COVID lessons to be learned across the cross-channel cultural divide
29 Apr 2021
Has the cross-channel cultural divide impacted Covid outcomes? Bringing a unique perspective on the response from France and England, hearing patient anecdotes from living under the two differing restrictions, Dr Marhilde Konczynski believes we can learn a lot from one another on both sides of the channel when it comes to our COVID response.
With successive lockdowns, Covid has attacked much of our freedoms in Britain, however the concept of liberté, égalité and fraternité has also come under attack for the estimated 200,000 French nationals living in the UK.
Once parodied as France’s sixth biggest city, London is home to the majority of the French diaspora in the UK.
As well as her role as a locum doctor within the NHS, Dr Mathilde Konczynski works as a Clinical Director at Medicare Francais, the biggest French medical clinic in London, catering to the needs of thousands of expats who call the city home.
Despite the proximity of the two nations, the pandemic has given Mathilde a unique perspective on just how different the response to the pandemic has been on both sides of the Channel for Brits and the French.
Analysis from the University of Oxford, which assesses restrictions on day-to-day life out of a score of 100, found UK residents have had to bear the brunt of the most stringent measures, with a score of 86, when compared to others in the West; with 83 in Germany, 82 in Italy and just 63 in France.
Despite the disparity in the strength of restrictions on either sides of the Channel, the UK’s Covid death toll stands in clear contrast to France’s - around double - despite the similar size of populations.
For Mathilde, the contrast is stark. She said: “France is a country where we like to think we challenge everything on principle, with scrutiny and critical thinking taking centre stage.
“Although this has problematic implications on public health campaigns – as seen with Macron’s harsh scrutiny of the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and his subsequent U-turn – there is a paradox within the country when it comes to other measures.
“Parisians have welcomed the use of Lateral Flow Tests (LFD), weaving them into the rhythms of their day-to-day lives.
“At the minute, when you cross Paris by foot, you’ll pass booth after booth, set up on the street every ten minutes, where you can have a free LFD test and then go about your normal business. It’s been interesting to see a country, which is seen as a lot stauncher in its libertarian views, keenly adopt this testing regime as a key tool in its response.
“We’re offering the Innova Lateral Flow Devices to our patients at Medicare Francais in Earl’s Court. As in the streets of Paris, the tests are slotted into the day-to-day rhythms of people’s lives, giving patients the option to get tested during GP, paediatrics or Covid clinic consultations. Vitally, we’ve already identified several asymptomatic individuals from this approach.
“As well as testing staff at-need, we’re enabling choice for patients, providing them with holistic care. For symptomatic patients and diagnostic, we use PCR, but for asymptomatic individuals, we use LFD. We’ll all need to use a blend of measures and the best technology available to us to overcome the pandemic.
“We're aware of the wider debate regarding accuracy, but the Innova tests are on the PHE authorisation list and are much more comfortable and user friendly for those being tested than others on the market.
“It's about having an every little helps mentality - if you can have some way of catching more asymptomatic positives, we should be chasing that down. We'll have more use again for testing in the next few months as people meet outdoors.
“Lateral flow testing is a great way for us to be getting back in front of our families and supporting the Government’s road-map out of lockdowns. Making full use of the Covid armoury available to us – testing, vaccine rollout, social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing – will allow us to once again go back to the routine and the flow of everyday life.”