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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.

  • Coronavirus: England highest level of excess deaths BBC July 31 report based on latest figures from ONS:
    "The UK saw some of the biggest rises in deaths rates in Europe in the months until the middle of June, official analysis shows.
    "England saw the largest increase in death rates in Europe, with Scotland seeing the third largest increase.
    "The Office for National Statistics says that Spain saw the highest peak in rates of death in Europe.
    "But the UK had the longest period of above-average deaths and so overall saw higher death rates."

  • Last chance to protect the NHS from trade deals We Own It petition seeking to press the House of Lords to amend the trade bill after Tory MPs voted NOT to keep the NHS off the table:
    "Boris Johnson has betrayed the British people. He promised to "take back control" and "keep the NHS off the table", but over 300 of his MPs have voted against parliamentary scrutiny and NHS protection in the Trade Bill debate.
    "We have one last chance at stopping Donald Trump and his healthcare cronies. We need the House of Lords to step up now and protect our NHS.
    "Members of the House of Lords, please amend the Trade Bill to give parliament a say over trade deals and protect our NHS. "

  • A flat tax on the over 40s to pay for care would be deeply regressive and completely unfair July 27 Blog from tax expert Richard Murphy showing why plans that have been floated for a tax on the over-40s could be used to pump extra cash into the collapsing privatised social care system

  • NHS on course to miss major workforce target HSJ July 27 report: "A flagship target to increase the mental health workforce by 19,000 could be missed by nearly half, according to new government figures.
    "As part of a major plan announced in 2017, the government, NHS England and Health Education England announced plans to add 19,000 new NHS mental health jobs by 2020 to 2021, as part of a bid to address severe workforce shortages in the sector.
    "According to a parliamentary answer by mental health minister Nadine Dorries, the workforce increased by 9,500 in the three years from March 2017 to March 2020.
    "If recruitment continues at the same rate — which may prove challenging given the predicted constraints on international recruitment during the covid pandemic — then the number of additional staff would reach around 12,600 by March 2021."

  • Concern for England's mental health patients discharged at start of lockdown Guardian July 26 report: "Nearly 2,500 additional patients were discharged from mental health units across England at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, prompting concern that vulnerable people were released into the community before they were ready.
    "Official data analysed by the charity Mind showed 11,829 patients were discharged from mental health units in March 2020, a sharp rise from 9,836 last year and up by 2,441 from the February before lockdown started. The number of discharges fell back to 8,426 in April.
    "One of the patients released early was a man with severe mental health problems who was now missing in Spain. His family told the Guardian that they believed he was discharged too soon."

  • Over-40s in UK to pay more tax under plans to fix social care crisis Guardian July 26 report: "Everyone over 40 would start contributing towards the cost of care in later life under radical plans being studied by ministers to finally end the crisis in social care, the Guardian can reveal.
    "Under the plan over-40s would have to pay more in tax or national insurance, or be compelled to insure themselves against hefty bills for care when they are older. The money raised would then be used to pay for the help that frail elderly people need with washing, dressing and other activities if still at home, or to cover their stay in a care home.
    "The plans are being examined by Boris Johnson’s new health and social care taskforce and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). They are gaining support as the government’s answer to the politically perilous question of who should pay for social care.
    "Sources say the principle of over-40s meeting the cost of a reformed system of care for the ageing population is emerging as the government’s preferred option for fulfilling the prime minister’s pledge just over a year ago to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”. "

  • Nearly half of Florida's Covid-19 deaths linked to long-term care facilities CNN July 25 report: "In Florida, 46% of all Covid-19 related deaths are linked to long-term care facilities, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health.
    "To date, 2,645 out of 5,777 total deaths are associated with long-term care facilities in the state, health department data shows."

  • Corporate Insiders Pocket $1 Billion in Rush for Coronavirus Vaccine New York Times July 25: “The race is on to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and some companies and investors are betting that the winners stand to earn vast profits from selling hundreds of millions — or even billions — of doses to a desperate public.
    “Across the pharmaceutical and medical industries, senior executives and board members are capitalizing on that dynamic.
    “They are making millions of dollars after announcing positive developments, including support from the government, in their efforts to fight Covid-19. After such announcements, insiders from at least 11 companies — most of them smaller firms whose fortunes often hinge on the success or failure of a single drug — have sold shares worth well over $1 billion since March, according to figures compiled for The New York Times by Equilar, a data provider.
    “… The sudden windfalls highlight the powerful financial incentives for company officials to generate positive headlines in the race for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, even if the drugs might never pan out.”

  • Ex-chief of scandal-hit hospital now works for group advising NHS on patient safety Shocking Independent July 25 report revealing that a former chief executive who presided over a collapse of quality in care in Shrewsbury and Telford is now making big bucks as a consultant on patient safety:
    "The disgraced former chief executive of hospitals at the centre of the largest maternity scandal in NHS history is working for a major hospital group advising the health service on safety and leadership.
    "Simon Wright was head of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust, which is being investigated by the NHS over 1,900 maternity incidents including baby deaths. The trust was rated inadequate and placed into special measures by regulators during Mr Wright’s tenure.
    "He is now working as a “continuous improvement consultant” for the Virginia Mason Institute, which has a five-year contract with NHS England to help improve safety at five NHS trusts, including Shrewsbury and Telford.
    "Mr Wright, who was criticised by regulators in 2018 before resigning last year, describes himself on his LinkedIn profile as having been “a CEO in one of the most successful health systems in the world”. He does not mention the name of the trust."

  • ‘Bizarre’ That Face Masks Are a Partisan Issue, NIH Chief Says Bloomberg report from USA July 19: "It’s “bizarre” that mask-wearing in the U.S. has become so partisan and the “divide between different political perspectives” is making it harder to curb the coronavirus, the director of the National Institutes of Health said.
    "Speaking on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, NIH chief Francis Collins said he didn’t want anybody to think that mask-wearing is “something optional” as the nation attempts to tamp down the Covid-19 outbreak running at record levels.
    “Imagine you were an alien coming to the planet Earth and looking around,” Collins said. “You would be totally astounded, puzzled, amazed ... How could it be that something as basic as a public health action, that we have very strong evidence can help, seems to attach to people’s political party?”

  • Government admits its Test and Trace programme is unlawful Sky News report July 20: "The government has admitted its contact tracing programme is unlawful in a legal letter which confirms it has been running in breach of data protection laws since it was launched in May.
    "Confirmation the programme failed to adhere to privacy regulations comes as Sky News can reveal that contractors working for NHS Test and Trace have been told they may be fired following reports of dozens of staff sharing patients' confidential data on social media.
    "According to the legal letter, the government did not conduct a data privacy impact assessment (DPIA) which is required to ensure that breaches of patients' information don't take place."

  • When Is a Coronavirus Test Not a Coronavirus Test? If it takes 12 days to get results, it’s basically pointless. New York Times July 24 report: "Coronavirus testing in the United States has been bungled in every way imaginable. The latest fiasco is perhaps the most Kafka-esque: Tests are now widely available in many places, but results are often taking so long to come back that it is more or less pointless to get tested.
    "If it takes up to two weeks to get results, we can’t detect brewing outbreaks and respond with targeted shutdowns. We can’t do meaningful contact tracing. We can’t expect people to stay home from work or school for two weeks while they wait for the result of a screen. We have no way to render early treatment and attention to those who test positive, to try to prevent serious illness. It’s a disaster.
    "Many doctors can do a rapid strep test in half an hour, and the “slow” test takes a day. Imagine if it took 12 days before doctors knew whether to prescribe an antibiotic. You’d end up with more cases of meningitis, pneumonia and rheumatic fever. Strep could spread through families and schools like wildfire."

  • UK junk food ad ban 'could force deep cuts on TV channels' Guardian July 24 report reveals the extent to which TV is hooked on junk food, and can apparently only continue if it is allowed to fuel obesity and ill health:
    "British television channels could be forced to make cuts of more than £200m to their programme budgets if the government pushes ahead with plans to impose a blanket ban on junk food advertising.
    "In a further blow to a crisis-hit media industry, ITV would lose about £100m of income if a 9pm, pre-watershed ban is implemented, according to television industry estimates.
    "Channel 4 has estimated that it would lose £40m annually – almost a tenth of its now drastically reduced annual programming budget. Such a move could boost competing subscription services such as Netflix, which do not rely on advertising.
    “We know that the creative industries are already suffering as a result of Covid,” said one senior source at a commercial broadcaster, who said the government risked “kicking away the crutches” of the British television industry.""

  • Victoria's Covid-19 aged care disaster: 'This virus is like a fire out of control' Grim extended July 24 Guardian report on Australia's failing heavily privatised health and social care system: "The disaster unfolding in Victoria’s aged care homes was “absolutely foreseeable”, one of the country’s foremost experts in aged care says.
    "Authorities knew some facilities had poorly trained workers and underpaid part-time or casual staff who had to move between homes to make a living. There’d been overwhelming evidence about the vulnerability of aged care residents internationally. In Sydney, there was the outbreak of Covid-19 at Newmarch House. It was all documented.
    “We got this wrong from the very start,” says Prof Joseph Ibrahim, the head of the health law and ageing research unit at Monash University. The result, he and other experts say, is what is unfolding in Victoria."

  • Put a F**king Mask On! Foul mouthed, but very amusing exhortation from the brilliant Jonathan Pie conveys all the arguments needed to confront the anti-mask brigade -- in under 4 minutes.

  • Boris Johnson ready to curb the scope and power of judicial reviews Telegraph July 24 report on the threat to abolish one of the few options open to campaigners seeking to halt half-baked reconfiguration and closure plans that have been rubber stamped by NHS bureaucrats:
    "Boris Johnson has speeded up plans to curb the judiciary after axing a manifesto pledge to hold a commission on changing the way the courts operate.
    "The Prime Minister is expected to announce next week that he has set up a panel to examine the issue of judicial reviews, which were successfully used to overturn his decision to prorogue Parliament last year.
    "Mr Johnson believes the courts have become increasingly politicised and are being used to “conduct politics by another means” and wants to define in law what they can and cannot be used to challenge."

  • New £100m NHS intensive care unit shut over fire safety fears Guardian July 22: "A newly built £100m intensive care unit at an NHS hospital has been closed after it failed fire safety checks, leading to seriously ill patients being moved out.
    "King’s College hospital in south London has had to shut the critical care unit after its own engineers and the London fire brigade identified problems that could potentially make it unsafe.
    "The trust has declared a critical incident over the closure, which has been prompted by fears that panels on the outside of the unit could make it easier for a fire to spread.
    "The critical care unit only opened in April and is the biggest and most advanced facility of its kind in the NHS. It has played a key part in helping King’s manage an influx of seriously ill Covid-19 patients.
    "It holds up to 56 patients, and is understood to have had about 30 when the critical incident was declared on Wednesday morning. They are being moved to other parts of the hospital, including a critical care ward that had been closed for refurbishment."

  • Texas Covid-19 hot spot is facing a 'tsunami' of patients, overwhelming hospitals CNN July 22 report on the new surge of Covid infection in Texas: ""It's a tsunami what we're seeing right now," said Dr. Federico Vallejo, a critical care pulmonologist. Vallejo said he's treating nearly 50 to 60 patients a day. Sometimes he takes care of 70. "Normally, a critical care doctor sees about 15 to 20 patients during a rotation for a critical care doctor, according to Vallejo.
    "Vallejo said walking through the hallways at the hospital is a "massive shock," and he worries about the mental health of his colleagues who are overwhelmed with the sheer number of patients. "It's not easy to handle something like this."
    "The situation has grown so dire that Hidalgo County officials threatened this week to criminally prosecute people who don't quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19. Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez issued a shelter-at-home order for all residents starting Wednesday.
    "The order includes a curfew, travel limitations and facial covering requirements and comes as the county's hospitals have hit capacity, Cortez said."

  • Above-inflation pay rise for almost 900,000 public sector workers BBC July 21 report which finally gets round to admitting the lack of any new post-Covid pay rise for most health workers: "“Almost 900,000 public sector workers are to get an above-inflation pay rise, including doctors and teachers. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he recognised their "vital contribution" during the coronavirus pandemic.
    “The Treasury said the money for the pay increases of up to 3.1% would come from existing departmental budgets.
    “But Labour said the rise would not make up for years of real-terms cuts and the British Medical Association said doctors had hoped for "far better".
    “… Nurses are not included in Tuesday's announcement because they negotiated a separate three-year deal in 2018. The rise does also not apply to junior doctors, who agreed a new four-year pay deal last year.”

  • Make masks compulsory in GP surgeries to reduce Covid-19 risk, BMA urges Guardian July 21 report: "Face masks should be compulsory in GP surgeries to minimise the spread of Covid-19, according to one of the top representative bodies for doctors.
    "The British Medical Association said that compelling people to cover their face while in shops or on public transport but not in a GP practice is “illogical” and “makes no sense”.
    "It wants the government to change the law to make that mandatory, as they have already done after disagreements between ministers over their approach – for those other settings.
    “'The BMA is clear that face coverings should be mandatory in all situations where physical distancing of more than 2 metres is not possible. It makes no sense that the government has introduced one measure for shops and public transport, while other indoor spaces, including GP practices, are exempt'."

  • Coronavirus: NHS nurses told 'lives would be made hell' BBC July 21 report lifts the lid on an outrageous bullying regime in Nottingham's University Hospital: "Hospital nurses were told their "lives would be made hell" if they complained over conditions on a coronavirus ward, a union has claimed.
    "Unison has raised a group grievance for 36 employees, most of them nurses, at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.
    "It said staff on the Queen's Medical Centre ward were not trained properly, faced bullying for raising concerns and denied PPE "as punishment".
    "The trust said the allegations were "very troubling".
    "The union said the staff, which included nurses, senior nurses and healthcare assistants, volunteered to work on the hospital's only ward dealing with end-of-life coronavirus patients."

  • Covid-19: test all health and care workers weekly, says UK scientist Guardian July 21 begins: "All health and care staff should be routinely tested for Covid-19 once or twice a week, according to one of the UK’s most eminent scientists, Sir Paul Nurse, whose team’s research suggests 45% of staff were infected with coronavirus at the peak of the pandemic in England, most of whom showed no symptoms.
    "Giving evidence to the Commons health and social care select committee, Nurse, who turned the Crick Institute he heads into a testing laboratory, said his team had told ministers that frequent, routine testing was essential to ensure the safety of health and care staff and give the public the confidence to go into hospitals."

  • No new pay rise for nurses, confirms Downing Street Nursing Notes July 21 report: "The Treasury has revealed that nearly 900,000 public sector workers are to get a pay rise, with teachers and doctors seeing the largest rise at 3.1% and 2.8% respectively “recognising their efforts on the frontline during the battle against COVID-19”.
    "NHS staff working on the frontlines to battle COVID-19 and paid under the Agenda for Change terms and conditions are surprisingly missing from the new pay arrangements.
    "In an announcement made today, the Treasury claims this is because there is already a settlement in place for “for more than one million NHS workers who continue to benefit from the three-year Agenda for Change pay deal, under which the starting pay for a newly qualified nurse has increased by over 12% since 2017/18.”
    "It goes on to proclaim that the average nurse will “receive an average 4.4% rise this year”.
    "In stark contrast to the claim, the vast majority of frontline nurses received just 1.65% in April this year – the last rise of a multi-year pay deal which saw the average take-home salary of a Band 5 nurse rise by just 7%."

  • Covid conspiracies and confusions: the impact on compliance with the UK’s lockdown rules and the link with social media use A frightening survey of UK public views, highlighting the extent of conspiracy theories and the impact of fake news and false information transmitted via social media:
    "3 in 10 think coronavirus was probably created in a lab, up from a quarter at the beginning of April.
    • 3 in 10 think most people in the UK have already had coronavirus without realising it.
    • 3 in 10 believe the Covid-19 death toll is being deliberately reduced or hidden by the authorities.
    • 1 in 7 believe the death toll is being deliberately exaggerated by the authorities.
    • 1 in 8 believe that the current pandemic is part of a global effort to force everyone to be vaccinated.
    • More than 1 in 20 believe that the symptoms that most people blame on Covid-19 appear to be connected to 5G network radiation.
    • More than 1 in 20 believe there is no hard evidence that Covid-19 really exists"

  • Cheap, popular and it works: Ireland's contact-tracing app success Guardian July 20 report: "A government minister once compared Ireland’s health care system to Angola – a political minefield of dysfunction, bureaucracy, waste and inefficiency. The nickname stuck.
    "Yet this morass has just produced a shiny success: a Covid-19 contact-tracing app that is popular and appears to work.
    "Since launching on 6 July, the Covid Tracker app was downloaded 1.3m times in eight days – the fastest-downloaded app per capita in Europe – and has started picking up cases of infection.
    “We’ve been delighted by the take-up rate. It’s gone beyond the initial hopes,” said Colm Harte, the technical director of NearForm, the company that made the app for the Health Service Executive (HSE)."

  • England's test and trace programme 'breaks GDPR data law' BBC July 20: "Privacy campaigners say England's test and trace programme has broken a key data protection law.
    "The Department of Health has conceded the initiative to trace contacts of people infected with Covid-19 was launched without carrying out an assessment of its impact on privacy.
    "The Open Rights Group (ORG) says the admission means the initiative has been unlawful since it began on 28 May."

  • Coronavirus outbreak confirmed at NHS Test and Trace centre in North Lanarkshire London Evening Standard July 20 unusually aware of events in Scotland that reveal what appears to be unsafe practices by contractors running test and trace call centre:
    "A cluster of coronavirus infections has been confirmed at an NHS Test and Trace call centre in North Lanarkshire.
    "Measures have been brought in by the region’s health board to try and suppress the outbreak, which flared up at the Sitel site in Motherwell.
    "NHS Lanarkshire said it had been notified about “potentially linked cases” of Covid-19 infections in the area on Sunday.
    "An NHS Test and Trace spokeswoman said: “We are aware of a local outbreak of Covid-19 at the Sitel site in Motherwell. This is being managed by Sitel and colleagues in NHS Lanarkshire, who are following appropriate test and protect action in line with Scottish Government advice."

  • England’s chief nurse confirms she was ‘dropped’ from No 10 press conference after voicing Dominic Cummings criticism Independent July 20: "England’s chief nursing officer has confirmed she was “dropped” from a No 10 coronavirus press briefing in June after warning Dominic Cummings should follow the lockdown rules that apply “to us all”.
    "It comes after The Independent revealed last month Ruth May had been due to appear alongside Matt Hancock, the health secretary, but was ditched after failing to offer support to Boris Johnson’s senior Downing Street adviser.
    "In her first public comments on the incident, the chief nursing officer confirmed the report and said it was “regular occurrence” that expert colleagues advising the government had also been stood down from daily briefings during the pandemic.
    "Seizing on Ms May’s comments, Labour said it was “scandalous” that England’s most senior nurse, who appeared at various briefings before being dropped, was silenced because “she wasn’t prepared to parrot Downing Street spin” in relation to Mr Cummings."

  • Test and trace in England less successful in poorer areas, figures show Guardian July 20 report: "England’s poorest communities are at greater risk of a second wave of coronavirus owing to imbalances in the national test-and-trace system, official figures suggest.
    "Data obtained by the Guardian shows that a much lower proportion of at-risk people are being contacted and told to self-isolate in deprived towns than in wealthier areas.
    "In Blackpool, 37% of people who had been in close contact with an infected person were not reached by the system. This compares with 9% in Cheshire East, which includes the affluent towns of Knutsford and Wilmslow.
    "Similarly, in Knowsley, Merseyside, more than one in three at-risk people were not contacted, compared with one in 10 in Trafford, a mostly upmarket borough of Greater Manchester."

  • Tories vote down amendment to protect NHS from foreign control in Brexit trade deals Evolve Politics July 20 report on Tories reneging on their 2019 election promises to keep the NHS off the table in trade talks: "The Conservative Party have tonight used their 78-seat majority to vote down an amendment designed to protect the NHS and publicly-funded health and care services from being subject to any form of control from outside the UK in a future post-Brexit Trade Deal.
    "The amendment, which was put forward by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and supported by Labour leader Keir Starmer and a number of other senior Labour MPs, was voted down by a margin of 340 to 241 thanks to the Tories’ overwhelming parliamentary majority."

  • Government’s test and trace system failing in areas battling major outbreaks, leaked analysis reveals Independent July 19 report: "England’s “world beating” coronavirus test and trace service is failing to reach more than half the contacts named by infected residents in Blackburn with Darwen – where health chiefs are battling a major outbreak.
    "Leaked analysis obtained by The Independent shows that across northwest England, the national tracing service is reaching only 52 per cent of all close contacts, leading one senior source to say: “The contact tracing service is now part of the problem we are trying to solve, not the solution.”
    "The data also shows that less than half of close contacts are being reached in Oldham, St Helens, Manchester and Rochdale. The best performance for the region is in Cheshire East, where a third are still being missed."

  • Seven in 10 back mandatory use of masks in shops in England, poll finds Guardian July 19: "Concerns that the wearing of masks could become a new front in a political “culture war” have been eased after evidence emerged that a clear majority of the public back their use in shops and supermarkets.
    "An Opinium poll for the Observer reveals that 71% of adults in England support making masks mandatory in shops, with only 13% opposed to the move. Support was consistent across parties and age groups. Almost two-thirds of UK adults (64%) said they believed masks were an effective way to contain the spread of Covid-19.
    "There is also wide acceptance that the value of masks is to protect other people. Most people (54%) say masks are worn mainly to prevent the person wearing it accidentally infecting others, while 30% say they are needed to protect others and prevent others infecting them. Just 8% believe masks are mainly to protect the person wearing them."

  • ‘Risk death or risk jail’: Health workers around the world detained and attacked during the pandemic Alarming must-read July 19 report in the Independent reveals:
    “Amnesty reports that globally at least 3,000 health workers have died from Covid-19 – a figure that is likely to be a significant underestimate because of the lack of testing.
    “The highest recorded medic death toll is in Russia. An unofficial count collated by medics says at least 584 healthcare professionals have died from Covid-19 (although the official number is just over 100). The UK is not far behind with 540 recorded deaths, followed by the US, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and finally Egypt.
    “It is not just about human rights; it has direct health implications for everyone,” says Hussein Baoumi, Egypt researcher at Amnesty, which is urging states to take the lives of health workers seriously.
    “When you silence the people on the ground expressing valid concerns, this has implications for all the lives of the health workers and the entire population.”

  • Cubans celebrate no local transmission of COVID-19 for first time in four months Reuters report July 19: “Cuba for the first time in 130 days on Sunday said there were no new domestic cases of COVID-19 as most of the country moved into the final phase of resuming normal activities with masks and social distancing.
    “Francisco Duran, head of epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health, and who has updated the country daily on the pandemic, took off his mask during the national broadcast for only the second time deliver the good news. Duran, on Saturday did the same, reporting just a single domestic case in Havana.
    “Only a handful of COVID-19 cases were reported in Cuba over the last week, all in Havana. Most of the Caribbean island, home to 11.2 million inhabitants, has been free of the disease for more than a month.”

  • Three quarters of the public want the NHS protected in trade deal with Trump Mirror July 19 report: "A new poll has found 75% of people want the NHS to be protected in a trade deal with Donald Trump.
    "Parliament is set to debate the next stage of the Trade Bill tomorrow and an overwhelming majority want it to include specific protections for the NHS.
    "The poll, conducted by Survation and commissioned by campaign group We Own It, also found nearly half of the public don’t believe Boris Johnson when he says the NHS is not “on the table” in trade talks with the US - 38% say they don’t believe him, while 19% say they don’t know.
    "Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly has tabled an amendment which would give parliament the power to scrutinise and vote on future trade deals - a power they currently don’t have, and nearly 4,000 people have written to their MP asking them to support the amendment."

