People with a virus 'should wear masks in public'

time:2023-06-10 23:10:40source:Al Jazeera author:Press center2

People with a virus should wear a face mask if they are out in public and not go to work, according to Scotland's national clinical director.

Prof Jason Leitch said there needed to be a "new culture" of making sure people do not pass diseases to others.

The UK Health Security Agency has urged adults to stay at home if they are ill.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has warned the NHS faces "an extremely challenging" next two weeks as a result of Covid and flu cases.

It comes as the number of people in the UK estimated to have Covid last week hit two million.

Prof Leitch also called on people to think carefully about how they access health services as winter pressures mount on A&E departments and GP practices.

The latest Public Health Scotland figures show just under 57% of A&E patients in Scotland were seen within the government's four-hour target last week - a slight improvement on the previous week.

However, the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours in emergency departments - 1,925 - was at a record high.

Prof Leitch told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "There are things we can do to help each other, whether they are relatives, friends, neighbours and those around us.

"We shouldn't pass on diseases to others. This is a new culture for Scotland. This means not going to the office if you are sick, not going to drive that bus.

"If you have a virus, if you're not well, you should stay at home and not pass that virus on to others."

The UK Health Security Agency previously called on adults who are unwell to wear a face covering if they have to go out and avoid vulnerable people unless it is urgent.

It has also stressed the importance of washing hands and catching coughs and sneezes in tissues.

Prof Leitch said he understood many people would be wary of returning to widespread use of face coverings similar to that at the height of the pandemic.

But he said learning lessons from how people in south-east Asia react to viruses would be "no bad thing".

"One of the cultural differences there is that if you are unwell, recovering from a virus or you feel as if you've got that scratchy throat at the beginning of a virus, then you wear a face covering in the shops, in the street and on public transport," he said.

"That would be no bad thing for Scotland and the UK to inherit from the Covid pandemic.

"We have thrown off the shackles of Covid. We think it's over. Well let me tell you, two million people in Britain have Covid this week. There are 800 people in hospital seriously ill with Covid and often with another disease.

"So Covid is here to stay and we're going to have to live with it."

Prof Leitch also urged people to think carefully about how they access health services as GP practices reopen after the holiday period.

He said those feeling ill should search the NHS inform website in the first instance, as part of efforts to ease pressure on A&E services.

Scotland recorded its worst ever performance times at A&E in the week up to 18 December, with 55% of patients seen within the government target of four hours.

This improved to just under 57% last week, although the latest data does not include NHS Ayrshire and Arran or NHS Borders because of technical problems.

The aim is for 95% of those attending emergency departments to be seen and then admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

There have been calls to introduce emergency measures at some Scottish A&E departments where one medic said patients were being kept in "inhumane" conditions.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said he accepted the latest figures were "not acceptable".

But he said he hoped the public understood "this is not a normal situation".

He told BBC Scotland: "We've never seen such unprecedented demand and pressure on our health service.

"This winter will probably be the most challenging that the NHS has ever faced in its 74-year existence.

"That's because of not just a rise in Covid cases but in other viral infections that have come back with a vengeance that we haven't seen in the last couple of years."

Mr Yousaf said the Scottish government was working "with relentless focus" with health boards to ensure people leave hospital without delay.

He said: "We need to make sure every staffed bed is being flagged up by care homes, for example, so we can get people out - even on an interim basis.

"It may not be their first choice of care home, it may not be their second choice.

"But being in a hospital that is over-occupied, that is facing significant pressure, if you're clinically safe to be discharged then that can't be an option to remain there."

Opposition parties have again called on the health secretary to resign over the "appalling" waiting times figures.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said they laid bare the crisis in A&E under Mr Yousaf.

He added: "Despite the Herculean efforts of frontline staff, waiting times in our emergency departments are unacceptable due to years of dire workforce planning by successive SNP health secretaries, as well as the flimsy recovery plan of the current one."

Scottish Labour's Jackie Baillie said: "Staff are working tirelessly but the inaction of this SNP government has left them facing an impossible struggle. We are only halfway through this winter so there is still much more to come.

"This crisis has occurred on Humza Yousaf's watch and NHS staff have no confidence that he is the person capable of taking action and leading them out of this crisis. Mr Yousaf, it's time to go."

Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, said the number of people turning up at A&E was only part of the problems facing the NHS.

She told the BBC's Lunchtime Live programme: "There are more people in hospital who are ready to be discharged but they can't be, more people needing to be admitted and that's where the pressure block is happening.

"It's not just about respiratory infection, although that's a huge part of it. There are lots of people in hospital right now with Covid and flu.

"But it's also the long-term consequences of an older population and people just becoming increasingly vulnerable.

"So we're just starting to see that perfect storm of pressure on health and social care service."

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