Interview: UK gov't urged to be cautious over spread of Delta variant

2021-06-09 14:06:15 GMT2021-06-09 22:06:15(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

LONDON, June 9 (Xinhua) -- The British government needs to remain cautious over the Delta coronavirus variant first identified in India so that hospitals can focus on non-related coronavirus patient enquiries, according to a British doctor based in northern England.

The Delta variant has made opening up England all the more difficult as cases continue to rise across the country. But for doctors, they are noticing a backlog of patients with non-coronavirus appointments and for some patients, this has led to their conditions being diagnosed as worse if they had not been seen sooner.

Chandra Kanneganti, a general practitioner based in Stoke-On-Trent and national chairman of the British International Doctors Association, said if there is another surge in cases across the country, it could lead to an even greater backlog of patients with other potentially serious conditions.

"A number of hospitals are looking at plans on how to reduce the backlog of outpatient appointments. We need hospitals to concentrate on that, rather than the new surge of cases admitted to the hospital with COVID," Kanneganti said.

"That's really crucial, because we're seeing many, many patients now who are coming with the symptoms presentation. And unfortunately, they're turning out to be cancerous. And these symptoms, they've not been seeking help and support for many months, and I think this is very crucial that we need to get to normalcy but at the same time, on the side of caution about how the variant is spreading in the next few days."

According to the British Medical Association, while the overall median waiting time for treatment decreased to 11.6 weeks in March 2021, the total number of patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment increased again to 1.76 million.

Moreover, the number of patients waiting over one year for treatment hit 436,127 in March and has risen 378-fold since March 2019. This figure has consistently risen since March 2020 and is now the highest it has been since August 2007.

Earlier this week, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that the rise in cases linked to the Delta variant had made the lifting of lockdown restrictions in England on June 21 "difficult".

For Kanneganti, whose county of Staffordshire recently experienced a surge in Delta variant linked cases, there is concern among the medical community about the variant.

Currently, there are not enough data for Public Health England to have confidence in saying whether the Delta variant causes a high risk of hospitalisation, he said.

But one thing that has been reported is how the vaccine is reducing the effect of the virus.

As cases do rise across the country, the British government is being questioned on whether the reopening can go ahead.

No official word has been said as of yet, but it looks like the government may be forced to delay. This, according to many medical professionals, is the right thing to do.

"It's better to be cautious rather than opening up everything and have a similar lockdown in the early winter, so I hope actually a proper decision was made. And then I always suggest that we should take the decision on the side of caution, rather than jumping into this," he said.

During the second lockdown announced by the government in October last year, COVID-19 cases had risen to record heights, and deaths increased dramatically. It is clear that doctors and the government alike will be keen to avoid any recurrence of such situation.

However, compared to last time, Britain as a whole is in a much stronger position thanks to the successful rollout of their vaccination program.

It means that they may be in better shape to take on any new variants.

"If we can finish maximum number of those (aged) 18 to 30 at least the first dose, so we have covered every adult with at least one of those -- that will be really crucial and we know that this vaccine works against the virus particularly in preventing hospitalisation complication, we know that it does work against the Delta variant as well," Chandra said.

More than 40.5 million people, or more than three-quarters of adults in Britain, have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine while more than 28.2 million people have been fully vaccinated with a second dose, according to the latest official figures.

Experts have warned that coronavirus may continue to evolve for years to come, and eventually it is likely current vaccines will fail to protect against transmission, infection, or even against disease caused by newer variants.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Russia, the United States as well as the European Union have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines. Enditem