Covid-19 Update Tuesday 16/06/20
Researchers at oxford have found a cheap and easily available drug, the steroid dexamethasone, has been shown to reduce the deaths by seriously ill coronavirus patients. During their ‘Recovery Trial’, which is testing the use of 6 pre-existing drugs on the outcome of patients with Covid-19, researchers have found that dexamethasone can benefit severely ill patients. By analysing the efficacy of pre-existing drugs, a treatment could be put into use much quicker than would be possible with a newly developed drug, which must go through additional trials to test safety. For example, dexamethasone is fairly cheap and already widely available. It reduced the risk of dying by 35% in patients on a mechanical ventilator and 20% in those that were being treated with oxygen. Researchers gave the drug to 2000 severely ill patients during the 3-month long trial. The drug had no impact on the outcome of patients who did not need oxygen treatment, so it will not be used in community cases. Though dexamethasone has been shown to benefit some severely ill patients, it won’t stop patients catching the disease or becoming severely ill. Whilst effective treatments might improve survival rates, the virus can still be deadly, so research focus is still on a vaccine that will stop people becoming ill at all.
1.3m children in England can claim free school vouchers in the holidays. Footballer Marcus Rashford put the government under pressure, after Boris Johnson initially said he had no intention of making free meals available. Those eligible will be entitled to vouchers covering the 6-week school break, which amounts to ~£15 a week per recipient. Prior to Boris Johnson’s announcement, Nicola Sturgeon stated that the Scottish government was making £12.6m funding available to local authorities, in order to allow the continuation of free school meals to eligible children in Scotland.
The number of UK workers on payroll dropped by 600,000 in 2 months between March and May. 126% increase in work-related benefits, including the unemployed.
New Zealand has confirmed 2 new infections, after 24 days with no Covid-19 cases at all. An early lockdown and strict border controls have meant that New Zealand has only experienced 22 deaths. The new cases are in 2 related women that travelled to the country from the UK to visit a dying parent. Arrivals into New Zealand must quarantine for 14 days and be tested for Covid-19, but the two women left mandatory quarantine after only 1 week on compassionate grounds to visit their dying parent in Wellington, 400 miles away. It is unclear when the women contracted the virus, whether it was in the UK or on the journey. The women’s’ relatives, as well as the passengers and crew of the flights they took, are now being traced and contacted.
China has decided to reimpose partial lockdown in Beijng following the emergence of dozens of new coronavirus cases. Travel to and from the city has been stopped and schools and universities have been shut. Anyone entering or leaving the capital will be tested. People are being encouraged to work from home and entertainment venues have once more been closed. This outbreak is the most significant in China since February, and Beijing had previously reported no new cases for 56 consecutive days. Other cases have been reported in a neighbouring province, so the remainder of the country is on high alert.
Travel restrictions have been being eased across Europe, but as many countries open their borders, many are still not allowing visitors from the UK due to our comparative high number of cases and increased R rate. The UK currently requires most arrivals to quarantine for 14 days, but there is debate over how effective this measure is, with difficulties in enforcement. Today Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, said that Spain might impose a reciprocal 14-day quarantine period for anyone travelling to Spain from the UK – Spain plans to reopen its borders on Sunday.
Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland: Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
Updated COVID-19 Numbers
In the UK, there have been 233 deaths since yesterday. This means, that of those that have tested positive for Covid-19, there have been 41,969 deaths in the UK (2453 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.