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Express & Star comment: Full impact of Covid-19 will take time

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

Horrific though the toll already extracted by coronavirus has been, the full extent of the deadly impact is going to be learned somewhere down the line.

Beryl Hewlett is given an emotional send-off as she leaves hospital four weeks after contracting coronavirus

There is going to come a point when we can assess the deaths which have been caused directly by Covid-19, and the deaths which have been caused indirectly by the pandemic through its impact on our healthcare model and on the way people have behaved.

In the expectation of a tidal wave of coronavirus cases hospitals arranged their healthcare to avoid the risk of being overwhelmed. And the result has been that patients with other diseases and conditions have found themselves put on hold, with appointments and treatments delayed. For somebody with cancer, or suspected cancer, to be made to wait longer than they would otherwise have done has been a major cause of anxiety. Of course there have been medical reasons at work as well. Somebody receiving chemotherapy is going to be more vulnerable, as their body’s defence to infection is reduced. Safer, then, to beat the pandemic before starting the treatment.

Patient psychology has played a major part, as demonstrated by the plunge in the numbers attending hospital, either because they are afraid that they might be putting themselves at risk by doing so, or because they know the doctors and nurses are already very busy and don’t want to be an additional burden.

In fact, you can see potential health side effects almost anywhere you care to look. Children no longer receiving nutritious school meals. People staying at home in accordance with the guidelines who are not getting enough exercise, storing up trouble for the future. The stress of having no work affecting mental health. And so on.

The daily coronavirus figures have been shocking but there will be a lot for our society collectively to ponder if, when the full picture becomes known, those figures are eclipsed by non-Covid deaths over and above what would normally be expected. Because it will suggest that “flattening the curve” on Covid has been achieved at the cost of a sharp upward curve for other deaths.

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