Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Covid-19: why is the UK government ignoring WHO’s advice?

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 30 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m1284

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Rapid Response:

Covid-19: Contact tracing requires ending the Hostile Environment

Dear Editor

In order for contact tracing to be viable, all sections of the community must be willing to be contacted by NHS or public health staff. The community includes “overseas visitors” on the receiving end of the Government’s “Hostile Environment” policy, who may fear that any contact will incur NHS charges or lead to their being reported to the Home Office.

Unlike the UK, the Irish government has declared that all people - documented or undocumented - can now access healthcare and social services without fear. Undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers in Portugal have been granted the same rights as residents, including access to medical care, during the current state of emergency. In South Korea, undocumented immigrants can be tested without risk of deportation.

It is simply not good enough for the UK to add 2019-nCoV to their list of exemptions from charges, which few people will know. To fight this epidemic and protect everyone’s health, all barriers to accessing NHS treatment – including charges and reporting of debt to the Home Office - should be suspended immediately.

Competing interests: I am a member of Keep Our NHS Public

30 March 2020
Greg Dropkin