Coronavirus: Is it safe to donate blood during the pandemic?

Matt Mathers
·3-min read
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto

As hospitals battle against the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of people across the country will need treatment for other conditions, with many requiring blood transfusions.

Women suffering complications in pregnancy, children with anaemia and people involved in serious accidents are just some of those who will benefit from a life-saving blood donation.

But should you continue to donate blood during the coronavirus lockdown, is it safe to do so, and does it count as essential travel?

Should I donate blood during the coronavirus pandemic?

Giving blood saves lives and it is always in high demand. The service is required 365 days a year, with dedicated staff working day and night to process, test and distribute donated blood.

NHS Blood and Transplant says it needs around 135,000 new donors every year to ensure it has the right mix of blood groups to meet patient needs.

The amount of blood collected in England in the last week of March was 15 per cent lower than expected, NHS Blood and Transplant said.

Meanwhile, on Friday the Welsh Blood Service said donations were down by 30 per cent compared with a usual week in April.

Officials at NHS Blood and Transplant are urging people to keep giving blood as normal following a recent drop in donations.

“We need people who are fit and healthy to keep donating as normal during the coronavirus outbreak,” a spokesperson for the organisation said.

Is it safe to donate blood during the coronavirus pandemic?

“Coronaviruses are a family of viruses – there is no evidence of any type of coronavirus being transmitted through blood donation,” an NHS spokesperson said.

Centres across the UK remain open and have introduced a range of new extra safety measures to ensure that only donors who are well and don’t present with coronavirus risk factors enter the donation area.

Staff at centres will triage people on arrival to make sure they are well enough to enter the donation area.

The NHS is also asking donors to only go to the sessions for which they have an appointment to reduce queues and improve social-distancing.

“We’ve [...] measures in place and safety is always our number one priority. We’re now doing extra cleaning and this week we’ve started triaging everyone who arrives so only people with no risk factors can enter the donation area,” the NHS Blood Transplant spokesperson added.

Staff are washing their hands more often and using alcohol hand gels in line with government advice, according to the NHS.

They are also carrying out more cleaning of surfaces such as donation chairs, laminated leaflets and water fountains and will wear masks, the guidance added.

What about travelling to donate blood, is it counted as essential travel?

Donating blood is classed as essential travel because it helps meet the medical needs of vulnerable people, according to official government guidance.

This means that it’s ok to drive your car to a local or regional blood donation hub.

“We are asking our amazing blood donors to go the extra mile to help our NHS at this difficult time,” Alan Prosser, Welsh Blood Service Director said.

“We urge anyone who is eligible and would like to make a life-saving blood donation to visit our website to find and book an appointment at a regional donation hub near them – even if it isn’t the venue they usually attend.”

To find your nearest location to give blood, click here.

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