Andrew Cash: Weekly COVID-19 Update: 17 April 2020

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

Overview

  • As at Friday (April 17) 108,692 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 14,576 people have now died from the virus. 
  • The Cabinet and COBRA held meetings on Thursday to consider SAGE evidence on the success of lockdown measures. SAGE highlighted that while progress has been made, it was a mixed and inconsistent picture and in some areas infections are still likely to be increasing. 
  • Lifting lockdown measures now could risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus, potentially threatening a second peak.
  • The advice from SAGE was that relaxing measures now would risk both public health and the economy. In light of this, current measures must remain in the place for “at least the next three weeks”
  • Five “specific things” will need to satisfied before the government can consider lifting lockdown measures:
  1. Protect the NHS and be confident that sufficient critical care capacity across the UK can be provided.
  2. A sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths from COVID-19.
  3. The rate of infection decreased to “manageable levels”.
  4. Testing capacity and PPE availability at the levels required.
  5. Confidence that there would not be a second peak in COVID-19 cases.
  • The government is continuing to monitor the spread of coronavirus.
  • The government is holding a review of the impact of the virus on black and minority ethnic (BME) communities.
  • Prof Chris Whitty explained that it will take 21 days for the data to be reliable for blood survey data to predict how many people in the UK have had the virus.
  • He confirmed that it was critical to find the groups that are at risk from COVID-19, highlighting age, those with comorbidities and men as risk factors. Health leaders, including PHE, are looking at whether ethnicity is also a risk but stated it was not clear at this point.
  • Sir Patrick Vallance showed evidence to indicate that transport, while remaining low, has showed increase in recent days. 
  • Confirmed that R0 value (transmission) is below one in the community, but may be rising in some hospital and social care settings.
  • More positive cases are being picked up among critical care workers due to increased testing but new cases overall are flattening or decreasing.
  • The number of people in hospital beds is declining slightly.
  • There are still 10,000 beds available outside the Nightingale hospitals.
  • Data shows all regions are on the "same sort of trajectory", and there is "more similarity than difference".

See here for the slides and datasets used by Sir Patrick Vallance in the daily coronavirus press conference on 16 April 2020.

 

Testing

The target for daily testing remains 100,000 tests per day by the end of April. However this is now being openly said to be a “big stretch” by government scientists.

 A "five-pillar" plan for testing has been put in place to achieve this and involves:

  1. Swab testing at Public Health England and NHS labs
  2. Using commercial partners, including universities and private businesses, to establish more swab testing
  3. Introducing antibody blood tests to determine whether people have had COVID-19
  4. Surveillance to determine the rate of infection and how it is spreading across the country
  5. Build an "at-scale" diagnostics industry to reach 100,000 tests by the end of April

Testing is being rolled out to first, patients; second, NHS staff and where appropriate, their families; third, key workers; fourth, the general population.

On Wednesday, the government announced testing would be offered for “everyone who needs one” in social care settings. All symptomatic care residents will be tested for COVID-19 as testing capacity increases and all patients discharged from hospital are to be tested before going into care homes as a matter of course.

All social care staff who need a test will have access to one with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to contact all 30,000 care providers in the coming days to offer tests.

 

During the last 24 hours:

  • 16,166 swab tests of hospital patients and critical workers - to test who’s got the virus now - while the aim is to reach 25,000 a day in England by mid to late April
  • 2,323 commercial swab tests for critical NHS workers
  • 176 surveillance tests to learn more about the spread of the disease

No antibody tests have taken place so far - these will be useful to find out who has already had the virus. And building mass testing capacity continues to be the ambition.

 

Drive-through coronavirus testing facilities:

Drive-through coronavirus testing facilities are opening up around the country. This week Doncaster Sheffield Airport and Edinburgh Airport joined the sites opening up as part of the Government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS and other key workers.

DSA and Edinburgh Airport sites sits alongside a rapidly expanding network of testing sites being set up around the UK, and are operating on appointment-only bases.

 

Action plan to further support adult social care sector

On Wednesday (April 15), the government published an action plan to support the adult social care sector in England throughout the coronavirus outbreak.

The new action plan sets out how to reduce outbreaks in care homes, support care staff and providers and maintain independence of those receiving care. It also includes plans to boost access to PPE, ramp up testing for care sector and recruit more staff.

At the same time, the government introduced a unifying new ‘care’ brand for care workers with NHS-style identity, to ensure recognition and access to benefits during crisis and in response to ask from sector.

 

Mental health

Today (Friday April 17), Public Health England’s (PHE) Every Mind Matters platform  launched new advice focused on looking after people’s mental wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It has been updated after new data shows more than 4 in 5 (84.2%) Brits are worried about the effect that coronavirus is having on their life, with over half (53.1%) saying it was affecting their wellbeing and nearly half (46.9%) reporting high levels of anxiety.

 

PPE

Updated and simplified guidance for accessing supplies of PPE was published on the NHS England and Improvement website.

A cross-government UK-wide plan to ensure that critical personal protective equipment (PPE) is delivered to those on the frontline responding to coronavirus (COVID-19) was updated on Wednesday.

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