UK COVID-19 Update: Deaths Exceed 50,000, NHS 'Hidden Backlog'

Tim Locke

November 11, 2020

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

Daily Deaths Exceed 50,000

In today's daily data another 595 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported, taking the total over a new milestone to 50,365.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, commented: "Sadly the upward trend is likely to continue and it will be several weeks before any impact of the current measures - and the sacrifices we are all making – is seen and is reflected in the data."

The UK's deaths rank fifth in the world behind the US, Brazil, India, and Mexico.

The total where COVID-19 is mentioned on death certificates is higher at 61,648.

There were another 22,950 UK positive tests reported today.

There are 14,196 COVID-19 patients in hospital and 1219 ventilator beds are in use.


Nowcast and Forecast

The latest 'nowcast' and forecast from the MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, estimates the daily number of new infections in England is 64,200.

The number of infections is growing by 5% each day with a doubling in the total number of new infections approximately every 14 days.

The number of daily deaths is likely to be between 380 and 610 on 21 November.

NHS 'Hidden Backlog'

The Health Foundation's latest report warns of a hidden backlog for the NHS after 4.7 million fewer people were referred for routine hospital care in the first 8 months of 2020.

It says that of the 4.2 million patients waiting for elective care, 2.3 million (46.4%) have already waited longer than the 18 week standard.

One of the report's authors, Tim Gardner, commented: "While the NHS is rightly focused on the urgent task of fighting COVID-19, there is meanwhile a rising tide of unmet need which will have a significant impact on people’s health if a sustainable solution is not found."

He added: "There is no silver bullet – addressing these issues will take time, money and determination. A range of options should be explored – including making greater use of the independent sector, greater use of remote consultations, and creating dedicated diagnostic hubs and elective care centres. If no action is taken, long waits could become the norm for millions of people."

Today the UK's CMOs wrote to doctors thanking them for remarkable "past, present and future work".

The letter said healthcare professionals will need to be flexible, and conceded working outside of usual practice or clinical areas may be stressful. It said clinicians must be supported to do their work and that regulators will take changes into account.

Jab Uptake Polling

As GPs prepare for a possible delivery of coronavirus vaccine doses next month pollsters Kantar said 63% of people in Britain would have the vaccine. Polling took place before news about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was released.

Young people were far more likely to refuse a jab than older people.

Overall, 22% of respondents would definitely or probably not have a coronavirus vaccine.

That rose to 38% among 18-24 year-olds.

In older groups, 5% of 65s and over, and 16% of 55-64s would probably or definitely not be vaccinated.

England's Deputy CMO Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (JVT) told a Downing Street news conference he uses a 'mum test' over vaccine safety - would he advise his mother to have the jab? He would.

He was asked if he'd be among the first people having the vaccine. "If I could, rightly and morally, be at the very front of the queue then I would do so because I absolutely trust the judgement of the MHRA on safety and efficacy.

"But that clearly isn't right - we have to target the highest risk individuals in society and that is how it should be."

Staggering University Christmas Break Travel

The Department for Education is planning a staggered approach to England's students heading home for Christmas after the start of term saw cases spike in many university towns and cities.

Once England's national lockdown ends on 2 December a 'travel window' will open from 3 to 9 December.

This will be alongside mass testing of students and a move to online learning.

England's Deputy CMO Dr Jenny Harries commented: "The mass movement of students across the country at the end of term presents a really significant challenge within the COVID-19 response.

"The measures announced today will help minimise that risk and help students get home to their families as safely as possible for Christmas. It is crucial that students follow the guidance."

No plans have been released for a return to campuses in January.

Pre-existing Coronavirus Antibodies 

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute and University College London have found that some antibodies, created by the immune system during infection with common cold coronaviruses, can also target SARS-CoV-2 and may confer a degree of protection against the new viral strain, Univadis from Medscape reported.

In their article, published in Science, the researchers found that some people, notably children, have antibodies reactive to SARS-CoV-2 in their blood, despite never having been infected with the virus. These antibodies are likely to be the result of exposure to other coronaviruses.

George Kassiotis, senior author and group leader of the Retroviral Immunology Laboratory at the Crick says: "Our work shows that the S2 subunit is sufficiently similar between common cold coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 for some antibodies to work against both.

"It was previously thought that only antibodies to the S1 could block infection, but there is now good evidence that some antibodies to S2 can be just as effective. This is exciting as understanding the basis for this activity could lead to vaccines that work against a range of coronaviruses, including the common cold strains, as well as SARS-CoV-2 and any future pandemic strains."

A large study is now underway, in partnership with researchers at Imperial College London and University College London, to uncover the role that different antibodies and other immune defences play in protection against COVID-19 and how severely ill people become.

COVID-19 and Disability

Latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey data for September show 83% of people with disabilities were 'very' or 'somewhat' worried over the effect of the pandemic on their lives. That compared with 71% of non-disabled people.

Among disabled people receiving medical care before the pandemic, 29% received treatment for only some of their conditions, and treatment was cancelled or not started for 22%.

Among those whose treatment was affected, 45% felt their health had worsened.

David Ainslie from ONS commented: "A particular issue for disabled people was the impact on their health among those who were not receiving the same level of medical care as they had before the pandemic. This was a different picture from the experience of non-disabled people during the coronavirus pandemic."

Dodgy Mask Ad

The latest product to fall foul of the ASA advertising watchdog is a copper fibre based face mask from Easylife.

It appeared in newspaper ads under the headline: "Reusable & Washable Protective Face Masks – keeps on working wash after wash!” It also claimed: "Protection against bacteria and viruses!"

ASA has banned the ad as being misleading and making unsubstantiated claims.

Easylife Group did not provide the ASA with a substantive response to the complaint.

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


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