Why Are They Testing Royals Before Nurses?

March 30, 2020

Errr: Because we live in a Feudalistic Society…?
How do we know Charles has Corona?
The signal is: This hits us all. We’re all in the same boat.
We have never been in the same boat…
– SD

Good questions here:

Why Are We Testing Royals Before Nurses?

The coronavirus has now very much arrived in a certain layer of British society. On Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced via a Twitter video that he began exhibiting some mild symptoms, was tested, and found to be positive. He was swiftly followed by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, who also exhibited mild symptoms and who also tested positive for the disease. Considering the intense cabinet work of the last week, it’s likely we’ll see other officials come forward—and all this, of course, caps off the very same week in which Prince Charles, heir to the throne, began exhibiting mild symptoms, was tested and found positive.

If you haven’t been following the pandemic in the U.K. closely, you might not realize what about this abundance of caution is so jarring to British ears. As of last week, the overall policy is not to test people displaying only mild symptoms. If you’re not found to be at immediate risk for your life, you are advised to self-quarantine and nurse the coronavirus as you would a flu.

The disease is so new that virtually the only difference hospitalization can make is putting you on a ventilator and on oxygen supply, should you need it. The effect is to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients who occupy life-saving space but would be treated quite similarly to how they would support themselves at home.

The exact same policy applies to medical staff. If you are a doctor or a nurse, and you’re getting the symptoms, you are advised to call in sick. Ironically, and alarmingly, the result is that hospital capacity is being gnawed at from the other end—staff shortages—and, of course, that staff take and deal out to patients far more risks than they would if a robust testing system was in place.

The policy, however, does not seem to apply to celebrities (who presumably get around it by paying for private tests), politicians and royals. I first read about Prince Charles testing positive for COVID-19, at the exact moment my mother was walking through our front door. A 60-year-old nurse, she’d just finished a 12-hour nightshift at St Cuthbert’s Hospice in County Durham, in the north of England.

Both my mom and Charles at in at risk groups, if only by virtue of their age. But unlike Charles, she has no idea if she could be (asymptomatically) carrying the virus. Despite the government’s promises, systematic testing of healthcare professionals has yet to materialize. The U.K.’s rate of testing continues to fall way below levels that the World Health Organization deems essential.

True, my mother is “ordinary.” She does not have one ounce of royal blood. She is a Northern working-class woman with a heart of gold, a local hero beloved by our community. Unlike the heir apparent, she has lifetime of very practical experience in dealing with life-threatening illness. She began her training in the late-1970s at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria infirmary. Back then, our country valued nurses. Not only was her education entirely free, she even received a wage while training. Being a trainee nurse was a job like any other. After qualifying as a state-registered nurse, she moved from a trauma unit to midwifery. And after taking a break to raise to me and my brother, she eventually found her way to palliative care and St Cuthbert’s hospice.

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