UK COVID-19 Daily: Deaths Pass 30,000 Milestone

Tim Locke

May 06, 2020

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

Deaths Pass 30,000 Milestone

Another 649 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced today taking the total to 30,076.

"Behind those numbers are heartbreaking losses for the loved ones of all those who've died," Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told the daily Downing Street briefing.

Of the 331 deaths in English hospitals, patients were aged between 32 and 102. Of these, 17 aged between 46 and 88 had no known underlying health condition.  

Professor Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England medical director gave the briefing an update on the latest data.

Another 69,463 COVID-19 tests were carried out or put in the post in the last 24 hours, again below the 100,000 daily test target for the fourth day in a row.

Professor Karol Sikora, who comments on cancer issues for Medscape UK tweeted: "Hitting the 100k tests a day was impressive, but it means nothing if it can't be sustained. So far, it doesn't look good. Testing needs to be increasing all the time, now it's going in the other direction. Lots more work needed on this."

There were 6111 new COVID-19 cases. "We are doing more testing and therefore we will find more cases and this is what we want to do. We want to find the positive cases so that we can break transmission,"  Prof Doyle said.

On hospital bed occupancy:  "Overall we have about 13,000 cases which is a decrease and it's good news."

On critical care bed use: "We actually have less than a third of critical care beds being occupied by people with the coronavirus. So, good news there, it is declining."

On deaths: "It is very, very sad, but the trend is good because it is slowly coming down."

On global comparisons, the numbers put the UK's deaths as the worst in Europe and second in the world after the US. However, Prof Doyle said: "It is far too early to say how this will eventually result for how countries have fared in this epidemic. We need to give this some time. Most of those who are used to looking at these things would say probably a year."

NHS and Healthcare Deaths

Boris Johnson told the Commons there have now been 107 NHS worker deaths and 29 in the care sector.

Among recently announced NHS deaths were:

Dr Habibhai Babu, senior house officer, Whipps Cross Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust. It announced the death of Dr Babu "known to all of us as Babu" with "deep sadness".

Jennie Sablayan, haematology nurse, University College London Hospital. Chief Executive Marcel Levi paid tribute: "UCLH staff and patients will remember Jennie for her hard-working and unassuming approach during her 18 years of invaluable service."

Cecilia Fashanu, 63, was an agency nurse working at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle. North Cumbria Integrated Care Trust announced her death "with great sadness", saying: "She was a much loved colleague and her death is felt across the organisation as a whole."

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

Adviser Quit After 'Extraordinary' Lockdown Breach

Imperial's Professor Neil Ferguson, whose advice helped prompt the lockdown, has quit as a Government SAGE expert adviser after breaking the rules on social distancing by having a female friend visit his London home. 

In a statement he said: "I accept I made an error of judgement and took the wrong course of action," adding: "I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing." 

He'd been in self-isolation for COVID-19. "I acted in the belief that I was immune, having tested positive for coronavirus and completely isolated myself for almost 2 weeks after developing symptoms," he said. 

England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the breach as "extraordinary" and said on Sky News any action against Prof Ferguson was a matter for the police. Scotland Yard described the breach as "plainly disappointing" but said no action would be taken.

Experts have commented on the resignation via the Science Media Centre.

Prof James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and University of Oxford, said: "The personal life of Professor Ferguson is not a factor in the modelling studies his group carry out and does not undermine the utility of the work."

Prof Liam Smeeth, head of the Department of Non-Communicable Disease, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said: "I feel it is extremely important to make the point that Prof Ferguson has made a huge contribution worldwide to the efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. I am certain that his group at Imperial – with leadership and input from Prof Ferguson – will continue to make a major contribution to UK and global efforts."

Last month Scotland's CMO Dr Catherine Calderwood resigned after admitting visiting her second home.

Prof Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology in the Dept of Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "It is sad that Professor Ferguson made such an error of judgement in relation to his own behaviour. We have seen a similar inconsistency between public advice and private behaviour in Scotland recently. It is right that all of us should show consistency in our behaviour, but one suspects that the media delight in pointing the finger in some circumstances but happily ignore other inconsistencies."

PPE Situation 'Enraging': PM

Boris Johnson faced Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister's Questions for the first time today.

