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The fight against Coronavirus

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  • Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak Excellent interactive New York Times resource with trackers and statistics on the prevalence of Covid infection and the measures to deal with it in every US state and around the world

  • Memorial of Health & Social Care Workers taken by COVID-19 Moving and interactive a digital tribute and memorial by Nursing Notes to the dedicated members of our health and social care family who gave their lives during the fight against Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19).
    NursingNotes is committed to planting a new tree in a protected forest for every single health and social care worker who loses their lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • ‘Focused protection’ of elderly not a viable option, say PM’s advisers Independent Oct 24 reports fresh evidence from SAGE to refute the stubborn proponents of "herd immunity" and "focused protection" effectively incarcerating millions of elderly and vulnerable people: will Johnson follow the science or the urgings of his party's rabid right wing?
    "Boris Johnson has been warned by his scientific advisers that a policy of protecting over-60s from Covid-19 while allowing the rest of society to go back to normal life “would not be viable”.
    "Proposals for so-called “focused protection” have gathered support since the launch of the Great Barrington Declaration, backed by thousands of scientists, medics and politicians around the world, including in Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party.
    "But experts in the PM’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) found it would not be possible to stop coronavirus spreading from young people to the older population, and that even if this was achieved for a period, a wave of disease among elderly people would be “almost certain” as soon as protections were removed."

  • Hospitals are filling up. Again. New York Times Coronavirus Briefing brings together evidence of a third wave of infection in the US and the fresh spread of the virus in Poland and France: we are not alone in facing the problem – but the chances of containing it depend on stemming the spread and bringing the disastrous privatised test and trace system into the public sector where there is expertise to deliver.

  • We can either pay the price for stricter coronavirus restrictions now - or later with more mental suffering Thoughtful exclusive comment article in the Independent Oct 23 by Dr Adrian James begins:
    "As the nation argues whether regional lockdowns are justified here’s something to consider - there will be no escape from the mental health ramifications either way.
    "Here’s why - your mind is part of your body and Covid-19 can be both a physical and mental illness. A great deal has been achieved to highlight the plight of those suffering the mental health effects of lockdown, the result of social isolation and recession.
    "This is a very real concern, but I worry that this threat is being weaponised by those with other political agendas to argue against tighter restrictions to control the virus."

  • Treasury confirms it is to end VAT waiver on PPE in UK Guardian October 23 with the latest nonsensical twist of government policy, with the Treasury making it harder and more expensive for businesses to observe basic safety precautions:
    "Face masks and gloves will cost more from the end of this month after the government said a temporary waiver of VAT on personal protective equipment (PPE) would not be extended, the Guardian has learned.
    "The Treasury confirmed that the 20% sales tax would once more apply to protective equipment bought by firms and consumers from November, after a six-month exemption.
    "While care homes and the healthcare sector can access PPE from the Department of Health and Social Care, the increase could mean extra costs for businesses and ordinary people, who are legally bound to use masks in shops and on public transport."

  • It's not too late but we must act now. Independent SAGE sets out plan to fix failing Test & Trace and answers your Qs on transmission in schools. With @theAliceRoberts. Latest figures from @chrischirp

  • Care home fined £200,000 after pensioner left on floor for up to two hours Independent Oct 23 with some good news of action to force at least one care home to pay more attention to safety of residents:
    "A care home has been forced to pay almost £220,000 for not providing safe care to an 89-year-old woman who was left on the floor for up to two hours with a broken hip.
    "Vivo Care Choices Limited, which runs Curzon House in Saltney, near Chester, was prosecuted by the Care Quality Commission and ordered to pay a £200,000 fine plus costs at Chester Magistrates’ Court on Friday."

  • The Trump administration quietly closed a vaccine safety office last year, hampering efforts to track the long-term safety of a coronavirus vaccine. New York Times Oct 23: “As the first coronavirus vaccines arrive in the coming year, government researchers will face a monumental challenge: monitoring the health of hundreds of millions of Americans to ensure the vaccines don’t cause harm.
    “Purely by chance, thousands of vaccinated people will have heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses shortly after the injections. Sorting out whether the vaccines had anything to do with their ailments will be a thorny problem, requiring a vast, coordinated effort by state and federal agencies, hospitals, drug makers and insurers to discern patterns in a flood of data. Findings will need to be clearly communicated to a distrustful public swamped with disinformation.
    “For now, Operation Warp Speed, created by the Trump administration to spearhead development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments, is focused on getting vaccines through clinical trials in record time and manufacturing them quickly.
    “The next job will be to monitor the safety of vaccines once they’re in widespread use. But the administration last year quietly disbanded the office with the expertise for exactly this job, merging it into an office focused on infectious diseases. Its elimination has left that long-term safety effort for coronavirus vaccines fragmented among federal agencies, with no central leadership, experts say.”

