UK COVID-19 Update: Brain Complications in Under-60s, Unlocking 'Boosts' New Variants

Tim Locke

July 28, 2021

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

COVID-19 Brain Complications in Under-60s

Stroke was a more common than expected COVID-19 complication amongst under-60s, according to a University of Southampton study in Brain Communications.

Physicians from six major professional neuroscience associations in the UK were invited to submit reports on adults hospitalised with a neurological or psychiatric presentation and COVID-19, or else developing these conditions whilst in hospital with COVID-19.

The 267 cases analysed included:

  • 49% cerebrovascular events

  • 11% delirium

  • 9% central inflammatory disorders

  • 9% psychiatric disorders

  • 7% other encephalopathies

First author, Dr Amy Ross-Russell, said: "It was striking not only how many different neurological and psychiatric events we observed in this study, but also that some of these conditions occurred together within the same patients. This suggests COVID can affect multiple parts of the nervous system in the same patient."

Senior author, Professor Ian Galea, said: "We found that the health status of patients prior to COVID predicted how much they recovered from neurological complications, which is important from a public health perspective. Optimising health status could be a vital way to increase our resilience to this and future pandemics."

Unlocking 'Boosts' New Variants

Removing coronavirus restrictions could allow new vaccine-resistant virus variants to develop, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Earlham Institute, writing in Virulence.

Lead author, and journal editor in chief, Professor Kevin Tyler, UEA, said: "Relaxing restrictions boosts transmission and allows the virus population to expand, which enhances its adaptive evolutionary potential and increases the risk of vaccine-resistant strains emerging by a process known as antigenic drift.

"Put simply, limiting the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible restricts the number of future deaths by restricting the rate with which new variants arise.

"Successive SARS-CoV-2 variants such as the Alpha and Delta variants, have displaced one another since the outbreak."

Single Vaccine Dose Protection

A single COVID-19 vaccine dose offers as much protection from severe disease to people previously eligible for the shielding list as it does for the wider population, according to Public Health Scotland and the University of Edinburgh preprint research.

Co-author, Professor Helen Colhoun, University of Edinburgh, said: "Through using a pre-existing register that had been used to determine the eligibility for the national shielding support programme, we were able to identify those with certain conditions or on certain drugs that were likely to lead to extreme vulnerability to COVID-19.

"We found that in most categories of vulnerability, the vaccine was highly effective in reducing the risk of severe COVID-19. However, for those who have received a solid organ transplant, there was not enough data to demonstrate the vaccine's effect due a low number of people in this group, meaning further studies are needed."

'Selfish' Vaccine Refusers Claim

Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected cabinet minister Michael Gove’s description of people deciding not to have COVID jabs as a "selfish act".

Instead, Mr Johnson said people who have the vaccines are "doing something massively positive" for themselves and their families.

Travel News

England is to allow fully vaccinated US and EU travellers to avoid quarantine.

However, the US said yesterday it was keeping its UK travel ban in place because of Delta variant cases.

"Because of the current situation in the United Kingdom, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants," the CDC said.

Nurses' Pay Protests

The Royal College of Nursing is organising a summer of protests against the 3% pay rise in England and Wales that was said to be in recognition of pandemic efforts.

General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: "We know this award will not be enough to prevent an exodus of exhausted NHS nursing staff and ministers must now be honest about the impact this would have on patient care."


Olympic host city Tokyo has recorded a second day of record new daily COVID-19 cases. 

The 3177 cases were recorded while the city remains under a state of emergency for the Games.

There were 16 new Olympics-related cases among athletes, staff, and media, taking the total to 169.


Katie Rowley, who is deaf, has won a High Court case under equality legislation against the UK Government's Downing Street COVID-19 briefings failing to provide British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters.

The judgement concluded: "The absence of any BSL interpretation for the data briefings on 21.9.20 and 12.10.20 constitutes discrimination against the claimant by reason of breach by the defendant of the reasonable adjustments duty."

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland offered signing since the start of the pandemic but Downing Street now provides it on its social media streams.

Damages will now be assessed by a county court judge.


A quarter of people haven't been hugged for over a year, according to polling of a 1000 UK adults for a report by the Demos think tank.

Thirty-two percent said there are fewer opportunities to make new connections now than under the first lockdown.

Polly Mackenzie from Demos said: "Our new research out today worryingly shows that these gains we’ve made in community relationships earlier in the pandemic are in danger of being lost."

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


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