Sir Keir said a recent BMA survey which found 48% of doctors had to buy their protective equipment for themselves or rely on donations was "clearly unacceptable". 

Mr Johnson replied: "I share his frustration about PPE, and the frustration that I think people  have felt across the House and across the country. It's been enraging to see the difficulties that we've had in supplying PPE to those who need it."

But Mr Johnson claimed: "There have been no national stock outs of any PPE item, and we are now engaged in a massive plan to ramp-up domestic supply."

Yesterday Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee about things that might have been done differently, including testing. "In the early phases, I think if we'd managed to ramp testing capacity quicker it would have been beneficial," he said.

Today the PM was also challenged on testing targets that were met on Friday but have not been met this week: "Capacity currently exceeds demand, we're working on that. We're running at about 100,000 a day, but the ambition clearly is to get up to 200,000 a day by the end of this month and then to go even higher," the PM said.

Yesterday Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser Dame Angela McLean commented on the latest care home death figures for England and Wales: "There is a real issue that we need to get to grips with about what is happening in care homes." 

Sir Keir asked: "Why hasn't the Government got to grips with this already?"

The PM replied: "He's absolutely right to say that there's an epidemic going on in care homes, which is something I bitterly regret and we've been working very hard for weeks to get it down."

Yesterday it emerged that scientific advisers on the SAGE emergency committee warned about the dangers of shaking hands on the same day Mr Johnson said he'd been doing so "with everybody" while visiting a hospital with COVID-19 patients. SAGE said ministers should "advise against greetings such as shaking hands and hugging, given existing evidence about the importance of hand hygiene".

More NICE Rapid COVID-19 Guidance

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) added to its growing set of rapid COVID-19 guidelines.

The latest addition covers the prevention, detection, and management of acute kidney injury (AKI) in adults in hospital with known or suspected COVID-19. It highlights that acute kidney injury may be common in patients with COVID-19 and can lead to worse outcomes for patients. 

It stresses the importance of maintaining the optimal level of body fluids to prevent and manage the condition, despite difficulties in achieving this.

More News in Brief

  • An ongoing UK social study of more than 89,000 people's lockdown stress levels has found concerns over becoming ill with COVID-19 rising with speculation about restrictions being lifted. Lead author, Dr Daisy Fancourt, UCL Epidemiology & Health Care, said in a statement: "Over the past week we have seen stress levels rise and the slight improvement in wellbeing we had seen since lockdown started has plateaued as discussions around an exit have begun." Levels of stress were higher among those living with children, and life satisfaction, anxiety, and depression ratings were worse in urban areas.

  • The UK's public risk perception is the highest of 10 countries surveyed by a team led by the University of Cambridge and published in the Journal of Risk Research. People in South Korea were the least concerned. A total of 6991 people were questioned. Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, co-author and chair of the Winton Centre, said in a news release: "As we move towards relaxing the lockdown, it is important to understand both the overall levels of concern, and the variability between people in their attitudes to the virus and the counter-measures taken. This evidence suggests that different worldviews need to be taken into account."

  • The ME Association has received reports of people developing myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS) symptoms after recovering from COVID-19. The reports of post viral fatigue (PVF), or a post viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS), tend to be among less serious cases that were managed at home. The charity's COVID-19 advice leaflet states: "The most important aspect of management of post infection fatigue involves good old fashioned convalescence." Medical adviser Dr Charles Shepherd wrote: "The situation with persisting fatigue following coronavirus infection appears to be rather more complicated than what happens with other viral illnesses. It could also be more serious – as fatigue and lack of energy are turning out to be a very characteristic symptom of coronavirus infection."

  • As England's NHSX tracking app undergoes testing on the Isle of Wight, Wales is still recommending a different app developed by the company ZOE and King’s College London. A Welsh Government spokesperson told Medscape News UK by email: "We are still recommending people to download and use the ZOE app. We are closely watching the pilot of the NHSX App and, if successful, we will carefully consider its use in Wales." Wales is launching its own test, track, and trace scheme. Health Minister Vaughan Gething said in a statement: "Implementation of our Response Plan will be one of the biggest public health challenges Wales will ever face. There are no quick fixes here. We know that COVID-19 will continue to be transmitted until we have a vaccine, or there is enough acquired immunity within the population." 

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

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