  • More than 100 care home inspectors forced to self-isolate as ministers withhold regular testing Shocking story from Independent Oct 22: "More than 100 inspectors at the Care Quality Commission – almost one-tenth of its inspection workforce – have been forced to self-isolate over coronavirus concerns since March.
    "The watchdog has released the figures as ministers continue to deny its inspection teams regular testing.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care said inspectors do not get close enough to vulnerable residents to warrant regular testing despite fears they could seed homes with the virus through contact with staff.
    "During the first wave of the virus it is estimated 16,000 care home residents died from the coronavirus after 25,000 NHS patients were discharged from hospitals."

  • Specialist hospitals for people with autism and learning difficulties ‘providing undignified and inhumane care’ Independent Oct 22 picks up on damning CQC report:
    "Specialist hospitals for people with autism or learning difficulties in England are providing “undignified and inhumane” care that risks breaching patients’ human rights, a watchdog has found.
    "Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates health and social care services in England, discovered that some mental health hospitals could be “distressing” to those being treated there.
    "The majority of the 43 wards they visited were deemed to be “noisy, chaotic and unpredictable”, instead of being therapeutic environments. This, along with a lack of specialised training for staff, meant that patients’ needs were not always met, the CQC said."

  • PM admits failings as England's Covid contact-tracing system hits new low Guardian Oct 22 on the latest symptoms of the privatised test and trace fiasco: “Boris Johnson and his chief scientific adviser have admitted to failings in England’s £12bn test-and-trace system as contact-tracing fell to a new low and waiting times for test results soared to almost double the target.
    “Under pressure to explain new figures showing less than 60% of close contacts being reached, while test turnaround times rose to nearly 48 hours, the prime minister said: “I share people’s frustrations and I understand totally why we do need to see faster turnaround times and we need to improve it.”
    “… In the week ending 14 October, 59.6% of close contacts were reached, down from the previous week’s figure of 62.6%, which was the lowest since the test-and-trace operation was launched at the end of May.”

  • ‘Dramatic’ surge in patients forces hospital to cancel more operations Independent Oct 22 as the first announcements begin of operations cancelled as beds fill up and staff resources are devoted to Covid 19 patients once more:
    "Nottingham University Hospitals Trust said it had no alternative due to the pressure from Covid-19 which had seen more than 200 patients in hospital with the disease in the last few days. Surgery for cancer and urgent and emergency cases will not be affected.
    "The trust’s chief executive, Tracy Taylor, appealed to the public to help ease the pressure on the hospital by following social distancing rules and washing their hands regularly. She said the surge in cases at the East Midlands trust was now at similar levels to that seen in April."

  • Faculty strongly opposed to judicial review ‘rebalance’ Faculty of advocates Oct 22 comes out strongly against government moves to “dilute” the judicial review court process, by which a check can be kept on the legality of government decision-making – a process which, while far from perfect, has proved vital as an option for health campaigners.
    “In evidence to a review of the procedure, the Faculty described as “chilling” any suggestion that some decisions could be made immune from examination by judges.
    “There is no serious basis in a modern democracy for the view that public bodies and government authorities are entitled to operate without accountability for material mistakes of law or fact in their actions (or inactions). Such a consideration betrays a misunderstanding of the rule of law and runs contrary to the fundamental principles of democracy,” stated the Faculty.
    “The importance of the rule of law should be self-evident: a system of democratic government that pays proper respect to the rights of the individuals present within its territorial jurisdiction must be based on a system of rules, and those rules must be properly interpreted and consistently applied.”

  • UK test and trace hits new low with fewer than 60% of contacts reached Independent Oct 22: “The government’s NHS Test and Trace programme has reached a record low, with just under 60 per cent of close contacts of people infected with coronavirus successfully reached by the system.
    “… This is the lowest weekly percentage since test and trace began, and is down from 63 per cent in the previous week.
    “For cases handled by local health protection teams, 94.8 per cent of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate. But for cases processed online or by call centres, this figure was 57.6 per cent.
    “… Meanwhile, just 15.1 per cent of people who were tested for Covid-19 in the week ending 14 October at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit – a so-called in-person test – received their result within 24 hours, the data showed.”

  • England’s social care system needs extra £7bn annually to avoid collapse, MPs warn Independent Oct 22 report of Health Committee warnings:
    "England's social care sector needs £7 billion more a year as an urgent "starting point" to avoid potential collapse of the market, MPs say.
    "An immediate boost is needed to avert a feared market collapse caused by providers exclusively offering services to clients who fund their own care over council-funded places, a new report warns.
    "But this figure would not address the growing problem of unmet need, with the full cost likely to run into tens of billions of pounds, the Health and Social Care Committee said."

