UK COVID-19 Update: Obesity Incentives, Cat Case

Tim Locke

July 27, 2020

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

GP Incentives in Obesity Plan

GPs will get incentives to help deliver the Government's new obesity strategy in England.

At the weekend Public Health England released a report confirming worse COVID-19 outcomes and higher mortality among obese patients.

The policy paper published today says interventions similar to smoking cessation are needed, and "we will be bringing forward a programme with incentives for GPs and referral pathways into weight management services in every local health care system. From 2021, we will work with the British Medical Association and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to implement incentives for doctors through the Quality Outcomes Framework to ensure everyone living with obesity is offered support for weight loss."

Other measures include restrictions on TV advertising of unhealthy food, calorie labelling on restaurant menus, restricting offers on foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS), as well as keeping those products away from supermarket checkouts.

Only 19 Death in Service Payouts

In April, Health and Social Care Secretary for England, Matt Hancock announced a life insurance scheme for NHS and social care frontline workers. Families of staff who die from coronavirus in the course of their essential frontline work would receive a £60,000 payment, he said.

Despite there being at least 272 health care worker deaths and 268 in social care, only 19 families have been approved for compensation payments out of 51 submitted claims.

The details came in a written Commons answer from Health Minister Helen Whately. "The other 32 claim forms are currently being considered and no decision has yet been made. No claim form has yet been found to be ineligible," she wrote.

In Memoriam: Healthcare Workers Who Have Died of COVID-19.

NICE Rapid Guidance on Planned Care

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has issued rapid COVID-19 guidance on arrangements for patients' elective surgery, treatments, procedures, diagnostic and imaging appointments.

NG179 says there's a balance between the risk of going ahead, with the harms from not going ahead.

Discussions should be held with higher-risk patients, including those from Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

Fourteen days of self-isolation should be considered in some cases.  

No False Sense of Security From Face Coverings

One of the arguments against widespread use of face coverings was that they may give wearers a false sense of security, and they may ignore other measures, like handwashing.

However, University of Cambridge and King’s College London research found that is not the case.

The authors of a review of 22 studies, writing in BMJ Analysis , said that in some cases handwashing actually increased.

The concept of 'risk compensation' has previously been described as a dead horse and the authors said: "This dead horse now needs burying to try to prevent the continued threat it poses to public health... by slowing the adoption of more effective interventions."

Today Wales became the last part of the UK to make face coverings mandatory on public transport.

Daily Deaths and Data

Public Health England (PHE) is pausing publication of daily death data after England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered an investigation into its methodology.

However, data are still published on another page with 61 UK COVID-19 deaths announced on Saturday, 14 yesterday, and 7 today, taking the total to 45,759.

Another 685 positive cases were reported today taking the total UK confirmed cases to  300,111.

Among the recent cases were 21 confirmed at a caravan park in Craven Arms, Shropshire.

Spain Wants Islands Excluded From UK Quarantine

The Spanish Government is calling on the UK to reconsider the 2 week quarantine measures for travellers returning from the Canary Islands and Balearics. Late on Saturday night the whole of Spain was removed from the UK 'travel corridor' list due to rising cases in some regions.

One person affected by the rule change is the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps who flew to Spain on Saturday morning.

Spain's foreign ministry described the islands as "very safe territories".

Commenting via the Science Media Centre, Prof Keith Neal, emeritus professor in the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, University of Nottingham, said: "Some people have criticised the lack of notice but with cases rising any delay would only increase cases in the UK. In a few weeks time Spain may have controlled their local outbreaks so waiting for 2 weeks could have resulted in quarantining travellers when no longer required and not quarantining those most at risk of having acquired infections."

First UK Cat Case

A cat from an undisclosed part of England has become the UK's first confirmed COVID-19 cat case.

Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said in a statement: "Tests conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency have confirmed that the virus responsible for COVID-19 has been detected in a pet cat in England.

"This is a very rare event with infected animals detected to date only showing mild clinical signs and recovering within a few days.

"There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans. We will continue to monitor this situation closely."

Public Health England advises handwashing before and after contact with animals.

Happiness Ups and Downs

Happiness levels fell from 51% pre-lockdown to 25% at the start of lockdown, according to a University of Cambridge study using weekly surveys and Google searches.

Happiness levels then recovered to 47% by the end of May.

Dr Roberto Foa, from Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies, commented: "It was the pandemic, not the lockdown, that depressed people’s wellbeing.

"Mental health concerns are often cited as a reason to avoid lockdown. In fact, when combined with employment and income support, lockdown may be the single most effective action a government can take during a pandemic to maintain psychological welfare."

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


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