UK COVID-19 Update: 'Disconnect' Over England's Unlocking, Test & Trace Changes, Second Charge Over Whitty Incident

Tim Locke

July 06, 2021

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

'Disconnect' Over England's Unlocking

The BMA said Prime Minister Boris Johnson's commitment to ending England's lockdown restrictions on 19 July amid rising cases and hospitalisations was "incredibly concerning", and showed a "disconnect" with the data.

Labour Leader, Sir Keith Starmer, said the decision was "reckless".

BMA Council Chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: "To listen to the Chief Medical Officer speak about the alarming rise in cases, doubling of hospitalisations and certainty of more deaths, and for the PM to decide to go full steam ahead with the easing of all mitigations regardless, is incredibly concerning. There is a clear disconnect with the actions the Government are planning to take and the data and views of the scientific community and medical profession."

He urged the Government to reconsider, and said: "The emphasis on personal responsibility around mask wearing and other safety measures is incoherent as many of these measures, such as mask wearing, do not in the main protect the individual but those around them. This cannot be about 'personal choice' when the risk comes from others around you not wearing them. It is inconceivable that the Government would allow for people, many of whom have no choice but to get public transport or be in confined places, to have to take the risk of becoming ill, particularly those who have not been fully vaccinated or cannot take the vaccine for health reasons."

Also responding to the PM's announcement was the Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, who said: "We urge the Government to keep a very close watch on the evidence as it emerges in the coming days, and to be ready to make the right call – whichever way it points – when the real decision day comes round next week."

Test & Trace Changes

England's Health Secretary Sajid Javid conceded that daily cases could rise to 100,000 a day in the summer after restrictions are eased.

Fully vaccinated people in England won't have to self-isolate if they are a close contact of a coronavirus case from August 16, Mr Javid told the Commons.

Under-18s won’t have to self-isolate either if they're in contact with a positive case.

Changes are also being made to the bubble system in schools to prevent large numbers of pupils having to self-isolate.

Earlier, Mr Javid told Sky News about his personal mask plans after 19 July: "For the foreseeable future I will be carrying a face mask with me, I think that’s a very responsible thing for anyone to do. As I have said, the pandemic is not over.

"If I’m in a crowded or enclosed space, I will wear a face mask. In fact I will wear one if I was next to someone or near someone that felt uncomfortable with others not wearing face masks.

"And that’s what I mean by personality responsibility."

Deaths Data

Registered deaths in England and Wales in the week ending 25 June were 7.6% below the 5-year average.

COVID-19 accounted for 1.1% of all deaths, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Data for 2020 show an increase of 14.5% deaths compared with 2019.

The leading cause of death overall in 2020 was COVID-19 (12.1% of all deaths).

COVID-19 was the leading cause of death for males (13.3%), for females it was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (15.3%).

Age-standardised mortality rates (ASMRs) in England and Wales increased significantly in 2020 by 14.6% for males and 11.9% for females.

The North East of England had the highest ASMRs, and the South West had the lowest.

Inequality

Health Foundation analysis of ONS data found COVID-19 mortality was 3.7 times higher for working age adults in England’s poorest areas compared with those in the wealthiest areas.

Director, Jo Bibby, said: "We may have to learn to live with COVID-19, but we don’t have to live with its unequal impact."

She added: "Government must address the root causes of poor health and invest in jobs, housing, education, and communities. This is the only way to create a healthier society that can meet the challenge ahead and better withstand future crises."

Second Charge Over Whitty Incident

A second man has been charged over an incident in St James' Park, London, in which Chief Medical Adviser Professor Chris Whitty was accosted.

Jonathan Chew, 24, of no fixed address is charged with common assault and obstructing the police.

Previously, Lewis Hughes, 23, of Wigton Way, Romford was charged with common assault.

Health and Care Bill

The Government introduced the Health and Care Bill to Parliament signalling major changes to the NHS and care in England.

Sajid Javid said: "The astonishing response of our health and care services to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit fast-forward on some of the bold changes the NHS set out to deliver in its Long Term Plan and shone the spotlight on other areas that require change to achieve better care for our communities."

Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, welcomed the Bill, which he said "will help provide clarity for trusts in a fast changing health and care landscape".

He cautioned that it was “very important to preserve the operational and clinical independence of the NHS” and  added "it’s vital that the legislation addresses the lack of a transparent, costed and funded long-term workforce plan.

"We urge the Government to continue to listen to the NHS frontline in shaping its proposals."

The outgoing NHS England Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens took up his seat in the Lords today as Lord Stevens of Birmingham. He'll sit as an independent crossbencher.

Rapid Test Award

Start-up company DnaNudge has won the Royal Academy of Engineering's MacRobert Award for its rapid genetic test technology.

It offers laboratory-free RT-PCR testing in just over an hour that's in use in hospitals, care homes, and arts venues.

Company co-founder and CEO, Professor Chris Toumazou, said: "The past year has been challenging for all, but the determination and commitment of the entire DnaNudge team to get behind our health service and deliver a truly life-saving solution has been incredible. We look forward to expanding the capabilities of our transformative genetic testing platform to address other major global health challenges, including in the area of oncology and STDs. This is just the beginning of our technology’s capabilities."

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

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