UK COVID-19 Daily: England's alert level still at 4

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

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

England's Alert Level Still at 4

England's coronavirus alert level is still at 4 indicating that transmission of the virus is still 'high', Downing Street confirmed.

Level 4 is defined as: "A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially.”

The latest lifting of lockdown measures was supposed to begin when scientific advisers moved the alert level to 3. 'Action' for level 4 is to maintain “social distancing measures and restrictions”.

At level 3, "gradual relaxing of restrictions and social distancing measures," is allowed when "a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation".

At Friday's news briefing Chancellor Rishi Sunak denied next Monday's changes, ahead of an alert level change, meant the Government was no longer following the science: "No, I'm not sure that's right. I mean when we've made these decisions we've always done them in conjunction with the latest scientific advice," adding that scientific and medical colleagues "are completely aware of everything we're doing".

He added: "I wouldn't say that that's happening in a reckless or big bang way. As the Prime Minister set out it's being done in quite a measured and phased way, progressively, to make sure that we can keep an eye on things, and we're not running before we should."

Scientific advice remains important, he said: "There's been no change in the dialogue or the relationship we have or the advice we received. We remain very cognizant of the scientific advice, very engaged in it, and listen to it very strongly."

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England said monitoring for infection rates rising is important: "It's really important that we monitor infection rates in the community very very closely. And if there is any hint or any sign that the infection rates are going back up, that the R rate is going above 1, that action is taken to ensure that R goes below 1 again. That will be the scientific advice, and I'm sure the Government would also want to take account of that advice as well in keeping R below 1 so that we can avoid any second peak or any second increase in the virus."

Wales Loosens Lockdown

Wales is the latest UK nation to announce lockdown changes. From Monday, people from two households living within 5 miles of each other will be able to meet outdoors, including private gardens.  

The R number in Wales is currently 0.8 allowing the changes to be made. However, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: "A lower risk doesn’t mean no risk. Even in these circumstances, it is vital we all maintain social distancing so we can continue to tackle the spread of this virus.

"Now and in the days and months ahead we all have a personal responsibility to make sure our actions don’t contribute to the spread of coronavirus. Please help keep Wales safe by staying local."

Tourist areas in Wales remain closed.

Weddings and civil partnerships can now take place if one of the partners is terminally ill.

Non-essential businesses have been given 3 weeks notice to prepare for possible reopening after the lockdown measures are reviewed again on 18th June.

Dentists 

Dental surgeries in England can reopen from 8th June as long as appropriate safety measures are in place, including PPE.

However, British Dental Association Chair Mick Armstrong said in a statement: "Dentists can open their doors but won't be able to provide a full range of care without the necessary kit. Longer-term practices can only stay afloat with ongoing support, while social distancing continues and the costs of providing care are sky-high.

"Opening the floodgates risks raising false expectations unless the Government is willing to step up and help."

Daily Deaths and Data

Another 324 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced on Friday taking the total to 38,161.

There were 131,458 tests counted on Thursday. This figure includes home tests that have been sent out but not yet processed. The current target is 200,000 tests a day by the end of the month. The figures for the number of people tested have not been available since last Friday.

Another 2095 positive cases were reported on Friday, and 8287 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus down from 9397 this time last week.

Another 552 people were admitted to hospital in England with COVID-19 and 10% of critical care beds are in use by coronavirus patients.

NHS Deaths

Among the recently announced NHS deaths were:

  • Dominga David, a nurse at University Hospital Llandough. Chief Executive Len Richards said she "will be remembered as an exceptionally hard worker and a respectful, kind and compassionate person when interacting with patients, families, and colleagues alike. The teams say she was part of their family and she was well-loved by everyone."

  • Allan Macalalad was an ophthalmology theatre assistant at the same hospital, described by colleagues as "a perfect gentleman, sociable, hardworking, and a loyal team player".

  • Victor Dinoo, senior nurse, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. "Director of nursing Margaret Garbett paid tribute: "Victor was a highly valued and respected senior nurse…and will be greatly missed."

  • Joselito Habab, a nurse at Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. "He was an exemplary nurse and role model and fiercely proud of being both a nurse and a member of the WHH Family. He will be very sadly missed by all who knew and worked with him," a Trust statement said.

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

More News in Brief
  • The latest UK research on increased BAME COVID-19 risks has been published in BMC Medicine. Researchers from University of Glasgow and Public Health Scotland said that compared to people from white British backgrounds in England, black minority groups were 3.4 times more likely to test positive, the risk for South Asian minority groups in general was 2.4 times, while people of Pakistani ethnicity were 3.2 times more likely to test positive. People from ethnic minorities were also more likely to be diagnosed in hospital, suggesting more severe illness. The infection risk differences did not appear to be fully explained by differences in pre-existing health, behavioural risk factors, country of birth, or socioeconomic differences, the researchers said.  

  • The Association of Children's Diabetes Clinicians (ACDC) has issued a statement saying it is safe for children with diabetes to go back to school. ACDC Chair, Professor May Ng, wrote that there is "no evidence that children with diabetes are more likely to be infected with COVID-19 compared to children without diabetes". She added: "In principle, children with diabetes can return to school as long as protective measures in the education setting are in place in accordance with national guidance."

  • Office for National Statistics data show an increase in people leaving their homes in Great Britain this week: 90% compared with 86% last week. Among those with underlying health conditions, only 18% had not left their home this week, compared with 33% last week. Only 29% felt unsafe or very unsafe outside their home compared with 41% last week.  Twenty-nine percent had used face coverings in the past week. This was most common while shopping. Meanwhile, fewer people in the UK have stuck to the Government's COVID-19 lockdown restrictions over the past week, UCL research has suggested. The ongoing study of more than 90,000 people found that in the week ending 25th May, 'complete' compliance declined from an average of 70% of adults to just over 50%.

Adapted from Medscape UK.