Coronavirus – The Week That Changed Britain

At the Royal Victoria infirmary in Newcastle they are bracing themselves for a wave of coronavirus cases.

I donned mask, gloves and protective apron to speak to a suspected Covid 19 patient who had come in with a fever and a cough.

‘At the moment we’re treating anyone who presents in hospital as an emergency, if they have respiratory symptoms, as if they may have Covid. And they will be isolated’

Dr Chris Gibbin explained …

Britain’s first confirmed case of Covid-19 – caused by coronavirus – was treated here.In Newcastle they think this is the calm before the storm

Dame Jackie Daniel, the Chief Executive of the Newcastle Trust told me

‘…Just let’s be clear, this is unprecedented, it’s very serious, wer’re going to have to try and work through it in stages… we will feel pressured for weeks and month potentially’

In Stockton on Tees I visited a GP’s surgery with a special coronavirus room set up to receive people displaying symptoms. They have limited protective equipment but there were no tests available for health workers on the frontline.

‘It’s very challenging at the moment… I have no idea if the patients I see have coronavirus or not.’

A worried Dr David Hodges told me…

‘Doctors, nurses, anyone working in health and social care, if they get symptoms, they need rapid testing. So that they can either get back to work or we know that they are definitely needing to self-isolate’

It was the week the government made a dramatic U turn after receiving data from scientists at Imperial College.

It suggested their measured response to the epidemic could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and severe pressure on the NHS.

So schools were closed and we learned a new phrase – ‘social distancing’. It camewith a massive economic cost as millions stayed at home. Thousands were laid off or forced to take unpaid leave.

Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College told me:

‘The strategy we have adopted is going to change this country for decades to come and generate costs that our children will be repaying’.

At the Royal Victoria Infirmary the first three patients died from coronavirus as they were clearing wards and operating theatres.

Dr Sarah Platt, an intensive care consultant showed me the ventilators vital to saving lives. The hospital has increased the number of bed with ventilators five-fold, to one hundred.

Dr Platt told me…

‘It’s undoubtedly daunting… but  Icertainly feel comfortable that we go well above and beyond our usual capacity and I absolutely know that this hospital will move heaven and earth to try and meet that demand’

Jane Corbin’s Panorama: ‘Coronavirus: the week that changed Britain’ is available on BBC iPlayer

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