As aspiring Medics, you should already know about the COVID-19 coronavirus, how it became a pandemic, and the public health measures taken around the world to try to stem the spread.
The following resources will help you stay up-to-date on this topic:
The first two cases of coronavirus in the UK were confirmed on January 31, 2020 – but some think the first cases predated this.
Scientists have combined large-scale data and genomic sequencing to map the lineage of different strains of COVID-19, to get an understanding of which countries the virus came from. They found that a third (34%) of transmission lineages came from Spain, 29% from France, and 14% from Italy. It’s important to note that the results are preliminary and the research hasn’t been peer-reviewed.
When answering this question, think about the following issues:
When you sign up for one of our interview prep courses, we give you our Ultimate Guide To Interview Prep book that explains in detail how you can answer questions on COVID-19.
A new variant of COVID-19 was detected in the UK back in September. By November, a quarter of all infections in London were caused by it, which grew to two-thirds in December. According to a study by Imperial College London, the new variant tripled cases despite there being a second lockdown. It has a higher R rate of 0.7, instead of 0.4 of the original COVID-19 virus. In reaction to the news, more than 40 countries closed their borders to the UK to stop the variant spreading, but the decision was swiftly lifted.
Another variant was also discovered in South Africa, in December – and Europe halted travel to the country as a result. See what experts think about the variant here.
“Both variants share the N501Y mutation in the viral S gene which lies in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) – where the virus binds to the host cell – and where vaccine-induced antibodies bind to the virus,” explained Dr Julian W Tang, Honorary Associate Professor/Clinical Virologist at the University of Leicester.
Commenting specifically on the UK variant, the BMJ explained: “One of the most significant [changes] is an N501Y mutation in the spike protein that the virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor. Changes in this part of spike protein may, in theory, result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people.” Read more.
On 23rd March, Boris Johnson announced via a live television broadcast that strict lockdown measures were now being introduced to protect the NHS and to mitigate any further viral spread.
These measures meant you could only leave your home to shop for food and medicine, take one form of exercise a day, or care for a vulnerable person. The lockdown was enforced by law, under a stay-at-home order which was initially due to last for three weeks and to start from 26th March.
On 15th April, Northern Ireland extended their lockdown period until 9th May; and on the 16th Dominic Raab followed suit. At the time the announcement the recorded UK deaths had reached 13, 729 and the number of confirmed cases exceeded 100,000, at 103,093.
Lockdown started to be lifted from May 10, when people were told to stay alert instead of stay at home. In June, shops began to re-open.
The second lockdown was announced in November and scheduled to last a month. The big difference from the first lockdown was that schools, colleges and universities were allowed to stay open – and you were permitted to meet one other person outdoors while remaining socially distant.
The government hoped that this would drive infections down enough that people could gather for Christmas. That didn’t happen: plans to allow three households to mix over a five-day period were scrapped with just a few days’ notice. Households in tier four couldn’t mix, and the rest of the country was permitted to mix on Christmas Day alone.
Just a month after the second lockdown, the UK was put into its third. The announcement was made on Monday 4th January, when schools, colleges and universities were told to close after some re-opened following the Christmas break. GCSE and A-Level exams were also cancelled, with teacher assessment replacing them.
On the day the lockdown came into force, the daily COVID-19 death toll exceeded 1,000 for the first time since April 2020. The government also reported 62,322 new COVID-19 cases that day.
You may be asked during your interview whether you think lockdown worked. Remember that the interviewers are looking for you to weigh up both sides of the argument, rather than share your personal opinion.
Things to consider:
At the start of March 2020, the UK Government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, told Radio 4 that ‘one of the key things we need to do is to build up some kind of herd immunity, so more people become immune to the disease and thus we can reduce overall transmission.’
Herd immunity describes a population that’s resistant to the spread of a contagious disease, which can only be achieved if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to it. This method is usually introduced via widespread vaccinations – but with no COVID-19 vaccinations, it meant infecting 60% of the population, according to Vallance.
This stance was heavily criticised by scientific experts, almost immediately, with 200 of them urging the government to rethink this plan in the form of an open letter that stated that it would result in many unnecessary deaths, as well as overwhelm the NHS and other public infrastructures.
Later, the Department of Public Health and Social Care caveated Sir Patrick’s sentiment by stating that ‘herd immunity was a natural by-product of any epidemic.’
To answer this, you should verbalise as you think through the following points:
You should show balance when you answer this question. When considering that the crisis hasn’t been handled well, you may want to know about the following key issues:
This should be balanced by discussing the positive moves made by the government, including:
Have you picked up enough COVID-19 knowledge to be confident discussing this in your interview? Try our quick comprehension quiz to check.
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