As Covid-19 continues to rapidly spread across the world, there is no longer any uncertainty about the immediate danger of this highly contagious virus.
It’s estimated that approximately one in five people who get the infection will become seriously unwell and up to one in twenty people may die. People of all ages and backgrounds are getting very sick in a short space of time as Covid-19 infection causes an immune response that triggers a severe and rapidly progressing pneumonia which can cause dangerously low oxygen levels. We are seeing young, fit and previously healthy people come into hospital with a cough and then within a few hours they are requiring invasive breathing support on our Intensive Care Units.
We are being forced to have conversations about end of life care with people in their fifties and sixties.
People are dying alone, rapidly, unprecedentedly.
Our NHS is stepping up.
We are reshuffling, redistributing, reassessing every day.
We are still looking after older people who have fallen over, people involved in road traffic accidents, those needing urgent cancer operations and treatment.
We are doing our absolute best but there is so much that we are learning about Covid-19 hour by hour and we also need to protect ourselves so we can look after you. Our workforce is vulnerable and indispensable.
Covid-19 harbours a wide range of signs and symptoms. People testing positive for the virus are describing fevers, headaches, tummy ache, feeling very tired, diarrhoea and muscle pains with or without the dry cough that has been widely circulated as the main sign of coronavirus infection.
However, whether or not you think you have Covid-19, our advice is the same – make sure you drink plenty of fluids, rest and take paracetamol for a fever if you need to.
If you feel as though you are getting worse and cannot cope with your symptoms, follow NHS online guidance or call 111 for advice. In an emergency call 999 or attend A&E. It’s incredibly important that you isolate yourself if you have any symptoms or feel at all poorly, which means that you must stay inside and away from anyone else for seven days. Isolation is also necessary for fourteen days if you are well but you live with someone who is unwell.
The incubation period for Covid-19 can be up to two weeks, so someone who is feeling well can be carrying the virus and passing it on easily and unwittingly for fourteen days, passing it on by brushing past someone in the supermarket aisle, a chance encounter between kids on the slides at the park, a quick exchange over the tube barriers.
Washing your hands is vitally important and soap is much better than alcohol gel. However, wearing face masks is futile as they don’t protect you from getting the virus and we desperately need to keep our supply of masks in hospitals to protect us when we are looking after people in higher-risk situations; surgical masks only stop you touching your face and they do not stop droplets of virus getting into your body.
Even if you feel fine, social distancing is still absolutely necessary for everyone as every single interaction with another person whatsoever puts you at risk, even if they also seem well.
This is different from social isolation; social distancing means reducing all contact with other people as much as possible and social isolation means no contact whatsoever, which is the only way to ensure you are not passing on or catching the virus.
Take your children out for fresh air, go for a run, walk your dog if you feel it is absolutely necessary to go out, but take a pragmatic approach by avoiding playgrounds and dog parks or going out early in the morning.
Remember to keep a 2 metre distance between people and keep an eye on the official guidance from Public Health England. Read a bedtime story to your grandchildren over Skype or have a cup of tea with a friend on FaceTime. Minimise your trips to the supermarket or kosher shops with only a weekly visit and take only what you need; there are thousands of people who already struggle to feed their families when there isn’t a pandemic and it is not worth risking Covid-19 for the sake of a few more snacks. Cancel your birthday celebration this year to ensure you can have a birthday at all next year.
As Pesach approaches the festive period will be an inevitable challenge, but the Jewish community is already full of kindness and innovation.
Many areas already have wonderful support systems in place to help the elderly and vulnerable with shopping and meals and the enthusiastic success of the United Synagogue’s Kabbalat Shabbat live on Facebook and Reform Judaism’s RJ:TV with daily interactive programming has been remarkable and reassuring.
Food supply chains remain unaffected by Covid-19 and given widespread closures of hotels, Pesach supplies will be plentiful. As foodbanks run out of everything and are forced to close, tzedakah is more important than ever.
Avoiding congregative services, seders with anyone outside of your immediate household and schools over the next few months will be difficult for all of us, especially over Yom Tov, but the strength of a community is not defined by the physical gathering of people.
Our Jewish community thrives because of our shared values and responsibilities and our innate ability to adapt and overcome under difficult circumstances. Ultimately, the preservation of human life supercedes every other mitzvah.
Stay inside, wash your hands and save lives.
- Dr Sarah Simons is a junior doctor working in Emergency & Acute Medicine at Whittington Health with an academic interest in global public health.