DAUK’s Dr Zainab Najim in Deutsche Welle: London NHS frontline workers brace for post-holiday case surge

Parts of the UK have entered a third lockdown due to the pandemic, with London’s NHS frontline staff preparing for an “inevitable” coronavirus case surge following Christmas and New Year’s Eve gatherings. DW reports.

As England goes into its third national lockdown, National Health Service (NHS) workers are scrambling to accommodate COVID-19 patients in critical condition, warning that the worst is likely still to come as a new variant of the coronavirus spreads across the country.

“Even before Christmas we had to expand and send patients elsewhere because we didn’t have enough beds,” says Beth Walmsley, a pediatric nurse. The 33-year-old has recently been treating adult patients as well as children, to alleviate the burden from colleagues caring for the influx of COVID patients in critical condition.

Walmsley’s hospital is one of the dozens across the country that declared a “major incident” ahead of the holidays — requesting that staff cancel annual leave and holiday plans to work until further notice. Now they’re bracing themselves for an unknown number of people who were infected over the holiday season.

1 in 50 households infected

“We are already at such a breaking point and we still have yet to reach the predicted peak from Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” says Secretary of the Doctor’s Association of the United Kingdom Dr. Zainab Najim.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest that as many as 1 million people were infected with the coronavirus last week. That is one in every 50 households in the country, and one in every 30 households in London.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had encouraged people across the country to limit their holiday plans — and urged those in London and the hard-hit southeast to cancel them altogether — with a last-minute lockdown order. But NHS workers are nonetheless anticipating a spike from those who defied the orders.

Given the fact that the virus takes several days to incubate, anyone who was infected over the holiday period likely has yet to develop symptoms.

Strain on the NHS

“I think there is a feeling of ‘here we go again,’ and that it is going to be worse than the first time,” says Walmsley, describing the mood among healthcare workers who have been responding to the pandemic since March of last year.

“That is hard to wrap your head around,” she continues. “The public has no idea how bad it is.”

On top of learning new skills, adapting to the changing circumstances and canceling annual leave, healthcare workers are still one of the most at-risk groups for contracting the virus, particularly as the new, more infectious variant makes the rounds.

“Many of the (NHS) trusts have done an incredible job to increase capacity,” Dr. Najim says, giving a nod to frontline staff, like Walmsley, who have taken on additional duties as hospitals come under increased pressure.

“Unfortunately, we do not have enough staff,” she adds, pointing out that many healthcare workers are getting sick, and having to self-isolate themselves. While the UK is rolling out the vaccine amongst the public, there is yet to be a campaign that aggressively targets and prioritizes healthcare workers.

Dr. Najim fears that the strain on healthcare workers could lead to burnout — and a longer-term mental health crisis. “It is difficult for staff to take a break from everything,” she says. “Patients are much sicker, and there is going to be a big mental health burden once this is all over.”

Read the full article here: https://m.dw.com/en/covid-london-nhs-frontline-workers-brace-for-post-holiday-case-surge/a-56140367