UK COVID-19 Daily: Scotland opening pubs, restaurants

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

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

Scotland Opening Pubs, Restaurants

The Scottish Government has announced more relaxation of its lockdown measures, but they are more cautious than those announced for England on Wednesday. The 2 metre social distancing rule stays, although it is being reviewed by experts.

Dates given are provisional, and subject to risk-reduction measures and review, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warning "that each step on this path depends on us continuing to beat the virus back. That is why we must do everything in our power to avoid steps being reversed".

From 3rd July the travel limit for leisure activities will be lifted, self-catering holiday accommodation will reopen, as will outdoor pubs and restaurants.

Then from 10th July:

  • People can meet in extended groups outdoors

  • Households can meet indoors with up to a maximum of two households

  • Organised outdoor contact sport can resume for children and young people

  • Dentists care reopen for non-aerosol generating routine care

  • Community optometry practices capacity will be increased for emergency and essential eye care

  • Non-essential shops inside shopping centres can reopen

  • Childcare providers can open

  • All holiday accommodation will be permitted

  • Indoor hospitality can reopen

  • Hairdressers and barbers can reopen

  • Museums, galleries, cinemas, monuments, libraries will reopen

Missed Cases in Contact Tracing

Labour claimed England's test and trace system is missing two-thirds of new cases, with Sir Keir Starmer describing this as a "big problem".

However, at Prime Minister's Questions Boris Johnson said the system was "very successful".

England's NHXS app was abandoned recently and Sir Keir asked when a new app will be available, and whether it's "critical".

The PM challenged Sir Keir to name any country with a functioning track and trace app. "Germany," he said.

The UK's independent fact checking charity Full Fact said multiple countries have launched apps, including Germany's that has been downloaded more than 12 million times, plus France, Australia, Singapore, and Latvia. However, it said: "While it’s certainly true that some countries have launched track and trace apps, it may be too early to know whether these apps are having the intended effect in helping to contain the spread of the pandemic."

Tailored Shielding

While shielding is ending at the beginning of August in England, work is underway to provide individual shielding advice if there's a second wave.

A new data-driven risk prediction model is being developed by the University of Oxford with NHS Digital and other universities.

The current guidance used broad categories of health conditions and other risk factors. England's CMO Professor Chris Whitty wants risk assessment to be "more nuanced" based on what's been learnt about COVID-19 so far.

Principal Investigator, Julia Hippisley-Cox, professor of epidemiology and general practice at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences said in a news release: "Driven by real patient data, this risk assessment tool could enable a more sophisticated approach to identifying and managing those most at risk of infection and more serious COVID-19 disease.

"Importantly, it will provide better information for GPs to identify and verify individuals in the community who, in consultation with their doctor, may take steps to reduce their risk, or may be advised to shield."

Medical Charities' Funding Concerns

Health charities have warned that the fallout from COVID-19 has devastated their finances, and have made a passionate plea to the Government to step in to help support crumbling resources.

More than 150 charities face a drastic series of cuts to research projects unless central funds are made available to ease them through the pandemic, the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) said.

Aisling Burnand, chief executive of AMRC, told a news briefing: "Medical research charities stepped up to support the country as the pandemic hit. Now it is time for Government to step up and help reboot charity-funded research that saves and improves countless lives."

Daily Deaths and Data

Another 154 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced on Wednesday, taking the total to 43,081.

There were 232,086 tests counted on Tuesday. This figure includes home tests that have been sent out but not yet processed. This takes the total tests to 8,542,186.

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

Another 653 positive cases were reported on Wednesday taking the total UK confirmed cases to 306,862.

Lockdown 'Lasting Digital Legacy'

The peak of the lockdown in April saw a surge in internet use, the media regulator Ofcom reported.

Daily adult online time rose to 4 hours and 2 minutes from just under 3.5 hours in September last year.

The proportion of people making video calls doubled during lockdown, with more than 7 in 10 doing so at least weekly. 

The Zoom video meeting service grew from 659,000 users to 13 million,  a rise of almost 2000% between January and April.

TikTok saw UK adult visitors to its videos rise to 12.9 million in April from 5.4 million in January. 

The gaming streaming service Twitch saw visitors increase to 4.2 million from 2.3 million.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s director of strategy and research, commented: "Lockdown may leave a lasting digital legacy. The coronavirus has radically changed the way we live, work and communicate online, with millions of people using online video services for the first time."

Lockdown 'Turbo Relationships'

Couples appear to be quicker to commit in new 'turbo relationships' under lockdown, according to a report from Relate and eharmony.

The findings from a survey of 2002 adults and focus groups included:

  • 36% of people newly living with a partner believe the past 2 months feel equivalent to 2 years of commitment with milestones like moving in together happening quicker

  • lockdown made 59% of new couples feel more committed but 17% said it made them realise the relationship was over

Relate Counsellor, Peter Saddington, commented: "Whilst many of the consequences of these turbo relationships are encouraging, people must remember we are living through a unique set of circumstances. If your relationship doesn’t continue at the same pace or feelings lessen post-lockdown, that doesn’t spell disaster. Communication is vital to allow couples to navigate what feels right when normal life resumes."

Adapted from Medscape UK.