  • Trump administration seeking to block funding for CDC, contact tracing and testing in new relief bill July 18 report from the US (The Hill) on the latest dangerous efforts of Trump:
    "The Trump administration is attempting to block billions of dollars for contact tracing, additional testing and other coronavirus mitigation efforts that would potentially be included in Congress's next coronavirus relief package, officials involved in the negotiations told The Washington Post.
    "According to the Post's sources, the administration is also trying to block billions in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that GOP senators want to give the agency as it continues to battle COVID-19 on the front lines."

  • Bad News about the Pandemic: We’re Not Getting Back to Normal Any Time Soon Scientific American article July 18 explains why so many people cling on to such false ideas and reject necessary precautions over covid:
    "Many disregarded the new guidance, especially if those they considered authority figures did not reinforce it. Consequent to a mental blind spot called emotional contagion, we tend to adopt the perspectives of those we see as authority figures.
    "With their guidance, we can overcome initial anchoring; without it, we will stick to our initial perspective.
    "Just as problematic is another dangerous judgment error that cognitive neuroscientists call normalcy bias. This mental blind spot refers to the fact that our gut reactions drive us to feel that the future, at least in the short and medium term of the next couple of years, will function in roughly the same way as the past: normally.
    "As a result, we tend to vastly underestimate both the possibility and impact of a disaster striking us. Moreover, we will rush to get back to normal even when we should be preparing for the aftershocks or continuation of the disaster."

  • How south Liverpool coronavirus outbreak was spotted and tackled and what happens next July 18 Liverpool Echo report shows what public health systems can do with the right information at the right time: "It was a Thursday afternoon when Liverpool's relatively new Director of Public Health Matt Ashton spotted something.
    "He had been analysing coronavirus data that had arrived on his desk on July 9 when he located a potential cluster of infections in the city.
    "The problems with getting data from the government's centralised systems to local health leaders like Matt has been well documented - but in recent weeks things have improved.
    "The more granular level of the numbers Matt received allowed him to work out that in some specific areas of south Liverpool - as well as Knotty Ash in the east and Halewood over the Knowsley border - there had been a spike in positive cases.
    "He explained: "With my team we dug down further into the data and were able to see that this was predominantly a cluster of young people aged between 15 and 24.
    "We had spotted a pattern there and were able to use insights to link it to community gatherings that had taken place in some of those areas."

  • Most of the World May Face Covid Without a Vaccine Bloomberg july 18 interview with expert Klaus Stohr, who warns:
    "The epidemiological behavior of this virus will not be that much different from other respiratory diseases. During winter, they come back.
    "There will be another wave, and it will be very serious. More than 90% of the population is susceptible. If we do not tighten again to a serious lockdown or similar measures, the virus is going to cause a significant outbreak. Winter is coming before the vaccine. There will be an increase in cases, and there will be problems containing it because people seem not very amenable to more constraints in their movement and freedom."

  • Scientists pour cold water on PM’s ‘open by Christmas’ vow The London Economic July 18: "The Prime Minister signalled another significant easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England on Friday, relaxing work-from-home guidance and paving the way for theatres and sports stadiums to reopen. At a No 10 press conference, he said it was his “strong and sincere hope” that ministers would be able to review the remaining restrictions from November onwards “possibly in time for Christmas”.
    "However scientists quickly poured cold water on the Prime Minister’s statement.
    "Sir Mark Walport, a former chief scientific adviser, said that it could prove difficult to achieve such significant relaxation with respiratory illnesses tending to flourish in the colder weather. He said that while the disease was declining, there were still between 3,000 and 11,000 new cases a day in England."

  • Government’s test and trace system failing in areas battling major outbreaks, leaked analysis reveals Independent July 18 report: "England’s “world beating” coronavirus test and trace service is failing to reach more than half the contacts named by infected residents in Blackburn with Darwen – where health chiefs are battling a major outbreak.
    "Leaked analysis obtained by The Independent shows that across northwest England, the national tracing service is reaching only 52 per cent of all close contacts, leading one senior source to say: “The contact tracing service is now part of the problem we are trying to solve, not the solution.”
    "The data also shows that less than half of close contacts are being reached in Oldham, St Helens, Manchester and Rochdale. The best performance for the region is in Cheshire East, where a third are still being missed."

  • UK government to stop publishing daily coronavirus deaths while review carried out Liverpool Echo July 18: “The government will temporarily stop announcing the daily coronavirus death figures because of concerns about how accurate they are.
    “Health Secretary Matt Hancock has launched an inquiry after Public Health experts said the number of deaths associated with the virus may have been over-exagerrated.
    “But scientists have questioned the move and suggested that there is unlikely to be a 'massive distortion' of the figures.
    “Academics have said the way that Public Health England(PHE) calculates the data means they might look worse there than in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Mirror reports.”

  • Matt Hancock in new U-turn on coronavirus testing data Guardian July 18: "The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has bowed to pressure from councils, which demanded full access to the names and data of people in their areas who tested positive for Covid-19, and those with whom they have been in contact, in another major government U-turn.
    "Local authorities and public health officials have been complaining for weeks that they are being hampered in efforts to combat and prevent local outbreaks by lack of access to “named patient data” which would allow them to get straight to the sources of local outbreaks.
    "Now the Observer has been told that Hancock, who has insisted repeatedly that local authorities have all the information they need from the track and trace system, is set to give way and allow access to the named data as well other information already provided, such as postcodes, so long as strict data protection rules and conditions are followed."

  • We must not let the government seize back control from doctors Guardian July 17 giving a platform to Andrew Lansley, former Tory health secretary and architect of 2012 Health & Social Care Act, warning Johnson government against repealing any of it:
    "I believe I speak with some experience when I say that structural reorganisation of the NHS is not a task on which to embark lightly, let alone gratuitously.
    "Britain is in the midst of a health crisis unparalleled in living memory. Doctors and nurses, and all our NHS workers, have rightly been lauded for their selfless service during this difficult time, for which some have very sadly given their lives."

  • Senior Tory accuses Johnson of blaming NHS for government's Covid-19 failings Guardian comment on July 17 article it carries from Andrew Lansley (see below):
    "Andrew Lansley, the Conservative former health secretary, has criticised the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and accused it of trying to blame the NHS for its own failings.
    "Lansley made clear that delays in instigating the lockdown, ordering personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff and increasing testing were made by ministers, not health service bosses.
    "Lansley – now a Tory peer – also said Boris Johnson’s plan to grab more direct control of the NHS, as revealed in the Guardian last week, was wrong and would undermine the service."

  • Health secretary must intervene at Homerton Hospital to halt “outrageous” outsourcing deal, says UNISON London region UNISON July 17 increasing the pressure on Homerton Hospital's renewed contract with ISS:
    "The secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock must intervene to stop a controversial new outsourcing deal at London’s Homerton Hospital, says UNISON in a letter sent today (Friday).
    "Last month, the hospital trust issued a Voluntary Ex-Ante Transparency (VEAT) notice, allowing it to bypass the competitive-tendering process. It now intends to award a new five-year contract to global outsourcing giant ISS Mediclean.
    "However, regulations say that a VEAT notice can only be used under certain conditions, which UNISON says haven’t been met.
    "ISS Mediclean currently provides catering, cleaning, security and portering services at Homerton University Hospital in Hackney.
    "The company’s workers have provided essential services to the hospital during the pandemic, but earn less than their directly employed NHS colleagues, ​get fewer days annual leave and only statutory sick pay."

  • Boris Johnson statement fact-checked BBC Fact check July 17 begins with this deception:
    "Boris Johnson: "We have substantially increased the pipeline of personal protective equipment [PPE] for the NHS and social care constituting over 30 billion items of PPE over the course of the pandemic".
    "However, government figures show that only 2.3 billion items have actually been delivered to health and social care services in England, up to 12 July.
    "This includes 1.4 billion gloves (which are counted individually as opposed to in pairs).
    "It's not immediately clear where the 30 billion number comes from, but it could include future deliveries.
    "On 26 June, Lord Deighton who's leading the government's PPE efforts, said there were 28 billion items on order.
    "Adding that together with what has already been delivered would be just over 30 billion."

  • Why Poor Countries Could Be Priced Out Of Oxford University's Covid-19 Vaccine Huffington Post July 17: "A pharma giant could price poorer countries out of a British coronavirus vaccine in the future due to a loophole in the non-profit agreement it signed with Oxford University, campaigners have warned – among them one of the first participants in the trial itself.
    "Volunteer Luigi Ceccaroni has demanded the details of a distribution deal between Oxford University and AztraZeneca be made public, saying he fears the firm could still profiteer from the drug once the first global peak dies down. AstraZeneca told HuffPost UK this week it was “too early to comment on pricing post-pandemic”.
    "Ceccaroni’s concerns have been echoed by shadow minister for science and research Chi Onwurah, and by campaign group Global Justice Now."

  • Shrewsbury Hospital: ‘The staff appear not to know what good care looks like’ Independent July 16 with telling leaked letter from hospitals inspector Prof Ted Baker:
    "Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust has been in special measures and rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) since 2018, but in a leaked letter, revealed today by The Independent, the chief inspector of hospitals reveals that the situation at the hospital is getting worse.
    "Professor Ted Baker details a litany of concerns over the standards of care at the trust in a letter to NHS England earlier this month and he warned unless action was taken patients are being exposed to unnecessary harm.
    "His letter reveals the Midlands trust is facing more criminal investigations and enforcement actions than any other NHS trust in England. It’s been inspected five times since August 2018, and had more than 90 specific conditions imposed."

  • Up to £10 billion of the Chancellor's 'Plan for Jobs' will be funded by underspends on previously planned projects IFS less than enthusiastic July 16 analysis of government's so-called Roosevelt-like spending plans: "The UK Government is spending big on supporting public services and the economy through the COVID-19 recovery and beyond. There are, for example, ‘up to £30 billion pounds’ of measures counted in the ‘Plan for Jobs’ announced in the Summer Economic Update last week, although the OBR thinks they will ultimately cost around £20 billion.
    "However, alongside this – but with much less fanfare – are reductions in spending on other things as some previously planned projects and investments are now deemed less of a priority or infeasible given the COVID-19 crisis. The Treasury’s decisions on funding for the devolved governments suggest they expect these underspends to amount to almost £8 billion; the OBR expects more like £10 billion.
    "A lack of transparency over where spending is expected to be lower is contributing to confusion about the overall scale of fiscal support being provided, as well as the amount that the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should receive to fund their own measures. It makes scrutiny of plans more difficult and is corrosive to trust. "

  • Coronavirus outcome in the UK has not been good, admits chief scientific adviser Independent July 16 report: "Giving evidence to MPs on the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Sir Patrick Vallance said: “My view, and I think this is a view shared by Sage [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies], is that we’re still at a time when distancing measures are important.
    "And, of the various distancing measures, working from home for many companies remains a perfectly good option because it’s easy to do.
    “I think a number of companies think it’s actually not detrimental to productivity, and in that situation, there’s absolutely no reason I can see to change it.”
    "Sir Patrick admitted the UK has not had a good outcome from the coronavirus pandemic and he warned that the UK lacks enough tests for winter.
    "He said: “It’s clear the outcome in the UK has not been good. I think we can be absolutely clear about that"."

  • I'm one of the thousands of extra cancer deaths we'll see this year Moving Guardian comment article July 16 from Prof Val Curtis, director of the environmental health group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: “I’m going to die soon, but before I do, I want to see a plan for a better NHS, one that does not needlessly lose lives. There is a large majority in the UK in favour of properly funding the NHS."

  • Spending Watchdog Urged To Probe Government's £5bn PPE Contracts Huffington Post July 16 report: "The UK’s spending watchdog has been urged by Labour to investigate the government’s multi-billion pound procurement of protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
    "The party has written to the National Audit Office to request a probe following the award of a number of contracts without any competition under emergency procedures used by ministers, HuffPost UK has learned.
    "The move came as it emerged that the Cabinet Office had awarded a £800,000 contract to consultants McKinsey for the “Provision of Consultancy Services for Civil Service Modernisation and Reform”.
    "The contract suggests that the PM’s adviser Dominic Cummings is driving through his agenda to overhaul the civil service."

  • Tired of being Boris Johnson's patsy, Patrick Vallance fights back July 16 parliamentary sketch in Guardian by john Crace: "It’s fair to say that Vallance has been a little slow off the mark right from the very start of the pandemic. Not so much with the science – though he’s hardly excelled at that – but with PR management. "For a long time, he was under the impressions that his prime role was to provide the government with independent scientific advice; it’s only over the course of the last few weeks he’s realised his real function was to be a human shield for Boris. And he’s clearly not happy about having been suckered in this way.
    "So for Vallance, a two-hour appearance before the science and technology select committee was an ideal opportunity to lay the foundations of his fightback. A chance to redirect the blame to where it really lay. "

  • Matt Hancock orders pause in use of sub-standard coronavirus testing swabs Independent July 16 report on the halting of the gravy train for a company advised by former Tory minister Owen Paterson: "Health secretary Matt Hancock has ordered a halt to the use of Randox-branded coronavirus testing kits after swabs were found not to be up to required standards.
    "Mr Hancock told the House of Commons that there was no evidence of clinical harm to patients or of the results of tests being invalidated by use of the sub-standard equipment.
    "The award in March of a £133 million contract for testing kits to the Northern Ireland-based company caused controversy when official documents indicated that it was awarded without a competitive process.
    "In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said it had been “notified that some test kits produced by Randox laboratories may not meet our required safety standards for coronavirus testing”."

  • Johnson has failed on social care. That's why he is dodging a coronavirus inquiry Polly Toynbee in a July 16 Guardian column arguing limitations of any inquiry into the government's handling of coronavirus:
    "any inquiry would not only expose the lethal blunders that left Britain “world-beating” in Covid-19 mistakes, but it would open up the great social care dilemma.
    "Every wicked political issue congregates here: the passionate feelings about inheritances lost to care costs, the anti-immigration sentiment Priti Patel panders to in denying visas to “low-skilled” care workers, the injustice between those with Alzheimer’s (who pay) and those with cancer (who don’t).
    "It would expose the catastrophic neglect of Britain’s older people, 1.5 million of whom lack the care they need, despite a 25% increase in the number of over-65s in the last decade.
    "The Treasury will have noted the £8bn the Health Foundation reports it would take just to restore care to the (far from ideal) 2010 standards."

  • Government accused of giving £830m worth of coronavirus contracts to Tory ‘friends’ Mirror July 16 report: “Opposition MPs allege 12 different companies were contracted to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to health services which “never materialised” - three months on from when orders were made.
    “Labour also pressed ministers over a tender handed to Public First, an analytics firm run by long-time associates of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings without “any public tender process”.
    “… Labour MP Helen Hayes said although her party understood the need to procure goods “at speed” during a national emergency it was not an “excuse for reducing transparency”.
    “How does the minister explain reports that contracts at the value of more than £830 million had been awarded to at least 12 different companies for PPE which has never materialised?” she put to cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt.”

  • ‘We made it’: Medics recount emotional moment Bergamo hospital ICU declared coronavirus-free Interesting July 15 feature in the Independent:
    "The last Covid-19 patient in Bergamo’s main coronavirus hospital was a 51-year-old man. He had been infected with a very severe form of the virus, which caused his lungs to fail and involved other organs. But on 8 July, after more than two months, he was able to leave the intensive care unit.
    "Staff gathered in the hall and held a minute of silence to mourn all of Bergamo’s coronavirus deaths – then the silence gave way to a euphoric round of applause. It was over. After more than four months, the ICUs in Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital were declared coronavirus-free.
    “We can say we made it,” Luca Lorini, 59, the head of the hospital’s resuscitation department, tells The Independent. “We don’t know if the coronavirus will attack us again, but we have won this battle.”
    "Signs of a newly found normality are everywhere in Bergamo, once the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus crisis. Residents are again flocking to shopping malls and outdoor bars in parks, although wearing a mask is still compulsory. Patients have begun to book check-ups and elective treatment like colonoscopies and ultrasounds."

  • Management consultancy McKinsey brought in to review NHS Test and Trace programme Independent July 15 on the latest in the test and trace fiasco:
    "A management consultancy company has reportedly been brought in to review the NHS Test and Trace programme.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care asked McKinsey to review the governance and organisational form of the programme, the Health Service Journal reported.
    "The consultancy has been asked to consider whether the organisation should remain as a directly controlled DHSC agency, be given greater operational independence or be merged with another DHSC body such as Public Health England, according to the journal.
    "The programme was hastily put together in May as Covid-19 swept through the UK, with many senior personnel brought in on short term contracts."

  • National roll-out of ‘call before you walk’ A&Es set for winter HSJ July 15 confirming the NHS is not aiming to return to pre-Covid 'normal,' and bringing in policies that could make life difficult for people with mental health problems: "NHS England plans to introduce a “call before you walk” model for accident and emergency by winter, HSJ has been told.
    "Trials of new systems to prevent overcrowding in emergency departments ahead of a potential second wave of covid-19 in the winter are taking place at hospitals in Portsmouth and Cornwall and are due to shortly be expanded to other areas such as Newcastle, HSJ can reveal.
    "London is also experimenting with introducing the system, having pulled back from an earlier proposal to roll it out it rapidly, shortly after the covid-19 peak."

  • Ahead of the second wave: COVID-19 and BME staff by Roger Kline BMJ blog July 15 from Roger Kline: "Local NHS organisations could legitimately ask of national NHS organisations why national guidance on risk assessments was so late they each had to create their own risk assessment tools. They could ask why, if the treatment of BME staff is so important now, WRES data collection was suspended at the start of lockdown (apparently because some didn’t see it as a priority). They could ask why the track record of national organisations on race equality has been poor (6).
    "But to do so would be to miss the point.
    "Staff infected at work die, become very ill, or have to self-isolate along with work colleagues they have been in contact with. It is a patient safety issue too. 20% of coronavirus infections among hospital patients may have been caught in hospital (3), a significant number presumably from those infected staff.
    "This is primarily a governance failure. Staff are entitled to know their employers have taken all reasonably practicable steps to assess risks and mitigate them as required by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations. "

  • Right-wing propaganda pair paid £3 million to Run Coronavirus Communications Byline Times July 15 report lifts the lid on more dodgy dealings and lucrative contracts handed out to mates of ministers, and the man in charge Dominic Cummings:
    "A firm specialising in right-wing propaganda campaigns will be paid £3 million for helping to run the Government’s Coronavirus communications operation.
    "Documents published yesterday by the Government show that Topham Guerin Limited was awarded a massive, multi-million pound contract to deliver digital content on Coronavirus.
    "The company is run by Sean Topham and Ben Guerin – two New Zealanders who have a background in right-wing political campaigns. Indeed, the pair worked on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s successful 2019 General Election campaign, proudly using “boomer memes” – graphics that are often poorly designed but appeal to middle-aged Facebook users – to help the right-wing Liberal Party to achieve a shock victory."

  • Study: Immunity To Coronavirus May Fade Away Within Weeks Forbes report July 15: "Many patients who have recovered from Covid-19 may lose their immunity to the disease within months, according to research from scientists at King's College London, which, if proven true, will have wide implications for vaccine development and could put a "nail in the coffin" in the idea that herd immunity to the coronavirus is attainable.
    "… It's important to note that this is a longitudinal study that has not been peer-reviewed. If it turns out to be supported by other research, the ramifications on the durability of vaccine protection would be substantial. Most significantly, it would mean that herd immunity to the coronavirus is likely unachievable.
    "Many scientists have previously predicted individuals may be susceptible to being infected by Covid-19 repeatedly because short-term immunity and reinfection has been observed in other human coronaviruses."

  • Coronavirus UPDATES: £100 mask fines for England shoppers amid second wave fears Mirror report July 14: "Police will soon be able to fine shoppers up to £100 if they don't wear a face covering in stores and supermarkets.
    "Face coverings and masks are set to become compulsory in all shops across England from July 24.
    "Rule-flouters will be fined by police, under the latest coronavirus powers that ministers have yet to set out.
    "The latest move comes as health experts issue a 'worst-case scenario' prediction warning 120,000 more could die in the UK if a winter second wave hits.
    "And worldwide there have now been more than 13 million cases of coronavirus reported, affecting more than 210 countries."

  • A record 5.4 million people lost their health coverage amid the pandemic, a study found New York Times July 14 report on more grim consequences of a US health care system that ties health insurance to employment:
    "The coronavirus pandemic stripped an estimated 5.4 million Americans of their health insurance between February and May, a stretch in which more adults became uninsured because of job losses than have ever lost coverage in a single year, according to a new analysis.
    "As Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports, the study, to be released Tuesday by the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group Families U.S.A., found that the estimated increase in uninsured laid-off workers over the three-month period was nearly 40 percent higher than the highest previous increase, which occurred during the recession of 2008 and 2009. In that period, 3.9 million adults lost insurance.
    “We knew these numbers would be big,’’ said Stan Dorn, who directs the group’s National Center for Coverage Innovation and was the author of the study. “This is the worst economic downturn since World War II. It dwarfs the Great Recession. So it’s not surprising that we would also see the worst increase in the uninsured.”

  • National Nurses United Endorses Biden Statement from National Nurses Unite explaining why despite his shortcomings they are backing Joe Biden as the only serious challenger to replace Trump:
    “’Vice President Biden is presenting a clear alternative to this president and his administration on a number of essential issues to nurses, and all working people,’ NNU President Zenei Cortez, RN, said.
    “‘On the COVID-19 crisis, for example, “Biden has committed to fully invoke the Defense Production Act to mass produce personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure nurses and other health care workers will have the life-saving protections we need,’ said Cortez.
    “Biden has also endorsed NNU’s call for an emergency federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard to protect worker’s safety during pandemics.
    “…No matter who is elected, Ross noted, NNU will continue to mobilize on health care, racial, gender, worker, and environmental and climate justice and other priorities “that require a strong mass movement to overcome entrenched corporate and far right opposition,” Ross noted.
    “In particular, ‘NNU will continue our campaign, in which we have rallied thousands of people across the country to press for enactment of Medicare for All to guarantee health care as a human right for everyone, without the barriers imposed every day by a profit-focused health care industry,” Ross said. “The calamitous pandemic has reinforced why Medicare for All, as a public health emergency, is urgently needed more than ever’.”

  • Face masks: should you wash them or throw them away? Independent report on July 14 as government reveals it has struck a deal with the coronavirus to hold off on any further infection until July 24, when England will catch up with most of the civilised world:
    "Face coverings are to become compulsory in shops in England from 24 July, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
    "The move will bring England in line with Scotland, which made face coverings mandatory in shops on 10 July and comes after the British government followed in the footsteps of other nations on 11 May by advising the wearing of masks when in enclosed spaces, such as going to the supermarket.
    "From 15 June, it also became mandatory to wear a face covering when using public transport.
    "“If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet," the advice stated. "This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example, on public transport or in some shops."

  • Not all foreign NHS staff eligible for free visa extension scheme - BBC Newsnight BBC Newsnight July 14 report underlines the fact that not all NHS staff – and no social care staff – are covered by the new "health and care" visa launched by Pitiless Priti Patel. "The Home Office has given a one-year free visa extension for some staff in the NHS and care sectors. But health workers such as cleaners are porters are not eligible."

