UK COVID-19 Update: BAME Risks in Pregnancy

Tim Locke

June 08, 2020

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

BAME Risks in Pregnancy

A national UK survey has found more than half of pregnant women recently admitted to a UK hospital with COVID-19 were from black or other ethnic minority groups.

The researchers believe the high number, even after excluding major urban centres from the analysis, "needs urgent investigation and explanation".

Lead author of the study published in the BMJ , Marian Knight, professor of maternal and child population health, National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, told Medscape News UK by email: "The patterns we observed in pregnancy in relation to COVID-19 reflect very similar findings to those observed in the general (non-pregnant) population. Whilst some of the difference was explained by factors such as pre-existing health problems (diabetes and hypertension), this explained only a small amount of the disparity."

BAME Doctors' Concerns

Medical organisations representing BAME doctors and nurses, including the BMA, have written to the Government expressing concerns over a lack of recommendations in last week's risks report from Public Health England. "It does rather demonstrate to us the failure of visible leadership that will engage and reform the institutional racism that Sir Simon Stevens has referred to," the letter said. "We must also move beyond deaths and hospital admissions to include analyses of community transmission and access to healthcare."

The BMA revealed to ITV News that nearly 40% of  BAME doctors across the UK are yet to receive a coronavirus risk assessment - more than one month after they were recommended. The data came from BMA polling of members.

Hospital Masks and Face Coverings Fallout

There was considerable fallout from Friday's announcement on hospital masks and face coverings by Health and Social Care Secretary for England, Matt Hancock.

All hospital staff in England will have to wear masks in host areas, and outpatients and visitors will have to wear face coverings from 15th June.

The announcement came as a surprise to NHS Providers. Deputy Chief Executive Saffron Cordery commented: "As is the case for a number of announcements throughout the pandemic, this has come with little or no consultation with the NHS frontline and without a plan in place to ensure that all trusts will have access to adequate supplies of type 1 and 2 masks." She added: "Important decisions like these should not come as a surprise to those expected to deliver them."

BMA Council Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul commented: "It is extremely concerning to hear that there has been no consultation with hospital trusts on how this will work in practice for them, or with GPs about any future plans. If we are to have confidence in the Government’s ability to deliver on this, they must be forthcoming immediately on the details of how this will work."

The BMA said the Government should ensure consistency by extending these measures across primary care and all other healthcare settings.

Care Taskforce

Matt Hancock said there were 12,739 registered deaths in care homes in the year up to the 22nd of May, representing 29.1% of all registered COVID-19 deaths. Cases are now falling though, he said: "It is clear that the epidemic in care homes is coming under control."

Mr Hancock said more than a million COVID-19 test kits have been sent to nearly 9000 elderly care homes. "The test results so far do not show a significant rise in the number of positive cases despite going through and testing all of the residents and staff."   He announced that all remaining adult care homes in England will now be able to order testing for all residents and staff.

David Pearson was introduced at the Downing Street briefing as chair of England's National COVID-19 Social Care Support Taskforce. "The task force will bring together the concerted and determined actions of central and local government with care providers. Our focus will be on stopping infection whilst trying to ensure the wellbeing of all people who receive care and support, whether they live in care homes or at home," he said. 

Daily Deaths and Data

There were no Downing Street briefings at the weekend, and no scientist, doctor, or public health expert appeared at the Downing Street briefing again today.

Another 204 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced on Saturday, 77 on Sunday, and 55 today, the lowest since the lockdown began, taking the total to 40,597.

Scotland had no new deaths reported today or yesterday. There were no deaths reported in London either. However, NHS England said a small number of deaths occurred and these will be announced over the coming days.

Weekend numbers tend to be lower because of reporting delays.

There were 138,183 tests counted yesterday. This figure includes home tests that have been sent out but not yet processed.

Figures for the number of people tested were last given on Friday 22nd May.

Another 1205 positive cases were reported today.

There are 6403 people currently in hospital with coronavirus, down from 7543 this time last week.

Another 519 people were admitted to hospital in the UK (excluding Scotland) with COVID-19 and 516 mechanical ventilator beds are in use across the UK by coronavirus patients.

SAGE estimates R to be below 1 in all parts of the UK.

More News in Brief

  • No credit check, no COVID-19 test? HSJ reported that credit agencies are used to verify addresses for online test bookings and that this could exclude some disadvantaged groups, such as migrants.

  • The pandemic accelerated the pace of change to digital services in Wales but the new ways of working are here to stay, Health Minister, Vaughan Gething said. There's support from patients with 97% who had virtual consultations rating them as excellent, really good, or good. "I’m pleased that the feedback from patients and clinicians has been positive, it’s crucial that everyone feels digital technology is there to support them in delivering and receiving care in Wales," Mr Gething said.

  • Fewer than half of doctors want to see their working patterns return to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic, a Royal College of Physicians (RCP) survey suggested. RCP President, Prof Andrew Goddard, commented: "We need to listen to doctors' concerns and continue to adapt the way we are working."

  • Virus DNA on a hospital bed rail spread to nearly half of 44 sites sampled across a hospital ward within 10 hours and persisted for at least 5 days, according to UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital. Plant-infecting virus DNA was used in the experiment reported in a letter published in the Journal of Hospital Infection. Senior author, Dr Lena Ciric, UCL civil, environmental & geomatic engineering, commented: "Our surrogate was inoculated once to a single site, and was spread through the touching of surfaces by staff, patients, and visitors. A person with SARS-CoV-2, though, will shed the virus on more than one site, through coughing, sneezing, and touching surfaces."

  • A new approach to selecting breast cancer patients for urgent treatment under COVID-19 has been developed by the Royal Marsden and the Breast Cancer Now Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research. An algorithm stratifies patients with ER positive, HER2 negative primary breast cancer into three groups based on their oestrogen and progesterone levels at diagnosis. This helps identify around 60% of women who have low levels of oestrogen and progesterone at diagnosis. They can receive hormone therapy for up to 6 months. Those with high levels should not be given neoadjuvant hormone therapy and should either be offered urgent surgery or chemotherapy instead.

  • Nearly a third of people in Great Britain (31%) felt lonely in the first month of lockdown, according to Office for National Statistics data for 3rd April to 3rd May. Loneliness was more common among those in bad or very bad health, renters, single, divorced, separated people, and those living alone.

  • Scotland's shielding advice is changing from 18th June to allow outdoor exercise. Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "We know many people may feel anxious about these changes and we would like to reassure everyone who has been advised to shield that they will shortly be receiving a letter from the Chief Medical Officer outlining how they can stay safe when they go outside, should they choose to do so.”

  • Two weeks of self-isolation began today for most passengers arriving in the UK from abroad. The place of isolation needs to be given to Border Force, and there are penalties for breaching the rules. BA, EasyJet, and RyanAir have begun a legal challenge to the rules.

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

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