UK COVID-19 Update: Pubs Reopening, Travel Corridors

Tim Locke

July 03, 2020

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

A&Es Braced for Pubs Reopening

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) is urging people "to be careful and use common sense" as England's pubs can open again tomorrow from 6am.

Boris Johnson told LBC radio his message was to "enjoy summer sensibly" adding: "Let's not blow it now folks."

Northern Ireland's pubs reopened today. Pubs in Wales can open from 13th July, and those in Scotland from 15th July.

Royal College of Emergency Medicine President Dr Katherine Henderson warned: "If you go to A&E because you’re plastered, you end up stretching the health service further and potentially put others at risk."

She said: "After seeing all of the goodwill, all of the clapping for the NHS, it would be heartbreaking to see Emergency Departments overwhelmed on the first post-lockdown evening by people who have gotten too drunk or been in a fight."

Businesses and venues are being told to collect customers' names and phone numbers in case they are needed for COVID-19 contact tracing.

The Prime Minister told a Downing Street briefing local lockdowns "Will, I'm afraid, be a feature of our lives for some time to come." In England, he said, the approach to local outbreaks would involve: "Monitoring, engagement, testing, targeted restrictions, and finally as a last resort, lockdown."

Chief Medical Adviser Professor Chris Whitty was asked if he was comfortable with the pace of unlocking. He said we're walking a "narrow path" and that "this seems a reasonable package of risks at this particular time, at this particular pace, but none of us believe… this is a risk-free next step."

Flu and COVID-19 Jabs Together?

If a COVID-19 vaccine is available in time, it should be given alongside annual flu jabs, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is urging as part of a plan to help reduce NHS winter pressures.

It also says health and social care workers' flu vaccination should be brought forward with an aim of 100% uptake. All over 50s should be offered flu jabs, if stocks allow it said.

Another suggestion is keeping a 'reservist' clinical workforce on standby in case the NHS becomes overwhelmed. This could include recently retired staff, those on career breaks, and clinical academics.

RCP President Professor Andrew Goddard said "Staff across the NHS are nervous about what lies ahead and we owe it to them to do everything we can to ensure that the system is ready to cope."

More Care Home Testing

Weekly COVID-19 tests for staff in England's care homes are due to begin on Monday, with regular repeat testing for residents.

The decision was made after results of the Office for National Statistics Vivaldi study identified higher levels of cases among care staff, particularly among temporary staff who work in multiple settings.

The study was based on information from 9081 care home managers between 26th May and 20th June. It found 56% reported at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in staff or residents.

Of these, ONS estimates that 20% of residents and 7% of staff tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

The study linked prevalence of infections with more frequent use of bank or agency staff, and some regional differences.

There was some evidence of lower infection rates when staff received sick pay.

Travel Corridors

Holidaymakers heading abroad from England won't need to self-isolate on return from low-risk countries from 10th July, the Department for Transport announced.

The 'travel corridor' countries include most of Europe, but not Portugal or the US. The list doesn't specify which destinations have restrictions in place for arrivals from the UK.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will be making separate announcements.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon criticised the Westminster Government's "shambolic decision making process", over the list of countries, adding: "We will take time to properly and rationally consider this before, hopefully very soon, setting out our own decision."

"Shambolic" was also the word used by Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford. "If ever there was an example of making an announcement first and then trying to work out what you meant by it - that is what we have seen since this announcement was first trailed in the press," he said. 

However, Mr Johnson said: "We are following very, very similar paths if at slightly different speeds."

Currently the Foreign Office cautions against all but essential international travel but this restriction will be lifted. 

One person who appears to have jumped the gun is the Prime Minister's dad Stanley Johnson. He's reported to have flown to Greece on Wednesday on "essential business" to prepare a second home for holiday rental. Downing Street said it was for individuals to make judgements themselves.

Rise in Domestic Child Abuse During Pandemic

There was a big rise in domestic child abuse over a month at the start of lockdown compared with the same period in the previous 3 years, Great Ormond Street Hospital experts reported in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Cases included head and brain injuries, breathing issues, loss of consciousness, seizures, extensive bruising, swollen scalp, and excoriation.

"Our cohort is aligned to the literature in its portrayal of socioeconomic deprivation and parental vulnerability as significant risk factors for abuse, both of which may be exacerbated as a result of the stresses imposed by quarantine measures," they wrote.