  • The Government's Ten Biggest Coronavirus Lies Unmasked The excellent Byline Times in a compilation of the ten biggest of the government's Covid porkies in the last six months:
    "Since the Coronavirus arrived in the UK, Boris Johnson’s Government has often contradicted itself, often within days, from one press conference to the next. Some of these contradictions were half-truths, U-turns on policy, or the result of missed targets. But among these contradictions were lies so big they are symptomatic of an entire populist political project. Here are the ten biggest so far."

  • Government faces backlash after care workers are excluded from fast track visas BMJ blog (July 14) on the limitations of the visas designed to fast track those coming to the UK to work in the health and care sector:
    “…Under the new system the health and care visa will allow people working in eligible occupations, who speak English, and have a job offer, to come to the UK.
    “Under this visa route, workers and their families will gain fast tracked entry to the UK with reduced application fees and dedicated support, the government said. Those who are eligible to apply, and their dependents, will also be exempt from paying the immigration health surcharge, a move that has been welcomed by doctors.
    “Applicants must meet a salary threshold of £25 600 … to be eligible to apply for the visa, unless they are entering a shortage occupation such as nursing and medicine. The NHS workers union GMB said that this threshold would mean that many NHS cleaners, porters, and support staff won’t qualify for the visa.
    “… Although the Migration Advisory Committee—on whose advice much of the new system is based—recognised the workforce shortage faced by social care in its most recent report it did not recommend that care workers be added to the list of shortage occupations.”

  • UK frontline worker death rate second highest among 79 countries, report shows July 13 Independent report on another shameful statistic that speaks volumes on government mishandling of the Covid pandemic:
    "The UK has one of the highest death tolls in the world among health and social care workers during the coronavirus crisis, according to a report by Amnesty International.
    "The human rights organisation said at least 540 frontline staff have died after contracting the virus in England and Wales – second only to Russia, which has recorded 545 deaths.
    "Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that 268 deaths involving Covid-19 among social care workers were registered in England and Wales between 9 March and 25 May.
    "In the same period, the ONS reported that 272 deaths involving the virus were registered among healthcare staff, including doctors, nurses and midwives, nurse assistants, paramedics and ambulance staff, and hospital porters."

  • 37-year-old Port Clinton war vet dies from COVID-19 complications on Fourth of July Cleveland report on the sorry end of a man who boasted his refusal to wear a mask:
    "“Richard Rose was only 37 years old when he died at his home from complications due to COVID-19. He was born and raised in Port Clinton.
    “Those who knew Rose described him as kind, funny, and caring. His family said he was very active in helping homeless vets and in preventing veteran suicide.
    “The Port Clinton man served in the U.S. Army for nine years and did two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He died at his home from complications related to COVID-19 on the Fourth of July.
    “‘We were blown away, you know? You hear about this virus and you don’t expect it to affect people, younger people like ourselves,’ said Nick Conley, who was Rose’s friend.
    “Conley met Rose through a shared love of video games. He is crushed that he lost his friend to this virus, but he’s also hurt by something Rose posted on Facebook back in April.
    “That post has now been shared more than 10,000 times. It reads, ‘Let’s make this clear. I’m not buying a mask. I’ve made it this far by not buying into that damn hype’.”

  • Cases of child malnutrition in England double in last six months Shocking July 12 report in the Guardian: "Almost 2,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition in the first six months of the year – double the number over the same period last year – prompting fresh concern that families are struggling to afford to feed themselves and that the pandemic has intensified the problem.
    "Freedom of information responses from almost 50 trusts in England, representing 150 hospitals, show that more than 11,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition since 2015.
    "Almost 1,000 under-16s with malnutrition were admitted as inpatients to Cambridge University hospitals NHS foundation trust alone, suggesting the affluent city has wide disparities in wealth.
    "Liberal Democrat leadership campaigner Layla Moran MP, who collated the responses, said: “These figures shocked me and make me angry that in Britain, in 2020, people can be hospitalised due to malnutrition. We need to move forward and create a system of social security that helps everyone and makes sure no one goes hungry in our country."

  • Cross-party group of MPs to lead first UK coronavirus inquiry Guardian July 12 report of some seriously good, if belated news on politicians recognising the need for a more serious approach to the Covid crisis rather than allowing the government to continue unchallenged with serial screw-ups:
    "The only UK inquiry to date into the handling of the coronavirus crisis will take its first evidence from bereaved relatives on Monday, amid growing calls for a full independent investigation.
    "Families of those who have died will give their submissions in writing, via video call, or will arrange to do so in person to the new all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for coronavirus, led by a cross-party group of MPs.
    "It is so far the only independent inquiry into the pandemic taking place in the UK. The politicians involved hope their findings will be used to inform the government’s response before a potential second peak of the illness this winter."

  • Almost 2,500 children admitted to hospital with malnutrition this year as cases double in England Independent July 12: "Some 11,515 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition since 2015, according to research by an MP.
    "Data also shows there were 2,483 hospital admissions of children and adults due to malnourishment between January and June this year, according to Freedom of Information responses from nearly 50 hospital trusts in England.
    "Liberal Democrat leadership hopeful Layla Moran, who collected the data, said she was "shocked" at the figures - which are equivalent to 103 hospitals admissions per week.
    "Hunger has surged during lockdown with government figures revealing as many as 7.7 million adults cut down on portion sizes or missed meals because they could not afford food."

  • Jeremy Hunt warns Boris Johnson patient care will suffer if NHS reorganisation goes ahead Independent July 11 with an interesting different angle on the rumoured plans of the Johnson government:
    "Jeremy Hunt has urged Boris Johnson to drop plans for another huge reorganisation of the NHS, warning patient care will suffer if it goes ahead.
    "The former health secretary said he was “astonished” by evidence that preparatory work is under way, including to curb the arms-length independence of NHS England.
    "Mr Hunt urged the prime minister to look at the deep problems the NHS faces: “the social care system, which desperately needs a 10-year plan, the Cumberlege report into vaginal mesh, the issues in the Shrewsbury and Telford maternity safety report”.
    "He said: “If you want to improve care for patients, then looking at the quality and safety of care is going to have far more impact than another big reorganisation.”
    "NHS England is in the firing line, because of clashes with Matt Hancock, the health secretary, over testing and personal protective equipment shortages during the coronavirus pandemic."

  • The £5.5bn PPE scandal that goes to the core of government incompetence – and that’s just for starters Extended July 11 report from The Canary: "A multi-million pound personal protective equipment (PPE) contract awarded by the UK government to a family-run investments firm has set off alarm bells.
    "Recipients for similar contracts include a recruitment agency, a sweets manufacturer, and a business that specialises in pest control products. A Labour MP has raised questions about one of these contracts. And litigation against the government has commenced.
    "Meanwhile, The Canary has conducted its own investigation into these matters. And what has been highlighted so far may well be just the tip of the iceberg."

  • Another 148 people die with coronavirus bringing UK death toll to 44,798 July 11 report in the Metro -- obscured by lack of any data on numbers of people being tested: "A further 148 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the UK death toll to 44,798. The new figure, released today by the Department of Health and Social Care, covers fatalities in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.
    "A total of 288,953 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 across the country since the start of the pandemic, with 820 new cases confirmed in the past 24 hours."

  • Foreign care workers to be given special visas to move to UK to ease staffing crisis fears Independent July 11 report; “Foreign care workers will be given special visas to move to the UK to head off fears of desperate staffing shortages when Brexit is completed, in a major government U-turn.
    “Priti Patel will on Monday unveil a new “health and care visa”, entitling migrant workers to fast-track cut-price permission to take up job offers and support to move here with their families.
    “The home secretary had previously said it would be an NHS visa only, sparking protests that care workers – among the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic – would be shut out.
    “Without special rules, their low pay means they will fall foul of the post-Brexit salary threshold of £25,600 for most workers seeking to enter the UK, from next January.
    “The King’s Fund think tank had pointed to 122,000 social care job vacancies – at a time when one in six staff are non-British – warning ministers not to let “international recruitment fall off a cliff”.”

  • Covid-19 has revealed a pre-existing pandemic of poverty that benefits the rich Guardian July 11 report by outgoing UN rapporteur on poverty Philip Alston explains sudden awareness of poverty: “Over the past decade, world leaders, philanthropists and pundits have embraced a deceptively optimistic narrative about the world’s progress against poverty. It has been lauded as one of the “greatest human achievements”, a feat seen “never before in human history” and an “unprecedented” accomplishment. But the success story was always highly misleading.
    “As I show in my final report as UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, almost all of these rosy accounts rely on one measure – the World Bank’s $1.90 (£1.50) a day international poverty line – which is widely misunderstood, flawed and yields a deceptively positive picture.
    “It has generated an undue sense of satisfaction and a dangerous complacency with the status quo.
    Under that line, the number of people in “extreme poverty” fell from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 736 million in 2015. But the dramatic drop is only possible with a scandalously unambitious benchmark, which aims to ensure a mere miserable subsistence.
    “The best evidence shows it doesn’t even cover the cost of food or housing in many countries. And it obscures poverty among women and those often excluded from official surveys, such as migrant workers and refugees. Much of the touted decline is due to rising incomes in a single country, China.”

  • The inside story of how UK's 'chaotic' testing regime 'broke all the rules' Sky News July 10 on a chronicle of errors: "As Britain sought to assemble its coronavirus testing programme, all the usual rules were broken.
    "In their effort to release rapid data to show the increase in testing capacity, officials from Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) "hand-cranked" the numbers to ensure a constant stream of rising test numbers were available for each day's press conference, Sky News has been told.
    "An internal audit later confirmed that some of those figures simply didn't add up.
    "According to multiple sources, the data collection was carried out in such a chaotic manner that we may never know for sure how many people have been tested for coronavirus.
    "We completely buffed the system," says a senior Whitehall figure.
    "We said: forget the conventions, we're putting [this data] out."

  • U.S. Hits Another Record for New Coronavirus Cases New York Times July 10: "Officials across the United States reported more than 59,880 cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record for the sixth time in 10 days, according to a New York Times database.
    "The surge has been driven largely by states in the South and the West that were among the first to ease restrictions established during the virus’s initial wave in the spring.
    "At least six states set single-day case records on Thursday: Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oregon and Texas.
    "The numbers were especially striking in Texas, which set a record for the fourth consecutive day with more than 10,900 cases. Nearly one in 10 of them were in Hidalgo County, which consists of over a thousand square miles of scrub and urban sprawl on the Mexico border."

  • Officials across the United States reported more than 59,880 cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record for the sixth time in 10 days, according to a New York Times database. The surge has been Independent July 10: "Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, said the virus was “not under control” in most parts of the world.
    “It is getting worse,” he said on Thursday.
    "Speaking at a weekly member state briefing, he said more than 11.8 million Covid-19 cases had been reported to the WHO.
    “And the pandemic is still accelerating,” he said. “The total number of cases has doubled in the last six weeks.”

  • Government quietly publishes figures which reveal it overstated number of people tested Sky News report July 10: “The government was routinely overstating the total number of people who had been tested for COVID-19 by as many as 200,000 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new Sky News analysis.
    “It follows a Sky News investigation into irregularities in how testing data was collected and compiled in the face of the outbreak.
    “In the wake of that story, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published data showing the total number of people tested for the disease since January. It's the first time such data has been released since the second half of May.
    “The revised data shows that the daily numbers provided at the time alongside the government's press conferences significantly overstated the number of people who had been tested for coronavirus.”

  • Boris Johnson plans radical shake-up of NHS in bid to regain more direct control Guardian July 10, rather confusing report on the latest rumoured move by the Cummings government: “Boris Johnson is planning a radical and politically risky reorganisation of the NHS amid government frustration at the health service’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, the Guardian has learned.
    “The prime minister has set up a taskforce to devise plans for how ministers can regain much of the direct control over the NHS they lost in 2012 under a controversial shake-up masterminded by Andrew Lansley, the then coalition government health secretary.
    “The prime minister’s health and social care taskforce – made up of senior civil servants and advisers from Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) – is drawing up proposals that would restrict NHS England’s operational independence and the freedom Stevens has to run the service.
    “In the summer, the taskforce will present Johnson with a set of detailed options to achieve those goals, and that will be followed by a parliamentary bill to enact the proposals, it is understood.”

  • What might Boris Johnson's restructuring plan mean for the NHS? Guardian July 10 explainer on the rumoured changes begins: "A planned restructuring of NHS England could have a significant impact on its architecture, its relationship with government, which NHS bodies are responsible for which issues, and the role – and future – of its chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens."

  • Conservative councillor PPE contracts questioned BBC July 10 report on more dodgy deals on PPE: “The government is under pressure to review its personal protective equipment (PPE) deals after a Tory councillor received major contracts.
    “The councillor's company, P14 Medical, was given contracts to supply face shields worth £120m in total. Labour said the government had "serious questions" to answer about the PPE procurement process.
    “No 10 said the Department of Health and Social Care "works closely with the Treasury to ensure value for money". The prime minister's official spokesman said demand for PPE had been going up but the DHSC "will have worked with the Treasury on spending conditions".
    “Asked what safeguards were in place where companies were run by Conservative Party members, he said: "All contracts will be published by DHSC and their value”."

  • “All the Hospitals Are Full”: In Houston, Overwhelmed ICUs Leave COVID-19 Patients Waiting in ERs Propublica reports from US July 10: "Houston hospitals have been forced to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients in their emergency rooms — sometimes for several hours or multiple days — as they scramble to open additional intensive care beds for the wave of seriously ill people streaming through their doors, according to internal numbers shared with NBC News and ProPublica.
    "At the same time, the region’s 12 busiest hospitals are increasingly telling emergency responders that they cannot safely accept new patients, at a rate nearly three times that of a year ago, according to data reviewed by reporters."

  • Covid-19: Many trusts have not done risk assessments for ethnic minority staff, BMJ investigation finds BMJ July 10 report: "Data show that almost two thirds of UK healthcare workers who have died from covid-19 were from ethnic minority groups, despite only a fifth of the NHS workforce being from such backgrounds.45
    "The BMJ asked England’s 140 acute care trusts for details of risk assessments they had carried out and what subsequent actions they had put in place. Seventy trusts responded (response rate 50%). Of these, 27 (39%) said that assessments were yet to be completed for all ethnic minority staff, and 43 (61%) indicated that assessments had been completed.
    "But the other 70 trusts were unable to provide a response within the 20 day deadline, citing “unprecedented challenges” posed by the covid-19 pandemic, so it is not known what stage they are at in risk assessing staff."

  • From the front lines, Black nurses battle twin pandemics of racism and coronavirus July 10 CNN report: "CNN interviewed a dozen Black nurses across the UK's healthcare sector. From students to medics with decades of experience, they work in different roles and different settings -- hospitals, care homes and clinics -- up and down the country.
    "They all say they have experienced racism in the workplace -- and that it has gotten worse amid the coronavirus outbreak.
    "They told CNN the pressures of the pandemic have exacerbated existing racial inequalities, leaving Black nurses vulnerable to harassment and discrimination.
    "They say they have been pressured to treat Covid-19 patients without proper personal protective equipment (PPE), to work in the highest-risk areas with larger caseloads, and left too scared to speak out, for fear of reprisals."

  • Care homes face staffing 'black hole' with new immigration bill BBC July 9: “Care homes could face a staffing "black hole" because of the impact of the government's immigration bill, care leaders have warned.
    “The Cavendish Coalition - which represents UK health and social care groups - says it is gravely concerned. The current proposals would not allow enough overseas workers to be recruited, it has warned.
    “The government said immigration is "not the answer to the challenges in the social care sector".
    “Leaders of 37 national care organisations, including the NHS Confederation, have signed the letter to the prime minister. They say the proposed post-Brexit bill could have a damaging effect on care homes and other social care services, especially as the nation heads towards winter - which could bring further challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

  • Student nursing applications surge 15 per cent in a year Independent July 9: “Applications to study nursing at university has jumped by 15 per cent in a year, according to the latest data.
    “The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, or UCAS, said the number of applicants had reached 58,550.
    “It follows a huge surge in interest in joining the NHS after the coronavirus outbreak has shone a spotlight on the role of frontline nurses and doctors.
    Universities have come under pressure from NHS England’ chief executive Sir Simon Stevens to open up more places and accept more applicants to study as part of efforts to boost the nursing workforce.
    “Before the coronavirus outbreak the NHS had around 40,000 vacancies for registered nurses and the government has committed to having 50,000 more full-time equivalent nurses working in the NHS by April 2024.
    “… Despite the increase in applicants the Royal College of Nursing warned there was still a long way to go before the government would hit its target.”

  • New data reveals PM’s testing speeds claims as wrong Full fact July 9, responding to another silly lie from Johnson: “Last month, the Prime Minister was asked how far the government had progressed towards delivering on its target to process Covid-19 tests within 24 hours.
    “He responded saying that, at that point:
    • 90% of all tests were turned around within 48 hours
    • All tests at testing centres and mobile testing sites are done within 24 hours
    “… Far from “all” tests being done within 24 hours, the proportion of people in England receiving their test result within 24 hours of taking their test in the week to 3 June was 19% at regional test sites, 5% at mobile testing units and and 6% at satellite test centres.”

  • Dementia patients 'deteriorating' without family visits BBC July 9 report: “Relatives of care home residents with dementia should be treated as key workers, leading charities say.
    “In a letter to the health secretary, they write that the care given by family members is "essential" to residents' mental and physical health. They argue the current limits on visitors have had "damaging consequences".
    “They want visits to resume safely, with relatives given the same access to care homes and coronavirus testing as staff.
    “Signed by the bosses of leading charities including Dementia UK and the Alzheimer's Society, the letter calls on the government to "urgently" address what it calls the "hidden catastrophe" happening in care homes.”

  • Chorley Hospital's £17.5m expansion and what it'll add to central Lancashire healthcare Lancs Live reports on a new £17.5 million four-storey, state-of-the-art extension at Chorley Hospital to house the trust's day case and eye care unit, with three new theatres -- two for ophthalmology - and a third for treatment that doesn't need overnight admission.
    “Meanwhile, the hospital's A&E department is set to reopen from September on the condition that Lancashire doesn't experience a second spike on Covid-19 cases. The reopening of Chorley A&E will also depend on if funding is available to ensure that the site can be 'Covid-secure'.”

  • Covid-19 should increase our commitment to publicly funded and provided healthcare July 9 BMJ blog by doc David Oliver slamming the latest attempts by the IEA to whip up hostility to the NHS:
    "The BBC reports that the UK has been hit hardest by covid-19 among the G7 nations. Over the 11 peak pandemic weeks it had the highest increases in deaths, deaths per 100 000 population, and excess deaths as a proportion of usual levels. This is not a set of league tables anyone should be proud to top.
    "Mark Littlewood, director of the libertarian Institute for Economic Affairs, tweeted that “this is more evidence that the NHS is pretty much the worst healthcare system in the Western world. Once we look at all the info, there may be a good case for going for an EU-style more marketised system.” But was he justified in co-opting the UK’s pandemic performance in support of this cause?"

  • The Trump administration sends formal notification that the U.S. will withdraw from the W.H.O. next year. New York Times July 8 report on the latest vindictive act by the most destructive US President:
    “The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations that the United States is withdrawing from the World Health Organization, officials said Tuesday, cutting off one of the organization’s biggest sources of aid amid a pandemic that has infected more than 11.6 million people, killed more than a half a million, and upended life around the world.
    “… By law, the United States must give the organization a year’s notice if it intends to withdraw, and meet all the current financial obligations in the current year.
    “Mr. Trump, whose response to the pandemic has drawn criticism, first announced that he planned to halt funding to the W.H.O. in April, claiming that the organization had made a series of mistakes as it battled the coronavirus.
    “His move to withdraw drew immediate criticism. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a Republican who is the chairman of the Senate’s health committee, said that he disagreed with the president’s decision.
    “’Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need,” he said in a statement. “And withdrawing could make it harder to work with other countries to stop viruses before they get to the United States’.”

  • Confusion over whether free hospital parking for NHS staff to end in England Guardian July 8, with an unclear article of conflicting claims which does however quote health minister (and former Serco lobbyist) Edward Argar, answering a parliamentary question from Labour’s Zarah Sultana, admitting that the government was “considering how long free parking for National Health Service staff will need to continue, recognising that this has only been made possible by external support from local authorities and independent sector providers”.
    "He added: “The government’s focus remains on ensuring the commitment of free parking for the groups identified in their announcement of 27 December 2019 is implemented once the pandemic abates.”"

  • Hospital in Boris Johnson's constituency closes to emergencies after coronavirus outbreak Sky News July 8 report on the closure of Hillingdon Hospital's A&E – with knock on pressures on already stretched hospitals in NW London:
    "A hospital in Boris Johnson's constituency has been forced to close to emergencies after an outbreak of coronavirus among staff, officials have said.
    "Around 70 staff at Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge, in the prime minister's west London constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, have gone into isolation after symptoms were detected amongst some of them.
    "Ambulances were diverted away from Hillingdon hospital from last night and it was closed to emergency admissions today, though "walk in" casualty patients were still being seen."

  • Hillingdon hospital boss blames staff for A&E closure after Covid-19 outbreak Guadian July 8 on the hospital trust boss who has taken a leaf out of the government's book -- and opted to blame staff:
    "The chief executive of the hospital that serves Boris Johnson’s constituency, which has shut its A&E unit after an outbreak of coronavirus, has blamed staff for flouting the rules by not wearing masks at work.
    "Hillingdon hospital in north-west London stopped letting patients attend its emergency department or accepting any new emergency admissions on Tuesday after 70 of its staff had to self-isolate.
    "It has had to tell the London ambulance service to take patients from the area to other hospitals because the number of its own staff who are now in quarantine means it has too few personnel to provide a full range of services.
    "The outbreak began last Friday, but its impact on the hospital’s workforce has escalated since then as growing numbers of staff have been identified through the track-and-trace scheme as having been in contact with colleagues who have tested positive and so have had to self-isolate."

  • How government blindfolded frontline public health experts fighting Covid’s next phase Manchester Evening News July 8: “Going back to the 19th Century, medical officers of health for municipalities such as Manchester were in charge of suppressing outbreaks of the Victorian diseases plaguing dirty water supplies or overcrowded, unsanitary housing.
    “So public health directors are steeped in this kind of scenario. And in this case their expertise is also crucial to avoiding a second 21st Century mass shutdown of the economy.
    “Yet they have been denied the tools they need.
    “From early-May onwards, as we’ve covered extensively, they were unable to access any data from tests carried out in privately-run testing labs procured by the government.
    “After the looming local lockdown of Leicester became apparent, suddenly parts of that information did begin flowing. From the week of June 21 onwards, public health directors started getting some data - partial postcodes showing roughly where those with the virus lived, albeit only provided on a weekly basis.”

  • BGS statement responding to Prime Minister’s comments on care homes British Geriatrics Society July 8 statement: "The BGS strongly condemns comments from the Prime Minister on 6 July stating that ‘too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems bizarre for the Prime Minister to suggest that care homes did not follow procedures when, at least in the early weeks, there were no agreed procedures available for them to follow.
    "The impact of this pandemic on care homes cannot be overstated – official figures show 30% of deaths in care homes during the pandemic are directly attributable to COVID-19. Sadly, nearly 20,000 care home residents have died from COVID-19. Care home staff were put at risk on a daily basis and, unfortunately, some contracted the virus and died.
    "At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a complete lack of government guidance about how to manage the infection in care homes. When guidance was published in early April, it was insufficient. There was no requirement for patients being transferred to care homes to have a negative COVID-19 test or to be isolated for a period of time. In addition, there was very little testing available to care homes at this stage. "

  • The Pro-Privatization Shock Therapy of the UK’s Covid Response Substantial July 10 article in New York Review of Books highlights government's obsession with privatisation:
    "Boris Johnson won last year’s December election on promises of Brexit, but also state investment and “leveling up” neglected regions of the country.
    "And yet, facing the coronavirus crisis, his party’s instinct was to shore up the private sector: a pandemic version of “disaster capitalism,” to borrow Naomi Klein’s coining from her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine.
    "Britain’s public health sector, a cash-strapped, eroded, but functioning network comprising the National Health Service (NHS), general-practice clinics, and local authority health officials, has been repeatedly sidelined in favor of outsourced alternatives.
    "As Allyson Pollock, a professor of public health at Newcastle University, put it to The New York Times recently: “They’re basically trying to build a centralized, parallel, privatized system".”

