UK COVID-19 Update: NHS Staff 'Terrified' Over Unlocking, Rise in Sharps Injuries

Tim Locke

June 07, 2021

Editor's note, 7 June 2021: This article was updated with new information from the Commons.

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

NHS Staff 'Terrified' Over Unlocking

EveryDoctor's Legal and Policy Officer, Dr Megan Smith, told the PA news agency: "Everyone in the NHS at the moment is kind of terrified" over plans to ease lockdown in England on 21 June, something she called a "recipe for disaster".

She suggests going further than a pause in Government plans saying "there should be a look at whether there needs to be backtracking and have more restrictions in place".

NHS Providers Chief Executive, Chris Hopson,  said that although vaccination is breaking the chain between infections, hospital admissions, and mortality, ending lockdown, the delta (Indian) variant and rising cases still means there are "major risks".

"In heading towards a decision for 21 June, trust leaders want a more sophisticated debate than the current black and white 'full steam ahead' or 'delay everything'," he said.

Reading and Wokingham are the latest areas where surge testing for the delta variant is being deployed. The delta variant is about 40% more transmissible than the alpha (UK) variant, England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at the weekend.

What do you think? 

Editor's note, 8 June 2021: We've now closed this poll and the results were reported here.
 

Rise in Sharps Injuries

A Royal College of Nursing member survey found a 50% rise in sharps injuries last year, and it concludes in a report: "The reason for the high incidence...is difficult to ascertain...however, it is likely related to COVID-19 workloads, fatigue, and stress."

Mike Robinson, chief executive at the British Safety Council, commented: "Many employers clearly need to take more effective measures to reduce the risk of sharps injury.

"The onus remains on employers to assess all factors which increase sharps injury risk including workloads, fatigue, stress, poorly lit environment, staff shortages, wearing of additional PPE, and lack of space, and to put measures in place to reduce the risk of harm."

Vaccination

The 40 million first COVID-19 vaccines milestone was reached at the weekend with NHS England's National Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis thanking everyone "working flat out to deliver the biggest vaccination programme in our history".

The Government will produce plans "within a few weeks" for vaccination of over-12s, Matt Hancock told Sky News at the weekend, and today he said JCVI has been asked to provide clinical advice. The Pfizer/BioNTech jab was approved for 12 to 15-year-olds by the MHRA on Friday.

All over-18s in Wales will be offered a jab by the start of next week, the Welsh Government said today, and it expects to reach 75% take-up for first jabs a month ahead of target.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: "The success of our programme in Wales lies in the supply arrangements we have developed; in our determination to use every drop of vaccine – not to waste any and to store the vaccine in people’s arms, rather than in fridges."

Matt Hancock updated the Commons on England's vaccination programme: "From tomorrow morning, we will open up vaccination to people aged 25 to 29."

He added: "The delta variant first identified in India has made the race between the virus and this vaccination effort tighter."

Mr Hancock said: "Although the size of the growth advantage of the delta variant is unclear, the recent best scientific estimate is an advantage of at least 40% over the previously dominant alpha variant."

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data show first dose vaccination rates were lowest for Black Caribbean and Black African groups, while those from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds had the lowest second dose rates. The White British group had the highest second dose rate.

People with disabilities had lower second dose jab rates than those without disabilities.

Moderna has also sought EU approval for its vaccine for children aged 12 to 17.

Vaccine Hesitancy 'Falling'

Progress was also reported on tackling vaccine hesitancy with an increase of more than a fifth among adults under 45 who would definitely have their jab according to a survey of 16,610 people from a nationally representative sample. It found that 63% would definitely get the jab, with a further 21% likely to accept.

Dr Alex de Figueiredo, principal investigator and research fellow, at the Vaccine Confidence Project said: "Although pockets of sub-optimal intent to vaccinate remain in large urban settings, these data suggest large overall increases in intent to accept the vaccine across all socio-demographic groups, reflecting increases in perceptions towards the NHS immunisation programme."

The Government's latest campaign to boost vaccination uptake sees dating apps allowing people to add vaccination badges and stickers to their profiles.

A recent YouGov poll found 31% of adults would prefer to date someone who was vaccinated, and a further 28% would not date someone unless they'd had a jab.

Disparity in Excess Deaths

Universities of Manchester and York research published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe today finds disparities in rates of excess deaths in England and Wales during the first 30 weeks of the pandemic.

The highest excess mortality rates were in the West Midlands at 130 per 100,000, while they were 78 per 100,000 in the South West of England, and in Wales.

  • There were 6887 excess cardiovascular and diabetes deaths, and 1668 excess cancer deaths

  • There were fewer than expected cancer deaths in hospitals, hospices, and care homes, but more in private homes

  • The overall excess mortality rate directly attributed to COVID-19 infection or respiratory causes was 77 per 100,000

Professor Tim Doran, University of York and senior author of the study, said: "These results emphasise that regional and socioeconomic variations are relevant to decisions about future pandemic planning, including current and future phases of vaccination roll-out.

"Immediate and longer-term recovery planning for communities and their health and social services should reflect historical disparities as well as the COVID-19 related patterns described in this study."

Travel News

Reports showed busy scenes at airports in Portugal as holidaymakers headed home early to avoid quarantine when the country moves from the 'green' to the 'amber' zone early tomorrow morning.

The BBC reported on the Greek islands trying to vaccinate all locals to create COVID-free destinations under 'Operation Blue Freedom'. Greece, and its islands, is currently on the 'amber' travel list, meaning people should not travel there.

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

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