Marie Claire's resident GP Dr Zoe Williams says there's evidence of success in defeating COVID-19 in the UK, here's what you need to know
We are by no means ‘out of the woods’ in this coronavirus crisis, but let’s take a moment to stop and focus on the positive news to emerge in the last few days.
The curve is flattening, in fact in London it is starting to look as though we have just about passed the peak. Though this means we are by no means out of danger, and sadly many more people will yet lose their lives and their loved ones, it allows us all to finally dare to have solid hope as we are seeing evidence of success in defeating this virus.
It is working. Those words are imperative to absorb and as a medic, I cannot express in words the incredible sense of relief that comes along with those words. I’m feeling more positive and I cannot even imagine what they must mean to my colleagues working in intensive care units across the country.
Crucially, the NHS capacity has remained ahead of the need. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said in Tuesday’s press briefing:
‘If you, or someone you love needs hospital care with Covid 19, then you will always get that care, if, God forbid, you need care in an Intensive care unit, then you will have that bed and the life-saving equipment, and team that you need’
An important factor in achieving this is down to the enormous changes that hospitals have made, in creating additional intensive care capacity, often by transforming other areas of the hospital, such as surgical recovery areas and standard hospital wards into intensive care units. Additional ventilator capacity was achieved by using the machines that anaesthetists normally used to breathe for patients whilst asleep during surgery and then to operate them and care for patients required unprecedented up-skilling and training of staff to work in roles that are new to them.
In recent months the NHS has upped its game beyond what was ever deemed possible and proven once again that we really do have the best healthcare system in the world. But the other reason that we are hearing the words ‘it is working’ is down to each and every one of us that have turned our lives upside down, in order to abide by the social distancing rules.
Without this, it is 100 percent certain that the NHS would not have coped, the consequences of which are unthinkable. And we must continue. The transmission rates (you may have heard the officials talk about the R0 number) is now certainly below 1 in the community. That means that, on average, each infected person passes the disease to less than one other person. Simply put, if this figure is below 1 then we are winning the fight against the virus, and we need to continue to win.
Matt Hancock went on to tell us that social distancing measures will not be relaxed before these five tests have been met:
- NHS can continue to cope
- Operational challenges can be met
- Daily death rate falls continuously and consistently
- The rate of infection is decreasing
- That there is no risk of a second peak
What that means is that we face more weeks of lockdown and I think that we are generally understanding now that it will be several months before we get back to normal life. Though this is tough, and for some of us much more than others, there is a small part of me that clings to the fact that it might not entirely be a bad thing. I say this is because I’m seeing so many positive changes in us.
New friendships are being born: the two little girls that live next door, and next-door-but-one have the most charming conversations. I’m not sure if they knew each other before.
The desire amongst people to volunteer and help others, even strangers, is truly heroic and seeing entire families outdoors playing sports together and laughing, building bonds that will stay with them forever.
Above all else I see a new form of empathy, a new understanding amongst us as we all experience similar struggles and I see kindness in a world that really needed a little more kindness.
How do we cling on to this, how do we maintain our new togetherness, how do we ensure that the devastation from this virus leaves us living in a better, kinder world? I don’t have the answers, but I really hope that we do.
Stay safe, stay positive, stay kind and please continue to stay home.