Update on COVID-19 Thursday 26/03/20 by Science correspondent Elle Lindsay

Covid-19 Update Thursday 26 March 2020 

New: some people still not abiding by the new rules. Breaking the transmission cycles will only be effective if compliance increases. People are frustrated, completely understandably, and many people think that social distancing won’t work or believe that it won’t matter if some people don’t conform, but this is wrong. It is more important now than ever to hold the line. We’ve got this, but only if we are all in it together. Even one extra contact can have a knock-on effect.

If nothing else, keep in mind that the less people that comply, the longer restrictions will be in place as they will be less effective overall.

Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.

Main Updates from 26/03/20


  • G20 have said they will inject $5 trillion into the global economy as fears of a global recession become very real.
    • They have pledged to support developing countries, where it will be even harder to reduce transmission (and therefore the virus will be more likely to mutate, rendering vaccine campaigns futile).
    • They have recognised the need to fight COVID-19 on two fronts: firstly from a health point of view and secondly from an economic one.
  • United Nations launched a US$2 billion COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan to support the world’s most vulnerable countries.



  • Further criticisms regarding lack of testing, which the UK Government continues to meet with guarantees that testing will increase. There is a supply issue. This refers to both antigen testing (to test whether someone currently has the disease) in hospitals and also antibody testing (which will tell people whether they have already had the disease and are therefore immune). The antibody testing kits will allow key workers that are self-isolating whether or not they have had COVID-19, so that they might be able to return to work sooner.
  • These tests are being validated at the moment – more than anything, it is imperative that they are reliable.


  • Police now have powers to fine people not abiding by social distancing rules and/or not conforming to quarantine measures.
  • It is also now an offence to use COVID-19 infection as a threat after some members of the population have threatened to cough on police/retail staff following threatening that they are infected with the virus. This could lead to prison sentences.


  • NHS Nightingale (transformed Excel centre in London into a hospital) should be ready to accept patients from next week.
    • It will act as a pilot for setting up similar centres elsewhere in the UK if necessary (planned for Birmingham, Manchester and one in Scotland)
      • Staffing remains the key issue around this scheme to increase the NHS’ capacity. The NHS Nightingale will be staffed by NHS medics (including a proportion of the 5000 retired staff that have agreed to return), military medics and St John’s Ambulance volunteers.
      • London is the epicentre in the UK, with about 40% of cases. Nonetheless, hospitals nationwide are beginning to feel the strain.
      • Still an issue with supplying PPE (personal protective equipment) as it is in such high demand globally. Many frontline staff becoming ill. Many personal pleas from medics to stay at home to reduce transmission as they are putting their health on the line.


      UK Economics

      • Chancellor finally addressed the needs of the self-employed. The grants are synonymous with those given to businesses with furloughed employees: the “self-employed income support scheme” will help those that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 by giving a taxable grant of 80% of average monthly profits over the last 3 years, up to £2500 a month. They wish to offer targeted support to those most in need, but complications arising from assessing this for the self-employed means that access will be fairly equal. Now a 4-week extension to submit tax returns that were due at the end of January 2020. As such, money hoped to be available by June. Thought to cover 95% of self-employed. More information online.

      Fighting Isolation

      • Choir master Gareth Malone has begun an online choir scheme. You can sign up online and will get emailed sheet music and warm-up exercise videos. Every weeknight on YouTube, Gareth will run live sessions in which he will guide participants through a vocal warm-up, before teaching some harmonies. Following this, participants can record themselves performing. These videos will be collated by Gareth’s team and edited into a nationwide choral performance. Each week, for the foreseeable future, Gareth will teach a new song.


      Updated COVID-19 Numbers

      >11,000 cases in the UK. 578 deaths in UK, including an increase in deaths amongst younger patients with no pre-existing health conditions.

      21-year old female the youngest to die due to COVID-19 with no underlying health conditions. As a result, scientists are pleading with people to take the threat of the virus seriously – it is not only impacting the “vulnerable”.



      acceptable reasons:

      • Necessary shopping (food), though this should be limited
      • Medical need (i.e. travel to hospital for treatment)
      • To provide care (only if strictly necessary)
      • 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)



      • Travelling to/from work
        • Only the “key workers” should still be undertaking a commute. Anyone who can work from home should. All shops and other establishments have now been shut, so there should not be retail workers, etc (other than those working in supermarkets).
        • There has been criticism that the definition of “key workers” has been too wide. Essentially, you should not be going to work unless you are a healthcare professional, one of the few teachers still at teaching or you work within food production/supermarkets.
        • Nationwide criticism regarding construction workers still working as it is almost impossible to abide by social distancing measures on a building site.
        • If you’re an office worker, self-employed, a construction worker, etc, you should STAY AT HOME.

      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.