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The impact of COVID-19 on our health

View profile for Tom Mooney
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Coronavirus Act 2020

As restrictions are gradually eased, and we take our first tentative steps towards a new normal, we are only now able to begin to truly appreciate the significant impact that the recent pandemic has had, and will have, on everyday life.

At the time of writing, approximately 43,000 have officially died from COVID-19 in the UK. However, many believe that the tragic figure could be much more with data showing more than 60,000 additional deaths by the end of May compared to the same time last year. Sadly more deaths will occur – even if a dreaded second wave is avoided.

For those that have had the disease, and survived, then experts are now warning that a significant proportion could be left with permanent lung scarring which might cause severe shortness of breath, coughing and fatigue.

The impact on mental health should also not be underestimated. A quarter of young people who were accessing mental health support before the crisis are no longer receiving it. In addition, over two-thirds of adults (69%) said they are very or somewhat worried about the effect that the coronavirus is having on their life.

With a recession looming many will be concerned about how they will pay their bills and support their families. The cost of the government’s furlough scheme alone is projected to cost in the region of £69 billion. How such financial support will be repaid is unknown.  However, the possible additional burden on taxpayers is perhaps only a secondary concern for many who face the stresses associated with job uncertainty and the probability of increased competition for vacant positions.

There will also be a future health impact on those that have not had the disease. Reports suggest that over 2 million non-emergency procedures (such as hip and knee replacements, cataracts and hernias) have been cancelled due to the pandemic. It seems inevitable this will lead to ongoing delays as the NHS works through the backlog.

It is also estimated that there has been a fivefold increase in patients waiting longer than 6 weeks for tests and scans between March and April alone. Indeed, Cancer Research has said more than two million people are now overdue for cancer screening, tests or treatment, resulting in a potential 23,000 cancers having gone undiagnosed during lockdown.

Finally, charities have also warned that the pandemic has caused fundraising to plummet, with events cancelled and charity shops closed. It is feared that a lack of funding could result in a delay in discovering new cancer treatments, research institutes being shut and a generation of upcoming scientists being lost. This will have a clear impact on the UK for years to come.

It will certainly be interesting how the government responds to this impending health crisis and whether increased financial support, including the future recruitment of doctors and nurses, will be forthcoming to help us all again through these unprecedented times.