9 July 2020

Hassnain Safdar: Life in lockdown - part two

Locum optometrist, Hassnain Safdar MCOptom, updates us on his experience as part of the Test and Trace team, and reflects on the current local lockdown in Leicester.

“‘They’re easing restrictions further on 4 July, let’s plan a day out… or maybe not, because we’re back in lockdown!’ 

“Distress, fatigue, and concern were just some of the cycle of emotions I’ve been through after I had to cancel plans when Leicester became the first to experience a local lockdown. This also led to increasing frustration among practices as they moved back into the red phase having just moved to amber not long ago. As a Leicester lad all my life, I’m proud of the sheer diversity of our local community, however, could this be the reason our infection rate remains the highest? With research studies suggesting many reasons the BAME community are at higher risk of becoming infected, it has certainly highlighted this pandemic is by no means going to be an easy one to navigate through. 

“When lockdown was introduced, I spent the best part of two months with little to do and a lot of free time. As restrictions began to ease and the government announced their new strategy to tackle this deadly virus. The mass recruitment drive to deliver an efficient and effective Test and Trace (T&T) service began in May. This opportunity seemed like a lifeline for me, and while there was little/no demand for locums, I wanted to utilise my clinical and leadership skills to help on the virtual frontline. After expressing an interest and submitting my application, I completed the mandatory training and started my new job working for Public Health England as a Clinical Team Leader for Tier 2. The main objective of the programme is to break the chain of transmission to enable people to return to, and maintain a more normal way of life. We do this by isolating people who have COVID-19 and their close contacts, helping with local community action to prevent/manage outbreaks, and enabling individuals, businesses and public services to understand and manage the risk of spread.

“As a team leader I offer clinical guidance and support to a team of clinical contact caseworkers who make calls to patients and their families. I also manage complex scenarios, for example where an urgent escalation to Public Health England is required to localise an outbreak be it in a factory, care home or even prison, to name a few. I guess something which I didn’t think I would master in this new role is my phonetic alphabet which I’ve got down to a T… for tango! Jokes aside, what I have found most rewarding is that a call from T&T could be the most important conversation that a patient has that day or year during this time of uncertainty. It’s an amazing feeling knowing you’ve used your clinical skills to help a patient jog their memory to trace their steps and contacts, thereby reducing the transmission. After a month of the service going live, T&T has reached over 130,000 people who would’ve unknowingly spread the virus. This fact reminds us all of the vital role we have in fighting through this strange and unprecedented time of our lives. 

“As a locum optometrist, I never once thought I’d find myself working from home where the commute is a short few metres to my desk, a stark contrast to the miles I’d be commuting to practices across the East Midlands. Whilst restrictions continue to be lifted, I am certainly looking forward to seeing Leicester out of lockdown and return to some normality, albeit rather different to the one pre-pandemic.”

Read part one of Hassnain's journey through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hassnain Safdar MCOptom is a locum optometrist working across the East Midlands. 

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