CIEH raises concerns over centralisation putting public health at risk

01 June 2020, Ross Matthewman

CIEH has expressed concern that the Government’s decision to move to Phase 2 of lifting the lockdown could be premature and pose an undue risk to public health.

From 1 June people in England will be allowed to meet in groups of up to six, with those not from the same household staying two metres apart. This must be done outdoors either in a public space, or private garden. In addition, schools will be reopening for some year groups and some non-essential shops will again be able to open their doors.

However, there have been strong voices, such as the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), critical of the Government for potentially moving too quickly to lift lockdown, noting that the systems and evidence are not yet in place to ensure that a relaxing of rules does not lead to another public health crisis.

CIEH echoes these concerns and strongly urges the Government to further develop its track and trace programme and reinforce public health messaging as a matter of priority.

Debbie Wood, Executive Director for Membership and External Affairs, at CIEH said:

“CIEH strongly supports ADPH’s view that measured steps and careful preparation are needed in lifting the lockdown. We are concerned that the Government is moving to Phase 2 before the necessary systems are in place and before enough evidence has been gathered about the potential for a second spike of infections.

Already, there are clear signs of members of the public now openly flouting social distancing guidelines. Moving to Phase 2 before key hygiene and public health messages are reiterated could see a further disintegration in adherence to Government guidelines.

The Government needs to embark on a programme of reinforcing public health messaging immediately.

The most worrying pattern however is the Government’s approach to the role of local authorities, and the persistent over centralisation whether that be in the planning and design of the contact tracing programme, where local and regional expertise were side-lined, or producing guidance to businesses on safe reopening.

CIEH recently responded to the Government’s consultation on guidance for pubs and restaurants, which are the riskiest settings for the virus to make a comeback. Whilst we were given 24 hours to respond to the detailed measures produced by consultants and civil servants, many other experts, especially in local government, who are responsible for enforcing safety measures and keeping the public safe, did not seem to be involved in discussions at all.

We fully understand the pressures to restart the economy and begin returning to normality, but this should not be at the expense of undue risk to public health.

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