WITH the Government announcing yesterday it was considering testing people for Coronavirus before they entered the UK, a Hagley doctor working on the frontline with Covid-19 patients says he still cannot believe the UK had not yet shut its borders.
Dr David Nicholl, who first called for action to be taken in April, said had the country been closed to visitors last year it could have prevented thousands of deaths.
He added while plenty of other countries had stopped British residents entering or at least made them quarantine when they did arrive, millions of people were ‘wandering through Heathrow and other airports’ without any checks.
The countries which had the best response to controlling the virus had used at least some kind of border control.
He said: “I’m a liberal and suggesting this felt illiberal but it was what needed to be done.”
Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, in answer to a question, that having a negative Covid test may become a requirement for anyone wanting to enter the United Kingdom.
The latest figures show the current wave is a lot worse than the first with more than 60,000 confirmed cases yesterday and 830 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Hospital admissions for the virus are also up with more than 20,000 on wards across the country.
Dr Nicholl, who works in Birmingham, said some ITUs were running at 160 per cent capacity which had led to other wards having to be hastily converted to ITUs.
“We know more about the virus now and are treating it better but that is meaning people who do come into hospital are staying in there longer which is why capacity is so high.”
And he added no-one knew how severe this latest wave would get before things improved.
“Last year it was like we were on a railway track and blindfolded with a train coming.
“This time we can see the train but we don’t know how many carriages it has.”
He said the most challenging thing this time around was staffing levels – some are self-isolating or off with sickness which means hospitals are overstretched.
Dr Nicholl said he feared for staff’s mental health as well with some struggling psychologically to go through another spike because of what the first one was like.
He added the availability of the vaccines was fantastic news and he hoped the Government could get 14million people vaccinated by mid-February.
But he said administering the jab had to be ramped up, along with better communication and messaging to convince those who are more sceptical to have it.
Probably the biggest mistake the Government had made throughout the pandemic was by over-promising and under-delivering, said Dr Nicholl.
“We know it’s safe and we know vaccines work.
“I had my first vaccine between Christmas and new year and would urge anyone offered it to have it – unless they have a severe allergy and use an EpiPen .
“If they had said to me ‘you can have it but you have to get to the hospital at 3am’ I would have done it.”
He said he understood the Government’s approach of getting as many people vaccinated with their first jab even if it meant a delay for the second one, although there were questions surrounding that because the tests were all carried out on the basis of a 21-day gap.
“I’m due to have my second dose on the 27th but if one of my healthcare colleagues needed their first one, I would give it to them so they have got some protection.”
The next free Politics and Pandemics – What Happens Next? webinar with Dr David Nicholl and the University of Birmingham’s Director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection Prof Willem van Schaik – takes place at 8pm next Thursday, January 14.
Click here to register for the event.