Practices must be part of the message


As I was driving through Wembley a few weeks ago, I was very frustrated by what I saw. 

There were people meeting without any physical distancing, people who weren't wearing masks. In fact, to look at Wembley High Road or Ealing Road, you wouldn't know that we were in the middle of a global pandemic. It was like Covid had never happened. 

But this lack of precaution doesn’t match the actual situation. Northwest London is at very high risk for a second wave, and with it, stricter lockdown - simply because people are just not abiding by the rules. 

And given that a second wave could prove devastating to the NHS, especially when combined with a backlog of screenings and winter pressures, people not understanding the importance of doing the right thing is not just annoying - it’s scary.

The risk of COVID-19 is still there

For those who may have already had COVID-19, they might think that they are now immune from the disease and thus safe. 

But we still don’t know exactly how immunity to COVID-19 works, or how long it lasts for if you do get some protection. And of course, if you become reinfected, you may not get it as badly, but you may still pass it on to someone else.

But I think for many people, they're just fed up. After months of being careful, they're now willing to take risks they may have avoided before. 

For me, it's very frustrating to see this. As a clinician, I’m taking this seriously - for example, I didn’t go to see my family for some time until the government announced that people from two different households could meet.

Even then, there was only me, my brother, my sister-in-law, my mum and my dog. We all sat in the garden, two meters apart from each other. After all, the virus is still here. Nothing has changed there.

Practices must be part of the message

Within our practices, we're still following the rules, and still physical distancing. We're doing what’s asked of us and being careful to keep people safe. Now we must encourage our patients to do the same.

The government’s guidance has been confusing and often overly complicated. And with the reopening of pubs, shops and businesses, many people might feel that the pandemic is effectively over. It’s up to us to make it clear that while restrictions are easing, now is not the time to get complacent.

At my practice, we're messaging all of our patients to say ‘Don't let your guard down.’ We want to make sure that people don’t start taking risks that could drive up the infection rate.

On top of this, practices can also proactively reach out to the community to ensure that the message is clear and transmission is contained.

That could be to temples, mosques, churches, and synagogues, schools and new parent groups, or even community Facebook or Whatsapp groups.

Practices can also consider working with the police and the council to join forces on the messages that are put out to the community.

We might have gotten over the worst. But COVID-19 is still out there. We have to make sure our patients know that they still have to be sensible or they could end up making someone else sick. Until a vaccine is confirmed, we need to live with this.

Follow Dr Ishani Patel on Twitter.

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