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UK closes schools. Here's why

UK closes schools. Here's why
Dr. Norman Swan explains why the UK has closed schools, but we in Australia haven't. For the non-Aussies he's one of our experts here on Covid 19 and he is not a journalist, he's a medical doctor. He reads a message he was sent from a UK whistle-blower. Some of you might find this a little confronting.

The first point he makes is the UK government says they've abandoned the plan of herd immunity but it "may be too late". "The idea was that you couldn't control the virus completely, and that you would allow a significant percentage of the population (maybe 6%) to get the virus and therefore that would slow the virus down. The trade-off for that would be maybe between a quarter of a million and five hundred thousand deaths in the UK. And 1.1 to 2.2 [million] in the United States. ... The main game here is in fact to de-load our hospitals so that people who can be treated get treated and we don't get unnecessary deaths because people are left at home to die."

Okay and now the message he was sent from a whistle-blower doctor in the UK. Ima quote him in full (the UK doctor's words are in green):

"I've got a text from a doctor in the UK which describes why in the UK they've announced that they're going to close schools, because of what's going on in hospitals. I can't identify this doctor because it's cause for instant dismissal. It goes:

"Australia is probably going to get through this a lot better than the UK in terms of flattening the curve. We're totally fucked over here. We're running out of PPE [personal protective equipment] at light-speed, and healthcare workers are dropping like flies. There are two of our consultants (in other words two of their specialists) on ECMO - that's heart-lung bypass: In their hospital two senior doctors on ECMO. Because they've contracted coronavirus. Current guidance from public health England is that all we need to wear for a suspected case is a non-fitted surgical face mask and a sleeveless plastic apron. Even if we're aerosolising they don't recommend a long-sleeve gown and my bosses are just following this blindly like idiots, and partially because we'll completely run out of this stuff in a matter of weeks. So everyone is getting sick, and the first wave of public illness is only just beginning, there are some dark days ahead."

So this is the primary reason why the UK has closed their schools, and why Australia hasn't: the UK's health facilities (hospitals and other primary care clinics) are beyond capacity. It's really that simple. They'll have to turn away large numbers of patients that need hospitalisation like has happened in Italy.

Australia is in a very different place: we're not going to run out of PPE. We'll run out of hospital beds before that happens. It's not necessarily because we've got fantastic preparedness or anything, but it helps that we have domestic producers who can scale-up production to meet the demand of an endemic. We certainly won't face the kind of shortages being experienced in the UK and other European countries.

Furthermore, the above shows the difference in capacity to respond to an endemic pathogen: the UK's advice for healthcare workers working with suspected cases of Covid 19 is they only need sleeveless gowns and surgical face masks, whereas the Australian guidelines is that they must must wear gloves, gowns, eye protection, and a correctly fitted P2/N95 respirator. The P2/N95 respirator is not required for non-confirmed cases where the symptoms are mild, in which case a surgical mask is fine, but for all aerosol generating procedures, of if the patient is coughing uncontrollably, it is strictly required.

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