This is the latest blog from Jane Chiodini, our Dean of the Faculty of Travel Medicine.
COVID-19 is now clearly a long-term global battle until effective vaccines are available and efficient treatments known. Such development is dependent on successful trials and a body of evidence providing the appropriate weapons to fight this disease which has catapulted the world into such a devastating crisis. We are in this for the long haul, so for now I’ve extended this blog to a three weekly interval.
On a global scale the latest figures from the World Health Organization Situation Report no. 115 of 14 May 2020 inform us that there are now 4,248,389 cases resulting in 294,046 deaths (up from 2,544,792 cases and 175,694 deaths at the time of the last blog on 24 April 2020). This report has also grown in detail over time and it contains an interesting surveillance map illustrating the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in the last seven days by country, territory or area, 8 to 14 May. The individual country statistics are now also displayed visually on an interactive platform found here. The real time numbers from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) illustrate almost 4.5 million cases and 302,452 deaths as I write this morning, with the United States tragically reporting almost 86,000 of the deaths.
It appears that the peak is over in the UK for now, although our death toll of at least 33,614 in the latest Government briefing available (compared to 18,738 deaths exactly 3 weeks ago) is devastating and that’s a conservative estimate as well. The threat of a second wave presents the Government with many challenges as to how we come out of lockdown and get the economy moving. Our Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has been reported to have said around 60% of the UK population will need to become infected with coronavirus in order for society to have “herd immunity” from future outbreaks. Currently such figures are significantly lower than this. As time progresses more knowledge is emerging to help guide the pathway through, but communicating such a message is also very challenging. Many of you in countries around the world will be in similar situations and the future remains very uncertain.
My head continues to ‘buzz’ with the enormity of the impact. Twitter is a fast-moving social media platform on which to read the impact, although I have to admit to being selective at what I choose to read. However one thread really struck a chord last week when a Chief Registrar working at a hospital in Devon put a message on about her children who are clearly very young and how they were coping during this period when both their parents were working such long hours. That resulted in more comments mostly from mothers who were also frontline doctors relating many stories of their brave and resilient children who were having to cope at this time.
This led me to research information about children of medical parents but there was little information out there on a search, but again through twitter I found encouragingly that psychologists from the British Psychological Society have produced guidance for key workers and their children on navigating the emotional effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Read the news item or directly access the booklet ‘Advice for Key Worker Parents’ and for advice for children and young people during the Coronavirus see ‘When Your Parent is a Key Worker’. Many of the children of key workers will still be attending school, but in very different circumstances and returning home at the end of their days to parents who may well be physically and mentally exhausted.
This period will also have significant impact on their future lives. A lovely and local initiative from Glasgow Royal Infirmary to the children of key workers can be seen here – sometimes small acts of kindness can mean the most.
Here in the UK we have a tradition now on a Thursday evening where we clap for the carers and other key workers at 8pm, but this truly relates to the #NHSchildren as well and their well being is also paramount. Twin doctors Drs Chris (a Fellow of our Faculty of Travel Medicine) and Xand van Tulleken, have presented an award winning medical programme for children called ‘Operation Ouch’ for the past decade. They’ve recently made one about COVID-19 along with a newer presenter Dr Ronx. To have knowledgeable medical people who can connect and communicate with younger children and help support them can only be good news, and I’m sure these individuals will be responsible for inspiring many budding doctors of the future. To see this latest episode on the BBC iPlayer see here.
All healthcare professionals involved either directly with COVID-19 or responsible for keeping routine services working well deserve the applause expressed each week. But on Wednesday 12 May 2020, it was also International Nurses’ Day and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. One positive this tragedy has highlighted is the professional value of nurses, the tireless work and the life-saving benefits good nursing care provides. Our College was very forward thinking back in 2006 when it decided on forming the Faculty of Travel Medicine (FTM), to admit nurses based on our own professional qualifications. I feel particularly proud to be part of this College, the first nurse to lead a Faculty and I celebrate all the nurse members around the world in our FTM and thank them for the amazing work they’re doing.