Friday, 29 May 2020

Contact tracing in England

Further to yesterday's post, here is a full recapitulation of Phil Hammond's (MD) account of the then current "patient zero" from Private Eye of the first week in April, as referred to at the end of that month.

Steve Walsh
returned to the UK from a skiing holiday, the ideal mixing pot for global travellers to swap apr├Ęs ski viruses while singing Sweet Caroline.

Walsh's timeline since returning to the UK, as submitted by a local GP, does not inspire confidence in our public health response. Unchecked, 10 cycles of the virus originating from one person can infect 59.000 others ...

Tuesday 28 January: Walsh flies back from France with Catriona Greenwood and her husband after visiting them at their ski lodge.

Saturday 1 February: He goes to the pub in Hove.

Sunday: MD gets a phone call in the evening telling him A&E in Brighton has a suspected case. Walsh and the Department of Health say he phoned 111 and was told to attend an isolated room at a hospital, then isolate at home.

Monday: He has at last been tested. The Royal Sussex in Brighton doesn't have isolation pods at this point and results are taking 48 hours. He is taken into hospital very quickly. MD contacts the Royal Sussex and is told it has no suspected cases.

Tuesday: The NHS Trust in Brighton is still denying it has any suspected cases.

Wednesday: Test results confirm Walsh is positive for the virus.

Thursday 6 February: Press conference confirms the first British case is a businessman who had travelled from Singapore. [MD  does not tell us whether this case triggered any contact tracing] Meanwhile, Catriona Greenwood is at a safeguarding meeting with about 20 other GPs from the Brighton area in the council chamber at Hove Town Hall. She has clearly not been contacted by Public Health England (PHE) as part of its notification protocol. This is at least three days after Walsh said he had been in contact with a known case and confirmed he was the first British person known to have the virus. Greenwood makes her first phone call to PHE after reading about the "Super Spreader" in the news, saying she thinks she knows him, he had been staying with her, and they'd flown back to the UK together. They tell her not to worry, they'll ring back.

Friday: She goes to work at the surgery in Brighton where she is a locum, although not to see any patients. Continues to make phone calls to PHE asking to be tested.

Saturday: She continues to make phone calls to PHE.

Sunday 9 February: In another call to PHE, she tells them her husband is now unwell ...

It is generally accepted that one of the favoured occupations of doctors of above-average income is a skiing holiday. One would have thought that the news that winter resorts in Italy and France had become hot-spots for Covid-19 would have alerted NHS Trusts in England that they should prepare themselves to take special measures.

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