An outbreak of coronavirus among Dundee’s drug users and homeless people would have “devastating” effects, a city nurse has said.
Kirsty Nelson, a parish nurse at Steeple Church and community support worker at Eagles Wings Trust homeless charity, said contingency plans were being put in place to prevent a spread of the virus among vulnerable groups.
Various third sector groups are collaborating among each other and working with the NHS to mitigate the impact of a potential outbreak.
We Are With You, formerly called Addaction, are continuing to support people with addiction over the phone and are advising them how to continue with their treatment during self-isolation in order to avoid a spike in drug deaths.
Meanwhile Dundee Survival Group, who provide supported accommodation to homeless people, have earmarked a section of their premises for anyone showing symptoms of Covid-19 and needing to be quarantined.
Kirsty said: “We quickly noticed that those coming to our drop-in session really weren’t aware of the seriousness of what was going on, perhaps due to their limited access to TV, newspapers and internet.
“We’ve now explained the situation to them and we are going to be providing bags of food and hot drinks at the door, but no drop in sessions.
“We have also linked up with the parish nursing team.”
She added: “So far no one has tested positive or had symptoms that we know of – but an outbreak of the virus in the drug user and/or homeless community would be absolutely devastating.
“A lot of them have underlying health conditions, aren’t registered with a GP and are unable to manage caring for their health”.
Dave Barrie, service manage at We Are With You, said he did not expect there to be a change to the availability of methadone prescriptions.
He added: “There is a lot of planning taking place with our partners and with the NHS, with the objective of helping people continue with their drug and alcohol treatment.
“The reality is that resources will be stretched for people in life-threatening situations so we’re trying to provide as much support over the phone to prevent drug deaths.
“We are trying to limit face to face work, it’s a difficult balance between keeping our staff safe and our service-users supported”.
Shirish Patel, CEO of Dundee Survival Group, said the organisation had put in plave emergency plans to deal with a potential virus outbreak.
He explained: “If any of our tenants show symptoms we will quarantine them on the top floor and ensure they have sufficient food and will put them in touch with medical staff.
“We are also accepting donations of tinned food, which would be gratefully received”.
Shelter Scotland said their staff and volunteers in Dundee were delivering food and care packages to the vulnerable and elderly.
NHS Tayside did not respond to a request for comment.