CONFUSION is the main cause of worry,” said Dale Carnegie.

As a country, we find ourselves in quite a mess right now I feel. Unfortunately, Covid cases are rising at a rapid rate and the death toll is going up nationally. We have been here before. In fact, we have been here at a time when we didn’t know any better, so some could argue that with previous experience, greater knowledge of the virus, stricter measures in place, better infection control AND a test and trace facility, surely we would have a better grip over how to tackle the second wave? 

Instead, we find ourselves confused. We, the public, do not know or understand what is going on and it is generating huge levels of anxiety which, in some cases, is actually worse than the uncertainty of the virus itself.

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The phones are off the hook at the practice with patients seeking answers from us doctors that they cannot get from the government. With information changing so frequently, people are getting tired, which is leading to complacency. This is detrimental.

Last week I received a call from the daughter of my 76-year-old patient who suffers from advanced heart disease. She was quizzing me about why her mother can now go out and socialise and run errands when in the first wave she was shielding. The daughter just couldn’t understand why after months of being home alone, her mother can go about her daily business with limited restrictions. She requested: “Please tell my mum she is vulnerable and needs to stay home, I’m worried about her!” 

How could I enforce this when the government has changed its stance on high-risk patients and is telling them it’s safe to go out? All evidence would suggest that those in the previously defined high-risk categories remain at highest risk but rules this time appear to be different. It doesn’t make sense and even though I’m aware that this is continually being reviewed, I believe the information is not getting filtered down to the general public in an easy-to-understand way.

We have entered flu season where coughs and colds are the main reasons for consulting a GP. However, day-in, day-out anxious patients are calling in to the practice confused about whether it’s the common cold, a flare-up of their usual asthma or COPD or Covid.

In any case, they have to endure the stressful wait to get their test before we can manage them further. It’s becoming hugely inefficient for all.

The guidelines and restrictions are changing so frequently across all the different regions, we are all struggling to keep up.

Let’s take the school holidays as an example. The First Minister announced to avoid travelling out of your area if it was in a local lockdown. However, in the same announcement, she stated if you had a planned holiday, you could still go. Personally, we chose to cancel our holiday; common sense would suggest to limit your exposure to the virus as much as possible. Staying home saved lives last time, why give people the option if cases are rising exponentially? Yes, I am frustrated. I feel resentful because half the country is doing one thing, the other half another, and everyone is suffering as a consequence.

Livelihoods are at stake. Our health and wellbeing is at stake. The economy is at stake.

We need clear messaging that shouldn’t fall down to individual interpretations.

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The first wave was moderately brought under control by a national lockdown. This was a truly awful experience, and one that caused much hardship to the collective, but we all understood the messaging, aim and ethos of the lockdown. I understand that many people don’t feel they could go through a second national lockdown, however I do wonder whether this is our only path forward. Perhaps this way, we could stop the current downward spiral we seem to be going on where public trust in the authorities is dwindling and confusion is rising – which I worry could lead us to a greater pandemic in itself. 

In any case, whatever happens next, the messaging needs to be clearer and it needs to come from the top down.