As Britain is hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections and deaths, the country’s doctors and nurses are bracing for what is expected to be a deluge of new patients over the next six months. But this time, they say, the wave is coming without the same sense of caution among a coronavirus-weary public, nor with a clear government strategy to contain the virus and address rapidly filling intensive care units.
Politicians across the political spectrum in Britain largely accepted the need for the country’s first lockdown in the spring, and doctors limped through the crisis, fueled by adrenaline and the hope that the government could keep an eventual resurgence of cases from inundating the health service again.
That hope has not been realized. With 367 deaths and 22,885 confirmed cases on Tuesday alone, Britain has a second wave of infections that could test its overextended health service even more severely than the first did.
A decision by England’s health service to restore normal services has meant that there are fewer unoccupied hospital beds now than there were in the spring, and fewer doctors available to redeploy to coronavirus wards.
Making matters worse, hospitals are already receiving the usual wintertime stream of patients with influenza and other illnesses that can fill them above 95 percent of capacity even in a normal year.
“The first time around, it’s almost like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of medical challenge,” said Paul Whitaker, a respiratory doctor in Bradford, in northern England, where the number of coronavirus patients has returned to its early May peak.
“At the time, it felt like the thing to do, because it was unavoidable and we had to do our bit,” said Tom Lawton, an intensive care doctor in Bradford. “It was that kind of Blitz spirit. Whereas this time, it feels like this could have been avoided, and clearly it has been avoided in a number of countries.”
In other developments around the world:
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has gone into quarantine after a guest at a charity dinner he attended last weekend tested positive for the coronavirus. Mr. Ramaphosa was not showing any symptoms, his office said Wednesday. Before receiving the results of the test on Tuesday, Mr. Ramaphosa attended several public events in Johannesburg, although he and most of the attendees wore masks. With at least 717,000 total cases and 19,000 deaths, South Africa has been the hardest-hit country in Africa during the pandemic.
Hawaii will allow travelers from Japan to skip a mandatory 14-day quarantine beginning Nov. 6 if they present proof of a negative Covid-19 test, Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday. “Many of Hawaii’s residents trace their ancestry back to Japan, and welcoming our Japanese guests back to Hawaii is an important step in maintaining the close relationship between our two regions,” Mr. Ige said. To bypass quarantine, visitors from Japan must show a negative coronavirus result on a test taken no more than 72 hours before their departure.