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Almost 86% of doctors in England say they expect a second peak of coronavirus in the next six months, according to a new survey, as concern continues to grow over a recent rise in cases.
On Friday, new results from a population-based study suggested the R number for England is now at 1.7, with infections doubling every 7.7 days. While the prevalence of the disease remains lower than it was in the spring, an R value above 1 means cases could grow exponentially.
Sunday marked the third day in a row that new coronaviruses cases reported for the UK topped 3,000 – the highest figures since May – with 2,837 new cases reported in England alone. While testing has increased over the past months, experts have said this does not fully explain the recent surge.
In a poll, the British Medical Association (BMA) asked more than 8,000 doctors and medical students in England what their top concerns were out of five possibilities, from a second peak of coronavirus to sickness and burnout among staff and winter pressures, including a possible flu outbreak. Almost 30% of respondents selected a second peak as their number-one worry.
Overall, 86% of respondents said they believed a second peak of coronavirus during the next six months is either “quite likely” or “very likely”.
When asked which of a range of factors might risk causing a second peak, almost 90% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that failures of the test-and-trace system posed a risk, while a similar proportion cited a lack of infection-control measures in places like bars and restaurants, and 86% agreed or strongly agreed confusing messaging on public health measures was a risk.
Of a list of possible measures that it was suggested might help prevent a second peak – from improving messaging to the public, to promoting working from home – each was deemed by at least 84% of respondents to have some or significant impact, with 96% of respondents saying a fully functioning test-and-trace system could help to prevent a second peak.
Concerns about the test-and-trace system have been growing, with many reports of people being told to travel hundreds of miles for a test, or being met with error messages, while a backlog of 185,000 swabs has led to laboratories in Italy and Germany processing tests from the UK.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA council chair, said the poll’s results reflect the fears of frontline clinicians who treated Covid patients earlier this year as the government delayed efforts to overcome the rapid spread of the virus.
“We as a profession want, above all, to avoid a return to the scenes we saw in April, when hospitals were full with Covid-19 patients, and hundreds were dying every day. Meanwhile, thousands of others missed out on vital appointments and procedures as routine care was put on hold,” he said.
Such a repeat, he added, is avoidable if the government takes swift action.
“Today’s new measures [such as the “rule of six”] may attempt to simplify the message and increase enforcement, but it is clear that fundamental other issues urgently need to be tackled,” said Nagpaul. “This includes sorting out the test-and-trace debacle once and for all. It is unacceptable that people and contacts with the infection are not being identified due to failings in the system – which is resulting in the infection spreading blindly.”
Dr James Gill, an honorary clinical lecturer at the University of Warwick and a locum GP, told the Guardian the NHS is facing a host of challenges, while still fatigued from the first peak of Covid-19.
Among the difficulties, he said, is that a proportion of the public growing weary of the virus, in part because of confusing government messages. And at this time of year, he said, it is not unusual for 50% of patients or more to be calling about respiratory problems, in contrast to the spring when such ailments are less common.
“I normally wouldn’t blink to see many of those people in clinic face-to-face for their peace of mind, but now with the spectre of Covid, the pressures will be significantly greater,” he said, noting it is unclear if Covid-screening systems will cope with an increased load. He is also concerned about how the NHS will cope as staff fall sick with winter illnesses.
Gill said he is scared about what lies ahead. “I want to highlight that I use the word ‘scared’ honestly and intentionally,” he said, adding that while he has never been worried about catching a disease from patients before, Covid-19 is different.
“Personally, I’m terrified about what the long-lasting health impacts for me might be,” he said. “But I’m also worried who will fill the gap if and when I have to take leave due to my own Covid-19 infection.”
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) insists that the capacity of the NHS test-and-trace system is at the highest it has ever been, but said there has been a “significant” demand for tests.
This includes demand from people “who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible”, the DHSC said.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Coronavirus: 86% of doctors in England expect second wave within six months | Coronavirus outbreak