  • A Spike in People Dying at Home Suggests Coronavirus Deaths in Houston May Be Higher Than Reported Propublica report from US July 8: "As coronavirus cases surge, inundating hospitals and leading to testing shortages, a rapidly growing number of Houston area residents are dying at home, according to an NBC News and ProPublica review of Houston Fire Department data. An increasing number of these at-home deaths have been confirmed to be the result of COVID-19, Harris County medical examiner data shows.
    "The previously unreported jump in people dying at home is the latest indicator of a mounting crisis in a region beset by one of the nation’s worst and fastest-growing coronavirus outbreaks.
    "On Tuesday, a record 3,851 people were hospitalized for the coronavirus in the Houston region, exceeding normal intensive care capacity and sending some hospitals scrambling to find additional staff and space."

  • Boris Johnson under fire over claim care homes 'didn't follow procedures' Sky News July 7 report: "Boris Johnson has been urged to apologise after he angered care home bosses by claiming "too many" in the sector "didn't really follow the procedures" during the coronavirus crisis.
    "During a visit to Goole, Yorkshire, on Monday, the prime minister was asked about comments from NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens - who wants to see plans to adequately fund the adult social care sector within a year.
    "Mr Johnson replied: "One of the things the crisis has shown is we need to think about how we organise our social care package better and how we make sure we look after people better who are in social care.
    "We discovered too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we're learning lessons the whole time."

  • Absolute Chaos! Records Show UK Has 2.5 Million COVID-19 Missing Test Results Tech Times July 7 report: “About 2.5 million tests are believed to be missing in a testing system, which is branded as "absolute chaos."
    Based on figures released on Monday, July 6, data show the government has released 10.6 million home testing kits, but only 8 million were returned.
    “The number of tests issued by the government shown in its official figures seems inaccurate as opposed to the number of tests returned, which earned criticisms from the public.
    “This prompted Department for Health to stop daily reporting on the number of tests administered, which triggered a backlash from critics who said ministers are "embarrassed".
    “According to recently published data, there were a total of 10,505,758 antigen and antibody tests released at a testing center or via the post. However, only 8,058,510 have been returned for and processing. This means over 20% were never returned.
    “"How can 2.5 million tests be unaccounted for? The testing system is in absolute chaos with ministers unable to keep a track of how many people are being tested," said Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders.”

  • 'Travesty of leadership': Charity boss hits out at 'cowardly' Boris Johnson after PM blames care homes for coronavirus deaths Independent July 7 reports: "The chief executive of a social care charity has launched a blistering attack on Boris Johnson’s “cowardly” and “appalling” comments after the prime minister appeared to blame care home owners for the high death toll.
    "Expressing his anger at Mr Johnson’s remarks, the chief executive officer of Community Integrated Care, Mark Adams, accused the government of re-writing history and claimed there had been a “travesty of leadership” during the health crisis.
    "As deaths of care home residents with Covid-19 approached 20,000, the prime minister said on Monday that “we discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lesson the whole time”.
    "Care providers said the basis for Mr Johnson’s comments were unclear, while the National Care Forum (NCF) said they were “neither accurate nor welcome” and urged him to start “turning the dial up on reform and down on blame”."

  • Introducing the Best Hospitals for America Washington Monthly with an extended comparative look at the ways of rating US hospitals, noting that those with the most inclusive services are generally not those rated highest. It begins by looking at how hospitals have responded to the Covid crisis:
    "On the not-so-heroic side, this crisis has also brought news of misbehavior. One major teaching hospital, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, continued scheduling lucrative elective surgeries long after the state’s governor ordered hospitals to stop such surgeries so they could prepare for the surge of COVID-19 patients. One uninsured woman in Boston who had symptoms of COVID-19 got a $34,000 bill for her emergency room treatment. Some hospitals have maintained aggressive bill collection practices, dunning working-class patients whose incomes have plunged in the pandemic-induced recession. Still others have threatened to fire workers who speak publicly about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and refused COVID-19 tests for people with symptoms while offering them to the rich and famous."

  • What is Covid Tracker Ireland? Irish Times July 7 on the successful launch of the Irish contact tracing app: “After weeks of testing and an €850,000 bill, the HSE’s contact tracing app is finally live. Available from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, it is intended to be another weapon in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland.
    “The HSE’s contact tracing app, developed by Waterford company Nearform, uses your phone’s bluetooth connection to keep a log of any close contacts. That list is compiled using beacons that are identified by a string of numbers that change every 10 to 20 minutes.
    “If two phones are in close contact, they exchange their active ID, and that list is stored on phones for 14 days. To help protect privacy, the beacons are random and are not tied to a user’s identity.”

  • Revealed - 16 care homes given £1,000 to take Covid-positive hospital patients Birmingham Mail report July 7: "Birmingham City Council gave care homes a £1,000 extra cash 'incentive' to take in hospital patients in a hurry, including some with coronavirus, so more NHS beds could be freed up for critically ill people.
    "A condition of the offer was that care homes had to take in a patient within 24 hours and no matter what their Covid status was.
    "Sixteen homes in the city took up the offer, made in line with government instructions to free up acute beds.
    "Today a care home manager who rejected the advance said she's certain it's one of the reasons none of her residents have been infected."

  • The lesson of the Covid-19 care homes tragedy: renationalising is no longer taboo Guardian July 6 articleby former Tory minister Ros Altman, calling for nationalisation of care homes: “The dire consequences of neglecting social care reform for decades have been starkly exposed by Covid-19, with one in 20 care home residents in the UK dying from the virus, and dedicated, low-paid staff risking their lives.
    “Much of the blame for the UK having the highest death toll in care homes in Europe from coronavirus, bar Spain, has been attributed to hospitals discharging patients into residential care, even if they were infected with Covid-19, and care staff moving between homes without being issued PPE.
    “But the problems go much deeper, to the way our care sector is structured, leaving it fragmented, financially fragile and without the capacity to cope in a crisis.
    “In the 1980s responsibility for care homes was passed from the NHS to local authorities. But few are still council-run; 85% of the UK’s 22,000 care homes are owned by private companies, with the remainder in the hands of charitable or nonprofit organisations.”

  • The truth about the billion pound PPE procurement fiasco Excellent Yorkshire Bylines July 6 report: “On 1 April an order for £10m was placed with Medco Solutions Ltd, a London-based company that apparently only incorporated on 26 March, three days after lockdown, with a share capital of just £2. It was the first of over sixty such contracts placed with a variety of suppliers, some quite unusual and under emergency rules, bypassing the normal competitive tendering process that ensures best value.
    “Let me say clearly at the outset, I do not believe this is necessarily a story of wrongdoing or corruption on the part of anyone in any of the suppliers or the DHSC.
    “I suspect the companies saw an opportunity to help the NHS and make money for themselves and their shareholders and did so. The failure at the top of government to anticipate and prepare for an unprecedented increase in the need for PPE made the bypassing of competitive tendering inevitable.
    “Details of all these contracts can be found on the EU’s TED (tenders electronic daily) website. It’s easy to use – just enter “garments for biological or chemical protection” in the search box. Of the 117 single-bidder contracts for protective garments under code 35113410 that were showing on the website when this research was done, 65 or so totalling about £980m were placed by the DHSC from 39 Victoria Street, London between 1 April and 26 May.
    “The pace of contract placing stepped up through April as hospitals and care homes began to complain of a desperate shortage of PPE. A number of clinical staff had to use bin liners in place of gowns. While some contracts were given to established UK manufacturers like Polystar Plastics, a Southampton-based company with significant assets who received an order for £25m, many and much larger orders were placed with companies that appeared to have little or no history or experience in personal protective equipment. At least two appeared to have been dormant businesses a few months beforehand.
    “Initia Ventures Ltd, providing business support service activities, filed accounts for a dormant company in January this year but received an order for £32m on 2 April and a second for £16m on 25 April.”

  • Government awards £252m PPE contract to private equity firm i-news report July 6: "The Government could face further legal challenges after it awarded a £252.5m personal protective equipment (PPE) contract to a private equity and currency trading company owned through an offshore holding firm based in the tax haven of Mauritius.
    "Ayanda Capital Limited won the contract to supply an undisclosed number of face masks to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in April, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Details of the deal, published on the European Union’s Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) website, reveal that only one tender was submitted for the lucrative contract.
    "Officials have been able to award contracts directly without prior publication and therefore without adhering to the usual procurement timetables in certain circumstances, one of which is for reasons of “extreme urgency”."

  • Investor Tim Horlick's trading firm wins £252m PPE contract Torygraph July 6 report joins the chorus of astonishment at the ineptitude – or otherwise – of government PPE procurement:
    "Health officials are facing scrutiny after a £252.5m contract to supply face masks was awarded to a small family investment firm with no known history in the industry.
    "The Department for Health handed the deal to London-based Ayanda Capital - run by Tim Horlick, ex-husband of the star fund manager Nicola Horlick - which has five employees, and according to its website specialises in currency trading, offshore property, private equity and trade financing.
    "It has sparked further questions about the Government’s PPE procurement strategy following a £108m contract awarded to small pest control firm PestFix.
    "Ayanda is owned by the Horlick family through a Mauritius-registered holding company, Milo Investments. Latest accounts, for the year ending December 2019, show it had assets worth £1.8m and £1.4m of cash in the bank.
    "The Government has handed billions of pounds to dozens of companies to secure PPE throughout the coronavirus crisis, often without competitive tender in a rush to get vital equipment for the battle against Covid-19. "

  • Britons overwhelmingly want NHS privatisation to end after coronavirus crisis, survey finds Independent on July 5 on opinion poll findings: "Voters overwhelmingly want to see an end to privatisation in the health service after the coronavirus crisis has ended, according to a new survey.
    "The Survation poll for We Own It, a think tank that campaigns for public ownership, found that 76 per cent of the public want to see the NHS “reinstated as a fully public service” against just 15 per cent who wanted to see continued involvement of private companies.
    "The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the delivery of health services by private companies.
    "The government has come under fire for handing contracts to run coronavirus testing services to commercial companies rather than involving local public health experts, and Boots was forced to back away from a plan to use volunteers to staff centres, following an investigation by The Independent.
    "A leaked email revealed Rupert Soames, chief executive of outsourcing giant Serco, said he hoped involvement in the test and trace operation would “cement the position of the private sector” in the NHS supply chain."

  • Covid-19 may not have originated in China, Oxford University expert believes Telegraph July 5 with an interesting new theory on the origins of the coronavirus:
    "Coronavirus may have lain dormant across the world and emerged when the environmental conditions were right for it to thrive rather than starting in China, an Oxford University expert believes.
    "Dr Tom Jefferson, senior associate tutor at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), at Oxford and a visiting professor at Newcastle University, argues there is growing evidence that the virus was elsewhere before it emerged in Asia.
    "Last week, Spanish virologists announced that they had found traces of the disease in samples of waste water collected in March 2019, nine months before coronavirus was seen in China.
    "Italian scientists have also found evidence of coronavirus in sewage samples in Milan and Turin in mid-December, many weeks before the first case was detected, while experts have found evidence of traces in Brazil in November."

  • UK set to award Covid-19 testing contracts worth £5bn to private bidders Guardian July 2 reporting a new twist in the government’s efforts to use the Covid-19 crisis as a cover to drive forward its ambitions for wider privatisation of NHS services:
    “The government is preparing to award coronavirus testing contracts worth an estimated £5bn to commercial bidders, in what critics fear is a “backdoor” subsidy to the private sector.
    “The vast new budget, which works out at £2.5bn per year and will be managed by Public Health England (PHE), is equal to the entire annual spend on English NHS laboratories.
    “The Department of Health and Social Care said it was creating a new national framework for testing which would replace current arrangements, with further details released “in due course”.
    “The new plan, outlined in a public notice, dwarfs the budget for the current framework. Completed in 2017, its estimated cost was between £80m to £120m.
    “NHS sources said they had been told the cash would be used to fund an expansion of Lighthouse laboratories. Created in April to boost Covid-19 testing capacity, they are at the centre of the storm over why it took until last week for local authorities to begin receiving postcode data on the spread of coronavirus in their communities.
    “It is understood that seven new commercially run laboratories are planned in the short term. That number could eventually rise to 29, one for each NHS pathology region in England.”

  • Why was £108m of public money paid to Crisp Websites Limited? A crowd-funding website raising cash to challenge one of the more ridiculous awards of contracts for PPE by the government without competition:
    "How on earth did a company - Crisp Websites Limited - with last reported net assets of £18,047 win a contract worth £108m - and why was there apparently no bidding process?
    "The bare facts are quite remarkable. Here is the filing history of Crisp Websites Limited showing at 30 November 2019 it had net assets of £18,047. Here is the Official Journal publication of the 12 month £108m contract it entered into with Matt Hancock's department. That publication states there was only one bidder for that contract.
    "From these bare facts, a quite remarkable series of questions arise.
    "1. Was this contract ever advertised? If so, where? No one we have spoken to is aware of any advertisement.
    "2. If it was not advertised, how was Crisp Websites Limited chosen? Who was the decision maker? How did the name of this tiny company come to be placed before the decision maker?"

  • Dozens of shifts at coronavirus mega-lab cancelled and staff paid to stay away, whistleblower reveals Independent July 3 report: "Dozens of shifts at one of the government’s coronavirus mega-labs have been cancelled and staff paid to stay away because of a lack of test samples, a whistleblower has revealed.
    "A member of staff at the Alderley Park Lighthouse Laboratory has shared a tranche of emails sent from lab bosses to staff during May and June with The Independent.
    "They show more than 40 separate shifts at the labs were cancelled in the past two months, often with just a day’s notice or less.
    "Jeremy Hunt, former health secretary and chair of the Commons health select committee, said he thought it was “extraordinary” the labs were not being fully utilised."

  • Coronavirus R rate creeps up above 1 in London just hours before lockdown eases Daily Mirror July 3 warning: "Alarming new figures show the R rate range has risen above 1 in London - meaning cases of the deadly virus could be growing again.
    "It comes just hours before lockdown restrictions are eased in England, with pubs allowed to open again from 6am.
    "In four other regions - the Midlands, the North East and Yorkshire, the South East and the South West - experts believe the R rate could also be as high as 1.
    "If the R rate goes above 1, it means the number of Covid-19 cases is on the rise, as each individual with the disease is infecting more than one other person.
    "In order for the disease to be in retreat, the R rate needs to be below 1, but scientists fear a surge of new cases as restrictions are eased."

  • Almost 20,000 people have died in care homes with Covid-19 Mirror July 3 report: “Between March 2 and June 12, a total of 19,394 deaths had Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate, whether as an underlying cause or not. Of these, 16,305 (84%) were classified as "confirmed" Covid-19 and 3,089 (16%) were classified as "suspected" Covid-19.
    “…The daily number of deaths of care home residents peaked in England on April 17, when a total of 515 deaths occurred - 413 in care homes, 100 in hospitals and two in other locations.
    “Latest figures released by the Office of National Statistics this morning come as Boris Johnson was asked if an earlier lockdown could have prevented more care home deaths.”

  • Healthcare unions call for ‘immediate NHS pay discussions’ Nursing Notes report july 3: “Unison, Royal College of Nursing (RCN), and twelve other healthcare unions have today written to both the Prime Minister and Chancellor calling for them to “show its support for NHS professionals” by entering “immediate NHS pay discussions”.
    “The letter highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has made the dedication and commitment of health and care staff, wherever they work, plain for all to see.
    “It goes on to explain that while the applause and tributes have been a short-term morale boost, this is a “unique” opportunity for the government to show true support and acknowledge the hard work of staff.
    “Despite the health secretary claiming that workers have already received a “significant rise”, NHS staff in England recently received their final annual rise following a multi-year pay deal – with the majority of nurses seeing a pre-tax rise of just 7% over three years – below the rate of inflation.
    “With a recent YouGov survey finding that 77% of the general public supported a rise for healthcare workers, unions say that waiting until 2021 for the next scheduled set of pay negotiations is “not acceptable”.”

  • ‘Unforgivable’ - Mental health trust allowed court hospital order to expire Eastern Daily Press report July 3: “Paperwork errors at Norfolk’s mental health trust have risen by more than a third in the past year, it has emerged.
    “The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has seen mistakes in sectioning - involuntary hospitalisation - paperwork increase by 36pc in the past twelve months.
    “Errors in the trust’s completion of Mental Health Act paperwork rose from 30 in 2018-19 to 41 in 2019-20, which campaigners have branded “profoundly concerning”.
    “It comes as the trust, dubbed England’s worst, was criticised for a “shocking” lack of beds as data revealed a fresh rise in patients being sent out of the area for treatment.
    “… Among the errors, recorded in board papers published ahead of the trust’s May directors’ meeting, was the unintentional expiration of a Section 37 order - a court-ordered mental health patient admission to a secure ward.”

  • Unions call for early pay rise for NHS staff Guardian July 3: “The unions, including Unison, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), GMB and Unite, stress that the increase should also include support for private contractors, such as domestic workers and security guards.
    “Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton, who chairs the NHS group of unions, said: “Throughout lockdown the public has seen the immense dedication, commitment and compassion shown by NHS staff, and now expects them to be rewarded. As the clapping returns this weekend for the NHS’s birthday, ministers can show how much they value health staff by committing to an early pay rise that the entire country supports.”
    “Before the three-year pay deal agreed in 2018, which was worth at least 6.5% and excluded doctors, NHS workers had gone through seven years of 1% rises or pay freezes under David Cameron’s government. The RCN has calculated that the average salary for a nurse has fallen by 8% in real terms since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.”

  • Government admits 30K fewer people tested positive for Covid than previously thought Torygraph report July 3 with uncomfortable facts for ministers: "The number of people testing positive for coronavirus is 30,000 fewer than previously thought, after the government admitted it had been double counting test results.
    "In the latest testing controversy, the Department of Health and Public Health England (PHE) said it was changing its methodology for reporting positive cases after finding duplicates in pillar 1 and 2.
    "Pillar 1 tests key workers and those in NHS hospital settings while pillar 2 is in the wider community, but there appears to be an overlap which was only discovered when local data was compiled recently, which showed national figures were too high."

  • Test and Trace: 15% trust private firm to run English system Scottish newspaper The National reports:
    JUST 15% of people think a private firm should be in charge of coronavirus contact tracing systems, a new poll has found.
    "A Survation poll, commissioned by campaign group We Own It, asked people living in the UK who they felt should run contact tracing schemes as we move out of lockdown. While 67% said public health teams and local health services should have responsibility for the systems, just 15% felt that a private company like Serco should control them.
    "In England, Serco and other private firms look after large parts of the test and trace system. The scheme has been plagued with issues since it was established at the end of May."

  • Comprehensive new funding package for councils to help address coronavirus pressures and cover lost income during the pandemic Government press release tries to trumpet a pathetically inadequate £500m increase in funding as the solution to the £10 billion funding gap faced by councils -- with dire consequences for social care, public health and many other vital services.

  • Deloitte: Coronavirus They Work for You reveals the parliamentary exchange between Stella Creasey MP for Labour and Tory Minister Nadine Dorries, confirming the inadequate contract between government and Deloitte that does not require the firm to report on test results to Public Health England and local authorities.

  • PPE spend to hit £14bn by the end of the year HSJ report July 2:
    "The Treasury is preparing for spending on personal protective equipment for the health system to hit up to £14bn this financial year, HSJ understands — representing more than 10 per cent of the pre-covid NHS budget.
    "The revelation — an estimate of what has been spent since April and will be spent up to the end of March 2021 — underlines the huge hit to government budgets, and comes as the Treasury negotiates with the NHS over what funding it will get for the next phase of the coronavirus response.
    "The financial envelope, which has been confirmed by senior sources, has been calculated based on the average price per item and the number of pieces the Department of Health and Social Care has said is necessary. The DHSC declined to confirm the value of the envelope, citing “commercial sensitivity”."

  • Trust CEO slams 'cruel and ineffective' government policy HSJ July 2 report on a CEO willing to speak up in support of vulnerable patients affected by vicious government welfare policies:
    "The chief executive of a London trust has criticised the government over the reinstatement of its “cruel and ineffective” benefits policy.
    "Paul Jenkins, chief executive for Tavistock and Portman FT, commented on Twitter that the government’s benefit sanctions policy is “really cruel and ineffective”.
    "He also tweeted that the reinstatement was “very concerning when some of the most vulnerable people in society are already under so much pressure.”
    "In a statement to HSJ, Mr Jenkins said he stood by his tweet, adding: “I was closely involved in this issue when I was at Rethink Mental Illness and saw at first hand the harm caused to people with severe mental illness by the use of sanctions and the Work Capability Assessment.”
    "Under the government’s policy, those receiving benefits must once again adhere to “claimant conditionality” to access their benefits such as carrying out job searches."

  • INDEPENDENT SAGE – STATEMENT ON LEICESTER AND LOCAL LOCKDOWNS Statement from Independent SAGE group of experts begins:
    "The lockdown in Leicester constitutes a foreseeable crisis of the Government’s own making. It has come too late and, by being imposed on the locality, rather than being developed and implemented with the locality, it risks creating uncertainty, dissent, and even disorder.
    "In the case of Leicester, and for future such cases, we advocate a response that is led by local government, supported by agencies such as PHE Health Protection Teams, the NHS and the Police and with additional funding from central government.
    "The imposition of local restrictions should only be considered in the context of such an overall package of support, they should only be a last resort and used as a temporary measure. Such an approach will maximise both the efficacy of infection control measures and public support for these measures."

  • Johnson not telling the whole story on Leicester testing More fact checking finds Boris Johnson a long way from the truth -- Channel 4 July 2 report: “The government first took notice and acted on what was going on in Leicester on 8 June, because we could see that there was an issue there. We sent mobile testing units—four more mobile testing units—shortly thereafter.”
    “That was Boris Johnson’s claim yesterday in the Commons.
    “But what the Prime Minister didn’t mention was that it was ten days after 8 June before even one additional testing site was opened in Leicester. And it was 21 days before a total of four new centres had opened in the city.”

  • Lifestyle Company with No Employees or Trading History Handed £25 Million PPE Contract Byline Times investigation July 2 begins:
    "The Great British COVID-19 procurement scandal continues after a newly published contract revealed yet another business with little experience or expertise being awarded a multi-million-pound contract to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS.
    "Design company Luxe Lifestyle Ltd was awarded a £25 million contract on 27 April to supply garments for biological or chemical protection to the NHS.
    "According to Companies House, the business was incorporated by fashion designer Karen Brost in November 2018. However, it appears to have no employees, no assets and no turnover.
    "Additional research into the company’s background using business information provider Endole revealed no evidence that the company has actually done any trading at all.
    "It is not clear how a business with no experience in the sector is able to meet its contractual requirements to provide 1.2 million gowns and 10 million FFP2/KN95 masks to the NHS during a national crisis.

