COVID-19 and the last 100 days

Local COVID-19 flare-ups in Leicester and South Yorkshire highlight the challenges ahead

alarm clock

This week marks 100 days from the beginning of the UK Government’s lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The message in March was simple: we were told to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

The situation, thankfully, has moved on and lockdown measures are being eased gradually across the four nations. The Government wants to track a path back to a form of normality, but there are many unanswered questions for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his advisers to grapple with, and the advice to the public and businesses has inevitably become less clear.

A BBC 4 radio programme I have made sure I tune into each week is More or less with Tim Harford, which unpicks the numbers and statistics in the news. In the final episode of an extended series reporting on the crisis, the show reported on the significance of swift and decisive lockdowns when reviewing the simple question: ‘Why did the UK have such a bad epidemic?’

This call for action was reinforced in an open letter to leaders of all UK political parties from the BMJ, Lancet and medical bodies and colleges, setting out the urgent need for a rapid forward-looking review of the UK’s preparedness for a second wave.

The situation in Leicester is a potent reminder that local COVID-19 flare ups should be anticipated.

Latest figures show that Leicester had 140 cases per 100,000 people in the week up until 21 June. The next highest area was Bradford, which had just over 69 cases per 100,000 people, while Barnsley was the third highest with just under 55 cases per 100,000 people.

For optics, as with every other profession, lockdown has altered our working lives in fundamental ways that we never would have imagined.

An overstretched NHS England has been playing catch up throughout the crisis, and too often is not engaged or fails to understand the needs and challenges of primary care providers. The lack of news on NHSE GOS funding reflects that.

But from adversity comes opportunity – and so this will be the case post COVID-19. Last month Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre’s Dr Waheeda Illahi, and colleagues Rosie Auld and Dr Peter Good shared their experiences in what proved to be a pandemic hotspot in England.

“Staff have demonstrated a flexible and adaptable approach, providing a surprisingly stoic and philosophical response,” they told OT. “They have adapted to working in a different multi-disciplinary team, adjusting to the dynamics of a hospital ward and have gained a different skill set.”

Look out for the second instalment from the BMEC team, which will be published in OT online next week.