This week I wanted to talk about COVID-19 (Coronavirus). I’m sure you’ll all be aware of COVID-19; there has been a great deal of media speculation and much talk about how the UK will cope if the virus spreads.
A detailed overview of the background to the virus including epidemiology, virology, transmission and clinical features is available here.
This message is really to give an update on the current national picture and to share the steps that the NHS has in place to manage the situation, along with what we’re doing at ASPH.
The national picture
As of yesterday afternoon (Sunday 16th February), there were nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK, out of 3109 people who have been tested. Based on the World Health Organisation’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate. This permits the government to plan for all eventualities. The risk to individuals remains low.
What’s the situation at ASPH?
At the moment, Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals are not treating any patients with COVID-19.
There are plans in place for how we handle the testing of possible cases. They are there to keep you and patients safe. Anyone being tested is kept in isolation and away from public areas. As you will have seen on Friday, we now have an NHS assessment pod set up opposite A&E, a contained area for self-presenters to call 111 and receive advice. This week, we will be able to use this area for testing patients if required.
Public Health England (PHE) has advised us on the appropriate safety measures, including when and how to decontaminate testing areas. We are complying with all PHE guidance to protect staff including the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when treating or swabbing suspected cases.
Community (home) testing in Surrey will commence from tomorrow, Tuesday 18th February, for anyone over the age of 16. All referrals will have been screened (in advance of home testing) - as per the current NHS 111 pathway.
Advice and guidance
The advice from PHE for the public remains the same; if you have travelled from Wuhan or Hubei Province to the UK in the last 14 days you should immediately stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu. You should also call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area. Please follow this advice even if you do not have symptoms of the virus.
If you have returned to the UK from other parts of China and other specified areas (China/Thailand/Japan/Republic of Korea/Hong Kong/Taiwan/Singapore/Malaysia/Macau) in the last 14 days and develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, you should follow the same advice as above, even if your symptoms are minor.
What you can do to help
We know that some simple public health advice can help stop the spread of the virus. Please help the public follow PHE advice to:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
- Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
We are working closely with NHS England, Public Health England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the World Health Organisation who are monitoring the situation closely and providing us with up to date advice. As you can imagine, the situation is continually changing and we will do our best to ensure that we provide all of Team ASPH with the latest progressions.
Thank you for all your continued hard work.
With best wishes,