  • Lack of local Covid-19 testing data hinders UK’s outbreak response Important Financial Times June 30 revelation of the massive data gap that is hampering any sensible track and trace system to contiun Covid-19: “The ability of local leaders to manage new coronavirus outbreaks in the UK is being hampered by gaps in the reporting of infection data for cities and regions, according to analysis by the Financial Times.
    “The government publishes a UK-wide figure for Covid-19 cases every day that includes tests from hospitals and those processed by commercial laboratories, including samples taken at home. But at a subnational level the total of new daily cases contains only hospital tests.
    “The result is that hundreds of local authorities across the country are unable to see a timely picture of what is happening in their communities or compare that with other cities and regions of the UK.
    “This gap in the subnational and regional data has been cited by local political leaders and health officials in Leicester as one reason for a delay in locking down the east Midlands city, where virus cases have spiked.
    “For weeks we have been trying to get information about the level of testing in the city and the results of that testing in the city,” Peter Soulsby, mayor of Leicester, told the BBC on Tuesday.”

  • Still 36 parts of England where Covid-19 cases increasing, statistics reveal Independent July warning: “With a swathe of lockdown restrictions due to be lifted on ‘super Saturday’ this weekend, new statistics showed that there are still 36 parts of England where coronavirus cases have been increasing.
    “Release from lockdown was put on hold in Leicester as authorities moved to damp down an upsurge in infections which saw the Midlands city record 10 per cent of all positive cases in England in the past week. Its infection rate of 135 cases per 100,000 over the seven-day period was three times higher than the next worst-affected city in the country.
    “But figures from Public Health England (PHE) showed that other areas had also experienced increases in positive cases between the weeks of 13-19 June and 20-26 June. Doncaster recorded a rise from 11 to 32 in the number of positive cases over the period, while Derbyshire’s figure increased from 23 to 25, Medway from 10 to 17 and Sandwell from 8 to 10.
    “Some of the sharpest increases were in London boroughs, where the weekly figure rose from 7 to 18 in Hammersmith & Fulham, from 9 to 15 in Hounslow, 5 to 14 in Ealing, 6 to 14 in Westminster, 7 to 13 in Brent and 8 to 12 in Kensington and Chelsea.”

  • Still 36 parts of England where Covid-19 cases increasing, statistics reveal Independent July 1 report: "Release from lockdown was put on hold in Leicester as authorities moved to damp down an upsurge in infections which saw the Midlands city record 10 per cent of all positive cases in England in the past week.
    "Its infection rate of 135 cases per 100,000 over the seven-day period was three times higher than the next worst-affected city in the country.
    "But figures from Public Health England (PHE) showed that other areas had also experienced increases in positive cases between the weeks of 13-19 June and 20-26 June.
    "Doncaster recorded a rise from 11 to 32 in the number of positive cases over the period, while Derbyshire’s figure increased from 23 to 25, Medway from 10 to 17 and Sandwell from 8 to 10."

  • Understanding excess mortality: comparing COVID-19’s impact in the UK to other European countries Health Foundation research comparing levels of excess deaths:
    "The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has so far killed at least half a million people worldwide and has led to over 64,000 excess deaths in the UK. And although it is a global pandemic – triggered by the same SARS-CoV-2 virus – the impacts of the pandemic and the responses to it have been anything but the same across countries.
    "Early in the pandemic countries were at different stages of their outbreaks, making it difficult to make robust comparisons. Initially it looked as if Italy would be the country hardest hit, though this has not turned out to be the case. But as the first wave across Europe is coming to an end, meaningful comparisons have become possible. These comparisons can help us understand and learn from the experiences of different countries, so we are better able to manage a potential second wave or a future pandemic.
    "In this analysis we use excess deaths (the number of deaths in a given period less the usual number) over the pandemic period. This is a more comparable measure across countries than deaths from COVID-19, because different countries count COVID-19 deaths in different ways. It is also a measure of the total impact of the pandemic, including both COVID-19 deaths and other deaths that may have been a consequence of lockdowns."

  • Saturated Houston hospitals transferring COVID-19 patients to other cities Grim aftermath of premature end to lockdown in Texas. ABC13 report from HOUSTON, Texas:
    "Harris Health Systems, the public health agency that operates Ben Taub and LBJ hospitals, is sending COVID-19 patients to facilities outside of the area in an effort to cope with the growing healthcare crisis.
    "Charlie McMurray-Horton, the associate administrator for Clinical Integration and Transformation at Harris Health, spoke to ABC13 about the capacity issues affecting Harris Health hospitals this afternoon.
    "It really has intensified in the last month or so," said McMurray-Horton. "We are actively trying to transfer out ICU and surge patients that are COVID positive and under investigation, just because we don't have the capacity to treat those patients," McMurray-Horton added.
    "Harris Health Systems said it has transferred patients to UTMB in Galveston, the Woodlands, and as far away as Conroe. The scramble to find beds for patients also has a trickle down effect."

  • Coronavirus cases higher than thought in Merseyside with Wirral worst affected Liverpool Echo July 1 report: "Coronavirus cases in Merseyside are three times higher than previously reported.
    "New Covid-19 rates published by Public Health England suggest around 138 people in the area tested positive in the week to June 21. Previously published figures had shown 43 cases across the area during that same week.
    "Of the local areas in Merseyside, current rates show Wirral as being much more badly affected than other boroughs.
    "The Peninsular's infection rate of 19.2 per 100,000 people is significantly higher than the other Merseyside areas, which are all between 6 and 8.4 per 100,000 people.
    "The new figures are based on people being tested both through Pillar 1 (in hospitals) and Pillar 2 (through drive-through test centres and swabs sent by post)."

  • Government finally releases Greater Manchester coronavirus data... and there are SIX TIMES more cases than local officials knew about Manchester Evening News July 1: "Public health officials have finally received crucial local testing figures from government after nearly two months of pleading - and they reveal the number of cases here in the past week has been as six times higher than their own data suggested.
    "Since the start of May officials here have been begging government to release ‘pillar two’ testing data, the results of swabs carried out at drive-through stations and other facilities operated here by the private sector on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care.
    "Without it, they only had access to ‘pillar one’ test numbers, those carried out directly by Greater Manchester councils and hospitals and processed in Public Health England labs.
    "That had left public health directors flying blind, unable to accurately gauge the virus’s spread in the community.
    "This week they finally received the missing data - and it shows nearly 400 more people had tested positive in the past week than their existing figures would have suggested."

  • Leicester and Merthyr Tydfil top table for new Covid-19 infections Financial Times July 1 report on belated publication of fuller data revealing local patterns of infection: “On Tuesday, the FT reported that local leaders in England were being hampered in their efforts to manage new coronavirus outbreaks by gaps in the reporting of infection data for cities and regions.
    “Although the government has been publishing a UK-wide figure for Covid-19 cases every day that includes tests from hospitals and those processed by commercial laboratories, including samples taken at home, at a subnational level the total of new daily cases contains only hospital tests.
    “Following criticism of its failure to provide comprehensive and timely testing results for all local authorities in England to allow them to track possible spikes, Public Health England on Wednesday released data for all Covid-19 infections up to June 21.
    “Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland had already been publishing full data sets for both Pillar 1 tests collected in hospitals and Pillar 2 tests collected by commercial labs.”

  • Ministers shifting blame to Public Health England for Covid-19 errors, say experts Guardian July 1 report anticipates government efforts to dump blame for its errors onto a far from perfect Public Health England:
    "Experts have accused ministers of shifting the blame for their own mistakes during the coronavirus crisis on to Public Health England, amid speculation that the agency may be scrapped.
    "Downing Street on Wednesday failed to guarantee that PHE will survive in its present form as an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care when the government reviews its response to Covid-19.
    "It also did not rebut a report that Boris Johnson was referring to PHE when he said in a speech on Tuesday that “parts of government that seemed to respond so sluggishly” to the pandemic. Without apportioning blame, the prime minister had said “it seemed like that recurring bad dream when you are telling your feet to run and your feet won’t move”."

  • Unless the government ups its game, there will be more lockdowns like Leicester’s Guardian July 1 article by Dave McCoy: "Unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, the government’s over-centralised, fragmented, confused and semi-privatised patchwork of testing and contact-tracing services has proved slow, inadequate and cumbersome.
    "There are still too few tests being done, leading to insufficient case detection, and our contact-tracing rates are also low. Delays in producing test results are compounded by delays and blockages in the sharing of data across the various different organisations involved.
    "Local public health teams have been inevitably hamstrung by this centralised system. Ideally, local public health directors and their teams would have timely and complete data about new cases, including the names, ages, genders and ethnicities of suspected cases, their home, work and school details, and relevant clinical data such as the date that their symptoms started. But nobody seems to have been given this information."

  • DWP benefit sanctions restart from today as Tories refuse to extend ban Mirror July 1 report on a shocking decision by ministers:
    "Benefit sanctions have resumed from today after the Tory welfare chief refused to extend a blanket ban on them.
    "Therese Coffey said it was "important" for claimants to commit to look for work and attend appointments as Jobcentres started to reopen from July 1.
    "She insisted work coaches will prioritise "support". And a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) source insisted sanctions would not be their "focus".
    "But the Work and Pensions Secretary's statement was branded "heartless" - as MPs warned it will heap "stress and suffering" on families while unemployment soars, and people remain having to shield or care for children at home.
    "As messages promising not to sanction people vanished overnight, the GMB union branded the reopening of jobcentres a "PR stunt" that could put people at risk.
    "Sanctions, which dock people's benefits if they don't follow government rules, were formally halted for three months from March 30 for anyone failing to look for work or attend an interview."

  • Johnson’s misleading figures on government ‘New Deal’ Another devastating fact check of Boris Johnson's big speech boasting of a "New Deal," this time by Channel 4 News:
    "On hearing the Prime Minister’s words, you might think that the government’s “New Deal” announced yesterday will pump £34bn into the NHS and £14bn more into schools.
    "But that’s not the case.
    "The schools pledge was first announced in August 2019. It’s how much budgets will rise over three years, though the figure doesn’t account for inflation or rising student numbers.
    "Meanwhile, the £34bn for the NHS was first promised in 2018. It refers to the planned increase in spending on the health service, this time over five years. Again, it does not adjust for inflation (once we do that, the figure is closer to £20bn)."

  • It Paid Doctors Kickbacks. Now, Novartis Will Pay a $678 Million Settlement New York Times July 1 report on a massive fine on a leading pharmaceutical corporation: “There were fishing junkets, golf outings and round-table events at Hooters. And then there were the six-figure honorariums that the Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp. paid to several doctors who wrote thousands of prescriptions for cardiovascular and diabetes drugs the company made.
    “Now, after admitting it used an extensive kickback program for nearly a decade to influence doctors to prescribe certain medications, Novartis will pay $678 million to settle a fraud lawsuit, federal prosecutors in New York announced on Wednesday.
    “… Prosecutors said that Novartis violated a federal statute prohibiting kickbacks, which led to fraudulent prescription claims paid by Medicare, Medicaid and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The company gained an advantage over competitors, but there were no allegations that the drugs were not needed by the patients to whom they were prescribed, prosecutors said.
    “For more than a decade, Novartis spent hundreds of millions of dollars on so-called speaker programs, including speaking fees, exorbitant meals, and top-shelf alcohol that were nothing more than bribes to get doctors across the country to prescribe Novartis’s drugs,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney for Manhattan, said in a statement. “Giving these cash payments and other lavish goodies interferes with the duty of doctors to choose the best treatment for their patients and increases drug costs for everyone.”

  • Tory policies have killed a quarter of a million people in the last decade The London Economic, July 1 report: "A decade of Tory austerity, coupled with the more recent COVID-19 mismanagement, has killed over 250,000 people, an exclusive TLE investigation has revealed.
    "More than 100,000 people have died following social security cuts, while around 120,000 perished due to reductions in health and social spending and experts have predicted that the UK’s COVID-related death toll of circa 60,000 is double the number it needed to be.
    "Coupled with the tens of thousands of lives cut short by a failure by successive governments to impose tougher legislation to tackle air pollution and you have a pretty grim picture."

  • Why Did the UK Have Such a Bad Covid-19 Epidemic? BBC's excellent More or Less asks the question so few BBC journalists seem willing to ask or pursue. The intro explains: "The UK has suffered one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus anywhere in the world. We’ve been analysing the numbers for the last 14 weeks, and in the last programme of this More or Less series, we look back through the events of March 2020 to ask why things went so wrong - was it bad decision-making, bad advice, or bad luck?"

  • US states race to reimpose lockdowns as Covid infections pass 2.5m – and Trump heads to golf course Independent June 30 with another story from the worst President's handling of the worst crisis:
    "A number of US states are racing to reimpose lockdowns amid a new leap of coronavirus infections that have taken the total to more than 2.5 million – apparently triggered by the push to reopen the economy.
    "As Donald Trump for the second successive day visited the Trump National golf course in Sterling, Virginia, the number of cases in the US hit at least 2,534,981, part of a global total of more than 10 million. Worldwide, more than 500,000 people have now died.
    "Among the worst places to have been struck were rural counties in California, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Florida, that saw confirmed cases more than double in a week, from June 19 to last Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
    "In Texas, governor Gregg Abbot ordered the closure of bars and reimposed limits on restaurants for indoor seating down from 75 per cent capacity to 50 per cent."

  • Lack of local Covid-19 testing data hinders UK’s outbreak response | Free to read Financial Times June 30 report revealing serious flaws in testing and reporting of data:
    “The ability of local leaders to manage new coronavirus outbreaks in the UK is being hampered by gaps in the reporting of infection data for cities and regions, according to analysis by the Financial Times.
    “The government publishes a UK-wide figure for Covid-19 cases every day that includes tests from hospitals and those processed by commercial laboratories, including samples taken at home. But at a subnational level the total of new daily cases contains only hospital tests.
    “The result is that hundreds of local authorities across the country are unable to see a timely picture of what is happening in their communities or compare that with other cities and regions of the UK.”

  • Boris Johnson: Economy speech fact-checked BBC's Reality Check team have looked at Johnson's speech, which includes allocations for new hospitals and other NHS projects and found that every major assertion was either previously announced, a lie, or a distortion of the truth - usually some combination of the three.

  • Heat on Public Health England as Prime Minister admits coronavirus response was 'sluggish' Telegraph June 30: “Public Health England's (PHE) future has been thrown into doubt after the Prime Minister suggested that parts of the Government's response to the coronavirus crisis had been "sluggish".
    “In a speech ahead of the country's 100th day in lockdown, Boris Johnson described his frustration at failing to quickly confront elements of the pandemic as being "like a recurring bad dream".
    “He did not name PHE, but Whitehall sources indicated on Tuesday night that they believed the Prime Minister was referring to the agency, after he had privately criticised its response in meetings with Conservative MPs.
    “The quango is responsible for testing, and the decision to abandon widespread tracking of the virus as it began to spread is regarded by most scientists as the key mistake in Britain's handling of the pandemic, which has led to the country recording the highest number of deaths in Europe.
    “The agency on Tuesday was once again at the forefront of a public row after ministers ordered the lockdown of Leicester following a new outbreak. Council leaders expressed frustration at the lack of data and detailed information on cases in the city after infections started to rise over the past fortnight.”

  • Will “temporary” NHS closures and cuts ever be reversed? Left Foot Forward June 29 shares an article first published in The Lowdown:
    "With tens of thousands of NHS beds still closed (NHS Improvement has refused to reveal an updated figure since the Health Service Journal in April revealed 37,000 beds were unoccupied) NHS England’s focus appears to be on a multi-billion pound deal to utilise private hospitals.
    "This raises serious questions over the future of the many services including A&E departments “temporarily” closed during the peak of the Covid crisis, many of which NHS bosses had sought to scale back in previous plans.
    "There have been protests in Grantham in Lincolnshire over the downgrading of its day time only A&E to an Urgent Treatment Centre, with emergency admissions diverted to Lincoln or to Boston, each 30 miles away.
    "Questions have been asked in the Commons over the “temporary” closure of already reduced A&E services in Chorley, Lancashire, and concerns have been raised locally over other “temporary” closures of A&Es in Cheltenham and Weston super Mare, and emergency surgery in Ealing Hospital."

  • Coronavirus: UK hardest hit by virus among leading G7 nations BBC June 29 report with a useful graphic showing England much worst of UK nations:
    "The UK was the hardest hit of all the G7 major industrialised nations in the weeks leading up to early June, according to BBC analysis of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
    "Analysis also showed that England fared the worst in Europe, just above Spain. The research compared 11-week periods for each nation as the virus hit its peak in each country.
    "The analysis of Covid-19 deaths and excess deaths - which compared countries in three different ways - showed the UK worse off than the US, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and Japan."

  • GPs to demonstrate at Number 10 tomorrow against pubs reopening Pulse Today June 29 report: "Doctors in Unite, led by Tower Hamlets GP Dr Jackie Applebee, will be protesting in front of 10 Downing Street on Tuesday against next Saturday’s lockdown easing.
    "The group believes that the Government plans to open up ‘indoor spaces’, including pubs and restaurants, from next weekend are ‘too risky’.
    "The doctors argue that people gathering in indoors spaces with poor ventilation comes with a high risk of the virus spreading, and they are warning that the new ’one metre plus’ rule will ‘fail to protect the public’"

  • GPs to catch up on public health targets post-Covid or risk losing LES cash Pulse Today June 29 report on more misery for GPs in Essex as a non-profit company working for the County Council cracks the whip:
    "GP practices in Essex have been told they will have to catch up on targets for NHS Health Checks once the service is re-established post Covid-19, or they could face having payments clawed back.
    "Anglian Community Enterprise, which procures the service on behalf of the local authority Essex County Council, informed practices by email they would be paid monthly based on 2019 activity until the end of June, but that targets for the year would need to be met ‘once in more certain times’.
    "The message, seen by Pulse, stated: ‘We recently wrote to you explaining the current financial situation on which we are paying all providers based on the NHS Health Check delivery performed in April, May and June 2019.
    "‘Payments will made month by month as normal. However, targets will be remaining the same for this financial year and will be expected to be met once in more certain times.’"

  • Not all foreign NHS staff eligible for free visa extension scheme BBC Newsnight report reminds us that while the Home Office has given a one-year free visa extension for some staff in the NHS and care sectors. But health workers such as cleaners are porters are not eligible

  • Calls for national care service as crisis leaves homes in critical state Guradian article June 28 points out the growing consensus that current systm of social care is unsustainable, and bold action needs to be taken:
    "Mike Padgham, who runs St Cecilia’s care home in Scarborough and is chair of the Independent Care Group, said the sector should be merged with the NHS. “Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson can make a name for themselves,” he said. “They could say ‘I’m going to make my name like [Nye] Bevan. I’m going to make a service we’re proud of’.”
    He said he was aware of at least three homes in his area that were closing, or on the brink of closure. “Every political party has said how important social care is, and every one of them has kicked the can down the road,” he said. “There are no more excuses.”
    Even those who don’t want to see care swallowed by the NHS agree there is an urgent need for a national body to take control of information flowing into and out of care homes and home care. Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, said: “It is the right time and it has to be now. There is an absolute hunger in the sector for serious reform.”

  • Failing the test: Slow start and flawed decisions in Britain’s coronavirus testing have cost lives, warn health leaders Another excellent in depth Indepoendent report by Shaun Lintern, June 28, begins: “Lives were lost because of delays to Britain’s expansion of testing and the decision to create privatised mega-labs to process swabs, NHS leaders and health experts have told The Independent.
    “An investigation funded by The Independent’s Supporter Programme has uncovered widespread concern over the “Lighthouse Lab” system for processing coronavirus tests, which was not fully functioning until late April – weeks after Britain’s Covid-19 peak.
    “Three national leaders in pathology warned NHS bosses in a letter seen by The Independent that the strategy would cause problems that would “inevitably cost lives” yet were “wholly avoidable”. They called for changes before a second wave of the virus hits.
    “They said privatised labs were often taking 72 hours from the time they received tests to determine a result – by which point the results were of no use for wider strategy or policy. By contrast, they said local labs could give results in six hours from the point the test is taken.”

  • Covid-19: risk of death in UK care homes 13 times higher than in Germany Guardian June 28 report: "Care home residents were more likely to die of Covid-19 in the UK than in any of the major European countries apart from Spain, analysis of global data has revealed.
    "The proportion of residents dying in UK homes was a third higher than in Ireland and Italy, about double that in France and Sweden, and 13 times higher than Germany. The analysis of official statistics was carried out by academics at the London School of Economics as part of the International Long Term Care Policy Network.
    "Of all the UK’s care home residents, 5.3% were confirmed or suspected to have died from Covid-19, compared with 0.4% in Germany, according to analysis of official statistics.
    "About 3,500 people died in care homes in Germany compared with more than 16,000 in the UK, despite Germany having a care home population twice as large. Its test-and-trace system and 14-day quarantine for people leaving hospital have been credited with protecting homes from outbreaks."

  • Include all care workers in NHS’ fast-track mental health service, Labour says Independent June 28 report: "Labour has set out plans for a shake-up of mental health support to ensure that 3.1 million NHS and care workers who have been under intense pressure during the coronavirus crisis get access to the same fast-tracked help and advice.
    "Rosena Allin-Khan, the shadow mental health minister, said the current system was “inadequate” because it did not cover private sector staff doing NHS and social care work.
    "And she said she wanted reform to end long waiting lists and significant regional variations in services which see some nurses waiting up to a year for help."

  • Expert says Scotland 'could be Covid-free by end of summer' BBC interview with Prof Devi Sridhar June 28 shows how uniquely bad has been the Westminster government handling of the crisis: "Scotland could eliminate coronavirus by the end of the summer if the decline in new cases continues, according to a public health expert.
    "There were no confirmed deaths from the virus on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
    "Prof Devi Sridhar, of Edinburgh University, said the country would effectively be Covid-free if that progress could be maintained.
    She said the challenge would then be how to stop new cases being imported.
    "… However, an open border with England - where hundreds of cases are still being reported daily - is a concern, as is enforcing the 14-day quarantine of people flying into Scotland."

  • As Covid-19 Cases Rise, America Still Doesn’t Get It Thoughtful June 28 report from Bloomberg: "When it comes to coping with the Covid-19 crisis, America has been anything but exceptional. Europe’s patience ahead of cautious reopenings has been rewarded with a steep drop in cases; a recent outbreak in Beijing was met with swift lockdowns and mass testing. New Zealanders have largely returned to their pre-coronavirus routines thanks to strict and early border closures and orders to stay home. In the U.S., however, the curve remains far from flat, with record spikes in cases now appearing in Florida, Arizona, Texas and other states.
    "But that doesn’t mean there aren’t Americans who are doing exceptional work in trying, or that most oppose mask wearing and other social-distancing measures. Despite failures in leadership — and the rollback in reopenings around the country — at higher levels, communities can remain vigilant amid a still-raging pandemic. Here's hoping lessons learned around the world might sink in before the next peak in the wave."

  • London’s Nightingale hospital recorded 144 safety incidents in 29 days Independent June 27 report: “London’s Nightingale hospital recorded 144 patient safety incidents during its 29 days treating 54 patients, it has emerged. There were two serious incidents at the field hospital, a doctor told a Royal Society of Medicine webinar.
    “Dr Andrew Wragg, consultant cardiologist and director of quality and safety at Barts Health NHS Trust, said a study of the long-term outcomes of the 54 patients was ongoing, as 20 of those treated at the ExCel conference centre site were still recovering in hospitals across London.
    “The Nightingale was built to house up to 4,000 Covid-19 patients. It opened in April to cope with a predicted surge in patients needing critical care to help them breathe after the virus attacked their lungs and caused pneumonia. Although more than 2,000 staff volunteered and trained to work at the hospital, only 700 staff were actually employed on shifts there as the hospital never had more than 35 patients at any one time.”

