UK COVID-19 Daily: 'Turning the Tide'?

Tim Locke

March 19, 2020

Medscape UK has been sifting through today’s coronavirus news to bring you what we think you need to know about.

'Turning the Tide'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Downing Street news conference: "I do think, looking at it all, that we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks" and that "I'm absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country." However, that requires everyone to follow Government advice.

The PM also announced the UK was in negotiations today to buy antibody tests, "as simple as a pregnancy test" that can tell whether people have had the disease.

"It's early days," he said. "But if it works as its proponents claim, then we will buy literally hundreds of thousands of these kits, as soon as practicable, because obviously it has the potential to be a total game changer."

Government Chief Medical Adviser Professor Chris Whitty gave more detail: "The key thing for, in the first case, healthcare workers, and then other workers and members of society is, we'll be able to say to someone, you've had this virus. You're not likely to get it again, at least in the immediate term. And now, we can be confident, you can return to work. And now we can be confident you don't need to take some of the precautions that you've been taking to date."

He said this will take a while to put in place but it could make "a very big difference in the long run".

Prof Whitty also confirmed virus testing was a priority for self-isolating NHS staff. “All NHS staff who are getting symptoms that are compatible with this virus are quite rightly self- isolating and isolating with their families if they have a household, and that is taking people out of the system.
“And the key thing we need to do is get the testing out. First priority was ITU, second priority, all the people who got symptoms, but the next priority for us is to get the NHS workers, so we can test them quickly. And then if they've got it, fine they continue but they know they've had it once. If they've not got it, then they can come back to work, or if the reason they've stayed at home, is because someone else in their family has got the symptoms, we will test them and see if they've got it.”

Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance also had positive messages: "There's a start of clinical trials - first patient enrolled today. There's the start of vaccine trials in mid-April expected. These are things which altogether start to tell us that we've moved from a phase of ‘it's growing and we need to take these measures to try and stop it growing’ to ones where we're saying, put a lid on it, and begin to start looking at what we do beyond that, in order to get into the right position. And so I think that's where we need to get to, and that's the timescale over which we need to really push to make sure that we get there."

Do You Have Access to the Protective Equipment (PPE) You Need?

Prof Whitty was asked about concerns over supplies of protective equipment. "I completely understand the points that my colleagues in the NHS are concerned about on PPE. They write to me regularly about this, and entirely reasonably."

This he said was "a major strand of work for the Department of Health and Social Care to make sure that this works". 

He continued: "Obviously in the short-term this is about making sure that the PPE stocks that there are go to the right places." 

Have you got the PPE you need? We'd like to hear about your experiences in our reader poll.

Royal Message

The Queen issued a statement on COVID-19 from Windsor Castle: "We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners, and emergency and public services; but now more than any time in our recent past, we all have a vitally important part to play as individuals - today and in the coming days, weeks, and months."

Temporary Registration

The General Medical Council (GMC) is writing to doctors who may be able to help the NHS with coronavirus. There are around 15,000 fully qualified and experienced doctors who left the register or gave up their licence within the last 3 years and have a UK address. The GMC’s Director of Registration and Revalidation, Una Lane, said: "Temporary registration allows doctors to work in the NHS, but it would be up to each individual whether or not to do so. Doctors can opt out for any reason and they can change their mind at any time." 

No fees or revalidation are involved. There were concerns about older doctors who are at greater risk from the virus. The GMC said around 32% of those being contacted are 44 or younger, and 40% aged 45-64.

Pregnancy Guidance Updated for 3rd Time in a Week

Guidelines for health professionals are evolving fast in relation to coronavirus. What's the latest when it comes to the virus and pregnancy? We asked the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

London Transport Reduced Services

Transport for London has closed some tube lines and ended night tubes. However, it said the reduced service in place is there to help critical workers, like healthcare staff, get to and from work. Mayor Sadiq Khan said: "London will get through these extraordinarily challenging times, and ensuring the capital's critical workers can move around the city will be crucial."

Joined-up Research

The European Medicines Agency called for pooling of research resources into large-scale clinical trials to generate sound evidence on COVID-19 treatments. There are currently no approved medicines for COVID-19. In a statement, the Human Medicines Committee (CHMP) said it was "concerned that clinical trials with a small number of participants or compassionate use programmes might not generate the data required to draw firm conclusions on the effects of a given therapeutic and give appropriate advice to healthcare professionals and patients."

Policing Supermarkets

Reuters claimed an exclusive with its report saying UK supermarkets are expecting to get police support if London goes into lockdown. The article quotes an unnamed industry source saying the measure was to deter unruly behaviour.

Junior Doctors Share Tips on Preparing for Long Shifts

Junior doctors are sharing practical tips online in preparation for the long shifts ahead, as the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to rise. A tweet from a junior doctor in Wales went viral after she suggested a Too Tired To Travel Home (T4H) box.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.


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