It’s December 29th today. I’ve spent the entire Christmas period working as a doctor. I was on call overnight every day as an Out Of Hours GP, I saw patients face-to-face in night time emergency appointments, and I worked as a normal GP either side of the weekend.
Unmistakeably, over the last week, I’ve seen that people are not taking Covid seriously.
Every day this week, I have seen multiple patients with cough and/or temperatures. And they haven’t even considered a Covid-19 test. Not even considered it! They’ve not isolated, they’ve not made any attempt to shield vulnerable relatives, co-workers or friends. Nope, they have spent Christmas with their entire extended family, putting them all at risk. People are not taken Covid seriously.
It would seem like I’m breaking confidentiality saying this, but this has not been an isolated case. This is not one or two thoughtless individuals; for months now I have experienced a repeated, persistent, willful ignoring of symptoms and the guidance.
If you have a cough, if you have a fever, if you have a change of taste or smell, what should you do? You should isolate and get a test. Right?
People know that. They just don’t want to do it.
It is not an exaggeration to say that 80% of the patients I’ve spoken to with Covid symptoms have not been tested and have not been isolating. I suspect 90% would be the true figure. It is becoming slightly surprising to speak to a patient with Covid symptoms and discover that they have had a test.
In the last week I’ve had multiple patients tell me “I’ve got a cough, but it’s not a Covid cough“.
Which is incredible to me. Amazing, really. You see I’m a qualified doctor, who has been working in multiple Covid-specific services for 9 months, and yet I still need a patient to have a Covid test before I can confirm that a cough isn’t ‘a Covid cough‘.
Let me translate their words for you: “I’ve got a cough, but I don’t want my life to be disrupted by acting responsibly, so I’m going to arbitrarily decide that it’s not the virus. And so I’m not going to have a test, and I’m not going to isolate. I’m still going to go and see Grandma too”.
Deciding not to have a test – and not to isolate – because you don’t want to be inconvenienced is irresponsible. It’s not taking Covid seriously. It’s not taking Grandma’s life seriously. And a jaw-dropping number of people are doing it.
Yet, at the same time, we are hearing stories of ICUs full to capacity, of young people dying, of more patients in hospital than in April. Our daily cases figure is higher than many country’s total figures. Over 600 healthcare workers have died in the UK. Other doctors, cleverer, better dressed doctors than me, are going on the record to talk about hospitals running out of oxygen, about families celebrating Christmas without the loved ones who have died from the virus.
Please, for the sake of the NHS, for the sake of healthcare workers, for the sake of Grandma, please start taking this seriously.
I know you know this. I can’t believe you haven’t heard this message, but people really are not heeding it, so I’ll say it again:
If you have:
- a new continuous cough
- a raised temperature
- a loss of, or change in taste or smell
then you need a Covid test and your household need to isolate until it comes back negative.
Even if you are sure it’s ‘not a Covid cough‘.
Please take this seriously.
Chris Lowry is a GP who eats too much trifle.
Follow him on twitter at @bigonroad