The UK government is now considering a partial lockdown in London to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Over 10,000 troops have been told they could deploy at any given time if social order deteriorates. The hospital system is being pushed to its "breaking point" with an influx of virus patients, all as the economy crashes.
On March 16, we noted that the UK missed the "critical containment window" to suppress the epidemic curve. Now cases and deaths are surging. It was also said that hospital beds and ICU-level treatment were nearing full capacity, indicating that the hospital system is nearing the point of being overwhelmed, which would result in a jump of the mortality rate.
Dr. Jessica Potter, a respiratory specialist in the UK's National Health Service (NHS), confirmed our thoughts in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, where she said hospitals across the UK "are overwhelmed" and "on the brink of collapse."
As people with the coronavirus flood our corridors, hospitals will be pushed to the breaking point. Britain is a rich country and may fare better than others. But the NHS is creaking at the seams after years of underfunding. A decade of cuts by successive Conservative governments has stripped the service of resources. Staff morale is low and retention is poor. We are already working at capacity.
When our hospitals are overwhelmed and we have to decide how to allocate scarce resources, how do we choose whom to ventilate and whom not to? Italy is nearly at that point, and its health service has many more intensive-care beds per person than Britain's. Will I have to tell someone we can't treat a loved one because we're out of ventilators, oxygen, tubes, masks, hospitals, staff? Will we then impose an age limit, as some hospitals in Italy are considering, or will some notion of "deservingness" come into play?
Potter said there is much uncertainty surrounding where the country is in the epidemic curve:
But I worry about how we know where we are on the epidemic curve. Have we tested enough people? What if lockdown comes too late? Will we be overwhelmed too soon? Across the NHS this winter there have been patients in corridors and canceled surgeries. How many people will die because we've been working on the brink of collapse for too long?
She warned that the hospital system could struggle to treat the most vulnerable:
Britain has fewer intensive-care beds than most other European countries. Occupancy rates are high, and there's a daily struggle to discharge enough people to make space for new patients. Even when a bed is available, we do not have the nurses to staff it. A decade of cuts and underfunding has left us dangerously exposed. This is the perpetual winter of the NHS.
Potter said, "right now, it feels like we're heading into the abyss." And that is right because the hospital system is at near full capacity, no one knows where the country stands on the epidemic curve, and until a complete lockdown of the country is seen, the virus will continue spreading.
If you thought UK's collapsing hospital system was terrible, the economy has also crashed, resulting in the Bank of England to make a statement that said it would print unlimited amounts of money.
A secret government document was leaked earlier this week that said 80% of Britons could be infected, and the virus would not clear out of the country until Spring 2021.