RECENT tests in British health workers showed that about a third of National Health Service (NHS) staff and key workers who have been tested for coronavirus have returned positive results.
According to figures just released, 16,888 people who fall into the category of key workers and their households and who have shown symptoms or live with symptomatic people, have been tested. So far, 5,733, or 34% of them were confirmed to have the virus, which has been particularly ruthless in the UK.
Health workers who are not symptomatic and do not live with people who are, do not meet the UK’s criteria for testing, so the number is not necessarily representative of all workers. Despite this, the figures are high and will intensify pressure on the government to ramp up testing for NHS workers and their families and to improve their access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
British health secretary Matt Hancock, has previously said that the ultimate goal is to provide testing to all NHS workers regardless of symptoms. However, the current level of testing in the UK remains drastically lower than that of several European countries.
Mr Hancock said on April 2 he would increase the number from 10,000 to 100,000 tests per day by the end of the month, adding that he was determined to get there. On April 12, however, his department revealed that only 14,506 tests were conducted, suggesting that the government is significantly behind that goal.
On the issue of equipment, Mr Hancock said that the government was working night and day to make sure it gets the right PPE. At least 19 NHS workers battling the coronavirus pandemic have died so far and numerous associations representing medical workers have complained that they have not been provided with enough PPE to safely treat Covid-19 patients.
On Monday, the Royal College of Nursing issued guidance that staff were entitled to refuse to work if they did not feel comfortable doing so. Donna Kinnair, the union’s chief executive, said that British nurses do not have adequate protection.
She added: “If the employer does not provide appropriate PPE and a safe working environment, as an employee you can refuse to care for a patient. This should be a last resort and you must be able to justify your decision as reasonable, so keep a written record of the safety concerns that led you to withdraw treatment.”
“My inbox is filled on a daily basis and this is the number one priority that nurses are bringing to my attention. They complain that rhey do not have adequate supplies of PPE equipment.”