The Prime Minister recently announced at the dispatch box that a full inquiry will be forthcoming into the management of the COVID-19 crisis.
And Bolton-based priest Father John Wiseman, is literally living proof of why such an investigation is pivotal.
Early case confusion
This most kind-hearted and charitable of clergymen endured a torrid time at the start of the pandemic when bewilderment and fear reigned.
Experiencing severe breathlessness, he was taken to his local hospital and placed in a ward that is best described as “for the COVID-19 undecided!”
The reason for this was that he experienced no less than three tests which all proved negative. Thankfully, he had doctors who questioned this prognosis and so he was finally given a sputum test which revealed that he had the Coronavirus.
Here’s where things get really interesting. Father John was treated with a mixture of oxygen and intravenous antibiotics. And was cured.
“It was a very scary experience” admits the Little Lever priest, who has with the help of local churches, since donated boxes of food to the NHS staff who helped him, “but I guess the confusion came because this was the start of the virus.”
The drugs don’t work, they could make you worse
Studies have since shown that since COVID-19 is a viral infection, antibiotics have no effect on treating it (1). Which begs the question, did our friend really have the virus at all?
The drugs have been better utilised in treating the secondary bacterial infections associated with a COVID-19 hospital stay. But sadly, some patients have perished, presumably because those antibiotics simply haven’t worked.
Pandemic marked by panic
Medics, particularly in places such as New York, have admitted that antibiotics were somewhat thrown at their first COVID-19 patients (2).
One can understand how a last gasp solution for a dying patient was employed, but there has since been an acknowledgement from many medical practitioners that a lack of stewardship means that antibiotic resistance is being advanced and (especially with a second wave already being experienced in Australia) vital medication could actually run out.
Let us hope that the promised inquiry brings clarity and explains the effective role of antibiotics in treating secondary bacterial infections, not viral ones. The propensity of the BAME community to COVID-19 mortality must also be examined. And, in the wake of any such report, clear social distancing information and track and trace testing should be implemented.
Father John’s case and the early fall-out from the pandemic shows that our response to serious illness was knee-jerk and too often panic-driven. We must learn lessons. Because we have to be better prepared for the next wave of COVID-19 and the coming nightmare of antibiotic resistant infections.