Doctors in Wales warn a second Covid peak is “very likely” and is their greatest fear this winter.
A survey of doctors by BMA Cymru Wales has revealed that a second wave of the virus is the number one concern among the medical profession.
Some 85% of around 500 doctors and medical students who responded said that a second peak was likely or very likely in the next six months.
Doctors say the confusing messages on public health measures, lack of monitoring and adherence to infection control measures in public settings, and failure of the test and trace system – including poor access to testing sites – are the main risks to causing a second peak.
When asked about the impact of measures to help prevent a second peak, doctors said that a fit-for-purpose test and trace system that is accessible and provides timely results, as well as a coherent, rapid and consistent approach to local outbreaks were the two most important.
They also highlighted the need for clearer public information and more visible messaging on rules and guidelines, including those on mixing with people from outside your household.
Dr David Bailey, BMA Cymru Wales council chair, said: “The survey results expose the greatest fears of doctors in Wales – fears borne out of their everyday experiences of treating patients with Covid-19 and witnessing the dramatic impact of the virus on the NHS.
“As a profession, and I’m sure as a nation, we do not wish to return to the scenes we saw earlier in the year where hospitals were full with Covid-19 patients, many people dying every day.
“As local lockdowns come into force in Wales and new measures are introduced to minimise the spread, we must all work together to prevent the virus taking hold in our communities once more.
“But to do this, the Welsh Government must provide clearer public information and more visible messaging on rules and guidelines, and the test and trace system must be sorted once and for all. The public cannot be expected to travel hours from home to get a test.”
Dr Bailey admitted doctors have struggled to manage Covid-19 cases alongside routine care.
“Waiting lists have rocketed – understandably, as doctors have grappled with the influx of patients affected by the virus,” he added.
“Our members have told us they are concerned at the prospect of managing routine care alongside a second peak. With a high proportion of doctors already reporting stress and burnout, the impact a second peak would have on patients and the profession is extremely worrying.
“With cases rising and winter approaching, we are at a critical point in the fight against the virus. It’s in all our interests to ensure our fears do not turn into reality.”
New measures are being introduced across Wales from Monday, September 14 in a bid to reduce the spread of the virus.
Dr Christopher Williams, incident director for the novel coronavirus outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “These include the mandatory wearing of face coverings by people over 11 in public places, like shops, and that only six people from an extended household can meet indoors.
“As children return to schools, I understand that parents will be concerned at reports of positive cases. I would urge you to follow advice from the school or local authority and only withdraw children from school when asked to do so. Social distancing measures that are in place are designed to prevent the spread of the disease beyond the ‘bubbles’ established in schools.
“Again it is important that children maintain regular hand washing throughout the day, and on returning home, and parents’ help with this is vital.”
He added: “We are now seeing a steady increase in cases in a number of communities across Wales, and our investigations show that many of these have been transmitted due to a lack of social distancing.
“This has resulted in the spread of the virus to other groups of people.
“We continue to appeal to everyone to please remember that, even if you feel that you would not be badly affected by Covid-19 if you were to test positive, should you pass it on to older or more vulnerable family members, friends or colleagues it could be extremely serious and even fatal.
“Coronavirus has not gone away. It remains the responsibility of everyone to help prevent the spread of this virus: that is, by self-isolating when asked to do so, staying two metres away from others, and by washing hands regularly.”