Most legal restrictions imposed to halt coronavirus restrictions have been lifted across the country from 19 July. However, coronavirus remains a serious health risk. It is important to stay cautious and help protect yourself and others.
Amid rising cases of coronavirus, Dr Ammara Hughes, a GP Partner with Bloomsbury GP Surgery and COVID vaccine hub, and a Clinical Director of Central Camden Primary Care Network, talks about the various steps one can take to manage the risks of coronavirus.
At long last, we have a summer to enjoy! The sun is shining, the school’s out for the summer, and we are coming out of lockdown after what seems an age.
It’s been a testing time for us all and like many readers, I was so happy to have a holiday last week, swimming in the sea off the coast of Devon.
The pandemic is, however, far from over. We have to, in the words of our new health secretary, “learn to live with the virus”. That may be the case, but we certainly don’t want to be living with the consequences of the virus.
Go, take a jab!
It was a mere six months ago that we hosted the former health secretary at our COVID vaccination hub in Bloomsbury Surgery. How times have changed since then!
Our Camden hub was one of the first sites to go live in the country, and over 30000 vaccines later, we are still going strong. The borough sites combined have delivered nearly 250,000 vaccines.
But we have some way to go. Less than half of the under 40s population in Camden eligible for a vaccine have so far taken up the offer. Yet this is the group now most likely to contract COVID as we come out of lockdown.
Why, you may ask? Simple. Pubs, restaurants and music venues are open and the younger population are most likely to take advantage in larger groups. Places to celebrate milestones, meet new people and generally let your hair down after the tough times that have gone before. Lots of unvaccinated people in close proximity, talking, laughing, singing, dancing and generally having a good time. With current estimates of the COVID rates being 325 per 100000 in Camden, the chances of contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID is reasonably high.
So back to living with the virus, rather than the consequences. The first step is to get a vaccine. All over 18s have now had the offer of at least one vaccine, and over the coming weeks, everyone will have been invited for the second jab as well. The evidence that the vaccines work, is overwhelming. The majority of people seriously ill in hospitals are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, and these patients are getting younger. Yes, deaths are far lower than at the start of the pandemic, but every life lost to COVID is one too many.
We have a new nemesis in the COVID story now. Long COVID. More people may be surviving the virus, but this new poorly understood condition is incredibly debilitating and indiscriminate. Fit and healthy adults suddenly finding they can’t climb stairs without needing a lie down when they reach the top. Brain fog, kidney problems and some too ill to return to work or normal life. As doctors, we’re unsure how to support these people as there isn’t a specific treatment, and for their family and friends, it’s heartbreaking to be as helpless in their recovery journey. We don’t know if these patients will ever fully recover. Only time will tell. So I ask you all, if you haven’t already, please take up your offer of a vaccine. The vaccine won’t stop you from ever getting COVID, but it will stop you from getting seriously ill with COVID.
COVID vaccine clinics are open all week at various locations across the borough, so please do come and see us. Health professionals are always available to answer any questions you might have about the vaccine, and we will only give you the vaccine with your consent if you’re happy to go ahead.
The mask debate
I popped into the supermarket near work today and was pleasantly surprised to see almost everyone in the store wearing a mask. The sense of social responsibility was a joy to see. My view as a health professional is we should wear a mask in confined spaces where we can’t socially distance. I’m very glad the Mayor of London has made it compulsory on public transport, and it remains compulsory in health settings.
COVID is airborne. You spread it by coughing, talking, singing, sneezing. Wearing a mask helps reduce the spread and is designed to protect others.
Now the rules on masks have changed, some people may choose not to wear them. So picture this. Next time you queue for a coffee or wait in line in the supermarket, pause a moment and think about the person in front of you. What is their life like? They may have just been diagnosed with cancer. They may have a disabled child who remains at high risk from COVID. They may have an elderly relative in a care home they go to see. All of us wearing masks in busy indoor spaces like these will protect the most vulnerable. This is why I wear a mask. Not to protect me, but to protect others.
Aside from vaccinating patients, General Practice is open across the borough, and we are busier than ever. It’s crucial we see people safely and are able to help with their problems effectively. We’re approaching flu season soon and we have no idea what the winter might bring. During the lockdown, we haven’t built up our natural immunity against common viruses. Many children about to start nursery have spent nearly half their lives in lockdown. As the country opens up, we are bound to see a surge in non-COVID viral illnesses. Now more than ever, the NHS needs its workforce. So please wear a mask to help us stay well, and in turn, help others stay well too.