Interview: UK frontline doctor urges vigilance as "roadmap" exiting lockdown unveiled

2021-02-23 14:36:11 GMT2021-02-23 22:36:11(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

LONDON, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the "roadmap" to ease the current coronavirus lockdown, a British frontline doctor has urged continued vigilance and caution to avoid a resurge of infections.

Johnson announced Monday that schools in England will reopen from March 8 as part of the four-step plan. Dr. Chandra Kanneganti, national chairman of the British International Doctors Association, said he believes that by remaining cautious the public can expect to be back to some semblance of normality in mid-June, as set out by the roadmap.

"We just need to continue to be more vigilant as usual," Kanneganti, also a general practitioner (GP) in Stoke-On-Trent in northern England, told Xinhua in an interview.

"It's about maintaining this kind of: cleaning our hands, the space and also checking regularly," he said.


Since the start of this year, Kanneganti has been testing himself for the coronavirus twice a week to keep both himself and his patients safe.

Although Kanneganti works in a profession that requires this diligence with testing, he said he believes that this cautionary approach should be adopted by most and is what is needed for Britain to win the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compared to the previous easing of lockdown, Kanneganti said he believes the slower step-by-step process announced by Johnson on Monday is the right thing to do.

"I think it's very cautious and that's probably what we need now," Kanneganti said.

The slow and cautious approach allows doctors like him to meet vaccination targets easier, he said.

"I think as long as we are careful in outdoor activities, we know that from evidence that the virus doesn't spread that extensively as indoors, and when you're outdoors and maintaining that kind of contact."

About the reopening of all schools on March 8, a move some see as controversial, Kanneganti considered the benefits of easing restrictions on school and outdoor activity far outweigh the risks.

"We're seeing the significant rise in depression, stress and anxiety in our patients," he said. "And definitely these kinds of activities will help to improve the physical and also the mental health as well."

England is currently under the third national lockdown since outbreak of the pandemic in the country. Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Recently, Britain's estimated R-rate, also known as the coronavirus reproduction number, has fallen to between 0.6 and 0.9, showing that the ongoing lockdown is working. Kanneganti said he's seen that reflected in his day-to-day job.

"Slowly but steadily, we are seeing patients come in with non-COVID symptoms and those who need investigating further for heart problems or breathing problems," he said. "I'm glad that people are coming out. And that message should go across that general practice is open, it was never closed."

Meanwhile, a study led by Public Health Scotland showed Monday that the coronavirus vaccines being used in Britain could reduce the risk of hospital admission by up to 94 percent four weeks after the first dose.

Four weeks after receiving the first dose, the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine appeared to reduce the risk of hospital admission by 94 percent, according to the study.

Those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech jab had a reduction in risk of 85 percent between 28 and 34 days after the first dose, the study showed.

Kanneganti, whose day-to-day has been filled with managing vaccinations at his clinic, described the research results as "really positive news".

"(The vaccine news) is really important and it's really good to see the research led by Public Health Scotland. This was really really positive news," he said.

"I think the most important thing is that once the second dose also goes, hopefully, we start in second doses of those who had the first dose in December, we're starting from next week, and we'll see much more of a major impact on direct hospital admissions," Kanneganti said.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.


However, a number of medical professionals are calling on social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to manage the spread of disinformation which they say disrupts their work.

From groundless allegations that the virus originated in a lab in China, which was deemed "unlikely" by the World Health Organization (WHO), to the Anti-Vax movement, the spread of misinformation makes Kanneganti's job a lot more difficult.

"They're causing this misinformation spread and also stopping those who genuinely should have been vaccinated, those vulnerable groups which should be vaccinated, they are not going for it because of misinformation," he said.

For Kanneganti, it's forced him and other leading members in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire community to stand up and try and reassure people of the facts.

Alongside that, Kanneganti said he believes that countries should not fight alone with coronavirus and the international community needs to work together to help formulate a global plan to normality.

"We need to be thinking that a pandemic can happen anytime, anywhere. And every country should now speed up the processes of having the procedures in place. Something like this happens, how to close the border, and how to learn good lessons from countries who have succeeded in suppressing the virus," he said.

"This is about all of us. All the countries need to sit together, be honest, and have a clear plan about how we all support each other," Kanneganti added. Enditem