Ellie Agu Benson | @ellieagu_benson
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus (or Covid-19) the news has been filled with language of violence. The PM has declared that we are in a war like state. However the fight is not against an army, but a disease. At the frontline are our healthcare workers. The NHS doctors and nurses that have been working without rest to test, treat and prevent the further spreading of coronavirus. They are seen – quite rightly – as the heroes of this crisis in the face of a frightening pandemic and a panic-stricken country. However, that is not to say that they have not encountered any problems. These problems should be addressed and the healthcare workers thanked.
The bout of panic buying that has spread across the nation, faster than Coronavirus itself, is leaving NHS workers left out. They are unable to buy necessary goods at the end of a long shift as supermarkets have been left with bare aisles. A critical care nurse recently took to social media, posting a video of herself crying having gone to a supermarket and finding it completely empty. She was even not able to buy vegetables after a long shift caring for patients with Coronavirus. The medical director of NHS England has said that this behaviour is “unacceptable” and that we should do more to try and support those who are aiding us in the fight against the virus. Thankfully this problem is being resolved by shops providing prioritised supermarket hours for those in the health care services as well as focused online shopping slots.
The more pressing issue is the problem of protective equipment. An NHS Consultant pointed out that the protective equipment being distributed to NHS staff is well below WHO standards. They are given gloves, masks and an apron in order to protect themselves against the disease. This may leave many workers at risk of contracting the disease themselves and limiting the already stretched numbers of healthcare professionals available to help fight the disease.
Iran, at the moment, is experiencing a similar problem where overtired and underprotected doctors and nurses are catching Coronavirus and getting sick. In a particularly emotional and heroic case, a female doctor caught the virus and decided to deny all treatment in order to care for others with the disease. In the end she sacrificed herself to continue caring for her patients. The lack of protective equipment is a concern as not only will doctors get sick- it could also lead to cross contamination with other patients and members of the public as well as the families of healthcare professionals. Doctors and nurses have come forward saying they feel like “lamb to the slaughter” and “cannon fodder”, being sent to fight the virus with nothing to protect them. However the situation will hopefully soon turn, with the government hearing the pleas of doctors and addressing the issue.
Furthermore, the private sector announcement that they are offering their services in the fight against the pandemic, will hopefully provide some much needed relief to public doctors and nurses. Additionally, recent retirees and even some student nurses are joining the forces to help support NHS workers against the growing demand hospitals are being placed under.
Therefore it is needless to say that a huge amount of gratitude should be shown to those helping fight against Coronavirus. Around the world this has been done in many different ways. In locked-down Paris, they turned on the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower for 10 minutes to show appreciation for their healthcare workers and here in England some people have been lighting candles at night to show theirs. It is during times like this that we should be thankful for the amazingly dedicated people working in our National Health Service. And although the system has its problems, we should do everything we can to thank and support NHS workers.
That’s why, as one of the many reasons, we should all heed the government’s advice to practice social distancing and refrain from stockpiling, in order to try and help protect the people that are protecting us all.