  • Visualising Local Authority COVID-19 deaths/cases data Valuable new searchable and interactive resource for tracking the spread of the virus from Colin Angus, who says on Twitter: "Today I have *finally* managed to wrangle some English hospital data into the local COVID-19 data explorer app I made.
    "You can now look up estimated new hospital admissions and hospital deaths for every Local Authority in the country."

  • Thousands more coronavirus patients hospitalised as second wave threatens NHS surgery Independent Oct 21: "The number of patients in hospitals across England with coronavirus has jumped almost 50 per cent in the past seven days, putting extra strain on the NHS as the second wave gathers momentum.
    "Doctors, nurses and senior managers across the country have warned of their fears that rising numbers of patients with Covid-19 are undermining efforts to treat routine patients, with some already having surgery cancelled.
    "Leaked emails, seen by The Independent, reveal the University Hospitals Birmingham Trust, one of the largest hospital trusts in the country, has told its surgeons to begin cancelling routine operations for some patients because of the pressures it is facing."

  • Test and trace forced to bring in untrained workers as system is overwhelmed by second wave, leaked email reveals Independent Oct 21: “England’s test and trace service is being forced to draft in untrained staff to carry out clinical assessments of patients infected with coronavirus as the second wave of infections swamps the service.
    “Leaked emails obtained by The Independent show that as of Wednesday, staff from outsourcing firms Serco and Sitel, who have no clinical training, will be working alongside nurses and clinical staff to help assess and contract trace approximately 20,000 cases each day.
    “… Staff working for test and trace service, which was set up in May and hailed as a “world beating” service by prime minister Boris Johnson, said the use of Serco and Sitel workers was a potential patient safety risk because they may struggle to spot patients who need to emergency hospital treatment.”

  • The government's secretive Covid contracts are heaping misery on Britain Guardian Oct 21 comment from George Monbiot:
    "The new surge in the coronavirus, and the restrictions and local lockdowns it has triggered, are caused in large part by the catastrophic failure of the test-and-trace system. Its £12bn budget has been blown, as those in charge of it have failed to drive the infection rate below the critical threshold.
    "Their failure was baked in, caused by the government’s ideological commitment to the private sector. This commitment had three impacts: money that could have saved lives has been diverted into corporate profits; inexperienced consultants and executives have been appointed over the heads of qualified public servants; instead of responsive local systems, the government has created a centralised monster.
    "This centralisation is perhaps the hardest aspect to understand. All experience here and abroad shows that local test and trace works better. While, according to the latest government figures, the centralised system currently reaches just 62.6% of contacts, local authorities are reaching 97%."

  • Racial discrimination widespread in NHS job offers, says report Guardian exclusive Oct 21 begins: "Doctors from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds have been hindered in their search for senior roles because of widespread “racial discrimination” in the NHS, according to a report from the Royal College of Physicians.
    "The RCP, which represents 30,000 of the UK’s hospital doctors, found that ingrained “bias” in the NHS made it much harder for BAME doctors to become a consultant compared with their white counterparts.
    “It is clear from the results of this survey that racial discrimination is still a major issue within the NHS,” said Dr Andrew Goddard, the RCP’s president. “It’s a travesty that any healthcare appointment would be based on anything other than ability.”

  • Two thirds of hospices facing redundancies as government help runs out ITV news Oct 19 with shocking news not only that hospices are facing bankruptcy but also that their funding is utterly dependent on charity rather than public funds:
    "Two thirds of hospices in England have started planning for redundancies as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hit funding for end of life care, ITV News has learned.
    "Extra government support to help the sector through the coronavirus crisis stopped in the summer, leaving hospices on the brink of cuts to the care they provide. Last month ITV News reported that a third of England's hospices - 56 out of 169 - are at financial risk and are being forced to contemplate redundancies.
    "Hospice UK, the national charity for hospices and palliative care, has been working with NHS England to identify the most cash-strapped providers of end-of-life care to see of local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) can step in to help.
    "ITV News has now learned that number has doubled, with two in three hospices in England now reporting financial concerns that are forcing them to plan for redundancies.
    “More than two thirds of hospices are now considering redundancies, which will significantly affect end of life care due to worsening finances and winter pressures,” said Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK."

  • Medics from Italy and UK come together to expose their harrowing reality of Covid daily Mirror 19 October: "As Britain approaches the final cliff edge of Brexit, the Daily Mirror has teamed up with newspapers and websites in Italy, Germany, France, Poland and 10 other European countries to pair people for a chat across national boundaries.
    "... Meeting up will happen by videocall on Sunday December 13. You will need to be free for a chat at 2pm UK time on that day.
    "As so many participants will have different first languages, Europe Talks organisers have suggested these video calls should take place in English if possible."

