UK COVID-19 Update: Cases Rising, 'Don't Kill Gran'

Tim Locke

September 08, 2020

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

Cases Rising, 'Don't Kill Gran'

UK positive COVID-19 cases saw a big jump to 2988 on Sunday, the highest since 22 May, and there were 2948 new cases reported on Monday. Today's data were delayed due to issues with Northern Ireland's statistics.


SAGE expert group advisor Professor John Edmunds, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told ITV News cases are "increasing exponentially". He suggested measures beyond local lockdowns may be required as schools and universities reopen: "I didn't want us to relax measures so much that we couldn't open the schools safely without it tipping the reproduction number significantly above 1. And we are already above 1 and we've opened schools. So this is a risky period."

England's Deputy CMO Professor Jonathan Van Tam described the rising cases as a "great concern" and added: "People have relaxed too much. Now is the time for us to re-engage, and to realise that this is a continuing threat to us."

Young people are believed to be behind many of the new cases, leading England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock to tell the BBC: "Don't kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on."

ONS Death Data

The latest Office for National Statistics data on registered deaths in England and Wales show in week 35 ending 28 August, the number of deaths registered was 9.6% above the 5-year average.

Although this is the third consecutive week that weekly deaths have been above the 5-year average, ONS said the rise was not driven by COVID-19. In fact deaths mentioning novel coronavirus were the lowest in the last 24 weeks.

Hospital deaths were below the 5-year average but deaths in private homes, care homes, and other settings were above average.

Local Lockdowns 

Local restrictions remain in place in parts of the North of England, Glasgow and other parts of Scotland, and now Wales has announced restrictions around Caerphilly.

People aren't able to enter or leave the Caerphilly area "without a reasonable excuse" and meeting people is only allowed outdoors.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: "A lot of these cases are in younger people and thankfully, at the moment, most of these are mild. But coronavirus is now circulating in the community and it’s only a matter of time before we start to see more serious cases, which need hospital treatment."

People in Bolton are also being told not to mix with other households or use public transport for non-essential journeys.

Meanwhile, problems persist in testing availability in. Sarah-Jane Marsh from NHS Test and Trace in England tweeted: "Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a COVID test at present. All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, its our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point. We are doing all we can to expand quickly."

The BMA issued a statement saying the Government needed to "get a grip" on the testing system.

Unclear Guidance

New phone polling of 2246 people in July by Ipsos MORI for the Health Foundation uncovered a lack of clarity on COVID-19 guidance.

It found 54% of those asked thought official advice on who and how many people you can meet is unclear compared to 44% who thought it was clear.

The survey also found 56% don't think the Government has handled COVID-19 well, compared to 39% in May.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, commented: "Managing the pandemic is a complex and changing task, but this survey shows declining public confidence in how the government is handling the situation. The survey shows the public are willing to support further measures to reduce the impact of the pandemic, but many are still unclear on what precautions they need to take. Increasing confidence in, and clarity from, the Government will be critical as we face further risks from COVID-19 this winter."

Long COVID in Mild Cases

Longer-term COVID-19 symptoms, known as long COVID, affect people with mild symptoms as well as those requiring hospitalisation, Public Health England said.

Around 10% of non-hospitalised cases reported symptoms lasting more than 4 weeks. For hospitalised cases, continuing symptoms were reported for 8 or more weeks after discharge.

Persistent health problems include:

  • Respiratory symptoms, including chronic cough, shortness of breath, lung inflammation and fibrosis, and pulmonary vascular disease

  • Cardiovascular symptoms, including chest tightness, acute myocarditis, and heart failure

  • Protracted loss or change of smell and taste

  • Mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and cognitive difficulties

  • Inflammatory disorders, including myalgia, multisystem inflammatory syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome, or neuralgic amyotrophy

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms with diarrhoea

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue, weakness, and sleeplessness

  • Liver and kidney dysfunction

  • Clotting disorders and thrombosis

  • Lymphadenopathy

  • Skin rashes

GPs' Role Recognised

GPs' role in managing suspected COVID-19 cases when testing wasn't available has been recognised in a new published study in The British Journal of General Practice.

The analysis of 8985 suspected cases in London between February and April showed a two-fold increase in the odds of suspected COVID-19 for South Asian and Black adults compared to White adults.

Lead author Dr Sally Hull from Queen Mary University of London said in a news release: "Our results suggest that COVID-19 prevalence during the peak of the epidemic was higher than previously thought. The official COVID-19 test statistics are likely to have underrepresented the extent of the epidemic, as many people with COVID-19 would not have been tested, including those with milder symptoms or those who could not access testing centres."

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, commented:  "GPs and our teams will continue to be on the front line of managing the effects of the COVID-19 virus in the community and access to high quality data will be essential as we approach a busy winter season and prepare for a potential risk of a second wave of the virus."

And he called for more action on ethnicity risks for COVID-19: "The College has recently written to the Minister for Equalities calling for an update on the implementation of recommendations made in the Fenton report earlier this summer. Specifically, we want to know what progress has been made in developing risk assessment tools for BAME staff across the NHS to ensure they are safe to work and feel confident in doing so; and for public health campaigns to be more effectively targeted to people from BAME communities."

Travel Restrictions

Last week Wales and Scotland announced separate quarantine measures for people returning from Greece and Portugal.

Yesterday England removed the Greek islands Crete, Lesvos, Mykonos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos, and Zakynthos from the travel corridor list from 4am on Wednesday 9 September.

The Airport Operators Association has written to the Prime Minister urging him to commit to a coronavirus testing regime for international arrivals to help reduce self-isolation periods.

Obesity Measures

More details have been released of Government measures to help tackle obesity, partly prompted by the worse COVID-19 outcomes for people with a high BMI.

A voluntary scheme sees the food industry being asked to reduce excessive calories in eating out and takeaway foods by up to 20% by 2024, and new salt reduction targets.

Caroline Cerny, Alliance lead at the Obesity Health Alliance commented: "Industry has been consulted extensively on these new targets and as such we expect them to step up and meet the targets on time and in full. But this is ultimately a voluntary programme, which is why we need the Government to clearly commit to sanctions for companies that do not take the responsible approach such as fines and levies."

Clear Masks

Widespread use of masks and face coverings causes obvious issues for people who rely on lip reading and facial expressions but that's being tackled with a new initiative.

See-through masks from the US manufacturer ClearMask are being sent to frontline NHS and social care workers.

Royal College of Physicians President Professor Andrew Goddard commented: "Clear communication is always important, but particularly in healthcare. So we’re pleased these masks are going to be available very soon.

"Of course, lip-reading doesn’t work for everyone, nor is it everyone's first choice. It’s important that all NHS employers and services find out what someone’s communication needs are and meet them, in line with the Accessible Information Standard."

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


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