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tv   London in the Shadow of a Virus  BBC News  June 7, 2020 10:30am-11:00am BST

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with anti—racism protests in the united states. a small group of protesters became violent towards police officers, injuring 1a of them. the head of the police federation in london said the protests shouldn't have happened amid the pandemic. thousands of people, i understand fully what they want to protest, but the circumstances are so different at the moment they should not be there. huge protests against the death of george floyd have continued taking place across the united states — all of them peaceful. in washington, thousands gathered around the white house in the biggest demonstrations there for 12 days. the coronavirus pandemic is a "devastating blow" for the world economy, according to the world bank. its president david malpass warned that billions of people would have their livelihoods affected by the pandemic. and in a week's time, places of worship in england will be opened for individual prayer. now on bbc news, this is the story of one hospital and one community in the time of covid—19.
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as britain's death toll, one of the highest in the world, continues to rise, bbc news has been given unprecedented access to doctors and nurses serving in one of the most densely populated parts of london. as well as the devastation left behind by an invisible killer, humanity and kindness shines through in this unique documentary. it's in times of crisis that we find out who we really are. i've felt broken on many an occasion. ijust sat on a chair and just held his hand. trauma, it's trauma on every level. 0k, ready, steady, go. this is the story of one hospital and one community in the time of coronavirus. every single person on the front line now has to deal with their own trauma. it's about people.
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their grieving, their goodness. you just have to keep strong. i always tell myself, someone has got to treat people. their strength and their humanity. everything is ok, you're at the royal london hospital. london. don't be fooled by the gentle pace. time is twisted here. on the royal london hospital's coronavirus wards, while many patients inhabit ventilated worlds of slow motion dreams and hallucination, the doctors and nurses charged with bringing them back to life inhabit the real world, where time moves too quickly as this cruel disease eats away at human lungs with frightening speed. can we just do a couple more suctions? but the medical staff,
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including consultant pj zolfaghari, have their own nightmare. then, as our interview ends, he is called away. i will be two minutes. his two minutes turn into several agonising hours. i see you are working hard to ventilate him. we have permission by all of the patients
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or their families to film. and this patient‘s vital signs have worsened. he isjust 55. and again. go, go, go, go. the professionalism of the team is stunning. years of experience are gathered around this bed, as the duality of time, the drifting, oblivious patient and the rush to save his life merge into a tableau for our times. ok, this doesn't look good. how concerned are you? i'm extremely concerned about this chap, especially at this late stage as well that he has developed further complications. so there is a final roll of the dice. so you guys lift him up, i'll push the pillows down, yeah? this is a last resort, maybe by turning him onto his front they can force air into his lungs, oxygen into his body. it's all they can do.
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0k, ready, steady, go. his lungs are just getting worse, more inflamed again. you've been preparing to talk to his family? yes, that's right. have you called the family yet? senior sister becky smith, a presence on the covid ward for absent relatives, their eyes and ears. we are making a decision about whether it is appropriate to continue with what we are doing at the moment, or whether we should give him a bit of dignity. imagine this stress for the team multiplied every day for weeks. now you understand what the peak of this pandemic was like. are you all right? my face is all marked. have you just come off shift? sister carleen kelly bore witness to those dark days. i've felt broken on many occasion and i think a lot of my colleagues have.
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it consumes you. it's what you think about when you go to bed, it's what you wake up... you are preparing for your next shift, you are relieved that the previous shift is over. you are sad. it is a huge emotional burden. every single person on the front line now has to deal with their own trauma, has to go home, has to process this, and has to come back. and you are asking a lot of people to walk into a hospital full of a deadly disease to do their best every single day, to change their entire work style around it, to put their family second, for this, for i don't know how long. the peak almost broke minds, and according to consultant nick bunker almost broke the royal london. in normal times we manage about 44 patients. at the peak we were managing just shy of 90 patients. so almost double? almost double. we were 20 beds away from being overrun. we were keeping people alive.
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that's what our goal of care was, keep as many people alive as long as we can until we can get back to being able to deliver the quality of care that we always aspire to deliver. no one here cares to visit those dark days again. but the destiny of this intensive care unit isn't in the rubber gloved hands of the doctors and nurses themselves, it's in the hands of government ministers and the public. are you expecting a second wave? yes, i mean, i have to say yes, because i think once the lockdown is relaxed people, of course, are going to have more contact with each other, so that's the way this is going to spread. but if the lockdown completely disappears, then i suspect that cases willjust rapidly rise again. we have learned a lot during this last few weeks, the last couple of months, not perfect but, you know, i think we are better placed for it now.
