UK COVID-19 Update: More Lockdown Loosening

Tim Locke

May 28, 2020

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

More Lockdown Loosening in England Next Week

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government's five tests, including protecting the NHS, had been met, meaning more changes could be made to England's lockdown on Monday.

He confirmed primary schools will partially reopen on Monday. Two weeks later secondary schools will provide some years with face-to-face classroom time.

From Monday, up to six people from different households can meet outside while maintaining social distancing, including in private gardens. "For many people, this will be a long awaited, and joyful moment," Mr Johnson said. 

However, "You should also try to avoid seeing people from too many households in quick succession." 

Shielding continues for existing vulnerable groups.

"I know, inevitably, that there may be some anomalies, or apparent inconsistencies, in these rules and clearly what we're proposing is still just a fraction of the social interaction each of us would normally enjoy," the PM said.

"I know many of you will find this frustrating. And I'm sorry about that. But I'm afraid that is unavoidable given the nature of the invisible enemy that we are fighting." 

Scotland Loosens Lockdown Tomorrow

Scotland will move to phase 1 of its four stage plan to end the lockdown tomorrow.

People can meet family or friends from another household outdoors, up to a total of 8 people, and garden centres and drive-through restaurants can reopen.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told her daily briefing: "I don't mind admitting to you that as we take these first steps I do feel a bit nervous. I worry that the limited changes we're making to these rules, the very careful changes, might lead to much greater change in reality." 

The overall message in Scotland remains 'stay at home'.
 

ONS Infection Survey 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its third weekly COVID-19 Infection Survey update.

ONS said that at any given time between 11th May and 24th May it estimated that an average of 0.24% of the community population in England, or 133,000 people, had COVID-19. This estimate is based on tests on 18,913 people in 8799 households.

It estimated there were 54,000 new COVID-19 infections per week in England, similar to its previous estimate. That equates to an incidence rate per week of 0.10 new cases per 100 people.

It also found:

  • Health and care workers who see patients and residents show higher rates of positive tests than people not working in these roles

  • People working from home had lower infection rates than those working outside the home

  • Those with symptoms are more likely to test positive than those without symptoms but only 21% of those tested positive for COVID-19 reported any symptoms on the day of testing

Daily Deaths and Data

The UK's R value is now 0.7-0.9, a slight improvement on 0.7-1.0 last week.

Another 377 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced today taking the total to 37,837.

There were 119,587 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. The figures for the number of people tested have not been available since Friday.

NHS Test & Trace in England, and 'Test and Protect' in Scotland, went live today.

Another 1887 positive cases were reported today, and 8560 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus down 11% from this time last week.

On 11th May the head of the UK Statistics Authority Sir David Norgrove wrote to England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock asking for greater transparency on testing targets and reporting. He's now responded saying a clear definition is now given for the testing target and how many tests laboratories can provide. Mr Hancock also committed to "being as transparent as possible" about NHS Test and Trace, to "ensure the right statistical reporting" as the programme develops.

More News in Brief

  • Durham Police said "there might have been a minor breach of the regulations that would have warranted police intervention" over Dominic Cummings’ drive to Barnard Castle. In a statement the police said driving to Durham to self-isolate with his family did not amount to an offence, clarifying that the constabulary was concerned with regulations, not Government 'stay at home' advice. The police statement said no further action would be taken, and Downing Street said it considered the matter to be closed. At the Downing Street briefing, Boris Johnson refused to allow his chief medical adviser and chief scientific adviser to answer a "political" question about Mr Cummings. Government Chief Medical Adviser Professor Chris Whitty said later: "I can assure you that the desire not to get pulled into politics is far stronger on the part of Sir Patrick [Vallance] and me than it is in the Prime Minister."

  • Why does the UK have a 2 metre social distance rule when it is 1 metre elsewhere? Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said today: "It's not an absolute 2 metres, [eg] beyond 2 metres is safe and slightly less is not safe, there's a graduation across that. Roughly at a metre it's somewhere between 10 and 30 times more risky than at 2 metres.”

  • The University of Oxford and MORU, Bangkok COPCOV trial of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 has been paused by the MHRA. MORU said in a statement: "We received notice from the UK's MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) to pause for now new enrolment into our COPCOV study. We responded promptly to the MHRA, addressing their concerns in detail and await their decision. For now, COPCOV study enrollment is paused around the globe. The safety of our participants is our first priority, as is preventing illness in front-line healthcare workers." The World Health Organisation plans to publish a review of data on hydroxychloroquine by mid-June after safety concerns prompted it to suspend the drug's use in a trial on COVID-19 patients.

  • A report from the Care Quality Commision (CQC) highlights ongoing issues with PPE supply in the care sector. The report said: "In domiciliary care, of those agencies that responded to the CQC tracker from 2-8 May, 6% of agencies in London had only enough PPE to last 2 days or less; 28% of agencies in London and the North West had only enough PPE to last up to a week. There have also been instances where the wrong items have been delivered or the quality of items was poor.” CQC Chief Executive Ian Trenholm said in a statement: "Where providers are reporting pressures and challenges, we want to increase visibility and ask questions about what needs to happen to help alleviate them." 

  • The English Premier League will resume fixtures but behind closed doors on 17th June. the BBC reported. There are 92 fixtures still to play this season with Liverpool 25 points clear at the top of the table. Twelve players and staff have tested positive so far from 2752 tests that are being carried out twice-weekly.

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

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