UK COVID-19 Daily: School Opening Science 'Not Followed'?

Tim Locke

May 22, 2020

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

School Opening Science 'Not Followed'?

Have ministers abandoned 'following the science' when it comes to planning for the partial reopening of schools to Reception, Year 1, and Year 6 pupils in England on June 1st?

Newly released documents from the SAGE advisory group of experts show the Government's plan is not among those modelled and risk-assessed by the advisers.

Among the suggestions not taken up in the Modelling and behavioural science responses to scenarios for relaxing school closures report was an alternating one/two weeks on, one/two weeks off system.

"There is substantial uncertainty, with the relative contribution of school openings being driven also by the relative susceptibility and infectivity of children of different ages compared to adults, as well as the extent to which social distancing is or is not sustained in the wider population," the document said.

Elsewhere it said: "The modelling consistently suggests that resuming early years provision has a smaller relative impact than primary school, which in turn has a smaller relative impact than resuming secondary schooling. However, this analysis does not incorporate potential for indirect impacts on contacts outside of school – which may differ by age of child."

At the Downing Street briefing, Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, said:  "I'm not going to speculate on when decisions will be made by Government on schools. That's for Government to decide."

Children's Coronavirus Risk Far Lower

Children and young people aged under 18-20 are 56% less likely than adults to catch SARS-CoV-2, according to a new UK preprint systematic review of 6332 international studies.

There wasn't enough data to show susceptibility difference between under-12s and teenagers.

The authors, including Professor Russell Viner, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, stress the study is about the data not policy decisions over schools opening. "It's preliminary evidence, but it's the weight of evidence I think, in summary, it’s clear that children appear to be less susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. We don't have any data on transmissibility. We clearly have a state of uncertainty. I believe it is not helpful to make statements about what is safe and not safe as absolutes. All safety is a degree of safety," he told a news briefing.

Travellers' to UK Face 2 Week Isolation

Home Secretary Priti Patel told the briefing about plans for 2 weeks of self-isolation for most people coming to the UK from abroad from 8th June.

"Now we are past the peak of this virus we must take steps to guard against imported cases triggering a resurgence of this deadly disease," she said, adding: "Any new arrivals entering the country with the disease during this next phase will have a much bigger impact, potentially causing a second wave."

There are exemptions for journeys from Northern Ireland, medical professionals working on coronavirus, seasonal farm workers, and lorry drivers.

Travellers will have to fill in an online form saying where they'll be staying.

There will be £1000 fines for those who ignore the rules.

Ryanair's boss Michael O'Leary has called the plans "absolutely bonkers".

Daily Deaths and Data

The UK's R number remains at 0.7-1.0 for a second week based on Office for National Statistics data from 4th-17th May before any easing of lockdown restrictions.

Another 351 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced today taking the total to 36,393.

Of the 121 deaths in English hospitals, patients were aged between 41 and 98. Three aged between 50 and 91 had no known underlying health condition. 

There were 140,497 tests counted yesterday. This figure includes home tests that have been sent out but not yet processed. The current target is 200,000 tests a day by the end of the month. Yesterday 80,297 people were tested.

Another 3287 positive cases were reported today and 9307 people are currently in the hospital with coronavirus, down 14% from this time last week.

There were 713 COVID-19 hospital admissions in England yesterday, and 13% of UK critical care beds are being used by COVID-19 patients.

More News in Brief

  • COVID-19 mortality risks are higher for over 50s, men, people who are obese, or those with underlying heart, lung, liver and kidney disease, according to a large observational study published today in  The BMJ . The findings come from UK analysis of data from 20,133 patients with COVID-19 admitted to 208 acute care hospitals in England, Wales, and Scotland between 6th February and 19th April this year. Outcomes were found to be poorer for those needing mechanical ventilation with 37% of these patients dying, 17% being discharged, and 46% remaining in hospital during the study.

  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published new data suggesting 41% of people in Great Britain feel unsafe when leaving their home due to coronavirus. Concerns about well- being were higher among women (46%) than men (40%). Overall, lack of freedom and independence was the most common impact (65%) of the virus. Commenting in a news release Hugh Stickland from ONS said: "It’s clear that the pandemic is impacting on all of us, especially in loss of freedoms and ability to make plans." However, he added: "Community spirit remains strong, however, as does the belief that we will be a kinder nation coming out of this crisis."

  • New funding is being given to English local authorities for testing and tracing services. National Test and Trace Adviser and Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, Tom Riordan, said in a news release: "It is essential that communities and local authorities are at the heart of our plans to roll out test and trace. Their work to respond to the virus has been exemplary, demonstrating how people across the country have come together to respond to the virus."

  • Is it time to end the weekly Clap for Carers? The woman credited with starting it thinks so. Annemarie Plas told Jeremy Vine on Radio 2: "Next week will be the 10th time and I think that would be beautiful to be the end of the series, to then maybe stop and move to an annual moment." She added: "I feel like this [has] had its moment."

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

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