UK COVID-19 Daily: Tests in the Post Help Meet Target

Tim Locke

May 01, 2020

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

Tests in the Post Help Meet Target

England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock set himself "an audacious goal" to achieve 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day by the end of April. He did it, and more, with 122,347 tests carried out yesterday. 

Of those 27,497 were home test kits. These are counted when they are sent out not when they are processed. 

"Testing is so important for getting Britain back on her feet," he told the daily Downing Street briefing.

"But it is not my achievement. It is a national achievement achieved by a huge team of people working together." 

He continued: "If we hadn't been so bold, if we'd chosen a safer, easier path, I just can't see how we would have built the capacity that we needed." 

He said test, track, and trace plans would help "reassert as much as is safely possible, the liberty of us all. That is our next mission."

Prof John Newton, national testing coordinator, said: "I can assure you that the testing capability we have built in the last few weeks is world leading in its scale and sophistication, and gives us the flexibility we need. As the pandemic evolves, we will have the testing capacity to meet changing demand across the country. It is now there to serve us all."  

Earlier today Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her separate testing target had also been met: "Yesterday, we met our target of having the capacity to process 3500 tests per day. In fact we exceeded that target. 

"As of now, we have active lab capacity for 4350 tests a day to be carried out within the National Health Service. And by the end of next week, the capacity within the NHS will increase further to around 6500 tests per day, and we are aiming to reach 8000 by the middle of this month." 

Deaths and Case Data

Another 739 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced today taking the total to 27,510.

Of the 352 English hospital deaths, patients were aged between 30 and 103. Of these, 18 aged between 43 and 98 had no known underlying health condition. 

Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, gave the latest data:

On new cases: "That has increased a bit in recent days, but that should be seen in the context that we have increased the number of tests in the round,  so more testing and more testing in different groups of individuals, is likely to bring more positive tests as a result.

"But overall I think the number is relatively stable and that is a good sign and reflects the level of infection is falling."

On hospital bed occupancy: "You can see that since the middle of April numbers of people in hospital with COVID-19 have been falling."

On critical care bed use: "Again that is falling in the four nations."

On deaths: "Overall the 7 day rolling average, which smooths out that daily variation, is showing that the number of deaths is beginning to trend downwards." 

NHS Deaths

Among recently announced NHS workers deaths were:

Dr Nasir Khan was a locum consultant at Dewsbury and District Hospital in West Yorkshire. Martin Barkley, chief executive of The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said colleagues "have spoken of his incredibly positive nature, his kindness and his compassion for his patients. He also showed fantastic leadership: he was absolutely dedicated to the well-being of the junior staff he was working with, and his thoughtfulness and considerate manner shone out to everyone who met him." 

Esther Akinsanya, 55, was a nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in London. It was also the hospital where she died. Her son Samuel told ITV News: "My mum would go to work nightshifts, come back sleep for 3 or 4 hours, do everything a superwoman, a mother, would do."

In Memoriam: Healthcare Workers Who Have Died of COVID-19.

More NICE Rapid Guidance

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued two more rapid guidelines on COVID-19.

Children and young people who are immunocompromised: Healthcare professionals are advised to discuss the risks and benefits of continuing or stopping treatment and to reassure patients and their carers that immunosuppression does not appear to increase the risk of severe COVID-19.

Antibiotics for pneumonia in adults in hospital: The guideline emphasises the importance of careful antibiotic prescribing and prompt review after testing. It stresses that during the pandemic, most cases of pneumonia have been viral and therefore antibiotics are ineffective unless there is a bacterial co-infection. 

More News in Brief

  • Fertility services are to be restarted in England Matt Hancock announced. "I know just how time sensitive fertility treatment can be, and how important it is for the families affected," he said. Sally Cheshire, chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said: "I know that the closure of clinics has been extremely distressing for patients and this will be good news for those wanting to resume treatment and have the opportunity to try for their much longed-for family."

  • A study from South Korea's Centres for Disease Control and Prevention suggested it is not possible to get infected twice with COVID-19. Reported relapses were found to be due to testing problems. Prof Newton commented: "The science on immunity is still emerging and I think the general rule is that you would never make a decision based on a single study...but it's obviously promising.” He continued: "It would be very surprising if there was no immunity after an infection but at the moment I think the science is still not precise about how much immunity you get, and how long it lasts."

  • The European Medicines Agency's (EMA) human medicines committee (CHMP) has started a 'rolling review' of remdesivir data for COVID-19 treatment. The EMA stressed that the review does not imply that the drug's benefits outweigh its risks. Remdesivir is available to EU patients through clinical trials and compassionate use programmes.

  • Deprivation may be an additional COVID-19 mortality risk factor. The Office for National Statistics found the age-standardised mortality rate of deaths involving coronavirus in the most deprived areas of England was 55.1 deaths per 100,000 compared with 25.3 deaths per 100,000 population in the least deprived areas. This is a "clear and worrying trend," commented David Finch, senior fellow at the Health Foundation. "It is too early to say for sure what is driving this trend. The link to deprivation is complex given the virus has spread more in densely populated urban areas that tend to be more deprived. However, there are clearly ways in which existing inequalities mean the crisis is having a disproportionate impact on certain groups." 

  • Is the rush to procure PPE supplies meaning a blind eye is being turned to breaches of factory workers' rights? Today the BMJ quotes ENT consultant Mahmood Bhutta, founder of the Medical Fair and Ethical Trade Group saying he feels "ashamed as a doctor to be wearing gloves manufactured using human exploitation". It also quotes migrant worker specialist Andy Hall who said demands to end forced labour are not being made within the medical trade.

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


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