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sometimes it's hard to find light in the darkness. but you're about to witness what medicine can do. i'm going to take out your tube now. this is one of the defining moments in an intensive care unit. give me a big puff, a big puff, that's it. when a patient‘s ventilator tube is removed. it's a procedure full of expectation and dread. we'll pull out the tube as we do that, 0k? will it work? he is grimacing as the tube inches up his throat. and finally leaves his chest. everything is ok, you're at the royal london hospital. the heavy breathing of a man given a second chance. it's a victory for everyone, a morale boost for everyone as well.
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as i said, he is still not out of the woods, but at least he is doing good and we are very pleased with where he has got to. it's hard to comprehend how historic these times are when you are living them. only distance will aid clarity. with the lives and jobs lost because of coronavirus, destined to become chapter headings, not footnotes, in the public record. and in one corner of the east end, the work of a tiny morgue will become part of london's narrative. all communities here have been hit by the coronavirus. but this place, up and running in a matter of days, serves the desperate burial needs of the asian community. hit hardest by the disease.
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at the height we were dealing with around 25 bodies daily coming into the morgue because the cemeteries and other funeral services were not able to cope. the leadership of the east london mosque felt it had a duty to intervene. when muslim dead began to pile up. it's beyond, really, comprehension, you know. people would have this guilt inside the family and the community that we couldn't do the right thing for the deceased, especially the ones that suddenly passed away. it would have been a guilt that would have been felt throughout our lives. this lady phoned us up in east london mosque and said, "i've got my dad who passed away in the hospital. "my mum is quarantined in my home. "i can't see her because i have to be away from her "and i can't see my dad before he is buried." and this is the kind of situation that we had.
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it brings tears to my eyes now just talking about it. this is how bad it was, people felt so helpless. it is often when we feel helpless that some turn to faith. while the royal london may be one of the leading teaching hospitals in the world, there is always a little corner for what's important. the muslim chaplain here is proud of the royal london's links to one of the biggest muslim communities in britain. he is on his way to see a patient who survived covid—i9, but whose underlying health conditions were complicated by the disease. she gave us permission to film. she doesn't have much time and she has refused any final medical intervention at the end to save her life. chanting in arabic
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a balm for the dying. he has had to recite these words so many times during this pandemic. there are too many people to bury and we had some cemeteries where they were having an islamic version of mass graves, where they would bury ten people in one plot. it has ripped into the heart of our community, community which is based around the mosque, family relations, being with friends and loved ones on a daily basis. death appears again, two floors above on the coronavirus wards. it has been a difficult night for the team here. they lost four patients, every one a tragedy and at the height of the pandemic on one night 11 people died. now, this is one of the vacant
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empty beds left behind. we'd already spoken to senior sister becky smith about the possibility one of her patients was nearing the end. we will make a decision about whether it is appropriate to continue with what we are doing at the moment, or whether we should give him a bit of dignity. the patient was in his mid—50s and the decision was made to stop his life—saving drugs. a white partition was placed around his bed and becky's face was the last one he saw. take us into the cubicle at that moment. ijust sat on a chair and just held his hand to be with him in that time. it was a very quick experience in that way. we give the patient a full wash together, so two nurses will always give them a warm wash, put them in some new clothes, so that they can be sent away
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with a lot of dignity and respect for their body and for their life. do you take any of this home? i think in these current times with covid it is a lot harder to separate things because you feel like it could be your dad or it could be your mum because it is so close to home for everybody in the world at the moment. it is difficult because it is happening every day, so you do definitely take it home. we'd all like to leave behind more than an empty bed, for the shadow we cast to be benign. those who chronicle this time of coronavirus will record that this hospital and the community it served tried to work together to leave a legacy, of which both could be proud. but there are some prouder than others, and rightly so. i love myjob, yes. because in normal times
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their contribution to our lives is mostly ignored. we clean to reduce infection, so if i don't come the infection is going to spread more. you see, the front line of the war on coronavirus is everywhere, the trenches are in the mundane, on the floor of a corridor, on a door handle, in the shake of another‘s hand. this man is proud he is waging war on the virus, a ten year veteran of the cleaning staff at the royal london hospital. he is at work as london wakes and blackbirds sing. all of us cannot be doctors, somebody has to be a doctor, somebody has to be a nurse and somebody has to be a domestic. i'm proud of what i am. it is a selflessness much admired in this pandemic, those choosing to do what others wouldn't. and so many of the nurses and doctors and consultants, as well as cleaners, the helping hands guiding us
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through this storm are black, asian and minority ethnic. somewhere deep down, my heart skipped a little entering the royal london hospital's covid ward. because studies suggest those in the bame community are being affected by the virus disproportionately and are almost twice as likely to die from the infection as those who are white. why is unclear. when it comes to bame nhs staff, proximity to the virus through close contact with infected patients is a disproportionate feature of many of their roles in the health service. some argue the nhs needs to examine staff deployment policies for structural racism, where certain workers are retained in the lower paid roles.
