Several Indian and other doctors in the frontline of treating coronavirus patients in the UK have complained that they themselves are not being tested for the virus, prompting growing concern over the ways in which the crisis is being handled by British authorities.
“The worst is yet to come. Indian doctors and nursing staff are among those in the frontline of treating coronavirus patients, but we are concerned that they are not being tested”, Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, said on Wednesday.
“Indian staff is on the frontline, if they and others also go in isolation, it will further worsen the critical staff shortage in National Health Service (NHS). We have written to the Department of Health on this issue. Those who have symptoms should at least be tested,” he added.
The Boris Johnson government is bracing for a spike in cases in the next three weeks. Besides advising self-isolation and closure of restaurants, pubs, theatres and public events, it has allocated an additional 330 billion pounds to deal with the situation.
Besides concern expressed by many in the Indian community and Indian visitors over the lack of testing for the virus, NHS consultants and others working with less protection have spoken to the British news media, alleging the UK’s guidelines on the issue is “chaotic”.
Nishant Joshi, who works in the A&E department of the Luton and Dunstable hospital, told The Guardian: “I’m treating patients who are perhaps presenting for a broken ankle and they suddenly start coughing all over you. You’re breathing in an aerosol spray of droplets and we’re not even wearing a mask – just scrubs and a plastic apron.”
“So many of my friends are doctors, nurses and healthcare workers on the frontline…But it’s not going to just be a question of sacrificing ourselves, it’s the risk we pose to everyone we come into contact with which includes some of the most vulnerable people in Britain.”
Joshi, whose wife is also a doctor, said “it just makes no sense to any of us”, and recalled World Health Organisation’s advice that testing and contact tracing is vital: “Yet, the (UK) government is not even testing those of us who are being exposed in the course of our work fighting this on the frontline.”
Pleading to be tested, Iszy Lord, 25, a doctor working in a hospital in Grimsby, told the BBC: “We’re young and fit whereas our colleagues are much older. We’re just the sort of people who should be working in hospital right now”.
“The potential implications for self-isolating people without testing are huge. What’s going to happen if anyone gets anything resembling a cold for the next few months, are we going to have to self-isolate for 14 days each time? It’s alarming”.