THE reality of a surge in coronavirus cases is hitting home after a leading Bradford doctor confirmed the number of Covid-19 patients on the wards at Bradford Royal Infirmary has risen to over 70.

In a Coronavirus doctor's diary blog for the BBC, Dr John Wright wrote: "After three months of relative calm in the hospital the number of patients on the wards with acute Covid-19 has steadily risen to over 70. Our mortality rate is lower, due to more effective treatments, but sadly and inevitably it will also rise in the coming weeks. There is a physical and mental weariness among the staff, though no dip in the compassion that guides them.

"The city is bracing itself for the next surge. The incidence for the last seven days has climbed to 270 per 100,000 but not as steeply as our neighbouring northern cities, where rates are approaching 600 per 100,000 - perhaps a result of early restrictions in Bradford, perhaps just a question of time. Testing in the community is also showing a higher rate of positive results - 17 per cent, compared with eight per cent a month ago."

Dr Wright said that ten days ago the results of a survey of over 2,000 families in a Born in Bradford research study had been published.

He wrote: "As the virus continues to spread across our communities and the number of patients admitted to hospital continues to slowly rise, the results of this study provide a heart-breaking insight into the impact of lockdown on lives beyond the hospital walls."

These are some of the key short-term experiences of families living in Bradford in the period from March 23 onwards, as revealed by the survey.

◾One in 10 said their food didn't last and they couldn't afford to buy more, so they were eating less or skipping meals entirely

◾One in 10 said they had real concerns about being evicted or having their home repossessed

◾One in three said they were worse off and 37% said they were worried about the job security of the main earner

◾One in five mothers had clinically significant depression and one in six had clinically significant anxiety - many also raised concerns about the mental health of their children

◾One in three mothers said they were lonely some of the time, and one in 10 said they were lonely most or all of the time

◾One in six mothers said they were worried about their health most or all of the time

"Financial, employment and housing insecurity were all particularly common in those where the main earner had been furloughed, was self-employed and not working, or was unemployed.

"While the furlough scheme and support to self-employed workers was designed to provide support during this difficult time, our findings suggest that the loss of 20 per cent of a low-income wage may be enough to tip families into financial difficulty, and potentially further exacerbate health inequalities.

"The evidence from this study demonstrates the public health impact of lockdown on mental health driven by loneliness and economic insecurity. This epidemic of mental ill-health is less visible than the acutely ill patients on ICUs, but may have longer-term consequences that outweigh the clinical harm of Covid-19. The challenge that policy makers face is how to balance the scales of clinical harm from the virus on one side against the wider social and economic harm on the other.

"There are increasingly polarised views from the public and politicians but also scientists and doctors about how the government should tackle the emerging second wave of the pandemic."