Healthcare Systems in Crisis: The Effect of COVID-19
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U.S. hospitals are already reporting shortages of key equipment needed to care for critically ill patients, including ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff. Adequate production and distribution of both types of equipment are crucial to caring for patients during the pandemic.
No matter which estimate we use, there are not enough ventilators for patients with Covid-19 in the upcoming months.
Equally worrisome is the lack of adequate PPE for frontline health care workers, including respirators, gloves, face shields, gowns, and hand sanitizer. In Italy, health care workers experienced high rates of infection and death partly because of inadequate access to PPE. And recent estimates here in the United States suggest that we will need far more respirators and surgical masks than are currently available.
The U.S. shortage has multiple causes, including problems with the global supply chain. Before this pandemic, for instance, China produced approximately half the world’s face masks. As the infection spread across China, their exports came to a halt. Now, as the infection spreads globally and transmission in China slows, China is shipping masks to other countries as part of goodwill packages. The United States has not been a major recipient.
Stay at home
The single most important action you can take is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. You should only leave the house for very limited reasons:
- shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, as infrequently as possible
- one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
- any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid risk of harm, provide care or help a vulnerable person
- travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home
- These are exceptions – and when doing these activities, you should minimise time spent outside of the home and ensure you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
- Critical workers, and parents of vulnerable children, may leave the house to take their children to and from school or their childcare provider. More detail is available online. Children can be moved between homes if their parents live separately. 
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COVID-19: Pandemics, Modelling, and Policy
SummaryIn Europe COVID-19 overwhelmed the health service of Italy, the country first affected by the pandemic. Other countries were equally unprepared but because they lagged behind Italy had time to put in place measures to protect their health systems. However these measures have been frustrated by the global lack of equipment, especially ventilators and Personal Protection Equipment. This shortage is partly due to China being the world’s major supplier. Despite the huge social and economic cost, the ‘lockdown’ imposed by the British Government on its citizens is a direct attempt to flatten the curve and save the NHS. Many other countries have similar policies and similar objectives.
References Jason Horowitz, ‘Italy’s Health Care System Groans Under Coronavirus — a Warning to the World’, New York Times, March 12, 2020 updated March 17, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/12/world/europe/12italy-coronavirus-health-care.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article Megan L. Ranney, Valerie Griffeth, Ashish K. Jha, ‘Critical Supply Shortages — The Need for Ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment during the Covid-19 Pandemic’, The New England Journal of Medicine, March 25, 2020, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2006141 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006141 Wikipedia, ‘Shortages related to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic’, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortages_related_to_the_2019%E2%80%9320_coronavirus_pandemic Gov.uk. Coronavirus: stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives – web version Updated 15 April 2020 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-leaflet/coronavirus-stay-at-home-protect-the-nhs-save-lives-web-version
COVID-19: Pandemics, Modelling, and Policy
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