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National Health Service recommends procedures that limit the provision of first aid

The National Health Service updated, in March 2020, the recommendations for first aid provided by citizens to victims of drowning, choking or cardiorespiratory arrest, due to the pandemic context. The document, which has not since been revised, states that:

  • In the event of choking, those providing aid should keep a distance of 2 metres (because the victim has to remove a mask) and verbally encourage them to cough. “During the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not recommended to perform clearance manoeuvres such as back blows or abdominal compressions for the associated risks of contamination
  • In the event of drowning, if the victim is in the water you should throw a floating object for them to grab onto; if you are out of the water you should keep a safe distance of 2 metres from the victim or protect yourself with a mask.
  • If you are facing a victim of an acute myocardial infarction, if you have a surgical mask and the victim has one, you may approach, otherwise keep a distance of 2 metres and remain vigilant.

The recommended distancing in the face of a potentially fatal rescue situation for the victim goes against the national law which states that: “Whoever, in case of serious need, namely caused by disaster, accident, public calamity or situation of common danger, which endangers the life, physical integrity or freedom of another person, fails to provide him the necessary assistance to remove the danger, either by personal action or by promoting the rescue, shall be punished with imprisonment for up to 1 year or with a fine of up to 120 days.” However, the “omission of assistance is not punishable when there is a serious risk to life“.

The new directives are based on new recommendations from the European Resuscitation Council. These state that SARS-CoV-2 is “highly contagious” and cite a systematic review which gives a mortality rate of 3.1%. This does not match the most current revised figures.

The latest estimates of the risk that those who are infected may die are:

Both predictions include people with previous serious pathologies, not exclusively referring to a mortality rate in healthy people.

The European Resuscitation Council recommendations make no distinction between adults and children, symptomatic or asymptomatic, age groups or the surrounding environment.

The use of a mask is referred to as a safe method for approaching and helping the victim, but according to the WHO:

… the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against Covid-19” and despite recommendations for use, the organisation admits that “there is currently no direct evidence (from studies on Covid-19 and in healthy people in the community) on the effectiveness of universal use of masks by healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including Covid-19.

NHS recommendations are for the public, not for health and rescue professionals.

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