UK COVID-19 Daily: HSE Receives 54 Health & Care Staff Death Reports 

Tim Locke

May 09, 2020

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

HSE Receives 54 Health & Care Worker Death Reports 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has received more than 50 reports of COVID-19 deaths: 50 from England, 4 from Scotland, and 2 from Wales. 

However, reporting won't always lead to a formal investigation.

NHS employers are required to follow the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR). However, diagnosed cases of COVID-19 are not reportable under RIDDOR unless there is reasonable evidence suggesting that a work-related exposure was the likely cause of the disease. 

A HSE spokesperson told Medscape News UK by email: "In these unprecedented times the NHS and frontline workers are under immense pressure doing what they need to do to save lives. We need to put the needs of the NHS first, along with the needs of the families who have lost their loved ones.

"We are working tirelessly across a number of areas to help in the national response to the coronavirus outbreak including assessing those deaths that have been reported to us. Where those deaths reported through RIDDOR meet the investigation criteria, they are being processed and an investigation initiated. 

"We are unable to comment on individual investigations at this time.

"Up to 3rd May, we have received 56 fatal disease reports, where the source of infection is recorded as COVID-19. Our initial understanding is that all but two of these reports (54) relate to health and social care settings. Of these (54), we understand 16 occurred in premises enforced by local authorities.” 

The spokesperson added: "We are aware that the numbers of cases reported elsewhere are higher. Not all of these cases will be attributed to a workplace exposure but we do anticipate more cases will continue to be reported to us over time.

"We are committed to ensuring we become aware of all deaths that should be reported to us through RIDDOR."

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

PPE Whistleblower 'Fired'

The independent fact checking charity Full Fact has concluded a widely-shared social media post about a doctor being suspended for speaking out about PPE is true.

The post didn't give the doctor's name but Full Fact said it could be referring to Dr Asif Munaf from Lincoln County Hospital. 

On 3rd April Dr Munaf told the BBC that PPE available to him and his colleagues was "exceedingly poor". He told Full Fact his contract was terminated that day. However, he continues to work as a locum.

Meanwhile, the Government is asking more potential UK PPE manufacturers to come forward. Current examples include the Royal Mint and Jaguar Land Rover making visors, and Burberry making non-surgical gowns. 

PPE adviser Lord Paul Deighton said in a statement: "There’s still more that can be done and I encourage any company with the capacity to step up and join the response. I look forward to seeing what future partnerships we can produce and what they can bring to the table to get healthcare workers the PPE they need." 

NHS Providers' Chief Executive Chris Hopson commented: "Given the difficulties we have seen in securing some items of PPE, especially clinical gowns, it’s good to see progress being made in developing supplies produced here in the UK."

Daily Deaths and Data

Another 346 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced today taking the total to 31,587. Bank holiday numbers tend to be lower.

Of the 207 English hospital deaths, patients were aged between 37 and 100. Of these, 19 aged between 60 and 95 had no known underlying health condition.  

Daily COVID-19 tests again stayed below the current 100,000 daily target for a seventh day at 96,878. The new target is 200,000 a day by the end of the month.

On new cases - 3896 were reported.

COVID-19 hospital bed occupancy was 11,809, down 17% in a week.

Less than a third of critical care bed capacity is currently in use by COVID-19 patients. 

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy CMO told the daily Downing Street briefing: "I am confident that R is less than 1."

On global death comparisons he said: "The United States is an outlier at the top, the UK is in company with France, Spain and Italy in the middle band, and there are other European countries, and South Korea, along the lower trajectory." 

He was asked about the additional risk for BAME communities. Risk factors were "a complex mixture," he said, adding: "Right now I can't stand in front of you and say that I could easily make an on-the-hoof judgement about who is more at risk: somebody from the black and minority ethnic community, who is svelte, age 50, a regular half marathon runner, eats well, does everything right, versus somebody who is from a white ethnic group who is 32, who is extremely overweight, doesn't exercise, has diabetes, has asthma, etc etc. 

"Those are just silly examples but they're ones that I hope give you an understanding that pitching the risk for individuals is quite a difficult and technically involved thing to do."

He said: "We are taking this incredibly seriously. And we are determined to get to the bottom of it in a proper and scientific way." 

Lockdown Leaks & Breaches

Despite ministers insisting England's lockdown doesn't change until Boris Johnson's statement tomorrow evening, leaks and briefings have continued. These included England following Wales in allowing garden centres to reopen next week, and 2 weeks of quarantine for arriving airline passengers.

Airlines UK commented on the speculation: "This proposal would effectively kill international travel to and from the UK and cause immeasurable damage to the aviation industry and wider UK economy. Nobody is going to go on holiday if they’re not able to resume normal life for 14 days, and business travel would be severely restricted. It will also make it all but impossible for aviation to resume any time soon, thereby setting back the UK’s economic recovery still further."

At today’s Downing Street briefing Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wouldn't confirm either measure.

However, Prof Van-Tam explained the science behind quarantining air travellers: "The incubation period of this disease is very clearly understood to be between 1 and 14 days

"That is to say from the point of a critical exposure to the virus. You remain well for from one day to 14 days before your symptoms emerge. And typically, the mean incubation period is 5 days."

He continued: "If people go home, as we asked them to do when they returned from Wuhan at the end of January, and they stay in their own homes for 14 days, even if they were infected very shortly before they came into the UK, then they work out that incubation period at home, and they do not spread the virus onwards, to the community. 

"So that's the scientific basis of how quarantine would work in this circumstance." 

Meanwhile, evidence of bank holiday weekend lockdown breaches came with the Coastguard reporting the highest number of call-outs since the restrictions came into force.

There were 97 incidents on Friday. That's 54% higher than the daily average of 63 for April.

Duty Commander Matt Leat said in a statement: "Every time we get a 999 or distress call, we will always respond but the minute we send in a rescue response, we’re putting our frontline responders at risk as well as putting the NHS under avoidable pressure."

More News in Brief

  • Grant Shapps announced a £2bn investment to encourage cycling, walking, and active travel during and after lockdown with further measures promised "to make a once-in-a-generation change to the way that people travel in Britain". He said there'd be "a series of swift emergency interventions to make cycling and walking safer - pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements". He continued: "We are today publishing fast-tracked statutory guidance effective immediately, requiring councils in England to cater for significantly increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians and making it easier for them to create safer streets."

  • Young men aged 19-24 are most likely to ignore lockdown rules, University of Sheffield and Ulster University research suggests. Findings were based on interviews with nearly 2000 13-24 year olds. Just under half felt significantly more anxious under lockdown. Professor Dame Til Wykes, King’s College London, commented via the Science Media Centre: "Younger people breaking the rules isn’t too much of a surprise and as the lockdown continues we need to make sure that we provide clear and accurate advice with a focus on the responsibility of everyone."

  • There's more speculation over a change in direction over England's NHSX tracking app that's being trialled on the Isle of Wight. The Telegraph reports on islanders having problems with the app and on more rumours of moving from a central database to Apple and Google's localised system. The paper quotes an NHSX spokesperson: "The suggestion we are moving away from a centralised model is without foundation." But a Government source was quoted saying that preparing a plan B would be a "sensible move". The app has been downloaded more than 50,000 times, Isle of Wight Radio reported. There are around 61,500 homes in the Island.

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

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