Practices are braced for the impact of a new lockdown and the second wave of COVID infection, a senior GP has said.
The UK is due to hear about new lockdown measures today following yesterday’s bleak assessment of the risks from the second wave of COVID-19 by its leading scientists. In the televised press conference, Professor Chris Whitty warned that infection rates were doubling approximately every seven days.
With more than 4,000 cases being reported daily, this would mean nearly 50,000 cases a day by the end of October, he warned, speaking with chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance. Senior doctors rallied behind the experts, calling on the public to take their warnings seriously.
Professor Whitty warned that there was little sign of the virus fading out or of herd immunity developing. Current tracking suggests that fewer than 8% of the population have antibodies – and that antibody protection tends not to last, the experts said. Contrary to popular myth, there was little sign of the virus mutating to become less dangerous, he said.
The experts acknowledged that medical care of acute illness has improved – but warned that high infection rates would still mean hundreds of deaths daily.
Sir Patrick said: “If, and that’s quite a big if, but if that continues unabated, and this grows, doubling every seven days, if that continued you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day. Fifty-thousand cases per day would be expected to lead a month later, so the middle of November, say, to 200-plus deaths per day. The challenge, therefore, is to make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days. That requires speed, it requires action and it requires enough in order to be able to bring that down.”
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “Over the coming months general practice will play a key role managing COVID patients in the community, helping prevent an outbreak of winter flu through an expanded vaccination programme, and dealing with a backlog of cases caused by the national lockdown. But Government also has to play its part and it is now more crucial than ever that we have clarity and consistency in Government messaging so that everyone knows what their responsibilities are to keep themselves and each other safe.
“General practice sees the impact of a struggling economy first-hand because of our broader impact on the health and wellbeing of patients. It is another reason why it is essential that NHS services are supported to remain functioning this winter. Most importantly, we must do all we can to implement an effective test and trace service, which retains the confidence of both patients and health professionals, and effectively manages future local outbreaks. This is vital if we are to control the virus heading into winter.”