Today the UK death toll from COVID19 increased by 888, taking the total number of fatalities to 15,464 and we’re told there could be 40,000 in this first wave of the outbreak – terrible news all round.
As the debate on PPE shortages continues, specifically focused on the likely shortage of gowns this weekend, Matt Hancock’s statement at yesterday’s Health and Social Care Committee was widely found galling, that he “would love to be able to wave a magic wand” to increase supply of PPE, when it’s now well known that the government turned down several opportunities to obtain supplies earlier this year.
An irony about the much-criticised care badge was reported by the Guardian: the website soon ran into difficulties, leaving visitors with the news that there was now a shortage. ‘Until production is “ramped up”, it’s hard not to conclude that the chief success of the care badge was to form a psychic shield around the health secretary. It will, however, take more than a badge if he doesn’t hit his 100,000 tests a day target for the end of April, having already missed the 25,000-a-day target for the middle of the month.’ What a marvellous phrase that is: ‘ a psychic shield around the Health Secretary’ – surely to become one of the most memorable of this period and one likely to be applicable in many other situations. Some equivalence to Emperor’s Clothes!
It seems shocking that these trumpeted care badges aren’t being distributed free of charge. A care worker was asked by BBC Newsbeat whether she will be buying one of the new CARE badges, she said “No, they are being sold for £8.99 and my wage is only £8.75 an hour.”
It’s to be expected that relationships will come under strain in such challenging and uncertain times, and although it’s long been an overlooked problem, it’s shocking to see how lockdown has caused domestic abuse to rocket or rise to the surface. The UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, reported a 700% increase in calls to its helpline in a single day. After the first week of lockdown, domestic abuse charity Refuge said there had been a 25% increase in calls to the National Abuse Helpline and online requests. Within the national context, about An 1.6 million women and 786,000 men experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019,statistics now out of date.
Priti Patel recently launched a campaign under the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone to support victims of abuse after a rise in cases during the coronavirus lockdown. The UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, reported a 700% increase in calls to its helpline in a single day. This phenomenon carries with it a significant mental health burden for the abused and their children. What public sector help will be available to them when this is over?
Sarah Coulthard-Evans, a mental health service user who spent 10 years on a psychiatric ward, wrote movingly in the Guardian about her experience of finally being discharged from hospital, only for the lockdown to severely curtail her freedom. She captures very well the mental health challenge many will be hit with, an experience she has gained insight into during her long hospital spell.
‘My fear is that during this pandemic we could see a significant spike in suicide or self-harm rates as vital support is stripped away, and those living with mental health problems are left with nothing but their own thoughts. Depression and anxiety thrive on social isolation, a lack of routine, and sudden changes of plans.
The lockdown will mean that a lot of people can no longer access mental health services, attend face-to-face therapy, or simply see their friends – things that offer people a lifeline in a mental health crisis. It’s not surprising that a recent survey by Young Minds found that 80% of young people with a history of mental ill health found their conditions have worsened since the coronavirus crisis began in the UK.
When this is over I expect we will see a surge in the demand for mental health services, and I worry how the overstretched system will cope. The lack of money, too few beds and the shortage of home support meant it was already in crisis long before this pandemic hit.’
This is exactly what the government must develop a strategy for – how the ‘overstretched system will cope’ when it’s already been creaking at the joints for so long. As a mental health professional tweeted about lockdown: “The worst part of living in isolation is that fundamental elements of your life are exposed for what they are. You can no longer hide from the hard truths.”