Covid-19 Update Tuesday 02/06/20
The UK Statistics Authority has criticised the government over its handling of coronavirus testing data, with the chairman, Sir David Norgrove, saying presentation of figures have “been aimed at showing the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding.” This is the latest in a long line of criticisms regarding the way in which the government is presenting information, with changes in definitions and methods of reporting throughout the pandemic (i.e. counting a test as having been carried out even if it had just been sent out in the post). As it is essential that the ‘NHS Test and Trace’ scheme is successful, it is important for transparency in data regarding not only tests that are being carried out, but also the number of people being traced and asked to isolate. Many feel as though the continuous citing of arbitrary numbers is a political device, used to convince the public that the government has a handle on the pandemic. Statistics providing details regarding the tests that are being carried out would be more helpful: it would be insightful to know which members of the population are being tested, how many people are actually being tested (as people often require more than one test) and whether everyone actually realistically has access to a test. The Department of Health has said it is working to address these concerns.
PHE has released its report regarding how Covid-19 is disproportionately impacting the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community. Results have shown that once age and sex are removed as factors, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity are twice as likely to die as white people. Other BAME ethnicities have also been shown to be more acutely impacted by Covid-19. This analysis did not take into account comorbidities and actually just confirms research already done elsewhere. More work needs to be done to assess why ethnicity is a risk factor, along with age, sex and location. The full report, which was delayed, is now available here. There is a need for recommendations to come from the report – as opposed to just acknowledging that BAME communities are more acutely affected (which had already been established), there was a need for the report to address why this was the case and what could be done to tackle these inequalities. The report has disappointed political leaders, medical groups and trade unions, who are demanding that further, more effective steps are taken. Professor John Newton, the epidemiologist in charge of the government’s testing programme, says that this will be the focus of follow-up work.
MPs have voted down an amendment which would have restored virtual voting within parliament. Throughout lockdown, votes have been being held remotely in order to allow MPs that are not local or those that are shielding to take part in votes. The government wants to return to a “physical” parliament, but physical distancing must be maintained. This means long queues to enter the parliamentary building when casting votes, to keep MPs 2m apart. The move has been criticised by MPs from constituencies further away, as well as those that will be unable to attend parliament if they are self-isolating. The government has stated that turning its back on the current “hybrid” way of conducting parliament is important to “hold the government to account” and ensure it is being properly scrutinised; however, the reality is that many MPs will be disenfranchised by this decision, less politicians will be able to debate and votes will actually take significantly longer than when carried out remotely.
Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland: Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
England: Stay alert. Control the virus. Save lives.
Main Updates from Tuesday 02/06/20
- Donald Trump’s response to demonstrations across America following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody, has raised concerns. He has threatened to deploy the military, whilst across many US cities, police have reportedly used extreme measures, such as tear gas, even within peaceful protests. Between the release of PHE’s BAME report in the UK today and more voices being added to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign globally, focus around the world is turning toward the unjust inequities faced by black people.
- According to official figures, the death toll in the UK due to the coronavirus has passed 50,000. In real terms (i.e. not scaled to account for demographic or population size), the UK death toll is only surpassed by that of the US.
Updated COVID-19 Numbers
In the UK, there have been 324 deaths since yesterday. This means, that of those that have tested positive for Covid-19, there have been 39,369 deaths in the UK (2375 in Scotland).
Another reminder that the figure is an under-report due to a reporting delay – as deaths can take up to 10 days to report, we are likely underestimating the steepness of the curve each day (i.e. on 30th March, NHS England reported 159 deaths in the 24 hours to 5pm on Sunday 29th March; however, this number was revised up to 463 5 days later and could still be updated again). Note – the government are now reporting death figures of those that have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community, though the reported deaths still only include those who had tested positive for the virus. The numbers WILL be an underestimate.
When comparing countries, it is important to remember huge differences in population and demographics.
Further, daily counts are volatile, so need some smoothing to see any real underlying trends. World in Data uses a rolling 7-day average and looks at deaths per million for accuracy: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/daily-covid-deaths-per-million-7-day-average
Previous Important Information
The list of Covid-19 symptoms recognised in the UK: The full list of symptoms: loss of smell, loss of taste, a new continuous cough and a high temperature.
Before restrictions can be adjusted, the government has highlighted 5 tests that they need to be confident of:
- That the NHS is able to provide sufficient treatment across the UK
- There is a sustained and consistent fall in daily death rate, showing that we have moved past the peak
- There is reliable data showing that the rate of infection is decreasing
- The operational challenges (including supply meeting demand of testing and PPE) now and in the future are manageable
- There is no risk of resurgence and second peak that overwhelms the NHS
A second lockdown would result if restrictions are lifted too soon. This would have serious outcomes on the economy and public health.
Tests are available at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by dialling 119. Everyone with symptoms is eligible.
4 acceptable reasons to leave home:
- Necessary shopping (food), though this should be limited
- Medical need (i.e. travel to hospital for treatment)
- To provide care (only if strictly necessary)
- For exercise outside, such as a run or cycle (only once per day, individually or with members of your household)
Track and Trace Systems
The English “NHS Test and Trace” system and Scotland’s “Test and Protect” scheme are vastly similar. There are 3 steps if you have Covid-19 symptoms:
- Start isolating (7 days for the individual with symptoms, 14 days for the household).
- Book a test
- If results are negative – the individual and household stop isolating if everyone feels well. If results are positive – share contacts via the NHS Test and Trace and continue to isolate.
If you have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19:
- You may be alerted by NHS Test and Trace
- Isolate for 14 days after that close contact
- If you develop symptoms, book a test, and isolate the entire household for 14 days.
- If the test is negative, the household stops isolating, and the individual completes their 14-day isolation.
- If the test is positive, you begin a new 7-day isolation and your household completes a 14-day isolation.
Scotland’s First Minister defined a “close contact” as people within your household, people with whom you have had face-to-face contact and people with whom you have been within 2 metres for 15 minutes or more. Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed that self-isolation requires only leaving the house for a Covid-19 test, so an individual should not leave home for exercise or to obtain food or medicine.
A reminder that face coverings are thought to be helpful in reducing the transmission of the virus from the person wearing it to others, NOT the other way around. Issues with the face coverings becoming contaminated themselves and limited effectiveness means that a covering will not effectively protect a wearer from contracting the virus. A face covering is helpful in reducing transmission from someone already infected with Covid-19, by reducing the spread of aerosol droplets. You are protecting others in case you are infectious without realising, you are not protecting yourself. Hand washing and physical distancing remain the best ways to protect yourself.
Remember: even if you are not ill, you can still transmit the virus and of course, you can contract the virus. Even if you are not classified as “vulnerable”, you are able to transmit the virus, which will increase the impact on the NHS.
The original advice around hygiene, handwashing and social distancing still applies.
Please also see previous update documents.
- An app, the ‘COVID Symptom Tracker’, is available for the general public to download. The idea is for people to check-in each day whether you have COVID-19 or not – this will let researchers study the symptoms of the virus and track how it spreads. The app was designed by King’s College London, Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals and a health science company (ZOE Global Ltd). It is available on Android and Apple devices. Please download and spread the word – all data (even negative) is of huge importance in the global fight against COVID-19.