Bill Harvey: You’re wearing a mask
Author: Bill Harvey
Perhaps the starkest statistic yet was released this week by the Office of National Statistics; 45% of deaths in January of this year were due to Covid-19. And now that the Kent variant of the virus has mutated to join the South African variant recently found in the UK, the race really is on between a full and effective vaccine roll out and the spread of the highly infectious variant viruses.
As mentioned in this column many times of late, ECPs are in a privileged position in having access to the community and play an essential role communicating with our patients. Like many readers, I have been undertaking teleconsultations and it is a nice surprise when they are focused on an eye or vision problem. Much of my time has, instead, been spent reassuring, advising on how to access local council services, dismissing vaccine myths, or re-emphasising the need for obeying self-isolation rules and explaining why they are important. Luckily, ours is a profession with experience in communication and now is the time for this to come to the fore.
I like the simple rule to assume that everyone is infected and to act accordingly. This has got me thinking about the current state of PPE for ECPs. We all use the fluid resistant surgical masks. These are generally considered effective enough for eye care and reduce the risk of shortages of high spec PPE for frontline medics. That said, their loose fit to the face means they are not very effective at stopping outward spread of exhaled breath. You can test this by chewing mint gum and asking a partner to identify the flavour. Like in other European countries, I am convinced we will soon be asked to use tighter fitting FFP2 masks (replaced every two hours to dry). Until then, I will double mask with my EU protest fabric mask applied firmly to the face.