the end of November.
“As the Government considers how best to lift current restrictions we would urge real caution in the level of easing it allows, given the pressures the NHS has experienced over the past year and is still under. We know that the lockdown has taken an enormous toll on the public’s wellbeing, but also that lifting restrictions comes not just with benefits but also risks. We would also advise the public to be mindful about how much they participate in activity that could lead to them catching or passing on COVID-19, and how to reduce that risk. We would be wise to remember Professor Chris Whitty’s words back in December: 'just because you can, doesn’t mean you should'.
“Although cases of coronavirus are continuing to decline and the R number is also coming down there is a long way to go and the threat of future waves remains.
“Health and care workers have worked tirelessly in the face of this global threat for over a year, and the vaccine roll out has been an incredible accomplishment, and is a true testament to what the NHS can achieve, yet its success does not mean the pandemic is over. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s still a long way to go.
“The NHS is facing more than 87,000 vacancies, alongside a waiting list of 4.5 million people, including more than 224,000 waiting over a year. NHS staff are already exhausted and overstretched so we cannot afford another spike in COVID infections.”