Wigan's top doctors urge residents to keep on top of their health to aid Covid-19 fight
Looking after your health is key to helping the borough’s health services avoid an overwhelming surge of Coronavirus admissions, top medics have said.
With Wigan now facing the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, driven by the significantly more transmissible Delta variant, more and more younger residents, who have not yet been fully vaccinated, are finding themselves in a hospital bed with Covid symptoms.
But by looking after our general health and wellbeing, we are aiding not just our own ability to fend off the virus, but also helping doctors care for those worst affected, and allowing hospitals to safely resume non-Covid related operations.
Dr Sanjay Arya, a consultant cardiologist and medical director at the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) hospital trust, said: “There was a period of time that the number of admissions with Covid had become almost nil.
“It lasted only a few weeks, and over the last three to four weeks, we have started to see an increase in the number of patients presenting with Covid symptoms.
“We have patients on our general medical wards, patients on our respiratory wards needing non-invasive ventilation, and unfortunately we have patients in intensive care who have needed to be ventilated.
“What we have seen on this occasion... is much younger patients than the first, second and third waves, are in the intensive care unit.”
Dr Arya went on: “People with a high body mass index (BMI) are now presenting more with Covid infections, so we need to spread the message - look after yourself well and manage your risk factors.
“The predictions are that, if we are not careful, if we do not follow infection prevention and control measures, like wearing face masks, keeping our distance, and not following lockdown restrictions, the modelling shows that things may get worse.
“We need to be absolutely clear to our population, please do look after yourself, because this is not going away, it has come back.”
Dr Arya’s plea was echoed by Professor Kate Ardern Wigan Council’s director for public health, who said: “We’ve got lots of activities, a lot of fantastic offers through our health improvement services like Lose Weight, Feel Great, our Healthy Routes advice around smoking, and a lot of resources in terms of Be Well and physical activities through our leisure services.
“Please get out as much as you can and enjoy our fantastic green space in Wigan. There are some positive things we can do to help ourselves, but we must also recognise that this pandemic is far from over.”
Prof Ardern also said that delays in the supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were slowing down the rate at which younger Wiganers are being vaccinated. She also said military aid, which is being rolled out across Greater Manchester in response to rising infection rates, would not be coming to Wigan.
She said: "We are not getting military aid, per se, in Wigan.
"The military aid comes in two forms - one being support for vaccinations. We have a really good vaccination programme, we have got surge capacity in terms of extra vaccinators. The rate limiting factor for us is the amount of vaccine supply we get into the borough."
“There’s been a very clear ask to the Government by Greater Manchester, that we do need more supplies of Pfizer and Moderna because of the younger age groups we need to get to,” she said.
“We have plenty of Astra Zeneca, but the types we need for the younger age groups are also important. Give us the supply and we can get it into arms, because we’ve got the staff to do that.”
Dr Tim Dalton, chair of Wigan’s Clinical Commissioning Group, explained the pressures currently facing GPs as the number of infections increases.
“General practice has been open through the pandemic and remains open. But with the high levels of disease circulating, we are having to work differently to make sure we keep our patients safe, and to keep our practice staff safe.
“That’s why we are seeing 15-20 per cent of patients face to face, but we are seeing a huge amount more of patients that we would typically at this time of year.
“It’s really important that if people have symptoms of Covid, such as a new persistent cough or a temperature, the first thing they must do is get a Covid test, specifically a PCR test.
“If we know people have Covid, it helps us deliver that help to them in the best way to keep them safe.”
There was also a plea from Dr Arya for people with non-life threatening conditions to seek help via 111 or a GP in the first instance, after Wigan Infirmary experienced a large increase in the number of people attending A&E with non-urgent matters, pulling valuable time away from seriously ill patients.
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