UK COVID-19 Daily: 1 in 5 deaths linked to Coronavirus

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

  • UK Medical News
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These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about Tuesday.

1 in 5 Deaths Linked to Coronavirus

Another 778 UK hospital COVID-19 deaths were reported on Tuesday taking the total to 12,107.

Of the 744 deaths in English hospitals, patients were aged between 34 and 102. Of these,  58 aged between 38 and 96 had no known underlying health condition.  

The Office for National Statistics released its weekly death statistics for England and Wales covering in- and out-of-hospital deaths. These include any death where COVID-19 is mentioned on a death certificate rather than just those confirmed with a test. ONS said 90.2% of COVID-19 deaths occurred in hospital. The rest were in hospices, care homes, and private homes.

For the week ending 3rd April 2020 3475 deaths registered mentioned 'novel coronavirus (COVID-19)’ - that's more than 1 in 5 (21.2%) of all deaths compared with 4.8% of all deaths the previous week.

That week also saw the highest total number of deaths since ONS weekly death reporting began in 2005.

Some other countries report in- and-out-of hospital deaths at the same time.

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England medical director, was asked at the daily Downing Street press briefing if care home and community deaths could be reported daily. 

She explained the challenges of collecting information from thousands of sources while getting the right death certificate information: "But we would like to have much more rapid data, preferably on a daily basis, and that's what we're working towards." 

Experts noted that some deaths may have occurred where COVID-19 had an indirect effect rather than through infection. 

Prof Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious disease, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said via the Science Media Centre: "We know that for some situations, we may be overplaying the role of COVID-19, for example where COVID-19 was mentioned in a death but where it may have actually played only a minor role. Whereas in other situations, a death may not mention coronavirus, even though it may have contributed, possibly as a result of the indirect consequences of the lockdown and stretched healthcare services." 

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England gave an update on case data: "There's increasing evidence now that the number of hospital admissions is stabilising and plateauing, you can see that in London, but you can also see it in other areas, such as the Midlands."

He noted that deaths were still rising: "This is the number that will reduce last, unfortunately, with sadness, it's the one that will take longest to change."

There was no announcement on extending the lockdown but Prof Powis said: "We absolutely need to make sure that we keep the benefits of this going forward and we don't take a foot off the pedal, we don't become complacent." 

Among recently reported NHS deaths was nurse Melujean Ballesteros. The 60-year-old died at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington on Sunday. Her son told the PA news agency: "My mum is a dedicated and very caring nurse."

In Memoriam: Healthcare Workers Who Have Died of COVID-19.

PPE Row

A new PPE row started on Tuesday with the Nation newspaper's report that the UK government told suppliers not to send stock to Scotland or Wales.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Any situation where supplies were being diverted from one part of the UK to another without consultation, or any sense of cooperation, would clearly be unconscionable and unacceptable. So that is why we are seeking to investigate these issues further and seeking to address them."

Wales' Health Minister Vaughan Gething said orders from England are "helping to crowd out the market that is being constructed in any event, and that itself has a practical consequence”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "There's been incredibly close coordinated action across our public health bodies and NHS bodies to make sure we have a four-nation approach to all of this. There's no truth in those stories that those companies have been told to prioritise PPE equipment and I think rather the contrary is actually happening."

Yvonne Doyle added: "Public Health England has not in any sense directed any of the devolved administrations to be at any disadvantage. We work really closely together." 

More News in Brief

Emergency laws are needed to protect doctors at risk of legal challenges after treating COVID-19 patients, the Medical Protection Society said. Medical Director, Dr Rob Hendry, said in a statement: "It is simply not fair for doctors already under immense pressure to be asked to make difficult treatment decisions based on a hope that the courts and the GMC will treat them favourably and protect them in the future if their decisions and actions are challenged."

The BMA has written to NHS England over concerns about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black and ethnic minority (BAME) groups and asking for assurances this will be properly investigated. The BMA cites recent data that show 35% of those critically ill with COVID-19 are BAME, despite BAME groups making up 13% of the population.

The Financial Times reported that none of the new ventilators developed in response to the Government's appeal to the industry have been given regulatory approval. The paper said delays appear to be partly linked to changing clinical understanding of when to deploy invasive ventilation for COVID-19.

Despite being debunked by experts, another 20 suspected arson attacks on 5G masts over COVID-19 conspiracy theories were reported over the Easter weekend. Sky News said that one fire in West Yorkshire destroyed critical infrastructure used by the emergency services.

Adapted from Medscape UK.