Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to ensure Britain is properly prepared for the “real risk” of a second wave of coronavirus.
Ministers have been warned that urgent action is needed to prevent further loss of life and to protect the economy amid growing fears of a renewed outbreak over winter.
The appeal is backed by the presidents of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, GPs and Nursing – as well as the chairman of the British Medical Association.
It comes after Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday the biggest easing to date of the coronavirus lockdown in England.
The Prime Minister said the two-metre social-distancing rule would be replaced with a “one-metre plus” rule paving the way for pubs, restaurants, hotels and cinemas to begin reopening from July 4.
In an open letter to the leaders of all the UK political parties published in the British Medical Journal, the health leaders call for a “rapid and forward-looking assessment” of the state of national preparedness in the event of a renewed flare-up.
“While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk,” they said.
“Many elements of the infrastructure needed to contain the virus are beginning to be put in place, but substantial challenges remain.
“The job now is not only to deal urgently with the wide-ranging impacts of the first phase of the pandemic, but to ensure that the country is adequately prepared to contain a second phase.”
They called for the creation of a cross-party commission with a “constructive, non-partisan, four nations approach,” to be established to develop practical recommendations for action based on what had been learned so far.
“We believe this will be essential if the UK is to get ahead of the curve,” they said.
“It should focus on those areas of weakness where action is needed urgently to prevent further loss of life and restore the economy as fully and as quickly as possible.
“We think there’s a strong case for an immediate assessment of national preparedness, with the first results available no later than August, and that all its work should be completed by the end of October.”
Ministers have already said that the temporary Nightingale Hospitals set up in case the NHS was overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases will remain on standby over the coming months.