Majority of doctors fear second peak of coronavirus likely to hit this winter

The vast majority of doctors in England are expecting a second surge of coronavirus. 

Amid warnings of the country being at a ‘critical crossroads’, a new survey shows that 86% of more than 8,000 doctors and medical students believe a second peak is likely or very likely in the next six months.

The British Medical Association (BMA) poll shows found that a second peak is the number one concern among medics who want to avoid a return to the ‘horror and tragedy’ of the pandemic’s early days.

As the ‘rule of six’ came into force on Monday, the BMA council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned: ‘With daily cases still alarmingly high, and winter just around the corner, we are at a critical crossroads in the fight against this deadly virus. All efforts must be made to avoid a repeat of the horror and tragedy we all experienced earlier this year.’

The intervention comes as a further 3,330 cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the UK on Sunday – the first time since May that cases were above 3,000 on three consecutive days.

But despite tough new restrictions locally and nationally the R number – the reproduction number of coronavirus transmission – has climbed above one.

According to Government advisers, the last time R was above one was in early March.

The ‘rule of six’ comes into force in England on Monday, meaning any social gatherings of more than six people will break the law.

Fines of up to £3,200 can be handed if the new measure, which applies to both indoor and outdoor settings, is not followed.

Regulations enabling the enforcement of the rule were published late on Sunday night, around 30 minutes before they came into effect.

Aside from limited exemptions including work and education, police will be able to disperse gatherings of more than six people and issue fines ranging from £100 to £3,200.

The rule applies across England and replaces the existing ban on participating in gatherings of more than 30 and the current guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors.

It comes in amid concerns about an increase in cases in care homes and growing criticism of the NHS Test and Trace system.

Officials also will be hoping the warm and sunny weather forecast for Monday does not encourage people to gather in groups in outdoor spaces.

Temperatures as high as 29C (84F) are expected in some parts, according to the Met Office.

Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Martin Hewitt has urged the public to ‘stick to the limits’.

He said: ‘Preventing the spread of coronavirus is a shared effort and police are playing our part alongside Government, businesses, hospitality owners, local authorities and others.

‘Officers are in their communities following our approach to engage, explain and encourage people to follow the rules.’

Mr Hewitt continued: ‘We will issue fines when people refuse to comply.

‘The demands on the police service are now at similar levels to before the pandemic, which makes it crucially important that we all take personal responsibility, stick to the limits and prevent the spread of this deadly virus.’

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