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Nursing leaders have called for action to ensure resources are in place for nurses to tackle a second wave of Covid-19 amid a rapid rise in cases nationally.
The resurgence in cases has led to the UK’s four chief medical officers recommending this afternoon that the nation’s coronavirus alert level be upgraded from level 3 to level 4.
“There has to be a proper supply of the right protective equipment, as well as priority access to testing and rapid delivery of results”
This means transmission of the virus is now considered to be “high or rising exponentially”.
Earlier today, chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance and English chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty stood before a briefing in Downing Street to update the nation on the pandemic.
The pair warned how an increase in people testing positive for Covid-19 over the months of August and September were now translating into a rise in hospitalisations.
They explained that the rate of positive cases was “doubling roughly every seven days”.
If this rate continued, the UK would see around 50,000 cases per day by the middle of October, and 200 deaths per day by the middle of November, said Sir Patrick and Professor Whitty.
Today, 4,368 new cases of Covid-19 and 11 new deaths were recorded in the UK.
In response to the briefing, the Royal College of Nursing called for action “now” to get the resources in place for nurses to navigate the crisis, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “With the number of cases of Covid-19 increasing, and the likely rise in the number of those needing treatment in hospital, action must be taken now to ensure nursing staff have access to the resources they need to protect themselves and their patients.
“There has to be a proper supply of the right protective equipment, as well as priority access to testing and rapid delivery of results.”
Staff working in the community and across the care sector “also need to have the same protection as their NHS colleagues”, she added.
“Nursing staff in all settings have already seen the impact of not being able to access the right personal protective equipment or testing where and when they need it, this cannot be allowed to happen further,” said Dame Donna.
“It is also crucially important that all of us in society protect each other, and our health services, by doing what we can to halt the spread of the disease.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the safety and wellbeing of nurses across the NHS and social care was its “absolute priority”.
“This country now faces a tipping point in its response and it is vital everybody plays their part now”
“We have provided significant funding to make sure all those in the health service that need tests can receive them, and we have been clear that patients and staff will be prioritised for testing,” they said.
They added that the department had been “working tirelessly to deliver PPE to protect people on the frontline”.
In a statement this afternoon, Professor Whitty; chief medical officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride; chief medical officer for Scotland, Dr Gregor Smith; and deputy chief medical officer for Wales, Dr Chris Jones, made the recommendation for the UK Covid-19 alert level to move from level 3 to the second highest level of 4.
“After a period of lower Covid cases and deaths, the number of cases are now rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations,” the statement said.
“If we are to avoid significant excess deaths and exceptional pressure in the NHS and other health services over the autumn and winter everyone has to follow the social distancing guidance, wear face coverings correctly and wash their hands regularly.”
Health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock said the raising of the alert level announced by the UK CMOs “reflects the significant shift in the current threat posed by coronavirus”.
“This country now faces a tipping point in its response and it is vital everybody plays their part now to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives,” he warned.