  • Ministers ignored police chiefs' warning over risks of lifting lockdown in England Guardian June 27 on the inevitable aftermath of Cummings' outings to Durham and Barnard Castle: "Ministers were warned by senior policing figures on the eve of chaotic scenes at beaches last week that lifting the lockdown is “madness” and risks prompting fresh disorder.
    "During a meeting last Wednesday with police and crime commissioners, the Home Office minister Kit Malthouse was told that the decision to reopen pubs on 4 July could lead to increased violence and that coastal resorts could be overrun.
    "According to the West Midlands police and crime commissioner, Labour’s David Jamieson, Malthouse “brushed the concerns away”. Jamieson said: “The issue was raised and it is total madness, we all know it’s madness. Some of his [Malthouse’s] Conservative colleagues raised it as well, particularly those on the coast.”
    "The following day a major incident was declared after tens of thousands of people defied pleas to stay away and descended on beaches in Bournemouth, while police were attacked at illegal street parties in Brixton and Notting Hill in London."

  • UK ditches healthcare coverage for pensioners moving to EU after Brexit transition Europestreet news report June 27: "The dream of many British pensioners to retire in a Mediterranean country may be crushed by the new Brexit reality. Under a proposal by the British government, from January 2021 the UK will no longer reimburse healthcare for pensioners who move to EU countries.
    "The draft negotiating text on the future relationship with the EU published in May also cuts social security benefits for people who move between the UK and the EU from next year. These benefits include the possibility to receive carer allowances or to aggregate periods of contributions to be entitled to unemployment allowances.
    "The proposals concern only people who will move between the UK and the EU after the Brexit transition period, which ends on December 31st, 2020. "

  • Health Secretary calls on country to get tested as access is expanded even further June 26 Government press release allows us a glimpse into Matt Hancock's fantasy world in which he imagines widespread state of the art testing etc.
    In reality 331 Tory MPs voted to block a proposal for weekly testing of NHS staff, the people most likely to be exposed to the virus.
    Nor are there measure sin place to ensure tests are valid, returned, or to report the actual numbers of people being tested.

  • A Voice From the Front Line: Reaching out of the box to engage private non-state healthcare actors in LMICs to combat COVID-19 Unfortunate Health Systems Global blog argues for greater involvement of private sector in tackling Covid in the poorest countries, thus further stunting the belated growth of public sector provision and universal health coverage.
    "This blog calls for extraordinary measures to coordinate and engage with the ‘other half of the health sector’ – the informal health sector, private health professionals and non-state actors in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with weak health systems to start with, where the pressure from the current pandemic has been especially tough.
    "When state capacity has failed, the unorganized sector and local private practitioners are often the first line of contact for many vulnerable populations."

  • 'Terrified': As coronavirus cases surge in Mississippi, doctors provide dire perspective Mississippi Clarion Ledger report June 26: "Officials with the Mississippi Department of Health are urging people to wear facial masks and social distance after releasing the state's highest one-day total of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
    "The Health Department on Thursday reported 1,092 cases of the coronavirus and 532 patients hospitalized with the virus, prompting State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs to warn of an overburdened health care system.
    "It's not just the cases. We have seen the highest number of hospitalized patients. I'm terrified we will overwhelm the health care system, the hospitals, the ICUs. Not in the fall, I'm talking about this week," he said."

  • Student nurses will be paid until the end of their NHS frontline contracts Guardian June 26 report of health unions having forced another welcome government U-turn:
    “It comes after anger mounted among some of the 18,700 student nurses who started working in hospitals before their training ended believed their contracts had been ended earlier than expected as Covid-19 cases fell and the pressure on healthcare services continued to ease.
    “The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, last week said paid placements were being terminated early, effectively leaving students with no income, after the schemes were initially advertised locally as being for six months.
    “On Friday, Health Education England (HEE) issued an FAQ confirming that students would be fully paid until the end of their contracts, lasting until the end of August in some cases, after some were understood to have been told their contracts would end prematurely.”

  • UK on course for further 30,000 deaths unless Boris Johnson changes approach, Independent Sage warns Independent June 26 report: “The UK is on course for another 30,000 deaths by the first anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic unless Boris Johnson changes strategy, independent experts are warning.
    “A sharp drop in infections has already stalled, they say – with Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, having suggested they could stay at around 3,000 a day for nine more months, they pointed out.
    “ ‘If we carry on with 100 to 150 deaths a day, that’s over 30,000 deaths,’ warned Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London.
    “The professor is a member of the Independent Sage group of scientists, which has sharply criticised the government for lifting lockdown restrictions too early.
    “In a new analysis, it said so-called “Super Saturday” on 4 July – when pubs, restaurants and cultural venues can reopen – will arrive before the country is ready for the “risk” it poses.”

  • NHS England apologises after investigation finds only 23% of health trusts have risk-assessed BAME staff Sky News June 26 uncovering another dimension of the failure of NHS England and trust bosses to protect BAME staff from higher risk of Covid19:
    "NHS England has apologised after Sky News revealed that only 23% of health trusts in England have risk-assessed their BAME staff.
    "Two months ago, chief executive Sir Simon Stevens wrote to all trusts telling them Black Asian and Minority Ethnic staff are at "greater risk" from coronavirus and advised them to assess the risk.
    "In a Freedom of Information request to 221 trusts, Sky News asked whether they had completed those risk assessments. Of the 149 trusts that responded, only 34 said they had done so, while 91 others said they were "in the process"."

  • Trump administration urges Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act CBS News 26 june with another aspect to the worst ever president's handling of the worst-ever health crisis:
    "In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The late-night court filing came on the same day the government reported that close to half a million people who lost their health insurance amid the economic shutdown have gotten coverage through HealthCare.gov.
    "The administration's legal brief makes no mention of the coronavirus.
    "Overall, some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage, and protections for people with preexisting health conditions also would be put at risk if the court agrees with the administration in the case, which won't be heard before the fall.
    "The information on new sign-ups for health coverage comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The figures are partial because they don't include sign-ups from states that run their own health insurance marketplaces. Major states like California and New York aren't counted in the federal statistics."

  • UK councils fear bankruptcy amid Covid-19 costs BBC June 25 report: "Some of the largest UK councils say they may have to declare themselves effectively bankrupt unless the government agrees to further support.
    "Nearly 150 authorities have forecast a combined budget shortfall of at least £3.2bn, the BBC found.
    "Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the government "has got to recognise" the financial situation facing councils. The government said it was working on a "comprehensive plan" for councils.
    "A BBC investigation found across the UK:
    "At least five English councils warned they may meet the criteria to issue a section 114 notice at some point without more government support, declaring themselves effectively bankrupt
    "They include some of the UK's largest unitary authorities - Leeds, Wiltshire, Trafford, Tameside and Barnet"

  • NHS test and trace unable to reach almost 30 per cent of people with Covid-19 Independent June 25: “The government’s contact-tracing programme failed to reach almost 30 per cent of people who tested positive for the coronavirus in England last week, the latest figures show.
    “Only 70 per cent of the 6,923 people who tested positive for Covid-19 during the period were reached by NHS Test and Trace staff, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
    “This means that 2,054 people with the virus – and potentially thousands of their close contacts – could not be traced by the new system.
    “The figures also show that of the almost 21,000 people who have been referred to the tracing programme since it began at the end of May, 73 per cent were reached and asked to provide details of contacts.”

  • Getting back on track: control of covid-19 outbreaks in the community BMJ article by Peter Roderick, Alison MacFarlane and Allyson Pollock June 25. A useful critique of government response to Covid and a reminder of how if flouts the basic public health approach, which begins:
    "Historically, England’s system of communicable disease control has relied on close cooperation between local health services and authorities. General practitioners, NHS and public health laboratories, and local public health officers play key roles, backed by legal notification requirements.
    "That local system has gradually been eroded over several decades. (box 1) But instead of prioritising and rebuilding this system at the start of this epidemic, the government has created a separate system which steers patients away from GPs, avoids local authorities, and relies on commercial companies and laboratories to track, test, and contact trace. "

  • Revealed: The Government Isn’t Certain The Coronavirus 'R' Rate Is Below 1 In England Huffington post June 24: "The government is not certain that the coronavirus R rate is below 1 in England, meaning the disease may not be under control even as lockdown restrictions are being lifted, HuffPost UK can reveal.
    "According to a classified daily document released by Public Health England to health professionals across the UK, there is “uncertainty” around the figure published by the government, which has been used to justify the lowering of the UK’s “alert level”.
    "Publicly, the government last stated the R was 0.7 to 0.9 on June 17. If R – short for the reproduction rate of the virus – is greater than 1, the epidemic is generally seen to be growing. If R is less than 1, the epidemic is shrinking.
    "But a copy of last Thursday’s document, titled “COVID-19 Situation Report” and marked “OFFICIAL SENSITIVE”, states that because of uncertainty in how accurate the figure is “we cannot preclude R being above 1” in England."

  • London’s councils face £1.3 billion black hole due to coronavirus June 24 report from 853.London: "London boroughs are facing a “catastrophic” £1.3billion financial black hole caused by coronavirus, council leaders warned today.
    "The London Councils group, which represents local authorities across the city, told MPs crippling cuts to services will take place unless the government “honours its promise” to pay back the money they have spent during the Covid-19 crisis.
    Boroughs have paid out millions over the last three months on housing all rough sleepers, providing PPE and delivering food and medication.
    "By the end of the financial year there will be £1.8billion of extra pressure on boroughs due to Covid-19, London Councils estimates. They told MPs they will collectively lose £1.1billion through income loss and £700million through increased expenditure."

  • UK must prepare for second virus wave - health leaders BBC June 24 report: “Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to determine whether the UK is properly prepared for the "real risk" of a second wave of coronavirus.
    “In an open letter published in the British Medical Journal, ministers were warned that urgent action would be needed to prevent further loss of life.
    “The presidents of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Nursing, Physicians, and GPs all signed the letter. It comes after Boris Johnson announced sweeping changes to England's lockdown.
    “The Department of Health said it would continue to be guided by the latest scientific advice and would give the NHS "whatever it needs".”

  • £93m PPE gown contract to confectionery firm with 14 employees Evidence UK govt gave £93.24m contract to Clandeboye Agencies Ltd for the supply of Covid PPE, a company with 14 employees, net assets of £291,026 & specializing in "Wholesale of sugar and chocolate and sugar confectionery" (as per info filed Companies House).

  • A national care service is the only way to prevent more deaths UNISON 24 June press release publicising new policy document calling for reform of social care:
    "The pandemic has exposed the fault lines in the social care system, which requires substantial reform if its many structural, financial and operational weaknesses are to be tackled, says UNISON in a new strategy document released today (Wednesday).
    "Care After Covid: A Vision for Social Care sets out how the fragmented, crisis-riven sector could be transformed into a national care system. One that the union says could cope with the day-to-day challenges of caring for vulnerable people and be better prepared for a future health emergency of the same severity as the current pandemic.
    "Improved regulation and government oversight, better staff pay, stringent UK-wide professional standards, robust workers’ rights, and strategic long-term investment could help create a resilient care system that resembles the NHS more, says UNISON."

  • A Simple Way to Save Lives as Covid-19 Hits Poorer Nations New York Times report June 24: "As the coronavirus pandemic hits more impoverished countries with fragile health care systems, global health authorities are scrambling for supplies of a simple treatment that saves lives: oxygen.
    "Many patients severely ill with Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, require help with breathing at some point. But now the epidemic is spreading rapidly in South Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa, regions of the world where many hospitals are poorly equipped and lack the ventilators, tanks and other equipment necessary to save patients whose lungs are failing.
    "The World Health Organization is hoping to raise $250 million to increase oxygen delivery to those regions. The World Bank and the African Union are contributing to the effort, and some medical charities are seeking donations for the cause."

  • South Bend Common Council Passes Resolution Supporting Universal Health Care During Pandemic June 24 report suggests Indiana is embracing the call for single payer health care in the USA: "The South Bend Common Council passed a resolution Monday night supporting the nationwide Medicare for All program and the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
    "The resolution is meant to send a message to Indiana Congress members that South Bend supports universal health care during the coronavirus pandemic and after.
    "6th District Council Member Sheila Niezgodski says while she normally wouldn’t be pro medicaid for all, the pandemic has brought on special circumstances that she believes call for extra assistance."

  • 1 in 4 working carers consider giving up work due to pressures of balancing work and caring responsibilities Welfare Weekly June 24 report with worrying implications: "New research indicates that almost half (44%) of working carers in England and Wales, equivalent to around 1.6 million people, are struggling to cope with the pressures of balancing their work and caring responsibilities – and that a quarter (24%) have considered giving up their job entirely.
    "These are the findings in a newly published report, Supporting working carers: How employers and employees can benefit, from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, and The University of Sheffield, which highlights the need for greater support for carers from their employers."

  • From China to Germany, the World Learns to Live With the Coronavirus New York Times June 24 overview: “Around the world, governments that had appeared to tame the coronavirus are adjusting to the reality that the disease is here to stay. But in a shift away from damaging nationwide lockdowns, they are looking for targeted ways to find and stop outbreaks before they become third or fourth waves.
    “While the details differ, the strategies call for giving governments flexibility to tighten or ease as needed. They require some mix of intensive testing and monitoring, lightning-fast response times by the authorities, tight border management and constant reminders to their citizens of the dangers of frequent human contact.
    “The strategies often force central governments and local officials to share data and work closely together, overcoming incompatible computer systems, turf battles and other longstanding bureaucratic rivalries. Already, in Britain, some local officials say their efforts are not coordinated enough.”

  • https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8450773/More-HALF-NHS-patients-England-waiting-six-weeks-tests.html Daily Mail surprisingly highlighting Labour Party research June 23: “More than half of people waiting for NHS tests in England had been waiting for six weeks or more by April, statistics have revealed.
    “The Labour Party's analysis found 470,000 people have been waiting a month-and-a-half or more for potentially life-saving scans and tests.
    “It is calling for weekly testing of all NHS staff so the health service can get back on its feet and clear the massive backlog of sick patients waiting to be diagnosed and treated. In February just 2.8 per cent of people booked in for tests had to wait for six weeks, but this had soared to 55 per cent by April because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
    “These patients include people waiting for MRI or CT scans, ultrasounds, audiology (hearing) appointments, colonoscopies or heart, brain or lung tests.
    “Health bosses warned earlier this month that the surgery waiting list, growing because routine operations were cancelled during the Covid-19 crisis, could soar to 10million people by Christmas, with surgeons warning of a 'significant backlog'.”

  • Nearly half of home test kits not sent back or returned void, government admits June 23 report in the Independent; “The Government's testing figures count a test as soon as it is sent out rather than when results are obtained, with the effect of inflating the numbers in time to meet deadlines.
    “But new statistics released by the Department of Health and Social Care show that 39 per cent of kits are not being sent back, with a further 4.8 per cent of those – 9,761 – returned void.
    “It means that over 4 in 10 of the home testing kits are not actually providing results, a total of around 42 per cent.
    “The statistics were released by the government in response to a written parliamentary question on Tuesday. Ministers have previously been coy about releasing the exact figures, but Public Health England told a parliamentary committee last month that "certainly more than half" were being returned.”

  • Boris Johnson rejects demand for urgent inquiry into government's handling of coronavirus pandemic Independent June 23: “Boris Johnson has rejected demands for an urgent independent inquiry into his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
    “The prime minister was challenged to call an inquiry by Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey, but insisted it would not currently be “a good use of official time”.
    “The clash came as MPs debated the prime minister’s dramatic relaxation of lockdown measures in England from 4 July.
    “The changes, which allow pubs, restaurants and cafes to reopen and cut the two-metre social distancing rule to “one-metre plus”, were given a rapturous reception in the House of Commons by Tory MPs who queued up to invite the PM to visit venues in their constituencies.”

  • Eight out of 10 English councils at risk of bankruptcy, says study Guardian June 23 report: “More than eight out of 10 English councils providing adult social care services are at technical risk of bankruptcy – or face a fresh round of cuts to services – because they cannot meet the extra financial pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.
    “The analysis estimated that predicted Covid-19-related costs and income losses in 131 out of England’s 151 upper-tier councils this year will exceed both the levels of their available financial reserves and the support so far provided by central government.
    “The majority of those councils that are in the “red wall” northern England and Midlands parliamentary seats won by the Tories from Labour at the last general election are at risk of going bust because of Covid-19 pressures, the study found.
    “The Centre for Progressive Policy thinktank study said authorities in the most deprived areas of England already hit hardest by a decade of austerity faced higher pandemic-related costs, and should be prioritised for government support in line with ministerial promises to “level up” so-called “left behind” areas of England.”

  • England in danger of following same route as US, leading epidemiologist warns Independent June 23: "England risks following the route of several US states which have seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases after lifting lockdown too early, a leading epidemiologist has warned.
    "Professor Gabriel Scally, a member of the Independent Sage group of experts, said that the country was in a “difficult and dangerous situation” after Boris Johnson’s decision to ease restrictions while daily infections are still running well into four figures, the NHS Test and Trace system has yet to prove its effectiveness and the promised smartphone app has been shown to be a “dead duck”.
    "He was speaking to The Independent after a joint plea was issued by eminent doctors, including presidents of 11 medical royal colleges, for Mr Johnson’s administration to make preparations for a probable second wave of Covid-19."

  • 42 hospitals closed, filed for bankruptcy this year Beckers Hospital Review in the US, June 22 with another glimpse of the American system at work:
    "At least 42 hospitals across the U.S. have closed or entered bankruptcy this year, and the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may force more hospitals to do the same in coming months.
    "COVID-19 has created a cash crunch for many hospitals across the nation. They're estimated to lose $200 billion between March 1 and June 30, according to a report from the American Hospital Association.
    "More than $161 billion of the expected revenue losses will come from canceled services, including non-elective surgeries and outpatient treatment.
    "Moody's Investors Service said the sharp declines in revenue and cash flow caused by the suspension of elective procedures could cause more hospitals to default on their credit agreements this year than in 2019. "

  • Systemic racism among risk factors in Covid-19 BAME deaths in Wales Guardian June 22 report : "Structural and systemic racism is among the key risk factors that has contributed to the high death rate in Wales of black, Asian and minority ethnic people, a report commissioned by the devolved government has concluded.
    "The report, which is to be published on Monday, makes more than 30 recommendations to address the socio-economic and environmental risks it highlights.
    "Prof Emmanuel Ogbonna, who chaired the group that produced the report, said the central issues raised had been identified many times before the Covid-19 crisis but had not been addressed.
    "He said: “There’s an overall theme running through our research for this report. It centres on longstanding racism and disadvantage and the lack of BAME representation within decision-making processes.”"

  • How to Destroy a National Health Service June 22 feature in The Nation begins:
    "Soon after Covid-19 started to sweep through the United Kingdom in March, thousands of residents began appearing at their windows every Thursday to applaud the National Health Service. While the pandemic has evidently caused a wave of renewed appreciation for the NHS, the universal health care system has been a source of immense British pride for over 70 years. What many Britons fail to realize, however, is that some of the past and present government officials clapping alongside them, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have had a hand in the decades-long efforts to privatize their beloved NHS."

  • The pandemic is not over – we need to push now for a zero-coronavirus Britain June 22 Guardian comment by public health expert Devi Sridhar argues for a totalk 2-week lockdown to eleiminate the virus:
    "As an island, Great Britain is in a strong position to eliminate the virus and fully reopen schools, bars and theatres as well as bringing back sports matches and weddings, without pointless debates about 1 or 2 metre distancing measures. This would require mass testing – to catch all symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers – tracing of contacts and isolation for those individuals.
    "The public needs to be convinced that the short-term pain is worth it, including continued physical distancing from others, use of face masks when distancing is not possible, and putting aside short-term self-interest for a few more months.
    "Local dashboards should be created using the first part of postcodes, so individuals can understand transmission within their communities and ensure their behaviour contributes to a downwards push. Covid-19 will burn itself out if it has no other hosts to transmit it."

  • Health official defends discharging patients into English care homes Guardian June 22: "Discharging patients into care homes in England in early April, when the number of coronavirus cases was rapidly increasing, was neither reckless nor wrong, the Department of Health and Social Care’s most senior civil servant has claimed.
    "Faced with aggressive questioning from MPs on the powerful public accounts committee on Monday, Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the DHSC, said the guidance for discharge was correct based on the information available at the time."

  • NHS Test and Trace: it didn’t have to be this way Anonymous doctor's June 22 BMJ blog: "During my shifts later that week, there were no cases to trace, an experience echoed by others who spoke to other mainstream media and newspapers, labelling the system “chaotic” and “a complete shambles.” “I’m yet to know anybody who has made a call to a member of the public,” said one.12
    "So, what went wrong? One thing seems clear: too many organisations spoil the broth.
    NHS Professionals employed us as clinical tracers, but we were recruited by Capita and placed with Public Health England (PHE).
    "Sitel provided access to the tracing applications and systems, and these all required different usernames and passwords. Synergy CRM assigned cases and held scripts, CTAS captured contact tracing information, RingCentral was used for voice calls, and MaxConnect was used for storing knowledge about contacts.
    "All of these systems were accessed through Amazon Workspace. Training was initially through PHE’s Learnspace, and then moved to Health Education England’s e-Learning for Health.
    "When systems are disconnected, cracks rapidly appear. "

  • Local health teams trace eight times more contacts than national service BMJ June 22 blog shows level of failure of privatised track and trace system run by Serco and extent to which it is hidden by efforts of public health experts:
    "Local health protection teams have traced nearly eight times more contacts (77 642) than the national call centres and online service (9997), latest figures show.1
    "The NHS Test and Trace system brings together the local health protection teams that handle complex cases, and the national call centre and online system—run by two private companies, Serco and Sitel.
    "The contracts awarded to operate test and trace are reportedly worth £108m (€120m; $134m) in total,2 and some experts have said this money would have been better spent on resourcing and funding local public health teams, who were already in place and could have led the initiative."

  • ‘Untouchable’ hospitals still rejecting '75%' of GP referrals Pulse magazine June 17 reveals: “Hospitals rendered ‘untouchable’ by coronavirus measures are still rejecting referrals and ‘reverse delegating’ patients back to their GPs, Pulse has learned.
    “Pulse has been told that CCGs in some areas are having to hold around 75% of GP referrals, which are not being accepted by trusts. GP leaders warned that the ‘backlog’ of patients waiting to be seen by secondary care is placing the ‘risk and burden’ on primary care.
    “It comes as the NHS Confederation said that 10 million patients could be on the waiting list for routine procedures by the end of this year.”

  • Boris Johnson seems determined to ignore any lessons from coronavirus. It’s not good enough Independent June 19 article from Tory MP and chair of Commons Health Committee, Sarah Wollaston: "The government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has been “world beating” only in delivering one of the highest death rates. When ministers refuse to acknowledge that anything could or should have been handled differently, how on earth will they learn from mistakes?
    "Britain was in no position to follow World Health Organisation guidance on testing and tracing because inadequate equipment and facilities, combined with fragmented and underfunded public health systems, meant they were rapidly overwhelmed.
    "We were late into lockdown, and for all the promises and ambitious targets, scant supplies of personal protective equipment left health and social care staff vulnerable to infection and increased the risk of transmission to patients. The decision to quarantine people arriving from overseas happened months after it could have helped to prevent the virus taking root across the UK.
    "Coronavirus has also starkly exposed pre-existing health inequalities, which disproportionately affected black, Asian and minority ethnic communities as well as other disadvantaged groups. Far from being the great leveller, it looks set to widen the gap in health for decades to come."

