UK COVID-19 Daily: deaths pass 26,000 under new methodology

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

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

Deaths Pass 26,000 Under New Methodology

The new total for UK COVID-19 deaths is 26,097 - the first figure under new reporting methods. That means the UK has the second highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe after Italy.

Public Health England (PHE) said the rise was due to Wednesday's figures being revised retrospectively to include additional data sources.  

An additional 3811 deaths were added to the total. Of these, PHE said, around 70% were outside hospitals (including care homes) and around 30% in hospitals. The additional hospital deaths were identified through PHE’s laboratory system.

There were 765 UK hospital deaths reported on Wednesday.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at PHE, said in a news release: "Tracking the daily death count is vital to help us understand the impact of the disease.

"These more complete data will give us a fuller and more up to date picture of deaths in England and will inform the government’s approach as we continue to protect the public."

Of the 445 deaths in English hospitals, patients were aged between 14 and 101. Of these, 27 aged between 14 and 94 had no known underlying health condition. 

Data from the National Records of Scotland released on Wednesday showed that 338 of the 656 deaths recorded between 20th and 26th April were in care homes. Overall, 39% of COVID-19 deaths registered to date in Scotland related to deaths in care homes, 52% of deaths were in hospitals, and 9% of deaths were at home or non-institutional settings.

Case Data

Prof Doyle told the Downing Street briefing about the latest case data.

On new cases. "Cases have remained broadly stable over the last weeks, and that is good news."

On hospital bed occupancy: "This is broadly good news because the numbers in hospital have decreased from over 18,000 to over 15,000, that's a 16% decrease."

On critical care bed use: "This is good news because we can see here that 40% of the beds are being used. That means there is critical care capacity."

With one day to go to meet the Government's 100,000 daily COVID-19 test target, 52,429 tests were carried out on Tuesday. Capacity is now at over 73,000 per day.

NHS Deaths

Among recently announced NHS workers deaths were three nurses:

  • Fiona Anderson was a community staff nurse at Grindon Lane Primary Care Centre, Sunderland. Her family's statement said she died "doing what she loved, working for the NHS and caring for those in need".

  • Jodon Gait, 46, worked at the medical short stay unit at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. Tributes said he was "a dedicated, passionate, caring colleague".

  • Larni Zuniga, 54, was a care home nurse in Godalming, Surrey. Friends said he moved to the UK to try to make a better life for his family.

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

More News in Brief
  • Cancer deaths in people who are newly diagnosed in England could rise by at least 20% over the next 12 months, according to a preprint study by UCL/DATA-CAN. Senior author Professor Harry Hemingway, Director, UCL Institute of Health Informatics, said in a news release: "The overall impact of the COVID-19 emergency on deaths in cancer patients could be substantial. There are many factors operating here including rapid changes to diagnosis and treatment protocols, social distancing measures, changes in people’s behaviour in seeking medical attention and the economic impact of COVID-19, as well as deaths due to COVID-19 infection."

  • NHS England is urging people with suspected cancer symptoms to seek medical advice. The move came after a survey by Portland suggested that 1 in 10 people would not contact their GP with lumps or a new mole which did not go away after a week. Professor Peter Johnson, NHS national clinical director for cancer, said in a news release: "NHS staff have made huge efforts to deal with coronavirus but they are also working hard to ensure that patients can safely access essential services such as cancer checks and urgent surgery."

  • Fast track COVID-19 clinical trials are being launched under the UK's ACCORD (Accelerating COVID-19 Research & Development platform). UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport said in a news release: "Bringing together expertise from across the UK’s world-class research and innovation sectors – from clinical researchers through to the pharmaceutical industry – this national platform will rapidly prioritise and deliver the best potential drugs into clinical trials to discover if they can help people with COVID-19."

  • More health workers from outside the UK and their families are to get free visa extensions. These include midwives, radiographers, social workers, and pharmacists. This followed a similar announcement last month for doctors, nurses, and paramedics. Family members and dependents of healthcare workers who die after testing positive for COVID-19 will also be offered immediate indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

  • Don't wash NHS uniforms at home to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk, say experts from De Montfort University, Leicester. Dr Katie Laird, reader in microbiology and head of the infectious disease research group, has written to ministers to raise concerns over Public Health England guidance that says if industrial or hospital laundering isn't available, health workers should take their uniforms home in a disposable plastic bag. Dr Laird said in a news release: "By taking their uniforms home, workers run the risk of contaminating their home environment, including the washing machine," She added: "If the virus is on the uniform, it could transfer onto other surfaces or items of clothing in the wash."

  • Medication rules have been relaxed for care homes so that, when clinically appropriate, medicines labelled for use by one patient can be used by another patient. Currently, if the patient no longer needs them, or has died, drugs are destroyed. Medicines must be checked by a registered healthcare professional to ensure that they are suitable for re-use.

  • When schools reopen in England there'll be a phased approach, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Education Select Committee. "All schools returning on day one with a full complement of pupils would not be realistic," he said. Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy CMO, was asked how social distancing would work at school: "I think that would be very difficult with a classroom of 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, I think that would be really tricky. I think we have to think through all of those measures and how that might work." 

Adapted from Medscape UK.