UK COVID-19 Daily: Enforced Restrictions Announced

Tim Locke

March 23, 2020

Here are the latest UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

Prime Minister's TV Address

"I must give the British people a very simple instruction. You must stay at home." that was Prime Minister Boris Johnson's pre-recorded TV message from Downing Street announcing that the policy of voluntary social isolation had turned into strict measures to be enforced by the police.

"All over the world we're seeing the devastating impact of this invisible killer," he said, before announcing the restrictions, "So we can protect the NHS' ability to cope and save more lives,"

From this evening, "people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes: shopping for basic necessities as infrequently as possible; one form of exercise a day, for example, a run, walk or cycle alone or with members of your household; any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home. That's all."


Shops selling "non-essential goods", libraries, and outdoor gyms would be closed. Parks could stay open for exercise. The measures would be reviewed after 3 weeks.

"The way ahead is hard," the PM said. "And it is still true that many lives will, sadly, be lost."

He also had positive messages: "Day by day, we are strengthening our amazing NHS with 7500 former clinicians now coming back to the service. With the time you buy by simply staying at home we are increasing our stocks of equipment. We are accelerating our search for treatments. We're pioneering work on a vaccine. And we are buying millions of testing kits that will enable us to turn the tide on this invisible killer. 

"I want to thank everyone who is working flat out to beat the virus, everyone from the supermarket staff to the transport workers to the carers, to the nurses, and doctors on the frontline." 

Mr Johnson concluded:  "We will beat the coronavirus, and we will beat it together. And therefore, I urge you, at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives. Thank you."
 

Measures 'Absolutely Required' 

British Medical Association Council Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said in a statement: "The Government has issued a very simple instruction – that people must stay at home – and it is absolutely crucial that they follow this. This is about saving lives, protecting the most vulnerable in society and ensuring that our NHS can cope and care for patients.

"The BMA urges people to stay at home. Healthcare workers need everyone to help to battle this virus and save lives."

Dr Rupert Beale, group leader, Cell Biology of Infection Laboratory, Francis Crick Institute, was among those commenting via the Science Media Centre: "I agree with all the measures outlined by the Prime Minister this evening. They are absolutely required to save lives.

"Doctors and scientists are working flat out to deliver better testing and better treatments, but this will take time. Before then we will run out of capacity in intensive care units if we do not obey these instructions. These measures are therefore necessary to prevent thousands of deaths. I urge everyone to comply with them immediately."

Prof Sylvia Richardson, director, MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, said: "I believe the great majority of scientists will say the same, these measures are certainly appropriate and sensible and it was high time that they are taken by the government. Whether they are effective will depend on compliance and the PM message needs to be reinforced by a daily communication exercise targeting the general public as well as special groups like young people." 

Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology, University of St Andrews, said: "The crucial issue is compliance which depends upon 3 factors: "The first is legitimacy – and I think it is now clear why these measures are necessary, not so much to protect the individual as to protect the community. Anyone who goes out risks spreading the disease and endangers the lives of the most vulnerable.

"The second is clarity – and I think the requirements are now clear in a way they were not before.

"The third is practicality – and here I think there is still some way to go. In the simplest and most comprehensive way possible, we must make it possible for everyone – employed, self-employed or unemployed – to stay at home, be able to afford to feed themselves and their family, and light and heat their homes, and stay in touch with family and friends. No-one should be cut off from any of these essentials."

Other Medscape UK Coverage Today

Amazon Could Deliver Test Kits

The Government is in talks with Amazon and other companies about delivering COVID-19 test kits to healthcare workers and others who are self-isolating.

Experts have reacted via the Science Media Centre. Dr Peter Bannister, biomedical engineer & executive chair, Institution of Engineering and Technology, said: "Leveraging an existing infrastructure such as Amazon's supply chain is an agile response to a clear need for increased testing. While management of personal health information by a commercial organization raises legitimate concerns, this should motivate a similarly rapid adaptation of any applicable data oversight in order to support the isolated population through these challenging times."

Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology, Nottingham Trent University, said: "This seems quite sensible if the kits are to be administered in the home. Amazon and similar companies have much more experience with the logistics of delivering at scale to private addresses, and collecting returns, than any organisation in the public sector. It takes a load off the public sector which it is not really equipped to carry and which it would be distracting and inefficient to replicate. The bigger issue is the quality of the tests and of the labs that would do the analysis."

Early Medical Abortion

Editor's note, 24th March 2020: The Department of Health has told the Independent no changes to abortion are being made: "This was published in error. There will be no changes to abortion regulations." The page we linked to below now says: "The page you're looking for is no longer available."

The NHS in England has brought in measures to ensure continued access to early medical abortion services.

Temporary approval has been given for the home as a class of place where both abortion pills can be taken for early medical abortion, and the home of a registered medical practitioner as a class of place where both abortion pills can be prescribed for the treatment of early medical abortion.

Profiteering Doctors Warned

The Guardian reported the General Medical Council (GMC) is warning doctors against making money by exploiting people's fears over coronavirus. The comments follow reports of a Harley Street doctor making a £1.7m profit from selling test kits at £375 each.

The paper quotes a GMC spokesperson as saying: “We would be concerned to learn that doctors are exploiting patients’ vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge, in order to profit from the fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic."

The regulator also warned against offering or recommending tests "that are unproven, clinically unverified or otherwise unreliable".

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

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