Covid-19 Update Friday 19/06/20
The government has announced that the UK’s coronavirus alert level has been downgraded from 4 to 3. The level is determined by the virus’ R number (reproduction rate) and the number of cases. Level 4 represents the Covid-19 epidemic being in general circulation, with transmission that is high or rising exponentially. Level 3 indicates that the Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation. Whilst level 3 means that the virus is still in general circulation, it allows an easing of lockdown restrictions. Of course, some restrictions have already been eased, but these have been political decisions. Reducing the level from 4 to 3 therefore just brings the science in line with the current policies. The Chief Medical Officers for England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland have reviewed the evidence and agree with the recommendation to now move to level 3. At level 3 however, the virus remains a considerable threat and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.
New measures to help primary and secondary pupils in England to catch up have been announced. A $1bn Covid “catch-up” package aims to mitigate the impact of lost teaching time. £650m will be shared across state primary and secondary schools over the 2020/21 academic year. Schools will be able to determine how they spend this one-off grant, but the government expects it to be spent on small tuition groups, often run by charities. Money might also be spent on intervention programmes, access to technology or summer schools. The rest of the package comes in the form of a National Tutoring Programme, worth £350m, which will give access to tuition for the most disadvantaged young people over the 2020/21 academic year. The focus is on preventing the gap between underprivileged pupils and their affluent peers from widening. The money has been welcomed by schools, but there are questions about how it will be possible for all children to benefit, as it is not enough money to provide small-group charitable teaching input for every pupil(amounting to ~£80 per pupil). There needs to be a wider strategy to “level-up” within education, but also to make sure that the damage caused by months of missed schooling is repaired for all pupils. Further, early years and colleges have not been included within the government’s announcement.
Boris Johnson has said that he wants children of all ages to return to school for 5-days a week as of September. Ahead of the government’s review on current physical distancing measures, schools will only be able to allow the return of all pupils if 2m is reduced to 1m. Even with a reduction in the physical distancing measures, not every school will have capacity to allow all pupils to return full-time. This is especially true in primary schools, where pupils are only able to remain within groups of 15 – continuation of this measure will necessitate additional classrooms and teachers. Today the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, suggested that the protective bubbles could be expanded to include the whole class.
The UK’s debt is now bigger than our entire economy due to increased government borrowing throughout the pandemic. In May, government borrowing hit a record £55.2bn.
In Scotland, anyone living alone or only with children under 18 can form an ‘extended household group’ with one other household (though this does not apply to people who are shielding). As with the ‘support bubbles’ announced by the Westminster government last week, these groups can meet indoors without physical distancing. The combined households will act like a single household. As such, members of an extended household group cannot form the arrangement with any other household, so all other meetings with members from other household should remain outdoors with physical distancing. These measures are to ease loneliness for those who have faced lockdown alone. For everyone else, people from separate households are able to meet outdoors, with gatherings limited to 8 people at a time. Nicola Sturgeon has said that the risk is still too high to allow gatherings indoors.
Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland: Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
Updated COVID-19 Numbers
In the UK, there have been 173 deaths since yesterday. This means, that of those that have tested positive for Covid-19, there have been 42,461 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.