UK COVID-19 Daily: Pubs, Cafes, Restaurants Ordered to Close

Tim Locke

March 20, 2020

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

Pubs, Clubs, Cafes Shut Down

The Government moved from recommending that people keep away from pubs and other venues, and ordered them to shut to try to keep down COVID-19 infections.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Downing Street news conference: "We are collectively telling cafes, pubs, bars, and restaurants to close,  tonight, as soon as they reasonably can, and not to open tomorrow."

Takeaway services are not affected. 

"We're also telling nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms, and leisure centres, to close on the same timescale," he said. 

He had a message for those trying to get one last night out in under the wire: "Some people may of course be tempted to go out tonight, and I say to you, please don't. You may think that you're invincible but there is no guarantee that you will get mild symptoms, and you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on to others. 

"So that's why, as far as possible we want you to stay at home. That's how we can protect our NHS and save lives."

The move was welcomed by experts commenting via the Science Media Centre.

Dr Rupert Beale, group leader, Cell Biology of Infection Laboratory, Francis Crick Institute, said: "These are very welcome announcements. Shutting places where people mix like pubs, cafes and bars is essential. Hospitals are already in danger of reaching capacity."

Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology, University of Nottingham, said: "This was the right thing to do. Self-imposition of social distancing was clearly not working so the state had to intervene."

Critical Incident

The PM's message came shortly after news emerged that London's Northwick Park hospital declared a temporary 'critical incident' after a surge in coronavirus cases.

A message to staff, reported by HSJ , said: "I am writing to let you know that we have this evening declared a ‘critical incident’ in relation to our critical care capacity at Northwick Park Hospital. This is due to an increasing number of patients with COVID-19.

"This means that we currently do not have enough space for patients requiring critical care."
 

'Tide Turning' Questioned

Yesterday's talk of 'turning the tide' in 3 months on COVID-19 by the Prime Minister was called into question in the latest documents released by the Government's science advisory committee, SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies). 

In a consensus view on behavioural and social interventions, experts said: "It was agreed that a policy of alternating between periods of more and less strict social distancing measures could plausibly be effective at keeping the number of critical care cases within capacity. These would need to be in place for at least most of a year. Under such a policy, at least half of the year would be spent under the stricter social distancing measures."

Mr Johnson stuck to the same line today: "Yesterday, I set out the ambition of this government to turn the tide against coronavirus within 3 months and I want to repeat that determination."

Online Isolation Sick Notes

Sick notes are going online for coronavirus - and people don't have to ask their GP for them. For the first 7 days off work, employees can self-certify without any evidence for their employer. After that, employers may ask for evidence of sickness absence. 

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: "It is absolutely vital we do everything we can to ease the burden on our healthcare professionals, allowing them to spend as much time as possible with those patients that need them most.

"Digital isolation notes will provide reassurance to those self-isolating and their employers while also reducing the pressure on our NHS, so they can continue doing all they can to protect the people of this country and save lives."

The isolation notes appear on 111 online coronavirus service, nhs.uk/coronavirus, and the NHS app.

Guidelines

With knowledge on COVID-19 emerging in real time, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), is due to produce a series of rapid COVID-19 guidelines.

The guidelines are likely to include: 

The guidance will be produced in collaboration with a cross-specialty clinical group, specialist societies, and Royal Colleges.

Arrest Over Failing to Self-isolate

A man was arrested for failing to self-isolate on the Isle of Man, the BBC reported. The island has its own laws separate to the UK, and has imposed stronger emergency powers than the mainland. Anyone arriving on the Isle of Man is required to keep away from others for 14 days or face a fine or jail.

Editor's note, 20th March 2020: This article was updated to include comments on the closure of pubs, restaurants, and cafes. 

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

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