This is a very good news post and worth a quiet celebration.
As you can see from the study and figure below that Barts Health NHS Trust, where we work, was at the epicentre, of the epicentre of the UK’s COVID-19 pandemic. London has had the most COVID-19 cases in the UK and it looks as if the majority of cases where managed in our four COVID active hospitals. This graph shows just is how effective the London lockdown has been in flattening the peak of the epidemic.
The bars show you the proportion of asymptomatic HCPs (healthcare professionals) who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 on consecutive weeks from March 23, 2020:
28 of 396 HCPs (7.1%) in week 1
14 of 284 HCPs (4.9%) in week 2
4 of 263 HCPs (1.5%) in week 3
4 of 267 HCPs (1.5%) in week 4
3 of 269 HCPs (1.1%) in week 5
Importantly of the 44 HCPs who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, 12 (27%) had no symptoms in the week before or after positivity. Although I was not one of the HCPs in this survey there is a chance that I have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, which is why I am volunteering to get myself tested next week to see if I have antibodies to the virus. Knowing I have been infected or not will clearly affect my behaviour. This is why it is so important for widespread antibody testing to happen ASAP.
If you generalise these results to the wider HCP population, then so-called asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection rates among HCWs tracked the general population infection curve in London. This suggests that the rate of asymptomatic infection among HCPs more likely reflects general community transmission rather than in-hospital exposure.
So if you are one of our, Barts-MS, patients these results should be very reassuring and as the overall epidemic wanes asymptomatic infection among us, your MS team is likely to be low and we are unlikely to be a major source of virus transmission. This means you need not fear us when we resume face-2-face consultations.
The other good news is that we now have so few new COVID-19 admissions at the Royal London Hospital that we have started closing down some of the extra medical wards that were created to deal with the surge. This means my services as a make-shift general physician are not required anymore and I have been de-deployed back to being a neurologist and MSologist. I hope this means that we will be able to resume our MS services, albeit with adaptations to make sure social distancing is maintained, very soon.
Treibel et al. COVID-19: PCR Screening of Asymptomatic Health-Care Workers at London Hospital. Lancet. 2020 May 8;S0140-6736(20)31100-4.
CoI: I work at the Royal London Hospital, which is one of five hospitals of Barts Health NHS Trust.