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but for most nurses and doctors, white or black, given the correct protection, where else would you want to be if not cushioning a patient‘s pain? because when all the fancy labels are stripped away, yourjob... how are you feeling? to care. listen to irene from uganda, a nursing student who we filmed on her very first day on a covid ward. she has the perpetual anxiety of every single nurse or doctor, no matter how experienced, working in that environment with the virus so close. you are like, oh, my god, was i careful enough? am i getting it today? will i get it tomorrow? it's very real, yes. but you just have to keep strong. i always tell myself, someone has got to treat people. i mean, even if it were my relatives, i would want someone to care for them. that kind of keeps me going. does the virus know a victim is black or white?
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of course not. but socioeconomic factors like income, wealth and education affect the quality of the health of all of us. as such, poorer black and ethnic minority communities may be more vulnerable. but there are other tragedies lurking in this pandemic. for some who have proudly called this country home, but whose hearts belong to a foreign field. in this morgue we came across two bodies, two women, one from west africa and one from north africa. they called britain home, but now there's a purgatory, a final torment, because one of the covid victims wanted burial in the soil of her birth, but the closed border means her body has sat here for two months. in this mosque two more bodies,
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shielded by the flags of turkey and northern cyprus. and there are more bodies outside piling up in shipping containers. i'm waiting for it to hit me at the moment, i can't afford to break down. it's painful. it is painful. it is too personal, it is too close, it doesn't get any closer when you have been growing up in your community and you find yourself having to do the last journey for them, understanding the pain that the families are going through. it's trauma. it's trauma on every level. painful. grieving delayed is grieving denied.
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but the shattering loss for so many in this pandemic is leavened a little by the fact that the staff at the royal london did everything they could to save lives. that the dead were given the best possible chance of life. the national health service, to which the royal london belongs, is now enjoying a renaissance in public acclaim because so many lives have been saved in this pandemic. and throughout the strictest days of the lockdown across the uk, once a week millions around the country took to the streets to show their appreciation, joining hands in solidarity and gratitude. but longer term, while there is no cure or vaccine for the coronavirus, can the nhs, often strapped for cash, maintain the highest of standards? can the service adapt to a new normal way of working with a virus that could be
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here to stay? it was for ten days that we were given unprecedented access to the royal london hospital. and in that time we caught a fleeting glimpse of the enormous challenges of managing a deadly disease. the rollercoaster of emotions and the thin line between life and death. go, go, go, go, go. we watched the agonising attempt to save this life. but what of the man himself, whose life ended on that covid ward? a man we didn't know. we wanted our memory of him not to be of tubes and ventilators, but of the full life he had led and the people he loved. he was the proud father of four sons, one of them here on his graduation day. he wanted to speak to us about his dad. hi.
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i only got married last year so it's been one year and a bit. again, none of us would have thought this time last year in all of our happiness something like this would have happened, actually. so it is a bit of a shock and it is hard to swallow. you have to try and move on. that's going to be the hardest thing for the first few weeks and months. we're not even able to see each other as family at the moment. separate houses, which is quite tough. he was only two and a half weeks shy of his 56th birthday, actually, so he didn't even make it to that. however, for trevor smith there is another summer. his 65th. his voice box is no longer silent.
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for weeks, his life hung from a plastic tube inserted into his throat to supply the oxygen his body needed, that covid—i9 had choked off. trevor survived after being in the deepest and darkest of places. now the sun is shining.
