UK COVID-19 Daily: UK nations divided over face coverings in schools

  • Peter Russell, Medscape.com

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

Face Coverings in Schools

Boris Johnson came under pressure to clarify rules on wearing face coverings in schools in England after the Scottish Government confirmed that secondary school pupils in Scotland will have to wear coverings in corridors and communal areas from Monday 31 August.

Scottish ministers said they were acting on guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Welsh Government announced later it was taking advice from scientific experts about whether to adopt similar guidelines in Wales.

A Downing Street spokesperson was reported to say there were "no plans" to change the current advice in England.

The Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney said the new guidance would apply to all pupils aged over 12 years, unless exemptions applied. He said Scotland would also extend the regulation to children aged 5 and over travelling on dedicated school buses.

There will no requirement to wear face coverings in classrooms where social distancing measures were in place.

Speaking to BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland, Mr Swinney said: "It's part of the general measures that we are taking to ensure that we keep pace with the emerging advice about how to keep our schools open and our schools safe."

Young people returned to schools in Scotland earlier this month.

Head teachers called for clarity over rules on whether pupils and teachers could wear face coverings in schools in England.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We have two concerns.

"First, parents, pupils, and staff, will be anxious about the situation and need reassurance from the Government about the public health basis for its policy over face coverings in England, rather than it being left entirely to schools to explain the Government’s rationale.

"And, second, if there is going to be any U-turn by the government that it does this sooner rather than later because the start of the new term is imminent."

One in 8 COVID-19 Patients Caught it in Hospital: Study

At least 1 in 8 COVID-19 hospital patients contracted the virus whilst already in hospital, a study suggested.

Research found this cohort had a better outcome than similar patients who were infected in the community.

The study, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, analysed data on 1564 COVID-19 patients who were admitted up until 28 April to 10 hospital sites in the UK, and one in Italy.

The study estimated that at least 12.5 % of all COVID-19 inpatients had a nosocomial infection.

The researchers said those infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus whilst in the hospital were older, more frail, and more likely to have pre-existing health conditions compared to the group who were admitted to hospital because they already had COVID-19.

The median survival time in nosocomial COVID-19 infection patients was 14 days compared with 10 days in community-acquired COVID-19 patients.

The COVID-19 outbreak led to a significant reduction in the number of people going to the hospital for reasons other than COVID-19 infection. In March 2020 there was a 29% reduction in Emergency Department attendances reported in England compared to the same month the previous year.

The researchers said there was a need for information on transmission risk for patients in a hospital setting compared with community-acquired infection, since heightened public anxiety about the risk of contracting COVID-19 may have contributed to individuals' reluctance to attend hospital for diagnostic tests or treatments. It could also have contributed to the high excess mortality toll, they suggested.

Lead author Ben Carter from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at  King's College London said: "We want to highlight that the majority of these patients had already been in hospital for a long time, they were older, frailer and had pre-existing health conditions, than patients infected in the community."

Co-author and consultant geriatrician Dr Jonathan Hewitt from Cardiff University said: "With daily inpatient assessment of those already in hospital it is likely that there was prompt recognition of COVID-19 like symptoms and diagnosis of COVID-19 infection. In contrast, those patients who became infected in the community would have declined as the disease progressed and may even have tolerated their symptoms at home for a period of time before requiring hospital admission."

Commenting on the study to the Science Media Centre, Duncan Young, professor of intensive care medicine at the University of Oxford, advised caution about interpreting the risk of contracting COVID-19 in hospital as 1 in 8.

"Only severe community-acquired COVID cases would have been hospitalised, whereas any already hospitalised patient with even mild COVID symptoms would be included in the study," he said.

Adapted from Medscape UK.