Jane Chiodini, Dean of our Faculty of Travel Medicine, has written for our blog on the latest news and updates on coronavirus/COVID-19.
Reading back to my blog of just two weeks ago makes me appreciate just how much everything has moved on in such a short time. Globally, the pandemic case number is at almost half a million with deaths in Italy and Spain exceeding those of China. Europe is particularly badly affected at the current time, but the USA is close behind with cases doubling every 3-4 days. New York is the epicentre and the US population of 330 million people in lockdown. Yesterday the Senate passed a bill to pump 2 trillion dollars of aid into the American economy. The most up to date situation report number 66 from the World Health Organization on 26.03.20 can be found here with the interactive map here. The real time statistics map from Johns Hopkins University provides data in a number of interesting ways. On a more positive note, cases in China are minimal and plans are underway to partially lift the lockdown rules on 8th April, although there is concern that as stringent measures are relaxed there could be a second wave of infection so testing and surveillance remain absolutely vital.
In the UK today we have 11,658 cases recorded and 578 deaths (see the data in desktop and mobile formats). Measures have ramped up to a pitch not imagined possible by a significant proportion of the population who last weekend seemed to think it fine to go out and enjoy the sunshine, a sure sign of our Spring arriving at long last. So on Monday 23rd March an instruction to lockdown was issued by the Prime Minister with the police now having the powers to enforce the restrictions on travel within the country and social distancing is to become our way of life for some time to come. We are projected to reach a peak of cases in two to three weeks with London already experiencing intense numbers of severely ill patients. The Excel exhibition centre is being prepared to open as a 4000 bed hospital next week, and over half a million people have signed up to become NHS responders.
In a short space of time our lives have changed dramatically and it’s no surprise that we are all struggling to adjust to the fast-moving developments in one way or another. Many of you will have been involved in the preparation planning, some will now be in the thick of caring for COVID-19 cases and some waiting for the impact of the enormity of the task ahead. There is considerable anxiety out there for us all, quite apparent on social media in the general public and from healthcare professionals as well. Main concerns centre around PPE and testing and information is unfolding on a regular basis.
In a conversation with my husband the other evening it was evident that he, as a senior experienced doctor in tropical medicine and infectious diseases was taking it all in his stride, but he has spent a whole career used to using infection control measures for much of his clinical work, however, that doesn’t stop me worrying about him. Many colleagues and friends in the Faculty of Travel Medicine who work in travel clinics or education have had all their work cancelled. This is also true of me and I don’t have the modern-day clinical nursing skills to be a frontline worker, yet I want to contribute and feel quite emotional about the unfolding situation. I hope I can find a constructive way of helping, currently exploring helping in primary care child immunisation clinics. I expect a number of you have many anxieties as well about the enormity of the challenge ahead, perhaps less concern over job viability if you work in the NHS, but concerns about family and friends and how everything will be juggled in the fight against COVID-19.
We will hear many examples of sad scenarios and as time progresses, I think of more and more challenging situations. My 94 year-old mother is in a nursing home 200 miles away isolated in her room and although mentally very on the ball, communication is difficult due to her severe deafness. She says each day I speak to her – take one day at a time, wise words from someone who recollects the Second World War! Compassion and empathy are even more important at this time, this is something I feel I can share in abundance, but it’s important as healthcare professionals we all take care of ourselves as well.
Last night two short online learning videos were published on the new RCPSG COVID-19 Digital Online Learning platform: Self-care for health professionals during COVID-19 and Self-care in self-isolation by Dr Paul Keeley, Consultant in Palliative Medicine, Glasgow Royal Infirmary. I found both videos very helpful and would recommend for healthcare professionals and the public alike. A new College page of resources can also be found here. This will be updated regularly with new content.
Again, out of adversity comes development and innovation, for example, if the blueprint is approved, the vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson has the capability to build an additional 10,000 ventilators. Clinical trials have started on a number of potential treatments and antibody tests are developing quickly, which could enable us to determine how many people have actually had COVID-19 with or without symptoms which would enhance our understand of this new and dangerous virus.
An app called C-19 COVID Symptom Tracker has been developed by researchers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals and King’s College London to study the symptoms of the virus and track how it spreads. Within the first 24 hours of launch, some 650,000 people had signed up, and an initial analysis revealed that 10 per cent of them were showing mild symptoms of the virus.
Developing our own individual techniques for coping will be important in the time ahead. Meanwhile last night the public came together at their windows at 8pm to ‘Clap for our Carers’. There was certainly an impressive throng of noise heard at our flat window and needless to say I joined in – I feel very proud of our healthcare profession.
Stay safe in the coming days.