UK COVID-19 Daily: 24 hour test turnaround promise

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

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

24 Hour Test Turnaround Promise

Boris Johnson has committed to COVID-19 test results being available within 24 hours by the end of the month.

In reply to a question by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, chair of the Health Select Committee, the PM said: "I can undertake to him now to get all tests turned around in 24 hours by the end of June, except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that."

Meanwhile, the latest surveillance report from Public Health England suggests COVID-19 indicators are either stable or declining from the previous week.

There are still "large numbers" of acute respiratory infection outbreaks in care homes.

Disease activity is highest in the North and Central regions of England.

Two Week Isolation for Travellers Confirmed

Plans for 14 days of isolation for most travellers arriving in England from abroad from next Monday have been confirmed by the Home Office. Other parts of the UK can make different quarantine arrangements. 

The location for the isolation needs to be given to Border Force on arrival, and spot checks will be carried out. Breaching the rules could lead to a £1000 fine or prosecution.

"We must also ensure we don't re-import the virus from abroad," Boris Johnson told the Downing Street briefing. 

The measures will be reviewed after 3 weeks, and "we will explore the possibility of international travel corridors with countries that have low risks or rates of infection," he said.

Daily Deaths and Data

Another 359 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced today, taking the total to 39,728.

There were 171,829 tests counted yesterday. This figure includes home tests that have been sent out but not yet processed.

The UK's testing capacity is now over 200,000 daily tests. However, overall daily tests carried out remain far lower than the available capacity. Figures for the number of people tested were last given on Friday 22nd May.

Another 1871 positive cases were reported today.

Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: "The number of cases remains relatively high, not coming down fast, and the R [is] quite close to 1."

There are 7485 people currently in hospital with coronavirus, down from 8921 this time last week.

Another 431 people were admitted to hospital in England with COVID-19 and 9% of UK mechanical ventilator beds are in use by coronavirus patients.

More News in Brief

  • We may now know why England's alert level stayed at 4 when lockdown loosening measures associated with level 3 were put into place. The Independent reported the decision was made by England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty. Instead, ministers said the changes could go ahead because the Government's separate 'five tests' had been met, including protecting the NHS. At the Downing Street briefing Prof Whitty clarified that the Joint Biosecurity Centre that advises the UK's CMOs sets the alert level and "the alert levels are for a different purpose," including mapping hotspots.

  • A key section of Public Health England's report into BAME and other COVID-19 risk factors was removed before publication, HSJ reported. The section is believed to detail responses from groups who contributed to the review. One BAME campaigner, Addy Adelaine PhD, tweeted that the report had been "whitewashed".

  • Schools in Wales will go back on 29th June for all ages but not all at the same time. Class sizes will be reduced so that around a third of pupils are at school at any time. This term will be extended by a week. Education Minister Kirsty Williams said in a statement that "29th June means there will have been one full month of test, trace and protect, which will continue to expand. I can also announce that teachers will be a priority group in our new antibody testing programme."

  • The Health Foundation is warning England's delayed contact tracing app could worsen health inequalities. In a poll of 1983 people, 62% said they are likely to download the app. The figure was higher (73%) for those in managerial, administrative, or professional jobs, but lower (50%) for routine and manual workers, state pensioners, and unemployed people. There was a similar educational achievement divide. The group's Adam Steventon said in a statement: "The impact of COVID-19 is already being felt unequally across society and appears to be having a disproportionate impact on people living in more deprived areas, older people, and some ethnic minorities. Within that context, it’s especially concerning that people in lower paid jobs and those with less formal education say they are less likely to download and use the app, and of course not everyone has a smartphone."

  • The UK LIBERATE trial has been launched to study an ibuprofen formulation for treating severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, a complication of COVID-19. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust Intensive Care Consultant, Professor Richard Beale, said in a news release: "As a new illness, there are limited treatment options for patients with COVID-19. The clinical trial will assess whether this unique formulation of an established drug benefits patients with COVID-19."

  • A child aged under 18 has become the first person to receive convalescent plasma through the RECOVERY randomised clinical trial. Study lead Professor Richard Haynes, University of Oxford, said in a news release: "Plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 may help to speed up clearance of the virus from those who are currently suffering from the disease and improve their chances of recovery – but we can’t be certain unless we compare it to no additional treatment beyond the usual standard of care received by all patients."

Adapted from Medscape UK.