Our world has changed dramatically over the past two weeks since my last article as the country tries to deal with Covid-19. The four pronged policy employed by the government of Contain, Delay, Research, Mitigate is a sequential plan to get the country through. All parts of that plan are now in operation, with what we are experiencing in the changes to our normal lives heavily on the second part, the ‘Delay’ part of the strategy.
Whilst most infected will experience mild symptoms, for some the effects are serious requiring respiratory assistance in intensive care. It might never be known how many have been infected, hence the urgent need for a post-infection antibody test. This will be a game-changer as it has to be assumed that once infected and recovered, immunity is there, and with it the likelihood to pass on infection gone; those people not only hold the key to finding a cure, but can re-enter the workplace and assist others who must remain in isolation and avoid infection altogether.
The ‘Delay’ phase is fundamentally important as it has to be recognised that the number of intensive care beds are finite within the NHS and the entire world currently has huge demand for the same resources of PPE equipment, ventilators and medicines.
This is why social distancing and isolation are so important, so that the demand curve can be flattened allowing the NHS to cope with the number of cases at any one time. I have likened the spread of infection across the country to a blob of treacle on a plate. It spreads out slowly with London clearly where the treacle has landed. We are fortunate in Thanet to be surrounded by sea and have a relatively low interaction with London due to distance and geography. Hence we are currently a week or two ‘behind the curve’ and with adherence to rules could avoid the worst if we all do the right thing. This does not mean all life freezes.
The guidance is to stay at home and work from home wherever possible. This doesn’t work for many types of job; this can continue at the workplace but with extreme care to keep distance from colleagues and exercising care when interacting with customers. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to frontline healthcare staff and to retail and other sectors keeping the wheels of supply turning as best they can.
‘Research’ – we can but imagine the amount of work going on around the world is huge. Old fashioned measures of using plasma from those through the infection are being looked at so that antibodies can be transferred to those unwell to fight off the virus. All existing drugs commonly used for other diseases are being trialled with the hope that one or a mix will be effective. There is then the work to find a vaccine which will succeed over time but is not with us yet.
Finally – ‘Mitigation’, this is the huge amount of money being poured into the economy to support those temporarily laid off from employment or in self-employment, and to give cash grants to smaller businesses with rateable premises, with more help to those businesses in the hospitality sector, a really important one to the South Thanet constituency. The amounts of money involved is truly unprecedented. The bulk of the numerous emails I am receiving are from those asking how these support measures will work.
All information, evolving rapidly is on the .gov website and is the primary source of updated information. Networks, both national, local and voluntary are rapidly being set up to get food, supplies and prescriptions delivered to the vulnerable. My office is very much involved in this effort. There are constituents stuck abroad in far-flung places. I am working with the FCO to get support hopefully leading to repatriation with mercy flights as necessary.
It is difficult to forecast how long this will all last and I will not hazard a guess. Keep well, be safe and sensible and we will come out the other side.