Late last night came the announcement that President Trump was withdrawing US funding from the World Health Organisation. How helpful is that at a time like this, as global deaths pass 125,000? The US is the largest contributor to WHO, so this begs the question of how that funding gap be closed when, arguably, WHO advice is more important than ever? We have to wonder if this is a muscle-flexing response to individual states asserting their rights to end lockdown when Trump asserts that he alone has that power. A CNN reporter tweeted: ‘Ha. Trump says he will be “authorizing” each governor to reopen their state at the time of their choosing. This isn’t his call; he doesn’t get to authorize. The power is already theirs’.
Issues about care homes and vulnerable residents continue to dominate the airwaves, some shocked to be told by homes that their relative wouldn’t be taken to hospital if they got COVID and it’s not only care home staff and residents who feel so vulnerable. An anonymous psychiatric ward clinician writing in the Guardian says they are ‘sitting ducks’ because ‘physical distancing is impossible, we have no PPE, patients aren’t allowed to go out, and violence and anxiety are on the rise. Lockdown has ended patients’ leave and visits. This affects their stability, and to many feels punitive. If self-harm increases, our patients will not be a priority on general wards. We worry for them’.
It’s not surprising the writer chose anonymity, as the Guardian also reports on the widespread gagging of NHS staff by their employers, forbidding staff from speaking to the media. As if they didn’t already have a hard enough job. One mental health professional said: “When it comes to the day-to-day clinical issues and challenges we face, there is a definite power dynamic at play, and [we] are generally petrified to speak out”.
Today Labour is pressing firmly for a transparent strategy on ending lockdown. Staying at home and self-isolating are the very opposites of what’s important for optimum mental wellbeing, yet this could continue for many more weeks and some will become disillusioned and may breach the lockdown. The Guardian reports on scientists’ warnings that physical distancing measures may need to be in place intermittently until 2022, in an analysis that suggests there could be resurgences of Covid-19 for years to come. The paper, published in the journal Science, concludes that a one-time lockdown will be insufficient to bring the pandemic under control and that without continuing restrictions secondary peaks could be larger than the current one.
Will we ever again feel safe to hug and kiss friends and loved ones? What will this lack of physical contact do to our psyches? It’s well known (and currently there’s a large research project underway about it) that touch is essential to wellbeing and yet we are all having to mostly avoid it. You can check out the Radio4/Wellcome Collection/Goldsmiths University research here. https://www.gold.ac.uk/news/the-touch-test/
BBC Economics editor Faisal Islam broke the news that a draft document from Public Health England discussed “last resort arrangements” for “acute supply shortages” of PPE because of “stock & reduced ability to resupply”. The ‘arrangements’ include using “sportswear” and reusing normally single use masks and will have to be reviewed by HSE.
This afternoon we heard that another 761 COVID19 patients with have died in UK hospitals, bringing the total to 12,868, but it’s suggested figures are far higher because of the exclusion of care home and community death stats. At the daily press briefing (painful to listen to) a key part of the social care announcement turned out to be the plan to introduce a badge of honour for workers, enabling them to be more easily identified and recognised, no mention of decent pay. You couldn’t make it up. As someone tweeted:
‘Badges for social care staff sounds like a lovely idea, but feels more like yet another costly PR stunt by this Tory administration that is essentially an empty gesture following years of underfunding’.
Don’t forget to tune into Fallout tonight if you can: 8 pm on BBC Radio4 with Mary Ann Sieghart on what kind of society and changes we’ll see post COVID2019. The third in the series focuses on health and although there’s no mental health expert on the panel Ms Sieghart assured me on Twitter that the topic will be covered.