Test, test, test: in England hospitals are more
infectious than Wuhan wet market
London, 1 April 2020 - Today Tory led British government announced that 2.000 NHS staff have been tested for coronavirus. In order to understand the irrelevance of the figure we have to think that the total number of NHS staff is around 1.5 million.
Since the pandemic is hitting the country, doctors and nurses are saving lives on the frontline without being tested and with no protective equipment risking to get the virus and die. Four of them so far lost their lives on the battlefield after getting infected in the hospital environment. The simple fact that hospitals in the UK, and in England in particular, are places where contagion is spreading, therefore dangerous places, is a scandal, a plague itself.
A wide program of testing NHS staff has been launched, in words, but not yet implemented in facts. Test kits are available, but there’s a problem of lack of trained staff able to take the test correctly because if not taken and processed in the right way the test could result negative even in case a patient is infected and this is highly risky as might worsen the widespread contagion.
A number of British tabloids reported coronavirus testing kits made in Britain are being sold overseas as the UK does not have enough laboratories or biotechnology companies to process analyses.
As an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health and Social Care NHS England oversees the budget, planning, delivery and day-to-day operation of the commissioning. At national level, the Health Service CEO, currently Simon Stevens, is directly responsible for over £120 billion annual budget, while Ruth May is National Director responsible for infection prevention and control. It is highly arguable these people have done their job in tackling this pandemic.
The structural crisis behind the emergency explains the waffling answers of the little known Business Secretary Alok Sharma, the last of a series of political figures who appeared in front of cameras for a daily update on coronavirus emergency. Each day a new one, but all unable to give any meaningful answers on testing, ventilators, equipment and prevention, which confirms the government has no plan for testing the wider population either.
This will have very serious consequences not just on the growing death toll and on the spreading of the virus. Tests detect infection in its early stage before a case becomes serious. Coronavirus takes up to 14 days for its incubation, and over this two weeks those infected might show no symptoms, but when the virus starts infecting lungs the case is already acute and needs to be hospitalised or put in emergency unit with a ventilator.
Not testing is therefore the direct cause of the lack of timely diagnoses and of the high number of cases already in the late stage of the disease: from when a patient shows symptoms (fever cough lung pain, respiratory difficulties and in some cases diarrhea) to his/her recovery can only pass few days during which the disease can rapidly lead to death. That's why we need to test all, included those who show no symptoms.
It is clear that in all countries, except Germany, so far, hospitals are behind the speed of the disease and are trying to treat the most critically ill and save those at an advanced stage of the disease. In UK there isn’t currently any form of prevention or detection of early stage cases with light symptoms or asymptomatic.
Testing is vital also to isolate those infected and trace their path to stop the mass contagion and also to find those who unknowingly had the virus in a light form and developed antibodies which are vital not only for research of a vaccine but also for blood transfusions to patients most in need.
The total incapacity of NHS management and government to organise a mass testing and training for staff reveals the inadequacy and irresponsibility not just of a political ruling class but of managers in charge in vital positions for the country. Those people have direct responsibility for the fact that only late stage affected patients are admitted to hospitals and, as reported today, many will not have the right to survive because ventilators will be activated on those who, by age and level of health, will ‘deserve’ to live: younger with no underlying conditions.
The Guardian reports that medics will take out ventilators to patients on stable conditions in order to prioritise those who have more chances to survive.
We all are aware, now, that the United Kingdom has an healthcare systems far below the average standards of western countries. The cause of this does not lie on the UK paying its membership quota to the EU, but on the salvage privatisation instead: the NHS has been sold out to entities such as Virgin Group, which destroyed its skills, its capacity, instruments, blocked its upgrade and its reach to the wider population, to those who cannot afford the luxury of private clinics.
Now, for the pandemic emergency, private healthcare bodies sold, probably at dear price, their services to NHS, but the structural damage is not reparable anymore.
The scandal related to the refusal of the UK government to participate the EU procurement scheme for ventilators and its choice to assign the production to one of its vocal supporter who backed Tories’ nationalists propaganda, made clear the political strategy behind it: by giving such a huge business and reputation leverage to those who support them, Tories are inducing other businesses to follow by the example where the underlying message is ‘if you openly support Tory policies you will get repaid in publicity and business’. Basically it is political propaganda in change of future votes and political support from British businesses. Tories in fact have no political advantage from EU programs. But the British people have as these can save their lives.