On World Health Day, read the Young Fabian Health Network update on Covid-19 with analysis of the Government response so far.
At the time of writing, COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) has spread to over 100 countries, infected more than half a million people and resulted in over 30,000 deaths. Companies are closing and countries are on lockdown, investing billions into fighting the virus.
In a political climate where protectionism seemed more important than co-operation, the latter is needed now more than ever. COVID-19 does not recognise borders or ideological differences.
When the outbreak started, there was criticism of there not being enough advice from the UK Government, or from the World Health Organisation, but how does a body give advice on a virus it has never encountered before? Does it wait for more information, with the risk of being condemned as too slow to act, or does it perform knee-jerk reactions that could potentially do more harm than good? Indeed, Italy put major travel restrictions on people at the beginning of the outbreak, yet now has the most fatalities from COVID-19. With the knowledge we now have about the virus, the UK Government can give science-backed advice backed up by science, such as the importance of washing our hands, self-isolating and staying at home.
Another part of the Government’s response to this is to ask former NHS healthcare professionals (HCPs) to return to the NHS, and thousands of doctors and nurses have re-registered to help with the crisis.
However, healthcare staff up and down the country have appealed to the government to provide more personal protective equipment. If we do not have enough equipment for the current members of staff, how can we ensure that the thousands of doctors and nurses who have re-joined the NHS will be equipped?
Furthermore, the emphasis on combating this virus has been to test as many people as possible, isolate those who have the virus and trace those who have come into contact with them. Given that many people show mild or indeed no symptoms, will the people who have answered the call to help the NHS be tested prior to their returning to work, to ensure that the virus is not being spread inadvertently?
We also need to consider how the increased workload will affect the mental health of workers across the healthcare service and their families; the legacy of this pandemic will be left long after the last person has left isolation.
It is important now more than ever that governments and international bodies share their information and that we are patient in getting accurate information, rather than constantly looking for a headline or turning to the media, especially social media, for potentially misleading information.
Just under four years ago, during a certain referendum in which the NHS played a big part, a certain politician was quoted as saying that Britain has “had enough of experts”. Now, in a crisis that is going to have large impacts on our NHS once again, we can all agree that we need experts more than ever.