UK COVID-19 Daily: England's 'Test & Trace' starts on Thursday

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

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

England's 'Test & Trace' Starts on Thursday

England's programme to 'test and trace' new COVID-19 cases will begin on Thursday at 9 am and Boris Johnson said it will "change people's lives".

From Thursday, testing is available for everyone with symptoms, including under-5s. If the test is positive tracers will text individuals they've been in close contact with, and will advise those contacts to go into 14 day isolation.

In April the scheme was announced as 'test, track, and trace'. However, 'track' has now been dropped.

Scotland's 'test and protect' system also begins on Thursday while Northern Ireland's programme is already in place. Wales plans to start its 'test, trace, protect' programme in June.

Health and Social Care Secretary for England, Matt Hancock told the Downing Street briefing: "To make NHS Test and Trace as effective as possible it is very important that everyone with symptoms must isolate immediately and go and get a test."

He added: "Testing and tracing must become a new way of life," and, "If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace instructing you to isolate, you must. It is your civic duty."

He warned: "This will be voluntary at first because we trust everyone to do the right thing. But we can quickly make it mandatory if that's what it takes."

The NHSX tracking smartphone app that's being trialled on the Isle of Wight is not part of the programme at this stage. That will follow "once the system's bedded in," Mr Hancock said.

After the Dominic Cummings controversy, he was asked to clarify where people should isolate if they're contacted by a tracer: "Go home and do your isolation there," Mr Hancock said.

Daily Deaths and Data

Another 412 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced on Wednesday taking the total to 37,460.

There were 117,013 tests counted on Tuesday. 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 Friday.

Another 2013 positive cases were reported on Wednesday, and 8879 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus.

There were 472 COVID-19 hospital admissions in England on Tuesday, and 11% of UK critical care beds are being used by COVID-19 patients.

Scottish Deaths

National Records of Scotland released weekly data on Wednesday showing that deaths involving COVID-19 as a proportion of all deaths fell to 19% in week 21, having reached 36% in week 17.

It also said 54% of all registered COVID-19 deaths in week 21 occurred in care homes, down from 60% in week 18.

The total number of deaths registered in Scotland from 18th to 24th May was 17% higher than the average number of deaths registered in the same week over the last 5 years.

In the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied care home residents had been treated as "second-class citizens" with discharges from hospital without testing. She said a future public inquiry into the handling of coronavirus would "undoubtedly include what happened in care homes".

More News in Brief

  • Weston General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, is testing clinical staff and patients ahead of reopening its A&E department. The closure on Monday was clinically-led, the hospital said, because of a high number of COVID-19 patients. Medical Director Dr William Oldfield said in a statement: "There is an emerging picture of asymptomatic staff testing positive for the virus. Any members of staff who have tested positive have self-isolated in line with national guidance. We are also in the process of testing all staff in clinical areas at the hospital who may have had some patient contact. Appropriate levels of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are available and this is being used in line with Public Health England guidance, and there have been significant efforts to minimise unnecessary staff movements across the hospital."

  • Preprint research has highlighted the need for extensive testing in nursing homes. An analysis of four homes in London found 26% of residents died between March and May. That's three times the rate in previous years. Coronavirus infection rates were 40% but 60% were either asymptomatic or had atypical symptoms. "Universal and systematic testing of residents and staff is needed across nursing homes if infection is to be contained," said Professor David Sharp, joint senior author of the investigation and director of the UK DRI’s Care Research and Technology Centre based at Imperial College London and the University of Surrey, adding in a news release: "The logistics of mass testing are challenging and nursing homes will likely need increased resource to be able to do it well."

  • A fact-checking charity has confirmed the PM's adviser Dominic Cummings edited a blog post from last year to mention coronavirus. In his weekend press conference, he said: "For years I’ve warned of the dangers of pandemics. Last year I wrote about the possible threat of coronaviruses and the urgent need for planning." Full Fact concluded claims circulated online about editing were correct: "The edit appears to have been made on 14th April 2020." That's when he said he returned to London after his isolation in County Durham.

  • Mums spend more time on lockdown childcare than dads, according to UCL and Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) interviews with 3500 families in April and May. IFS Research Economist Lucy Kraftman said in a news release: "Mothers are doing, on average, more childcare and more housework than fathers who have the same work arrangements, be that not working, working from home or working outside the home. The only set of households where we see mothers and fathers sharing childcare and housework equally are those in which both parents were previously working but the father has now stopped working for pay while the mother is still in paid work. However, mothers in these households are doing paid work during an average of 5 hours a day in addition to doing the same amount of domestic work as their partner. The vast increase in the amount of childcare that mothers are doing under lockdown, which many are juggling alongside paid work, is likely to put a strain on their wellbeing."

  • The English Premier League has voted to restart contact training ahead of a possible restarting of the season. The League said that "strict medical protocols are in place to ensure the training ground is the safest environment possible and players and staff will continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week".

Adapted from Medscape UK.