UK COVID-19 Daily: mandatory face coverings on public transport

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

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

Face Coverings Mandatory on Public Transport

Face coverings will become mandatory on public transport in England from 15th June.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Downing Street briefing: "This will mean that you can be refused travel if you don't comply." 

He conceded: "We also know on public transport keeping 2 metres apart is not always possible at all times. Indeed, the guidance explicitly recognises this fact."

There are exemptions for very young children, disabled people, and people with breathing difficulties.

Passengers starting journeys in Scotland and Wales will have to wear a mask once they cross the borders into England, unless those nations announce similar measures.

There was no scientist, doctor, or public health official at Thursday's Downing Street briefing, only Mr Shapps and Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail. 

Sir Peter said:  "I'm not expecting a huge upsurge in railway staff having to police this. I'm expecting sensible passengers to do their duty and look after themselves and others." 

There could be fines for those who don't comply.

Mr Shapps also defended the Government's 14 days quarantine from Monday for most travellers to the UK. "It's a very sensible and proportionate measure," he said. 

Business Secretary Gets COVID-19 Test Result

One COVID-19 test result that was the focus of attention was that of Business Secretary Alok Sharma who became ill on Wednesday in the Commons. This evening he tweeted: "Just had results in and my test for COVID-19 was negative."

Grant Shapps denied it was "folly" to make MPs vote in person in the Commons: "I think with Parliament, it's absolutely right that it is able to sit and do its job on behalf of the nation and that's what MPs themselves have voted for," Mr Shapps said.

UK Hosted Global Vaccine Summit

The UK was the virtual host for the Global Vaccine Summit on Thursday achieving $8.8 billion funding for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. 

Its CEO Dr Seth Berkley said in a statement: "Gavi, with UK support, is addressing the immediate needs triggered by coronavirus, including providing essential medical supplies and helping to increase testing and surveillance of the disease."

Microsoft founder Bill Gates said: "If we didn't already have Gavi, we would have to create it, just to solve this crisis." He pledged support for Gavi, and extra funding for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Boris Johnson ended the summit by saying: "We rise to fulfil the greatest shared endeavour of our lifetimes. The triumph of humanity over disease. Now, and through the generations that follow." 

Scotland's Framework for Restarting Cancer Surgery

The NHS in Scotland has published a framework for the safe restarting of cancer surgery.

Operations will be arranged based on clinical priority and will take place in green COVID-free sites. Some surgery may be offered away from the patient's local area.

Scotland's Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said at a news conference: "To those patients who are waiting for treatment for cancer,  I want you to be assured that you are a priority. Our absolute focus is on making sure that you are treated as soon, and as safely, as possible."

Scotland's R is now 0.7-0.9, a slight improvement on 0.7 to 1.0 last week.

Daily Deaths and Data

Another 176 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced on Thursday, taking the total to 39,904.

Scotland's deaths were in single figures (9) for the first time since March.

There were 220,057 tests counted on Wednesday, a new record. This figure includes home tests that have been sent out but not yet processed.

Figures for the number of people tested were last given on Friday 22nd May.

Another 1805  positive cases were reported on Thursday.

There are 7312 people currently in hospital with coronavirus, down from 8558 this time last week.

Another 505 people were admitted to hospital in England with COVID-19 and 604 mechanical ventilator beds are in use across the UK by coronavirus patients.

More News in Brief
  • Last night's Channel 4 Dispatches programme Coronavirus Did the Government Get It Wrong? is the latest media coverage to get a detailed official rebuttal in a blog post from the Department of Health and Social Care. The programme alleged the Government was slow to respond to warnings from scientists over COVID-19, was wrong to consider herd immunity as an option, was late locking down, and shouldn't have allowed big sporting events to go ahead. A Government spokesperson said: "’This is an unprecedented global pandemic and we have taken the right steps at the right time to combat it. At every stage, the Government has been guided by the advice of experts from SAGE and its sub-committees – advice which has now been published on gov.uk. The Government has been very clear that herd immunity has never been our policy or goal."

  • The British Council has cancelled some Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board tests (PLAB 1) for overseas doctors due to COVID-19, and the GMC has cancelled all existing bookings for PLAB 2. The BMA said in a tweet: "This will cause a great deal of concern to those international doctors who want to offer their skills and expertise to the NHS; we are urging the GMC to do everything it can to ensure that these exams can safely resume as soon as possible."

  • University of Warwick Zeeman Institute preprint modelling supports the cautious partial reopening of schools in England this week. Study lead, Professor Matt Keeling, said in a news release: "Our work indicates that the current policy of Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children returning to school is likely to result in a small increase in the reproduction number. In isolation this is unlikely to push R above 1 but there still remains uncertainty over the consequences of other recent changes that have relaxed the lockdown."

  • Ongoing UCL research involving 90,000 UK adults suggests easing lockdown measures has reduced anxiety and depression levels over the past week, but levels remain higher than average. Depression and anxiety remain highest in young people, people living alone, households with lower incomes, those with mental health conditions, families with children, and in urban areas. While most people show a large degree of compliance with lockdown rules, levels of 'complete' compliance have fallen further.

  • Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) polling suggests 74% of people support new action on obesity after it was linked to worse COVID-19 outcomes. In a statement, Consultant Endocrinologist and OHA adviser, Professor John Wass, said there was "an unparalleled opportunity to bring about sustained changes to our environment. We can then build a robust population, resilient to all kinds of disease and able to contribute to a strong society. Obesity is not a choice individuals make and we strongly encourage the Government to move ahead with bold action." Savanta ComRes interviewed 2085 UK adults for OHA.

  • More than half of people in the UK have experienced poorer sleep since lockdown measures were introduced in March to contain the spread of COVID-19, a study has found. The study by King's College London and IPSOS Mori was based on 2254 interviews.

  • A British Lung Foundation survey of more than 14,000 people found cleaner air during lockdown has led to 16% of respondents reporting an improvement in symptoms. A quarter of people with asthma noted improvements. The charity's Policy and Public Affairs Officer Zak Bond said in a statement: "The Government has a duty to ensure that as the country recovers from COVID-19, we can continue to keep air pollution levels down, and keep pushing them lower, with the rapid introduction of Clean Air Zones, support for public and active transport, and tougher air quality laws."

Adapted from Medscape UK.