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for veteran consultant trauma surgeon martin griffiths it is the humanity of the nhs in this pandemic that is now attracting scores of new recruits. people are running towards it, the medical students are running towards hospitals to become medical support workers and start their training early, we have had to turn people down who want to commit to support the effort and there is kindness everywhere. the nhs is thriving for now. there are even two new gleaming floors at the royal london for possible covid patients, but what about cancer screening or heart disease? many who were sick in the community have stayed away, worried they might catch the virus. hello, sir, good morning. experienced intensive care consultant nick bunker wants them back. all of the people who normally would have presented here with ailments, where are they? i suspect some of them have died. some of them are at home.
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for cancer, we have not been doing a lot of diagnostics, so if you are not doing the diagnostics you don't pick up the early cancer with the few symptoms people have early on, and so perhaps we are just not detecting it. it's still out there. the fervent hope as lockdown eases is people will drift back to the nhs for whatever hurts them and the service will be able to help everyone, if we help ourselves. there are friends and there are colleagues who we know who are dying and are sick, people i care about been lost to coronavirus. you can't overstate how simple measures are having a huge effect. i know it's boring, i know it's challenging, but look at it from my perspective. you know, i don't need to see
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any more dead people. whatever happens, the commitment of the men and women we came across at the royal london won't transform because this is personal. sitting in your car going to work when you think to yourself, "is this what i want to do with my life?" and the answer is, yes, absolutely. this is the one time i need to stand up and do myjob. this is the one time i absolutely have to be there. but when can we leave this pandemic behind and return to normality? when can our collective mourning begin? all the deaths so far have been wrapped up in graphs and charts, over 40,000 are dead. but this pandemic isn't about numbers, it's about people, their grieving, their goodness, their strength and their humanity.
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hello. it's a day of mixed fortunes in terms of the weather out there today. still quite a cool and a breezy theme to the weather and there will be some showers around too, but it won't be as wet or as windy as it was yesterday. we've still got low pressure not far away, just drifting off towards the east and starting to fill but higher pressure moving in from the west, so that will gradually quieten the weather down over the next few days. we've still got these northerly winds, particularly cold, strong winds across northern and eastern scotland and down the east coast of england as well. some rain around pushing out of northern england, down towards the midlands, into southern england, eastern wales as well. some of these showers
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could be potentially heavy with the odd rumble of thunder. and you will notice that breeze today for many of us, gusts of wind about 20 to 30 miles per hour, but certainly stronger than that down the east coast of scotland. so it'll feel quite chilly for the likes of aberdeen, down towards newcastle as well. 10 or 11 degrees here. further south and west, though, in those sunnier spells, 19 or 20 celsius likely. one or two heavy showers across the south of england, wales, just lingering into this evening, might hear the old rumble of thunder. they should fade away quite quickly and then it's mainly dry with clear spells tonight and a fairly chilly night, especially across the northern half of the uk with those clearer skies, temperatures down into the mid—single figures. many of us in double figures further south. but monday's weather fairly quiet due to this ridge of high pressure in charge, that stays with us into tuesday. by the end of tuesday, the next area of low pressure moves in from the north west, certainly a window of drier, quieter weather for a couple of days on monday and tuesday as well. still one or two rogue showers down the east coast and for wales and the south—west of england on monday, a few sharp showers
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building through the afternoon. could be some hail mixed in with some of those as well. temperatures still a little below par for this time of year, between about 11 to 18 celsius by monday afternoon. tuesday, a similar day, again mostly, dry light winds, sunny spells as well. so it'll feel that little bit warmer by the time we get to tuesday with temperatures just starting to creep up — between around 13 to 19 celsius on tuesday. more wet weather into the far north—west by the end of the day. and we could still do with some rain after a very dry spring. we are going to see it through the middle of the week. we've got an area of low pressure developing across the uk pushing its way south. quite a lot of isobars around that developing area of low pressure. so not only quite wet, but quite windy, especially in the south from midweek onwards. and then things do turn a little bit drier and also a bit warmer as we head towards next weekend. bye— bye.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. a member of the scientific group advising the uk government says the country should've gone into lockdown earlier. wish we had gone into lockdi earlier. i wish we had gone into lockdown earlier. i think that has cost a lot of lives, unfortunately. earlier. i think that has cost a lot of lives, unfortunatelylj earlier. i think that has cost a lot of lives, unfortunately. i think earlier. i think that has cost a lot of lives, unfortunately. ithink we took the right decisions at the right time and there is a broad range on sage of scientific opinions. thousands of people across the uk have demonstrated in solidarity with anti—racism protests in the united states. huge protests over the death of george floyd have continued in cities across america — all of them peaceful. in washington, thousands gathered in the biggest


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