  • Sophy Ridge tears into Matt Hancock after coronavirus admission: 'How is that a success? Express correspondents report the news from their sofa while watching Sophy Ridge on Sky challenge Health Secretary Matt Hancock:
    "Matt Hancock admission he was "delighted" with the new track and trace system, which was slammed by Sky's Sophy Ridge. The Government hired 27,000 coronavirus contact tracers who reached 40,000 contacts in a week.
    "Ms Ridge pointed out the tracers were, on average, reaching less than two people in a week and demanded to know how that was a success."

  • Student nurses ‘not deemed to be providing a service’, says MP Nursing Notes June 21 on the idiotic statement of a gaffe-prone Tory minister that has enraged nurses and nursing students:
    "A Conservative MP has claimed that the government has “no plans” to backdate a new £5,000 grant for student nurses as they “are not deemed to be providing a service”.
    "Helen Whately, the Conservative MP for Faversham and Care Minister at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) makes the bold claim while responding to a letter from Tom Pursglove MP calling for additional financial support for student nurses.
    "The government scrapped the NHS Bursary system for student nurses and midwives in 2015 which subsequently led to a significant drop in the number of applicants."

  • Coronavirus has downgraded from 'tiger to wild cat' and could die out without vaccine Telegraph June 20 with some encouraging news from Italy:
    “Prof Matteo Bassetti, head of the infectious diseases clinic at the Policlinico San Martino hospital in Italy, told The Telegraph that Covid-19 has been losing its virulence in the last month and patients who would have previously died are now recovering.
    “The expert in critical care said the plummeting number of cases could mean a vaccine is no longer needed as the virus might never return.
    “… "The clinical impression I have is that the virus is changing in severity," said Prof Bassetti.
    "In March and early April the patterns were completely different. People were coming to the emergency department with a very difficult to manage illness and they needed oxygen and ventilation, some developed pneumonia.
    "Now, in the past four weeks, the picture has completely changed in terms of patterns. There could be a lower viral load in the respiratory tract, probably due to a genetic mutation in the virus which has not yet been demonstrated scientifically. Also we are now more aware of the disease and able to manage it.”

  • Shock poll results reveal MAJOR public distrust of new coronavirus test and trace provider Daily Express shocks us by revealing some news (June 19): "A poll conducted by Survation shows that almost half of people don’t trust outsourcing giant Serco to run part of the test and trace programme.
    "Serco was given a contract worth £45 million to employ call handlers for the test and trace programme.
    "The group polled 1,022 UK adults, after it emerged the service had failed to reach a quarter of people after they tested positive for coronavirus.
    "After test and trace launched in May 28. Over 3,800 people infected were not contacted about who they had seen."

  • Coronavirus app failure leaves tracing plan in disarray Times report June 19: “A smartphone app to track the spread of Covid-19 may never be released, ministers admitted yesterday, as they abandoned a three-month attempt to create their own version of the technology.
    “Matt Hancock, the health secretary, announced that the government was scrapping its coronavirus contact-tracing app to focus on one developed with Apple and Google technology.
    “Mr Hancock said that in trials neither of the potential apps was accurate enough to be used by the public and he could not indicate when, or if, a usable version might be available. “The truth is that no app is better than a bad app,” a senior government source said.
    “In a sign of the breakdown in trust between the two sides sources at Apple said that it had not been informed of the announcement or consulted about the plan to work together. “We don’t know what they mean by this hybrid model. They haven’t spoken to us about it,” a source said.
    “The company also queried the claim that its model was less accurate at measuring distance than the government’s NHSX model. “It is difficult to understand what these claims are as they haven’t spoken to us. But the app has been downloaded by six million in 24 hours in Germany, the Italians have had it going since Monday, the Dutch government and Irish government have it, and there has been no issue about proximity detection.”

  • Medics demand better terms for 'less valued colleagues' HSJ June 19 report on doctors writing to declare their support for support service staff at Homerton Hospital FT in Hackney, which is seeking to extend a private contract with ISS for a further five years:
    "This has spurred 170 of the trust’s 464 doctors to write to the chief executive, Tracey Fletcher, urging her to reconsider.
    "The letter says: “We are writing as Homerton employed doctors in support of our ISS colleagues. We understand that a further five year contract is to be signed with ISS at the end of this month.
    "We have been proud to work alongside colleagues in cleaning, portering, catering and security services during the Covid-19 pandemic. They have gone above and beyond in their commitment and hard work, just as NHS staff have.
    “Their work is invaluable to the care we offer our patients. Without these colleagues, our hospital would run poorly. Despite all of us being invested in trust values, these employees… by being employed through ISS… receive worse pay and worse terms and conditions, including only statutory sick pay.
    “It is therefore disappointing and deeply troubling that the trust has decided to extend this contract and these inequalities for a further five years. Covid has rightly shone a light on our less valued colleagues, who are so important. It is an opportunity for change and not to just pay lip service to the NHS family.”"

  • Nearly 1,500 deaths in one day: UK ministers accused of downplaying Covid-19 peak Guardian June 19 on a fresh analysis of Covid-19 deaths reveals a big gap between the real figures and those we were told at the time:
    "Ministers have been accused of playing down the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic after it emerged that more than 1,000 people died every day in the UK for 22 consecutive days – in stark contrast with daily tolls announced by the government.
    "According to an analysis of official figures, the darkest day came on 8 April as the country prepared for Easter under lockdown, when a record 1,445 people died from Covid-19 in 24 hours.
    "The figures – encompassing deaths in hospitals, care homes and private residences – are far higher than the numbers announced by ministers during that period at the daily Downing Street briefings, as the pandemic peaked faster than forecast.
    "Critics say ministers should have more clearly underlined that the reported death tolls were underestimates of the true tallies as they only counted deaths in hospitals after positive Covid-19 tests, excluding thousands who died in care homes."

  • CQC says inspections suspended for covid-19 crisis will restart in autumn BMA news report June 19 that will bring joy to the hearts of NHS hospital staff and management: "Routine inspections of healthcare providers that were suspended during the covid-19 crisis will restart this autumn, England’s healthcare regulator has announced.
    "The Care Quality Commission will also conduct inspections of higher risk providers over the summer, it announced.
    "The CQC stopped all routine inspections of hospitals, GP surgeries, and care providers in March to allow services to focus on the covid-19 crisis.1 In the interim period it has been checking up on providers remotely through its emergency support framework [ESF]."

  • Social care ‘cannot be kicked into the long grass’, Hancock warned as nursing homes make up almost half of deaths Independent JUne 18 report: "The issue of social care cannot “be kicked into the long grass any longer”, the health secretary has been warned as the Labour party calls for more support for both professional and unpaid carers struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.
    "More than 13,000 people have died from Covid-19 in care homes across England during the course of the pandemic – making up 45 per cent of the nation’s overall fatalities while putting strain on a fragmented and cash strapped care system.
    "Now with a Social Care Taskforce set to advise the government on how the sector can emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, shadow social care minister Liz Kendall has told the health secretary the wellbeing of care staff must be a priority for the future."

  • Treasury blocks plan for private hospitals to tackle NHS backlog Guardian June 18 reports the axing of an NHS England plan to spend up to £5bn a year on private hospitals:
    "Matt Hancock, the health secretary, and NHS bosses are pushing for a £5bn-a-year deal to treat NHS patients in private hospitals and tackle a spiralling backlog amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Guardian has learned.
    "But the Treasury is blocking the plan, which could cover a range of treatments including cancer surgery, joint operations and cataract removals amid concerns that it will not offer value for money.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England want the Treasury to fund an extension of a contract that has resulted in scores of private hospitals being paid about £400m a month to perform procedures since the start of the pandemic, when the NHS suspended swathes of non-urgent treatment to prioritise Covid-19 patients.
    "The deal, agreed in March, in effect gave the NHS control of the private sector’s 8,000 beds, 680 operating theatres and 20,000 staff, though there were concerns that many hospitals stood near-empty during the Covid-19 crisis. It has never confirmed how much the scheme costs."

  • Trusts to buy Serco out of joint venture after losing major contract (£) HSJ June 18 report on an unsavoury deal in south east London:
    "Two foundation trusts are set to buy an outsourcing company out of a multimillion pound pathology partnership, HSJ can reveal.
    "King’s College Hospital FT and Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT will pay an undisclosed sum to Serco for its share of Viapath, the firm they co-own.
    "The company was set up in 2009 to run the pathology labs at the two south London trusts but earlier this year another operator was named preferred bidder for a new 15-year, £2.25bn contract.
    "Synlab was selected and, if final approvals are granted, will take over the running of the services from September."

  • Ministers accused of 'betrayal' over NHS surcharge for migrants Guardian June 18: "Doctors have accused ministers of “a crass betrayal” by not honouring Boris Johnson’s pledge to scrap the £400-a-year fees foreign-born NHS staff have to pay for healthcare.
    "The Doctors’ Association UK has written to Priti Patel, the home secretary, criticising the delay as “unacceptable”.
    "The prime minister made the first major U-turn of his time in power on 21 May when he announced that health and care workers would no longer be forced to pay the immigration health surcharge.
    "Johnson abolished the charge after Conservative MPs told him the fees were “mean-spirited and immoral”, given that migrant health staff already contribute to the NHS by working in it and paying tax. He won widespread praise for the move, and has since stressed his commitment to implementing it.
    "But in the letter Dr Rinesh Parmar, the DAUK’s chair, said: “Several weeks down the line we are deeply concerned that it seems that no progress has been made towards actually scrapping the charges. We have received scores of messages from doctors stating that the Home Office have advised that the charge is yet to be officially removed. This is frankly unacceptable."

  • UK virus-tracing app switches to Apple-Google model BBC report June 18 catches up with the chaos in the development of what has been proven to be a failed app to assist the tracking and tracing of the Covid virus, after ministers wasted months and millions trying to create an "NHS" app rather than use other working systems:
    "In a major U-turn, the UK is ditching the way its current coronavirus-tracing app works and shifting to a model based on technology provided by Apple and Google.
    "The Apple-Google design has been promoted as being more privacy-focused.
    "However, it means epidemiologists will have access to less data. The government now intends to launch an app in the autumn, however it says the product may not involve contact tracing at that point.
    "Instead the software may be limited to enabling users to report their symptoms and order a test."

  • Government abandons NHS coronavirus app in favour of Apple and Google system Mirror June 18 reports the app fiasco: "The Government has ditched the system behind the NHS coronavirus app and is putting all its efforts into developing an app based on Google and Apple's built-in system, the Mirror understands.
    "It's understood the app is only able to correctly identify contacts on Android phones 75% of the time - and just 4% of the time on iPhones.
    "Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to outline the government's new approach later today.
    "The NHSX app has been on trial on the Isle of Wight since early May.
    "But the Mirror understands "problems" have been found and it won't be rolled out in its current form.
    "One issue with the Government's app is that it that Apple phones don't allow third party apps to use bluetooth connections while the phone is locked, an issue experts warned would be a problem within days of the NHSX app being announced."

  • After coronavirus, the NHS's ability to provide care will be reduced, experts warn Guardian quotes various views on the prospects for restarting the NHS as the Covid caseload subsides, including Nuffield Trust's Nigel Edwards, Foundation Trust boss Sam Allen, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton and GMB national secretary Rehana Azam

  • Health minister says app should roll out by winter BBC June 17 report on the ongoing failed tracing app fiasco: “A government minister has said the NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app is "not a priority" and he was not sure it would be out by winter.
    “The app, which has been trialled on the Isle of Wight, was initially expected to launch nationally weeks ago. The BBC can also reveal that the project's two lead managers - NHSX's Matthew Gould and Geraint Lewis - are stepping back.
    “And Simon Thompson - a former Apple executive - is joining to manage it. Mr Thompson is currently chief product officer at the online grocer Ocado. He has been appointed to Baroness Dido Harding's Test and Trace team, where he will have other duties in addition to the app.
    “… Lord Bethell, the Minister for Innovation at the Department of Health and Social Care, said he was unable to give a date for its launch.”

  • 'We saved your life Boris,' student nurses recruited to work Covid-19 front line angry as placements cut short ITV news June 17 report: "Thousands of student nurses recruited to work on the front line against Covid-19 have been told their placements will be cut short, plunging some of them into financial despair.
    "Many nurses expressed their outrage at a decision from NHS England that their paid placements will now finish on 31 July instead of running until the end of September.
    "But Health Education England (HEE) – which oversees training – said that it was "made clear to students who opted into paid placements" that the arrangements would need to come to an end at "an appropriate point".
    "One nurse calling herself Becky Jane said nurses had been told by HEE that the NHS can no longer afford to keep the paid placements going until the end of September as originally promised.
    “Some of us left jobs for this. Many of us have children and families to care for," she wrote on a message on Facebook."

  • How NSFT managers have designed bureaucratic obstacles to prevent or delay mental health admissions Norfolk Suffolk Mental Health Crisis presents data to back up its accusation that Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) “tries to manipulate its inappropriate out of area placement (OAP) bed statistics when the Care Quality Commission (CQC) comes to inspect.”
    “… out of area bed usage was again artificially reduced in the run-up to the latest full CQC inspection during October 2019, only to rise again shortly thereafter, even following NSFT’s blatant attempt to fiddle the most recent figures by excluding £560 per night beds at the remote private hospital on the site of the repeatedly-inadequate Mundesley Hospital which was forced to close by CQC, Southern Hills, on the basis that these placements are not inappropriate since a manager from NSFT visits the site twice per week.
    “ There is a bed crisis because NSFT closed at least 139 of its mental health beds at the same time as its community mental health services were slashed and specialist services were closed. NSFT has recently reopened sixteen beds but these are nowhere near enough to address the beds crisis, particularly when community services remain chronically underfunded.
    “NSFT’s Board and senior management consistently finds the money for new management posts, promotions and pay rises for themselves, relatives and friends but doesn’t seem to care about the quality of mental health services received by the people of Norfolk and Suffolk.…”

  • Student nurses irate after NHS frontline contracts cut short Guardian June 17: "Student nurses who joined the NHS frontline in England months before their training ended in order to join the fight against Covid-19 have voiced anger after contracts were terminated earlier than they expected as the pandemic comes under control.
    "As nursing unions called on the government to offer clarity for those affected, the shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, told parliament that student nurses who joined the frontline six months ago as part of the coronavirus effort were seeing their paid placement schemes terminated early, leaving them with no income.
    “Surely this is no way to treat student nursing staff,” he told the health secretary, Matt Hancock."

  • There's a hidden crisis threatening lives alongside Covid-19: the lack of routine treatment Guardian June 17: "“The government has spent recent weeks boasting that they have managed to protect the NHS during the pandemic, but what they’ve really done is shut it down. Almost two-thirds of Britons with common life-threatening conditions have been denied care by the NHS because hospitals have focused on fighting Covid-19. That’s people with breathing problems, high blood pressure and cancer.
    “Tens of thousands of non-urgent surgeries have been cancelled in recent months to free up space for coronavirus patients, while many diagnostic tests and outpatient appointments are on hold.
    “Screening services for cancer have been formally paused in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and are de facto suspended in England. NHS leaders say the waiting list for hospital treatment in England could soar to almost 10 million people by Christmas due to the huge backlog caused by coronavirus disrupting services. …
    “This comes on top of patients who have voluntarily stayed away; there was such concern about empty A&E wards during the height of lockdown that the government set up a campaign in April to encourage people with suspected strokes and heart attacks to still seek help.”

  • Delaying part of PHE’s report on covid-19 and ethnic minorities turned a potential triumph turned into a PR disaster Important BMJ blog by Prof Raj Bhopal on the saga of the missing recommendations from the Public Health England report, which were included as part of a 64-page report he peer-reviewed, but then withheld:
    "Public Health England was repeatedly challenged about the missing material, which was presumed to have been removed from the published report at a late stage.
    "They denied this and on 4 June 2020, the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, told parliament that PHE did not make recommendations because it was unable to do so.
    "Subsequently the UK government backtracked and have now said that the recommendations will be published belatedly."

  • Hospitals face ‘hard choices’ as routine NHS services restart, expert says Independent June 16: "Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, argued every patient who comes to hospital will now need to be treated as a potential infection risk and the layout of accident and emergency departments must be completely changed to ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to.
    "He emphasised such adaptations would affect the capacity of healthcare services, possibly by more than a third.
    “The net effect of all of this, and of the testing required before planned or elective treatment, is to slow the pace with which the NHS has traditionally treated patients, maybe by as much as 35 percent and in some cases more,” he said."

  • NHS examines new deal with private hospitals to clear waiting lists Financial Times June 16 on possible fresh windfall for private sector:
    “Private hospitals taken over by the government during the Covid-19 crisis are in talks about extending the arrangement for up to two years, as the NHS attempts to relieve growing pressure on patient waiting lists.
    “… One option being discussed is for NHS England to maintain the existing deal — struck in March and running until the end of this month — until August. This would mean the government continuing to pay all operating costs for the private hospitals including rent, external interest payments and staff. Industry sources estimated the value of the deal could be between £100m and £125m a week. “However, NHS England is also considering a less comprehensive agreement under which the health service would book out a majority of private hospital beds for between eight months and two years, according to two healthcare executives briefed on the discussions.”

  • Countries from Germany to Vietnam got test and trace right, so why didn't England? Guardian comment from Dr Dave McCoy June 16: "ost people agree that England’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis has been slow and disorganised; a fact made worse by the government’s willingness to squander public trust by massaging data and spinning the facts to save face. Yet its shambolic approach to testing and contact tracing isn’t the result of mistakes, but a choice to ignore evidence and experience.
    "For months, public health specialists in England have asked the government to decentralise responsibility for testing and tracing to local authority public health teams, which can develop nimble and responsive plans that are specific to different contexts, and organise systems with clear lines of accountability. They have also asked the government to recognise the obvious fact that case detection and contact tracing are social and behavioural interventions, which rely on skilled personnel and trust."

  • Resilience is much more than hospital beds Kings Fund June 16 blog stresses need for full range of services:
    "So, how can local health and care services adapt to be more resilient to a wide range of future shocks and risks? Capacity is likely to be first on the list in any debate about local resilience. Early in the pandemic, discussions in the NHS were dominated by bed numbers and occupancy rates.
    "The UK has a low number of hospital beds compared with other countries and the high and rising bed occupancy rate was an easily visible sign of a system under pressure. There was a clear recognition of the need to get bed numbers up and occupancy levels down.
    "There is a clear risk that approaching resilience by focusing primarily on acute hospital beds or occupancy rates reinforces the default of hospital-focused responses to system-wide issues.
    "However, understanding unmet need and hot spots in community health, community mental health, home care is much harder because there is little data collected for other key health and care services that is the equivalent to bed occupancy or waiting lists."

  • Where are the patients? The factors affecting the use of emergency care during Covid-19 Nuffield Rust June 16 blog hoping that the reductions in A&E attendances can continue after Covid:
    "Some predicted that the number of patients needing emergency care could increase over the course of the pandemic, as patients with chronic disease decompensate and people with previously undiagnosed conditions present with major complications in the absence of usual health care. This was coupled with a warning that the system could be severely stretched by pent-up demand for care after lockdown ends.
    "In this piece, based on the extant literature and my own clinical experience of working in a London teaching hospital over the past three months, I review a range of factors that might be impacting on the use of emergency health care services during the pandemic. They include changes in how the system is structured, the impact of disasters on people’s health, and how individuals might be modifying aspects of their own behaviour during the crisis.
    "They will suggest, in my view, that the drop in ED attendances is likely to be real, do not necessarily represent pent-up or deferred demand, and that aspects of this may be sustainable in the longer term."

  • WHO warns England's lockdown should not be lifted further without improved test and trace system Guardian June 15: “England’s coronavirus lockdown should not be further lifted until the government’s test and trace system has proven to be “robust and effective”, senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official has warned.
    “… WHO’s regional European director Hans Kluge cautioned against rushing into restarting the economy while the country remains in a “very active phase of the pandemic”.
    “… He added: “Contact tracing is key especially as the UK starts to relax the social and physical distancing measures. There has to be a robust track-and-trace system in place of operation.”

  • Revealed: Government spent more than £200m on Nightingale hospitals Shocking figures revealed by HSJ, and raising further questions:
    "Seven temporary hospitals were set up in the last three months to help the NHS respond to the covid-19 pandemic, although only two of them are known to have treated patients.
    "Including London’s Excel Arena, six other venues across England have temporarily been turned into hospitals. They are in Exeter, Bristol, Birmingham, Harrogate, Manchester and County Durham.
    "Setting up the hospitals cost around £220m, according to the Department of Health and Social Care in a response to a Freedom of Information request.
    "The DHSC also estimates running costs in April for the project were £15m, although only London, Birmingham and Manchester Nightingales were operational for at least half of this month. Only London and Manchester Nightingales treated patients."

  • Patients face diagnosis delays as hospitals struggle with surge in screenings Independent report June 10: "As the NHS tries to recover from the worst of the coronavirus crisis, more than a million laboratory samples from cancer screening services are expected in pathology labs, while as many as 850,000 delayed CT and MRI scans need to be carried out.
    "But 97 per cent of labs do not have enough pathologists to carry out the work – with staff already working unpaid hours to tackle the existing backlog – while the number of radiology posts nationally would need to be increased by a third to deal with the rise, experts say.
    "… The royal colleges of pathologists and radiologists warned that cancers would go undiagnosed and treatments for all patients across the NHS could be further delayed as a result."

  • Coronavirus: BAME safety plan not published BBC June 11 report, 2 weeks after same story published by HSJ: “A report containing measures to protect ethnic minority groups from coronavirus has been drawn up for government, BBC News has learned.
    “Public Health England (PHE) published a review last week confirming coronavirus kills people from ethnic minorities at disproportionately high rates.
    “But a senior academic told BBC News a second report, containing safeguarding proposals to tackle this, also existed. And PHE now says this report will be published next week.
    “…The already published PHE review found people of Bangladeshi heritage were dying at twice the rate of white Britons, while other black, Asian and minority ethnic groups had between 10% and 50% higher risk of death.”

  • The Guardian view on care homes: take responsibility and apologise Guardian Editorial comment June 12: "For weeks while the NHS was protected, social care in the UK was left to be overwhelmed.
    "The National Audit Office, Whitehall’s spending watchdog, confirmed that in the first month of lockdown, 25,000 patients were discharged from hospitals into care homes and spread the virus when testing was either patchy or non-existent, and personal protective equipment was unavailable. It looks like the elderly were either expendable or collateral damage in the war against Covid-19.
    "Care home residents could make up more than half the deaths caused directly or indirectly by the coronavirus crisis in England, a grim toll of 34,000.
    "Instead of shouldering responsibility, Boris Johnson blames others, telling MPs it was clinicians who authorised hospital discharges into care homes.
    "This is a slander. It was under guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care that elderly people, with no tests, were sent into care homes. Hardworking medics did not deliberately risk care homes, but a lack of testing surely did."

  • Care worker pay deductions must be tackled to stop hardship and control virus spread UNISON press release June 15: "Staff in the care sector, who need to self-isolate, shield or have the virus, have told UNISON they’re being forced to take unpaid leave or survive on minimal statutory sick pay (SSP), leaving them hundreds of pounds out of pocket each week.
    "Some have been told by their employers to use up annual leave or make up time for free when they return to work.
    "UNISON research shows the situation varies widely between employers. Many care workers complain they are being left high and dry with next to no income, even though their workplace may have been where they contracted the virus.
    "It means a significant number have no choice but to carry on working against public health advice because they can’t afford time off, increasing the risks of spreading the virus at work and to their family, says UNISON."

