Covid-19 Update Thursday 18/06/20
The government have announced that they are scrapping their own contact tracing app, deciding instead to opt for the pre-existing Google-Apple model. The government’s app has been being trialled on the Isle of Wight and was meant to be made widely available last month. After yesterday’s announcement that the app would not be ready until the winter, today the government has confirmed that they will use the technology produced by Google and Apple. This is the latest in a series of U-turns made by the government. The government say they will now work with Apple and Google to merge technology, software, and algorithms. No release date has been proposed. The app is meant to aid the test and trace systems within the UK, but the system is already falling short of expectations. In the past week, 5949 Covid-19 cases have been contacted by England’s NHS Test and Trace scheme, of whom only 73% provided details of their close contacts. Far more than 5949 people that have tested positive for Covid-19 over the past week, which means that generously, the test and trace scheme is picking up only ~20% of those testing positive for Covid-19. Not only is the number of cases being reported to the scheme too low, unfortunately, of those that are being picked up, contact tracers have been unable to contact over 25%.
Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Scotland will move to the second phase of easing lockdown restrictions. Not all of phase 2 measures will be put in place at once – measures will be lifted in a staggered way. From today, individuals that have been shielding can go outside to exercise. There will be more construction from Monday, as well as mandatory face coverings on public transport. Shops of all sizes with outdoor entrances will be able to reopen from June 29, but this therefore does not include shopping centres. Now, instead of asking Scotland’s population to “Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”, the new slogan is “Stay safe. Protect others. Save lives”. More details on the easing of restrictions in lockdown are available here.
The government has announced that as and when a vaccine is available, 2 main groups will be prioritised:
1) frontline health and social care workers and
2) those with increased risk of severe disease and death if infected with Covid-19.
The government considers those most at risk to be adults over the age of 50 and those with heart conditions or kidney disease. Further groups might be added to this second category, such as BAME communities, to ensure the most vulnerable are protected first.
The bank of England has left interest rates unchanged at 0.1% and expanded its asset-purchasing programme by £100bn in an effort to offset the impact of Covid-19 on the economy. Due to fears about a surge of unemployment in the retail and hospitality sectors when the government’s furlough scheme ends, the monetary policy committee (MPC) agreed that this extra stimulus was necessary.
- Ireland has reduced physical distancing measures for some school children to 1m, where schools are expected to reopen on August 24.
Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland: Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
Updated COVID-19 Numbers
In the UK, there have been 135 deaths since yesterday. This means, that of those that have tested positive for Covid-19, there have been 42,288 deaths in the UK (2464 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.