UK COVID-19 Daily: 3 week lockdown extension

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

  • UK Medical News
Access to the full content of this site is available only to registered healthcare professionals. Access to the full content of this site is available only to registered healthcare professionals.

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about Thursday.

Lockdown Extension

The expected extension to the UK lockdown was announced on Thursday. The initial 3 weeks are being extended for at least 3 more weeks before the next review. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, deputising for the Prime Minister, told the Downing Street briefing that the expert advisers in the SAGE committee say the lockdown has slowed the spread of the virus, "But SAGE also say that it is a mixed and inconsistent picture."

He added: "Now is not the moment to give the coronavirus a second chance." 

There are signs the spread of the virus has been reduced. Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: "There are areas such as hospitals and social care settings where there may be growth in some places, but overall, the R [reproduction number] is below 1, but we can't say by how much." 

He said data on people in hospital with COVID-19 "is consistent with the idea that the R is below 1, somewhere between 0.5 and 1. The closer it is to 1, the more likely it is that even small changes in the measures that are in place could lead to the R going above 1.

"If the R goes above 1, this starts to grow again fast, it may be quite difficult to predict and detect that growth, and then we run the risk of a second peak with all of the damage that will cause to health, and to the economy."

From the latest data, he said: "The overall message is the cases are at least flattening, and maybe decreasing." 

Mr Raab said different approaches could be taken in different areas in future: "It could involve relaxing measures in some areas while strengthening measures in other areas but in formulating the right balance we will be, at all times, guided by the scientific advice and the evidence." 

Sir Patrick was asked to comment on some experts saying social contact restrictions would have to stay in place until a vaccine is widely available. "There may be a number of measures that need to continue... whilst vaccines and therapeutics come along. But that's very different from saying the measures that are in place now are the ones that need to be in place long-term," he said.

Hospital Deaths

There were 861 COVID-19 hospital deaths reported on Thursday taking the total to 13,729.

Commenting via the Science Media Centre, Professor James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and the University of Oxford, said: "As expected the Easter weekend has introduced additional volatility into the daily numbers. The rise in numbers of deaths announced on Thursday may well have arisen from reporting delays rather than a resumption of rising daily number of deaths. 

"Unfortunately even although this particular measure may hopefully have peaked with the 980 deaths announced on April 10th, we will see many hundreds of hospital deaths announced each day for some weeks ahead."

Of the 740 deaths in English hospitals, patients were aged between 28 and 103. Forty of those who died aged between 45 and 93 had no known underlying health condition.

NHS Deaths

In interviews on Thursday, the Health and Social Care Secretary for England, Matt Hancock, said there had now been 27 COVID-19 deaths among NHS staff.

Among recently announced healthcare deaths was 62-year-old Dr Peter Tun. He worked as an associate specialist in neurorehabilitation at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading for more than 21 years. 

His son Michael tweeted: "My dad Dr Peter Tun died from COVID-19 because of the lack of PPE. My hope in writing this is that it will save more doctors and nurses lives and avoid pain for their families. My dad would have wanted to speak up if he thought it would save lives."

Agency nurse Josiane Zauma Ebonja Ekoli from Leeds was 55. She worked at Harrogate Hospital. In a statement, her daughter said: "It meant everything to be a nurse, she’s been doing it for as long as I remember – more than 30 years."

South Wales-based agency nurse Leilani Medel was a "wonderful and caring person," tributes said. Hoop Recruitment said: "The nursing profession has lost a warm-natured and beautiful nurse who cared for so many vulnerable people during her nursing career."

A Government review is to be held into why ethnic minorities appear to be worst-hit by COVID-19. Sky News said its analysis of the deaths of 54 front line health and social care workers in England and Wales found that 70% of them were black or from an ethnic minority.

Government Chief Medical Adviser Professor Chris Whitty said: "It's absolutely critical that we find out which groups are most at risk so that we can help to protect them."

 
Underlying Causes of Death

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published more data on COVID-19 deaths in England and Wales during March.

  • There were 3912 deaths involving COVID-19.

  • 86% had COVID-19 assigned as the underlying cause of death.

  • COVID-19 was the third most common underlying cause of death for deaths occurring in March.

  • The death rate among males was double that of females.

  • There was at least one pre-existing condition in 91% of cases.

  • Ischaemic heart disease was the most common main pre-existing condition found among deaths involving COVID-19 (14%). 

  • 1 in 5 deaths were in the 80 to 84 years age group.

Ventilators

Hundreds of new medical ventilators to help patients in intensive care with COVID-19 are set to be produced after one design was granted regulatory approval.

Penlon's Prima ES02 model is now authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in hospitals.

Captain Tom

On Wednesday, we reported that 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore's sponsored garden walk had raised £7m for the Association of NHS Charities. He's now completed his original challenge - 100 lengths of his garden - but is planning to keep going. At the time of writing, he'd raised more than £15m. 

JustGiving's engineering team tweeted: "Sorry for the occasional crashes @captaintommoore - we are on it, donations are getting processed and the site is holding up. You officially generated the highest traffic in JG history!" 

Earlier Captain Tom told ITV: "You’ve got to think things will be better, that the future is in front of us all and that, without doubt, things will get better and we should get through this very difficult time. 

"And please remember that tomorrow is a good day and we shall all get through it in the end."

Adapted from Medscape UK.