Infectious diseases consultant recalls treating first Covid patients

An infectious diseases consultant who treated the UK’s first coronavirus patients said he never thought there would be 100,000 Covid-related deaths in the UK.

Consultant Dr Matt Schmid, who led the team that treated the first patients at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, said the national network of infectious disease units acted as a “buffer” for the wider NHS in those early weeks.

Initially, coronavirus patients were only treated in high consequence infectious disease (HCID) wards like the isolated 18-bed unit in Newcastle.

Speaking ahead of the January 31 anniversary, Dr Schmid said: “I’m being honest, I didn’t think by this time we would have over 100,000 deaths.

“This is a very sad point.

Dr Matthias Schmid
Dr Matthias Schmid

“I think we have learned a lot more about the disease and we are still learning.”

He recalled his team being calm and prepared for the first patients, two Chinese nationals.

He said: “We were asked to take the first two patients with the coronavirus infection.

“As a team we had already been planning for this.

“We made sure everybody was included in the information and we were ready to receive them on the morning of January 31.

“Myself and one of the senior sisters received the patients directly, they came via a specialist ambulance.

“We put them in our HCID rooms which are rooms where we can safely look after patients.

“We were a bit excited as this is what we trained for. We were always calm and ready for the job.

“As it happened the patients were quite well and did not require intensive care measures.

“Because this was a completely unknown disease to us in the UK we kept them for a prolonged period, we had special PPE measures in place as it was a high consequence infectious disease.

“After two weeks the patients were well and were discharged, however during this time and thereafter we had numerous other calls and we started to receive other patients as the HCID network was taking all positive patients in the UK.

“It was a very busy time, I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy during those first six weeks.

“When we started to see more patients coming through the community we knew it was going to be too big a job for the HCID network.”

Plans were made for the wider NHS to start treating patients.

He said: “We always felt we were a buffer for the NHS to get ready for a bigger response.”