April 10. Now it’s personal. I learnt last night that my niece, my sister’s younger daughter, has coronavirus. She is a twenty-eight-year old, recently-qualified doctor, working in a city-centre hospital. She was infected five days ago, and is resting at home.
I am of course anxious about her, though her symptoms do not seem serious. She is young and fit and the likelihood must be that she will make a full recovery. I am also concerned for her parents’ anxiety. But most of all I am just infuriated by the event. Many of the cases of coronavirus can be described as random misfortunes. Not this one. She was told three weeks ago that she was being posted to a Covid-19 ward. I was in touch with her parents, who were very worried that she would not be given appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE). The press was full of stories about shortages, and I could understand their fears. But I did think that by the time she entered the ward, something would have been done.
It was not. She lasted just a week before a coughing patient got through her inadequate protection. This was a predictable and predicted outcome. A monument, amongst many others, to the criminal lack of preparedness of the NHS, and the Government that funds and manages it. We are now nearly three months beyond the point when the spread of the epidemic to Britain became a realistic likelihood. And still every part of the system is in arrears.
There is my niece’s suffering – it started with a fierce headache, and she was tested and sent home when she complained she could not taste the chocolates a well-wisher had sent to the ward. Now she feels extremely tired. And there is the sheer misuse of resources. My niece was freshly trained and full of enthusiasm. She shared a flat with another young doctor who as a consequence has had to self-isolate. So that’s two doctors who should be on the front line, shut up at home. It is an utterly stupid, avoidable waste.