UK COVID-19 Daily: Anosmia Added to Official Symptoms List

Tim Locke

May 18, 2020

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

Anosmia Added to Official Symptoms List

Loss of taste and/or smell has been added to the official UK COVID-19 symptoms list.

A statement from the UK's CMOs said: "We have been closely monitoring the emerging data and evidence on COVID-19 and, after thorough consideration, we are now confident enough to recommend this new measure."

The new advice says that from today, all individuals should self-isolate if they develop a new continuous cough, or fever, or anosmia. All members of their household must also self-isolate according to current guidelines, unless the individual with symptoms receives a negative test result.

Scotland's Interim CMO Dr Gregor Ian Smith told a news briefing: "Adding the loss or change of smell or taste to the case definition will also slightly increase the number of possible cases which turn out not to be COVID-19. However, it's my view, and that of my CMO colleagues that on balance, this is outweighed by the benefits of identifying more cases at an early stage."

Last week ENT UK issued a news release raising concerns that anosmia hadn't been added to the UK symptom list nearly 8 weeks after it issued a global alert about it. Today it said in a tweet that the inclusion was "great news".

At the Downing Street briefing England's Deputy CMO Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was asked why there was a delay. "We have taken our time in this country because we wanted to do ...painstaking and very careful analysis before we jump to any conclusions," he said.

He also said it was very rare for anosmia to be the sole COVID-19 symptom.

Nearly Half of Doctors Concerned for Their Health

Doctors have continuing and serious concerns over their health due to COVID-19, according to a Royal College of Physicians (RCP) member poll with 1582 respondents last Wednesday.

  • 48% felt concerned or very concerned for their health

  • Among BAME members this rose to 76%

  • 61% of all respondents were also concerned for the health of those they live with

  • 37% had to take time off, with 20% testing positive, and 39% having a suspected case of COVID-19

  • Despite more testing being available 5% couldn't get tested themselves, 17.5% can’t access household testing, 4% were unable to access patient testing

  • 16.5% were unable to access recommended PPE in the last 2 weeks

  • Only 33% had PPE fit testing, 37% don't feel confident fit checking their own PPE

In a news release Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians said: "It is no wonder that clinicians are worried for themselves and their families, when the very things that would keep them safe – PPE and testing - are still hard to access for so many of them."

He continued: "Clinicians are working incredibly hard in the most extraordinary circumstances the NHS has ever faced, but without the right safety measures in place, they’re still living in fear for their own health and the health of their families. Confidence in the system they work in is low and more must be done to regain that trust."

Daily Deaths and Data

Another 160 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced today taking the total to 34,796. Numbers tend to be lower after the weekend due to reporting delays, plus the COVID Patient Notification System did not operate for a period of time on Saturday. 

Of the 122 people deaths in English hospitals, patients were aged between 47 and 100. Seven aged between 50 and 85 had no known underlying health condition.  

England's Health Secretary told the Commons today that testing is now available for anyone over 5 with symptoms anywhere in the UK.

There were 100,678 tests yesterday. This figure includes home tests that have been sent out but not yet processed.

Another 2684 positive cases were reported, and 9408 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus down 13% from this time last week. 

There were 678 COVID-19 hospital admissions in England yesterday, and 19% of UK critical care beds are being used by COVID-19 patients.

More News in Brief

  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed there are no plans to exempt non-EU overseas health and care workers from NHS charges. He said the UK has a "sensitive immigration system" and "we keep these things constantly under review".

  • First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will publish Scotland's route map on Thursday for a "phased approach to easing lockdown measures". She said Scotland may adopt England's NHSX app as an enhancement to its test, trace, and isolate programme if current trials are successful, and other concerns are addressed.

  • Recruitment for England's contact tracers has now reached 21,500. Prof Van Tam said a third of them are doctors or nurses. Asked about whether any delays with the app could affect modelling of R he stressed that it was just one part of the tracing programme, which was based on "tried and tested methodology".

  • Northern Ireland is easing some lockdown restrictions and will allow up to six people who don't live together to meet outdoors from tomorrow. Churches can open for private prayer and golf and tennis are also restarting under step 1 of its plans.

  • NHS Blood and Transplant has now banked more than 1,000 units of convalescent plasma ready for transfusion into people with COVID-19. Recovered patients donate 2 units and each COVID-19 patient receives 2 units under the REMAP-CAP clinical trial.

  • Scotland's top-flight football season has been ended early with Celtic crowned SPFL champions and Hearts relegated. England's Premier League clubs have voted to return to training in small groups from tomorrow under "strict medical protocols".

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

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