Andrew Cash: Weekly COVID-19 Update: 24 April 2020

Weekly summary of the developments in health and care across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw in response to COVID-19


  • As at Friday (24 April) 612,031 tests have concluded: 143,464 have tested positive and of those hospitalised in the UK who have tested positive for coronavirus, 19,506 have died.
  • Acknowledgement by the government that 100,000 test target is challenging one but capacity “is now ahead of plans” and overnight has increased from 40,000 to 51,000.
  • Any essential worker will be able to book an appointment on directly – this also applies for household members of essential workers.
  • Essential workers' eligibility will be based on the list used for schools, which can be found on
  • There are now more than 30 regional test sites, and mobile test kits and sites will be introduced through the armed forces.
  • The health and social care secretary highlighted the need to kick start contact tracing as the number of cases fall. 18,000 people are being hired for this purpose (including over 3,000 clinicians).
  • Matt Hancock is exploring increased support for bereaved families of healthcare workers and expects to make an announcement on this shortly.
  • Sir Patrick Vallance showed evidence to demonstrate that the number of patients being tested in hospitals as a proportion of tests overall is declining.
  • The number of patients in hospital and in critical care beds due to COVID-19 continues to decline gradually.
  • Professor John Newton stated that the focus of testing is currently on swab tests, given that relatively few people have had the virus to date.
  • There has been a reduction in the NHS sickness absence levels due to increased testing.
  • The science on immunity is still uncertain
  • Testing is increasing exponentially (with over 51,000 tests a day now) and two tests are now being operated with one not requiring a RNA extraction.
  • 31 drive-through regional testing centres will increase to 48.
  • A satellite delivery strategy is being considered with tests delivered in batches to certain areas.
  • The army is developing a pop-up testing facility.
  • The UK rapid test consortium is working on a method to get antibody tests, when available, to people at home.
  • See here for the slides and datasets used by Sir Patrick Vallance in the daily coronavirus press conference on 23 April 2020.


Network of diagnostic labs

Sites in Milton Keynes, Glasgow and Alderley Park in Cheshire are now live and testing thousands of patient samples daily.

The Lighthouse Labs will test samples from drive through testing sites. Work is ongoing to set up 50 of these drive-through sites, and there are now 27 in operation, including in Doncaster Sheffield Airport, Wembley, Manchester and Glasgow.

Public Health England to publish a new weekly COVID-19 epidemiology surveillance summary

The new report will include data from a variety of different sources: community, primary care, secondary care, virology and mortality surveillance data. Combined, these sources show a wider community picture including a breakdown by age, gender, and geography which will help plan the national response to the pandemic and assist regional stakeholders in local planning. It will be published on a weekly basis at 2pm each Thursday.

Large-scale virus infection and antibody test study

20,000 households in England are being contacted to take part in the first wave of a major new government study to track coronavirus in the general population. The study will help improve understanding around the current rate of infection and how many people are likely to have developed antibodies to the virus. Up to 300,000 people are expected to take part over 12 months.

Digital innovations tested to support vulnerable people during COVID-19 outbreak

People who may be particularly vulnerable or isolated during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, including new parents, the homeless, unpaid carers, young people and cancer patients, could benefit from a range of innovative digital solutions selected as part of the TechForce19 challenge.

NHSX, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have announced 18 innovative digital solutions being awarded up to £25,000 under the TechForce19 challenge.

The funding for each project will be used to develop new ways to support vulnerable people who need to stay at home or need other help in the community for extended periods of time.

Olympics chief brought in to boost PPE production

Paul Deighton, London 2012 Chief Exec, has been appointed by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock to lead the national effort to produce essential personal protective equipment (PPE).

He will coordinate the end-to-end process of design through to manufacture, including streamlining the approvals and procurement process to ensure new domestic PPE supplies are rapidly approved and get to where they are needed. The “make” programme will start to deliver PPE supplies in the next week. He will also support the scaling up of engineering efforts for smaller companies capable of contributing to the wider supply chain.

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