It will be very difficult to achieve the correct balance between tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and safeguarding the economy and healthcare, the president of the Catholic Medical Association (UK) has said.
Dr Dermot Kearney added that society must not be complacent of a second wave of Covid-19.
He said that it is currently proving extremely difficult to formulate and introduce acceptable action plans to deal with the ongoing pandemic, and accepted that concentrating solely on eradicating the infection by strict social and healthcare measures had “serious adverse consequences” on the economy, as well as a reduction in medical care provision for other non-Covid-19 related illnesses.
“Sooner or later, these issues have to be seriously addressed,” Dr Kearney told The Catholic Universe. “We want to avoid a situation developing where nobody becomes ill or dies because of Covid but large numbers die from lack of attention for other life-threatening conditions. It will be very difficult to achieve a correct balance.”
Dr Kearney said that the question of a second wave of infection must be considered. However, he added that it may be too early to make “drastic plans” for dealing with it, “especially as the first wave is still with us”.
He also said the nature of any second wave was still in doubt. “A key question that does not seem to have been widely considered is whether or not a second wave or a continuing first wave will prove to be as virulent and as deadly as the first wave,” he said.
“There is a possibility that a new increase in the number of positive cases may not be as serious as that so far experienced.”
Dr Kearney explained that for viruses to survive they depend on the continuing survival of their hosts and if the host dies, the virus dies.
“It is possible that the continued survival of this Covid virus may depend on it becoming less virulent for us. It may need to adapt and evolve to ensure its continuing survival. This could lead to a persistent level of infection within communities but with lower levels of risk to human life, resulting, for many, in less serious illness equivalent to a ‘common cold’,” he said.
“This, however, is only one possibility and at this stage is pure speculation. We cannot afford to be complacent,” he added.
Dr Kearney warned that if levels of infection and numbers with serious complications related to Covid-19 and death rates continue to rise as the winter period approaches, “it could put tremendous strain on the health services in the UK and elsewhere”.
“This would be compounded by a continuing reduction or rationing of healthcare provision for other non-Covid conditions and by the presence of other expected seasonal infections,” he added.
“It is extremely unlikely that any effective vaccine will be available to help tackle Covid. Our best hope is that the virus will naturally become less virulent and less deadly over time.”
Picture: Archive photo, dated 15th July 2020, shows people making their way past a social distancing sign on the High street in Winchester, Hampshire, after the lifting of further coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England. (Andrew Matthews/PA).