Dr Alison Steele, officer for child protection at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said it was "an extremely concerning report".

She commented: "Many of these children will have been brought into hospital because there were obvious signs that the child was very unwell, but we are also extremely worried about children who are not being seen because their physical injuries or other forms of abuse or neglect are more easily hidden."

Lockdown Depression and Anxiety Higher in BAME Communities

Higher levels of depression and anxiety were experienced under lockdown by people from BAME backgrounds than other groups, accordings to UCL's ongoing COVID-19 Social Study.

Lead author, Dr Daisy Fancourt, commented: "These findings may be due to ethnic inequalities in the UK, with people from BAME backgrounds being statistically more likely to be in risk categories for adverse experiences during the pandemic, such as having lower levels of household income and poorer baseline mental health. Differences in experiences and inequalities themselves may also be products of individual and systemic racism, an issue highlighted by the Black Lives Matter protests in recent weeks."

Levels of 'complete' compliance with lockdown measures dropped again across all groups over the last week, the survey found, especially amongst younger adults. 'Majority' compliance remains at around 90% overall. 

Daily Deaths and Data

Another 137 UK COVID-19 daily deaths were announced today, taking the total to 44,131.

There were 205,673 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 544 positive cases were reported today taking the total UK confirmed cases to 284,276.

Yesterday's total for positive cases was 30,302 lower than previously reported due to changes in methodology to avoid double counting.

The UK's R number remains at 0.7-0.9 and the growth rate is -6% to -0%.

  • England's R is 0.8-0.9.

  • Scotland's R is 0.6-0.8.

  • Wales R is 0.7-1.0.

  • Northern Ireland's R is 0.5-0.9.

R may be above 1 in London according to data for the English regions:

  • East                 R=0.7-0.9, growth -5 to 0

  • London            R=0.8-1.1, growth -4 to +2

  • Midlands          R=0.8-1.0, growth -4 to 0

  • NEast/York     R=0.8-1.0, growth -5 to 0

  • North West      R=0.7-0.9, growth -4 to 0

  • South East      R=0.7-1.0, growth -5 to 0

  • South West     R=0.7-1.0, growth -7 to +2

The BMA said today finding out an area's COVID-19 rate should be as easy as checking the weather.

The rate of new weekly infections per 100,000 people for local authorities is now published by Public Health England, and the total rate for local authorities is  published on the Government’s dashboard.

Dr Peter English, BMA public health medicine committee chair, commented: "Now that this information is finally being published, it is crucial that it is made available to the public in a way that is instantly understandable. People should not have to look hard to find this vital information. In the same way that I can find the temperature or weather forecast in my area, I should just as easily be able to find the current infection rate."

GMC Resumes Fitness to Practise Work

The General Medical Council is resuming work on fitness to practise investigations having only focused on cases with an immediate patient safety concern during the lockdown.

GMC Chief Executive Charlie Massey said in a statement: "Investigations are difficult for everyone involved, but we’re mindful that delaying our decisions any longer could cause additional stress, so we need to take a balanced approach.  This work will progress in direct discussion with affected doctors, medical defence and support organisations, employers and complainants.

"And because different parts of the system and health service experience the impact of the pandemic in different ways, we’ll be flexible on timescales, and we will highlight the support available to everyone involved."

The GMC also announced Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board 2 (PLAB 2) tests for overseas doctors will restart from 13th August. Priority will be given to doctors stuck in the UK after their tests were cancelled due to COVID-19.

£130m for NHS Charities Together COVID Appeal

Fundraising efforts from celebrities to Captain Tom have helped raise £130m for the NHS Charities Together COVID Appeal.

Money is being spent in the community and supporting NHS staff, volunteers and patients to recover in the long-term from the effects of the pandemic.

The charity's CEO Ellie Orton said in a news release: "When we started the appeal, we never imagined we would hit a total like this in just a few months."

It is also encouraging people to take part in another round of applause on Sunday at 5pm to mark the 72nd birthday of the NHS. 

However, 14 health unions, including the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said the time for "warm words and praise" was over and it was time for a financial reward.

The RCN's Hannah Reed commented: "An earlier pay rise will go some way to showing the Government values all they do, not just this year but day in, day out. Proper recognition and pay to match it will go some way to addressing the number of unfilled jobs."


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