  • NHS staff offered snack box or a ‘commemorative badge’ for covid efforts HSJ Oct 19 reports tight-fisted, newly-merged Kent & Medway CCG has an underwhelming way of showing its appreciation:
    "A clinical commissioning group which is making redundancies has polled staff on whether they would prefer a thank you card from senior management or a “Graze-type snackbox” as recognition of their work over the last six months.
    "Staff at Kent and Medway CCG – which was formed from eight CCGs in April – are also being offered the option of a commemorative badge, an extra day of annual leave or a voucher. They can suggest other options.
    "They had until 5pm on Friday to complete the survey, which management says is an attempt to find out what a “genuine and heartfelt thank you to each one of you to recognise your contribution” should look like."

  • TED Europa - Garments for biological or chemical protection 2020/S 203-494877 Contract award notice Details of an £81m contract awarded to PPE Medpro Limited, a new £100 company incorporated in May 2020, with no obvious qualification to supply PPE beyond an association with big Tory donors (it had already received a £112m contract) .

  • People sent to 'non-existent' Sevenoaks Covid test site BBC report Oct 19: “People with suspected Covid-19 symptoms have been sent to a testing site in Kent that does not exist. The address in Sevenoaks had been listed on the government website, but "is not a test facility", the district council leader said.
    “Angie Waters, 67, drove to the site after booking a slot at 11:00 GMT. "It was an absolute fiasco," she said.
    “The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said people were no longer being sent to the "incorrect" location.
    “Kent County Council apologised to anyone who had "made a wasted journey" and said it was trying to find out "what went wrong". It said a mobile testing site was to be introduced by the DHSC due to a local rise in Covid-19 rates, but it had not yet arrived "for an unknown reason".”

  • The pursuit of herd immunity is a folly – so who's funding this bad science? Guardian Oct 18 comment by Trish Greenhalgh, Martin McKee and Michelle Kelly-Irving setting the record straight on a right wing intervention attempting to skew the discussion on dealing with Covid 19:
    “You may not have heard of the “Great Barrington declaration” but you’ll likely have seen the headlines that followed it. Journalists have written excitedly about an emerging rift in the scientific community as the consensus around the most effective response to Covid supposedly disintegrates. The declaration, which called for an immediate resumption of “life as normal” for everyone but the “vulnerable”, fuelled these notions by casting doubt on the utility of lockdown restrictions. “We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity”, it stated.
    “Scientists were swift in their response. The declaration’s core assumption, that population immunity will be achieved by allowing life to go on as normal and shielding only the most vulnerable from the virus, is entirely speculative. …
    “…The truth is that a strategy of pursuing “herd immunity” is nothing more than a fringe view. There is no real scientific divide over this approach, because there is no science to justify its usage in the case of Covid-19.”

  • Police 999 callouts to people suffering mental health crises soar Guardian report Oct 18: “The police are being called to deal with soaring numbers of incidents involving people suffering from mental health crises, sparking fresh concern about lack of NHS help for the mentally ill.
    “The number of such 999 callouts in England has risen by 41% over the past five years, with some police forces seeing more than a twofold jump since 2015, new figures reveal.
    “Mental health experts say the increase highlights the erosion over recent years of services for people with conditions such as depression and schizophrenia who end up in crisis.”

  • Covid vaccine roll-out must not involve private firms UNISON Press Release October 16:
    “In its response to a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care on changes to medicine regulations, the union has raised concerns about allowing non-healthcare professionals to administer any vaccine.
    "Millions of people will need to be protected from coronavirus once a vaccine is approved. It’s vital that any vaccination programme is delivered and supervised by healthcare professionals, says UNISON. There should be no cutting corners by allowing private firms to use staff with little training who could create added dangers, the union warns.
    "UNISON is also calling for some highly experienced groups such as operating department practitioners (ODPs) to be added to the list of health professionals who can administer vaccines.
    "UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “The government’s use of private companies to run test and trace has been a disaster. Any more mistakes on that scale will simply allow the virus to continue to spread.”

  • Serco says profits set to soar after Test and Trace contract extension Southern Daily Echo report Oct 16: "Outsourcing giant Serco has said it expects profits to exceed expectations in 2020 as a result of the uptick in work since the global pandemic.
    "Updating the London Stock Exchange in an unexpected announcement, the company said the excess profits could now be returned to shareholders, with a consultation on dividend payments under way.
    "The company, which is one of the largest companies involved the UK Government’s Test and Trace scheme, said it had achieved strong revenue growth in the three months from July, highlighting extensions to contracts to provide test sites and call handlers.
    "Bosses said this was “an indication of our customer’s satisfaction with the quality of work we have delivered” as part of the £12 billion committed by the Government to the system."

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