UK COVID-19 Update: Zero Deaths, Delay Ending Lockdown? New Variant Names

Tim Locke

June 01, 2021

Editor's note, 1 June 2021: This article was updated with today's daily data.

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

Delay Ending Lockdown?

The BMA joined the debate on whether the final easing of England's lockdown, due on 21 June, should be delayed.

Council Chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: "We are at a pivotal moment in battling against the virus in the UK, and with the 21 June date signifying an end to all legal restrictions and allowing normal social mixing of people.

"Yet since the roadmap was announced, we have seen the emergence of a highly-transmissible new variant and significant escalation of cases – and in the last week  a reversal of a downward trend into seeing increases in hospital admissions and deaths. At the same time, we know the second vaccine doses are critical to controlling the spread of the new variant.

"A premature ending of all legal restrictions which then resulted in a surge of infections would undermine our health service’s efforts to tackle the biggest level of backlog of care it has ever faced. It would also add further demands on staff who are exhausted, both mentally and physically."

Former Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport, told the BBC: "We need to substitute speculation for scientific data that’s the truth of the matter...the situation is very delicately balanced."

Ministers are due to make an announcement about lockdown changes on 14 June.

No UK COVID-19 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported today for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

'Not Quite There Yet'

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon updated the Scottish Parliament on possible further easing of lockdown, and said "we are not quite there yet" because not all adults have had two vaccine doses, and they are having to deal with a faster spreading virus variant.

"All of this means that at this critical stage – to avoid being knocked off course completely – we must still err on the side of caution," she said.

Glasgow will move down to Level 2 restrictions alongside most of Scotland from Saturday, Ms Sturgeon said. Some areas will move to Level 1.

Staff Jabs

At the weekend, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News mandatory COVID jabs for NHS staff are "something that we are absolutely thinking about".

He added: "It would be incumbent on any responsible government, to have the debate, to do thinking as to how we go about protecting the most vulnerable, by making sure those who look after them are vaccinated."
 

Booster Jab Trial 

The world’s first COVID vaccine booster jab was due to be given at the University of Bradford today in a year-long trial. Trials are being conducted at 18 sites across the UK and involve 3000 people. 

Volunteers will be split into two groups: 30 to 69-year-olds and over-69s, all of whom have already had two doses of either the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. Roughly a quarter of those in the trial will receive placebo. 

Patients will then return after 28 days and will be monitored at regular intervals.
 

New Variant Names

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed a new naming system for SARS-CoV-2 virus variants to avoid naming them after the countries where they were first detected, such as the UK.

The UK B.1.1.7  variant is Alpha, South Africa's B.1.351 is Beta, the Brazilian P.1 variant is Gamma, and the Indian B.1.617.2 variant is Delta.

"No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants," WHO COVID-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, tweeted.

Public Health England hasn't yet decided whether to adopt the new naming convention.

GPs' 'Hurt'

Being reprimanded by NHS England for not being 'open' "hurt" GPs, who are having a "grim time", according to an editorial in the British Journal of General Practice.

Former Royal College of GPs' Council Chair, Dr Claire Gerada, wrote: "Rather than being lauded GPs have been reprimanded, unjustly, for not being ‘open’. This hurts … GPs have moved mountains to help our patients; transferred millions of consultations per day to the virtual space; created hot and cold hubs to make life safer for staff and patients; led the delivery of the highly successful vaccine programme (90% of all 50 million or so doses) to name a few of our achievements over the last 18 months."

She continued: "Now more than ever the management of complex patients … must be moved outside the remit of day-to-day care of the GP and instead cared for through intermediate multidisciplinary teams, bridging the gap between hospital, general practice, and home, …providing enhanced care to patients."

More News

  • The number of children and young people waiting more than a year for CAMHS treatment in Scotland was 2,012 in March, the highest level across the year, according to Public Health Scotland. The Scottish Government target is for 90% to be seen within 18 weeks.

  • Heathrow's Terminal 3 is now operating as a dedicated terminal for 'red list' country arrivals.The move is designed to help stop passengers from higher and lower risk countries mixing at the airport.

  • The Telegraph reported that ministers are dropping plans for COVID-19 passports for large events. A Government spokesman said no decision has yet been made and the COVID-19 vaccine certification review is still ongoing.

  • The BBC reported on 'horse therapy' to help NHS frontline workers traumatised by the pandemic. "They're very good at helping you to read yourself, to reset yourself... to move forward in a calm and compassionate way," said intensive care sister Amanda White.

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

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