  • SAGE expert urges Homerton Hospital to ‘financially protect’ contracted workers Hackney Citizen report June 15: "A highly regarded public health expert and member of the Independent SAGE committee has called on the Homerton Hospital to guarantee “full financial compensation” for contracted workers if they fall sick or have to self-isolate.
    "The high-profile intervention was made by Professor Allyson Pollock, director of the Institute of Health and Society at the University of Newcastle at a recent meeting of a council commission scrutinising health in the borough.
    "The announcement that the Homerton is considering a five-year extension of a contract with facilities giant ISS sparked anger from trade unions Unison and the GMB recently. "

  • Government faces lawsuit over £108m PPE contract with pest control firm CITY am report June 15: “The Good Law Project has filed legal proceedings against the government over its multimillion-pound deal with Pestfix — which has just 16 staff — to provide equipment such as gowns and face masks to the NHS.
    “The government handed out more than £350m worth of PPE contracts to private companies in March without a competitive tender process, as the UK scrambled to find sufficient levels of protective equipment for the NHS.
    “The Good Law Project, established by barrister Jolyon Maugham, argued that the £108m contract with Crisp Websites Ltd — which trades as Pestfix — is equivalent to nearly a third of the government’s PPE deals.
    “We’re suing the government over its decision to grant an £108m contract for the supply of PPE to Crisp Websites Ltd,” The Good Law Project said in a statement.
    “The number of bidders who competed for that contract was one… [and] the purchase order for this enormous sum of money was issued on 10 April 2020, three days before the contract was concluded.”

  • Emergency care: what do the May data show? June 15 analysis by Health Foundation of NHS England statistics on emergency services:
    “As in March and April, A&E visits and emergency admissions through A&E were lower in May than in the same month the year before. Ambulance crews transported fewer patients to A&E with more patients treated at the scene.
    “The percentage reductions in A&E visits, emergency admissions through A&E and the numbers of patients transported to A&E were smaller than in April showing that levels of activity are starting to recover. However, the falls are slightly larger than in March when the lockdown began.
    “Emergency admissions have recovered at a faster rate than A&E visits, with such admissions 24% down in May compared to 22% down in March.
    “Visits to major A&E departments were down 33% in May compared 26% in March. The slowest to recover have been activity in minor A&E departments, where visits in May were 58% lower than the total in March 2019.”

  • Millions of African Americans and Native Americans were uninsured as pandemic hit: ‘Having COVID-19 is scary enough’ US article June 13 from Market Watch:
    “Typically health insurance is tied to employment — which makes being laid off in the midst of a pandemic all the more difficult. But 18.2 million Americans would have had difficulty affording medical care if they contracted a severe case of COVID-19, even if they weren’t laid off from their jobs.
    “That’s because they were either uninsured or inadequately insured prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published in the latest edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
    “African Americans, Native Americans and lower-income individuals have been found to be at a higher risk of contracting a more severe case of COVID-19 than Caucasians due to many factors, including access to quality health care and their roles in frontline jobs, and higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, which also have socio-economic causes.
    “Black COVID-19 patients have 2.7 times the odds of being admitted to the hospital compared to non-Hispanic white patients.
    “Between May 21 and May 26, 20.5 million U.S. adults were uninsured, 15.5 million of whom were also unemployed.
    “The pandemic is laying bare the lethal inequality of American society and American health care,” said lead author Adam Gaffney, a pulmonary and critical care physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School.”

  • Revealed: Boris Johnson scrapped Cabinet ministers' pandemic team six months before coronavirus hit Britain Daily Mail reports: "Boris Johnson scrapped a team of Cabinet ministers tasked with protecting the UK from a pandemic six months before coronavirus arrived, a Mail investigation has found.
    "The Government’s ‘anti-pandemic committee’, which included senior ministers Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Gavin Williamson, was disbanded without discussing virus control plans.
    "The group, officially known as the Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingency Committee (THRCC), was supposed to ensure the UK was ready to cope with a pandemic."

  • BMA demands answers over missing BAME pages of Covid-19 report Guardian June 13: “In a letter sent to health secretary Matt Hancock, shared exclusively with the Guardian, the head of the BMA called for the missing pages and recommendations to be published immediately.
    “Dr Chaand Nagpaul CBE, the BMA council chair, noted his concern over reports that 69 pages covering seven recommendations were removed from last week’s Public Health England’s report.
    “’I’m finding it inexplicable the government did not release the full report at a time not only when the BAME community suffered so disproportionately with the virus, but also at a time when there was global outcry and outrage to racial inequalities,’” Nagpaul said.
    “On Thursday, a senior academic disclosed that the advice for the government on how to protect BAME communities from coronavirus has yet to be published.”

  • What Went Wrong: Corona and the World after the Full Stop A long read, but well worth reading, this 21-page study gives a genuine world view on the handling of the pandemic and its impact, offering something beyond the superficial analyses we see everywhere

  • UK will not participate in EU’s coronavirus fast track vaccine scheme European report June 12: “The UK will not be involved in the European Union’s plans to fast track orders for a coronavirus vaccine, designed to ensure supplies for member states as soon as one is ready.
    “The UK will not formally be a part of the programme, but an EU spokesperson suggested it would be able to benefit from the scheme until the scheduled end for the Brexit transition period on December 31.
    “The bloc’s executive body will propose to its 27 member states that they negotiate with pharmaceutical companies as a united bloc and offer up-front financing to speed development and ensure priority access to any successful vaccine.
    “The EU proposes using a “large majority” of a €2.7bn emergency fund for the effort but is also committed to ensuring fair access worldwide to pandemic remedies.”

  • All data related to Deaths involving COVID-19 by local area and socioeconomic deprivation: deaths occurring between 1 March and 31 May 2020 ONS figures showing that Covid mortality rates are highest in the most urban areas and lowest in the most rural areas

  • Chief nurse dropped from Downing Street coronavirus briefing ‘after refusing to back Dominic Cummings’ Independent June 12 report: "England’s chief nurse was dropped from one of Downing Street’s daily coronavirus briefings after refusing to publicly back Dominic Cummings, senior sources have told The Independent.
    "As Boris Johnson’s chief aide was engulfed in scandal over his trips to Durham and Barnard Castle during lockdown, Ruth May had been due to appear alongside the health secretary Matt Hancock in the press conference.
    "But, in practice questions hours before the briefing, she was asked about Mr Cummings and, after failing to give support to the prime minister’s chief adviser, she was immediately dropped from the press conference, according to senior NHS sources.
    "Instead the health secretary had to present the slides on Covid-19 himself for the first time, alongside Professor John Newton from Public Health England. The incident, on 1 June, was two days after England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam sparked headlines by saying that lockdown rules “apply to all” when asked about Mr Cummings. He has not appeared at the press conferences since 30 May."

  • Matt Hancock faces legal action from daughter of Covid-19 care home victim Guardian June 12 reports "Matt Hancock is facing legal action from the daughter of a man who died from Covid-19 in a care home in which the health secretary is accused of a “litany of failures” and misleading the public with his claim to have “thrown a protective ring” around care homes.
    "Dr Cathy Gardner launched a high court claim on Friday after her father, Michael Gibson, a retired superintendent of births, marriages and deaths, died in an Oxfordshire care home in early April. He became infected after a patient who tested positive for the virus was discharged from hospital into the home.
    "The request for a judicial review alleges failings “have led to large numbers of unnecessary deaths and serious illnesses” and have been “aggravated by the making of wholly disingenuous, misleading and – in some cases – plainly false statements suggesting that everything necessary has been done to protect care homes during the pandemic”.

  • Coronavirus survival comes with a $1.1 million, 181-page price tag June 12 slice of life in the US, from Seattle Times:
    "Remember Michael Flor, the longest-hospitalized COVID-19 patient who, when he unexpectedly did not die, was jokingly dubbed “the miracle child?”
    "Now they can also call him the million-dollar baby.
    "Flor, 70, who came so close to death in the spring that a night-shift nurse held a phone to his ear while his wife and kids said their final goodbyes, is recovering nicely these days at his home in West Seattle. But he says his heart almost failed a second time when he got the bill from his health care odyssey the other day.
    “I opened it and said ‘holy [bleep]!’ “ Flor says.
    "The total tab for his bout with the coronavirus: $1.1 million. $1,122,501.04, to be exact. "All in one bill that’s more like a book because it runs to 181 pages."

  • 'An American fiasco': US hits grim milestone of 2m Covid-19 cases More sobering news in Guardian June 11 report: "The true figure of infection in the US is almost certainly “multiples more” than the 2m confirmed cases, said Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, but is obscured by the lack of testing.
    "Problems in developing and rolling out an effective test dogged the initial US response to the pandemic and although testing has now ramped up, only about 6% of the population has received one.
    "People with Covid-19 most likely experience either no noticeable symptoms or only minor symptoms such as a dry cough and mild fever.
    “We are very much seeing only the proverbial tip of the iceberg,” said Redlener. “We are hampered by the lack of sufficient testing, especially as businesses are reopening across all 50 states.”

  • Ten failures which show Johnson is gaslighting us with coronavirus Alastair Campbell in The European June 11: “A reminder of the 10-point guide to crisis management that I set out, almost three months ago, when Boris Johnson was assuring us that we should trust him and his government to “squash the sombrero” and “send the virus packing”.
    1. Devise, execute but also narrate clear strategy.
    2. Show strong, clear, consistent leadership.
    3. Organise from the centre of government.
    4. Throw everything at it.
    5. Use experts well.
    6. Deploy a strong team.
    7. Make the big moments count.
    8. Take the public with you.
    9. Show genuine empathy for people affected by the crisis.
    10. Give hope, but not false hope.
    You really do have to be very, very bad at your job to get zero out of 10. That, however, is how I would score Boris Johnson, and even admitting my bias against him, he reminds of the old football joke: “We played so badly we were lucky to get nil.”

  • COVID-19 Highlights the Need for Universal Health Coverage June 11 report from Think Global Health argues what should be an obvious point: "Poverty has not been the driver of how able systems are to cope with the pandemic. Rather, it’s the quality of a health care system that matters. While money is correlated with good health coverage, it is far from the only driver of quality care.
    "Many middle-income countries offer excellent health care to their citizenry, and there are low-income countries making real strides in that direction as well.
    "Meanwhile, the world’s largest economy lacks universal health coverage, and is struggling to deal with this pandemic."

  • NHS hospital waiting lists could hit 10 million in England this year Guardian June 10 on an NHS Confed report: “The waiting list for hospital treatment could soar to almost 10 million people by Christmas amid a huge backlog caused by coronavirus disrupting services, NHS leaders are warning.
    “Hospital bosses say that such a massive increase in England is a realistic prospect, given so many people have been unable to have surgery and crucial diagnostic tests in recent months while the NHS’s main priority has been minimising the damage from Covid-19.
    “The total number of people waiting to undergo a procedure in a hospital in England such as a hernia repair, cataract removal or hip or knee replacement stood at 4.4 million before the pandemic. It then fell to 4.2 million because in March GPs referred fewer patients for care to help hospitals tackle the pandemic and also because some patients were reluctant to risk getting infected by going into hospital.
    “However, the NHS Confederation estimates that it is likely to reach 9.8 million by the end of the year as a result of staff shortages and hospitals having to cap the number of patients they can treat at any one time because of strict physical distancing rules that reduce the number of beds available.”

  • Stop calling family carers a 'hidden army'. We're not invisible, just ignored Guardian June 10: “The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the role of NHS staff, who rightly deserve the praise being heaped on them. In comparison, appreciation of care workers, who are equally deserving praise, was not so visible. Meanwhile, carers continue to be ignored.
    “In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged carers’ vital roles and announced extra payments for them. Boris Johnson and his government failed to make a similar gesture. More crucially, the vital role carers had in preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed received negligible attention.
    “But this comes as no surprise. The current and preceding governments have repeatedly overlooked carers and their needs. …
    “Those in power are ignoring the challenges millions of carers are up against day in, day out, yet still expect this army to diligently continue supporting our loved ones with little recognition for our commitment.”

  • Covid aftercare piles pressure on ‘understaffed’ community services HSJ June 10: “The aftercare of covid-19 patients will have significant financial implications for ‘understaffed’ community services, NHS England has been warned.
    “This month the national commissioner released guidance for the care of patients once they have recovered from an immediate covid infection and been discharged from hospital.
    “It said community health services will need to provide “ongoing health support that rehabilitates [covid patients] both physically and mentally”.
    “The document said this would result in increased demand for home oxygen services, pulmonary rehabilitation, diagnostics and for many therapies such as speech and language, occupational, physio, dieticians and mental health support.
    “The document recognised that dealing with the increased number of people needing specialist support would create “new challenges” to the system, which will include maintaining infection control; pressures on equipment such as oxygen cannisters and personal protective equipment; staffing; and increased numbers of patients experiencing persistent psychological difficulties post-discharge.”

  • Nine California counties report spike in new coronavirus cases or hospitalizations Worrying story from Guardian June 10: "Nine California counties are reporting a spike in new coronavirus cases or hospitalizations of confirmed cases, raising fears that authorities may have to reimpose or tighten public health restrictions aimed at slowing the virus’s spread.
    "The counties are: Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno, Imperial, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings and Santa Clara.
    "New diagnoses in the heavily populated Los Angeles area are going up in part because testing is more widely available. But officials say infections and hospitalizations in most other parts of the state are being driven by factors tied directly to the loosening of restrictions or overt flouting of public health rules.
    "It is too soon to see whether cases will also spike after protests over the death of George Floyd swept the state."

  • NHS preparing for workforce shortages caused by test and trace system Independent report June 10: "Heath chiefs have warned administrators to plan how they can continue to run services in the event large numbers of staff are forced to self-isolate at home after being identified as close contacts of someone who tests positive for coronavirus.
    "During the height of the pandemic, about 12 per cent of NHS staff were off sick with the virus and many more self-isolated, heaping even more pressure on hospitals."

  • Pledge to boost spending on mental health is ‘absolute’, says NHS director Independent June 10: “The NHS is preparing for a significant rise in demand for mental health services as a result of coronavirus and is re-examining spending plans to prioritise its response.
    “NHS England’s director of mental health Claire Murdoch has promised spending on mental health will not be cut to help other parts of the NHS, saying the commitment to investing £2.3bn of extra spending by 2023-24 was “absolute.”
    “Ms Murdoch, a registered mental health nurse and chief executive of the Central and North West London mental health trust, said NHS England was now modelling the predicted impact on services and would respond later this year.
    “She said: “As we move to the restoration and recovery phases of the Covid-19 response, it is important to note that our commitment to the mental health long-term plan ambition is absolute and will require continued joint working to deliver the changes in quality and access.”

  • Coronavirus leaves one in 10 UK charities facing bankruptcy this year Guardian June 9: "The analysis by Pro Bono Economics, an independent charity, says the coronavirus crisis will trigger a £6.4bn loss of income for charities over the next six months just as demand for extra services – ranging from health to debt advice and social care – piles on extra costs of £3.7bn.
    "There are just under 170,000 general charities in the UK, sharing a total annual income of about £51bn, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). The vast majority are small charities, meaning they have income of under £100,000. Larger charities (£1m upwards) account for about a fifth of the sector but 80% of its income."

  • Watchdog relaxed rules on doctors operating in private hospitals weeks after inquiry’s safety warning Independent June 9: "Controversial rules allowing doctors to operate on patients in private hospitals have been fast tracked during the coronavirus crisis, just weeks after an independent inquiry warned they were a risk to patient safety.
    "The Independent has learned the Care Quality Commission (CQC) wrote to private hospitals in March and agreed to a streamlined process for consultants to gain what is known as “practising privileges” to allow them to start work immediately in private hospitals.
    "These privileges allow a doctor to operate on patients, but they are not considered employees of the hospital and their work is monitored less closely. It was under this system that rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson was able to operate unnecessarily on more than 1,000 women."

  • Deaths registered in England and Wales, provisional: week ending 29 May 2020 ONS figures showing around 64,000 more people have died in the previous 10 weeks than would be expected based on the 5 year average.
    Deaths in hospitals to the end of May were 1% below the 5-yr wkly avg – excluding Covid-19 they would have been 27% below
    * Deaths in care homes were 49% above 5-yr avg – excl CV they would have been 7% above
    * Deaths in private homes were 45% above 5-yr avg – excl CV they would have been 42% above

  • Boris Johnson’s patience wears thin over tracing app Financial Times June 9: "“Boris Johnson and his senior Downing Street advisers are growing increasingly impatient at delays to the launch of the NHS’s coronavirus tracing app, pressing health officials for a rethink even as a new trial is set for next week.
    “According to two people with knowledge of the situation, pressure from Number 10 has been stepped up in the past few days with one telling the Financial Times that the prime minister wants serious consideration to be given to a different version of the app, which incorporates Google and Apple technology.
    “One UK government official said there was “frustration with how long everything takes but the reality is that we are building something from scratch”. The official added: “It is obviously taking longer than people would have hoped.”

  • Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro forced into U-turn on releasing death figures following national uproar Independent June 8: “Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has been forced into a U-turn on releasing data showing Brazil’s total number of Covid-19 cases and deaths following a national uproar.
    “In a move officials said was personally ordered by the president, months’ worth of coronavirus data vanished from Brazil’s health ministry website overnight on Friday, with a supreme court judge describing the manoeuvre as “totalitarian”.
    “The health ministry said it would only report Covid-19 cases and deaths that had occurred in the previous 24 hours - a day after the South America country reported its daily record number of deaths.
    “… The decision sparked outrage among members of Brazil’s congress and judiciary, while medics in the country – now considered the epicentre of the pandemic – said it would hamper their efforts to manage the disease.
    “…On Sunday night, the health ministry resumed releasing the cumulative number of coronavirus cases and deaths following national outrage.”

  • UK ministers face legal challenge for refusal to order PPE inquiry Guardian report June 8: "Ministers are facing a high court legal challenge after they refused to order an urgent investigation into the shortages of personal protective equipment faced by NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
    "Doctors, lawyers and campaigners for older people’s welfare issued proceedings on Monday which they hope will lead to a judicial review of the government’s efforts to ensure that health professionals and social care staff had enough PPE to keep them safe.
    "They want to compel ministers to hold an independent inquiry into PPE and ensure staff in settings looking after Covid-19 patients will be able to obtain the gowns, masks, eye protection and gloves they need if, as many doctors fear, there is a second wave of the disease."

  • Student nurses ‘being asked to carry out unsupervised drug rounds’ Nursing Times (June 8) reveals breaches in NMC guidelines: “Some NHS trusts are wrongly allowing student nurses on extended clinical placements to carry out unsupervised medication rounds, a leading student representative has revealed.
    “More than 25,000 students opted to carry out paid extended clinical placements which were designed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to support the coronavirus response.
    “But concerns have been raised that because those in their final six months of study are being remunerated at band 4, they are being expected to work like a qualified nurse at this level, rather than students.”

  • Boris Johnson speeds up hospital building to aid economy Sunday Torygraph June 7 flags up the Tories’ latest dead cat to divert from the disastrous mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic:
    “Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to speed up the construction of new hospitals, as he prepares to set out a blueprint for how he will "rebuild Britain" in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic …”
    And Johnson is determined to get around the fact that few if any of the six ‘new’ hospitals actually promised and funded had proper plans in place (drawn up before Covid changed the world) – and that some are already facing a legal challenge by local councils and campaigners alarmed at the threat to bed numbers:
    “…a new team already examining the effect of cumbersome planning rules and 'endless consultations'. The team is studying possible reforms to the system of judicial reviews, resuming work begun in February, when Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's chief aide, warned that there must be 'urgent action on the farce that judicial review has become.' "

  • Boris Johnson told to dump rhetoric and plan for new Covid wave Guardian June 7|: “Senior figures from across the NHS have issued an urgent plea for a comprehensive plan to tackle a second wave of coronavirus infections, as Boris Johnson continues to lose public confidence in his handling of the pandemic.
    “Amid persistent fears among scientists that the virus remains too prevalent to ease the lockdown further, the prime minister has been urged to ditch “cheap political rhetoric” that risks eroding the public’s adherence to lockdown measures in the months ahead.
    “Health chiefs say there should be no further easing before a comprehensive test and trace system has been proved to work, as NHS figures accuse the government of lacking a strategy and dodging an “honest and open” debate about Britain’s plight. They also warned of a “dramatic” drop in capacity at NHS hospitals.”

  • NHS on life support: Up to one in six will be on waiting lists as health service turns to private hospitals Major extended June 7 investigation by Independent's Shaun Lintern with some shocking warnings:
    "More than one in six people in England could be waiting for NHS treatment by the autumn – the result of Covid-19 forcing hospitals to run at 60 per cent capacity as the threat reshapes healthcare services.
    "The Independent can reveal NHS England will extend its nationwide contract with private hospitals beyond June and into the summer. Health chiefs are in talks to come up with a longer-term deal that will see private healthcare companies integrated into the NHS like never before and providing up to 2 million NHS procedures a year.
    "Health secretary Matt Hancock has made clear he expects private hospitals will have a “critical role”.
    "The persistent menace of Covid-19 means hospitals up and down the country are being forced to remove beds and redesign buildings to keep patients safe as they restart routine services. But infection precautions mean only half the normal number of operations a day can be carried out.
    "Experts and hospital leaders warned the impact of coronavirus will mean longer waits for treatment, higher costs for the taxpayer and a need to ration care to an extent normally seen only in poorer countries."

  • The Observer view on the government's handling of the Covid-19 crisis Observer Editorial June 7 concludes: "As the pandemic goes on, the government appears to be moving further away from, not closer to, the balance of scientific opinion; ministers are increasingly struggling with the huge logistical challenge of managing this pandemic, rather than learning from their mistakes; Johnson is approaching pandemic management more, not less, through the lens of the populist politics of the Vote Leave campaign that he and Cummings together led.
    "We agree with the scientific and medical experts who wrote to the Guardian on Friday calling for a rapid public inquiry. Such an inquiry should be focused on producing practical recommendations for the autumn and could be conducted by a cross-party committee of senior parliamentary backbenchers."

  • Brazil stops releasing Covid-19 death toll and wipes data from official site Guardian June 7 on how Brazil's far right populist government is dealing with Covid:
    "The Brazilian government has been accused of totalitarianism and censorship after it stopped releasing its total numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths and wiped an official site clean of swaths of data.
    "Health ministry insiders told local media the move was ordered by far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, himself – and was met with widespread outrage in Brazil, one of the world’s worst-hit Covid-19 hotspots, with more deaths than Italy and more cases than Russia and the UK.
    “The authoritarian, insensitive, inhuman and unethical attempt to make those killed by Covid-19 invisible will not succeed. We and Brazilian society will not forget them, nor the tragedy that befalls the nation,” said Alberto Beltrame, president of Brazil’s national council of state health secretaries, in a statement."

  • Cuba sets example with successful programme to contain coronavirus Guardian report June 7 on a success story: “The World Health Organization has identified Latin America as the new centre for coronavirus pandemic, but over the last two months, cases in Cuba have fallen. Cubans are now 24 times less likely to catch the virus than Dominicans, 27 times less likely to catch it than Mexicans, and more than 70 times less likely to be infected than Brazilians.
    “Desperate for tourist revenue, Cuba closed its border later than most other countries in the region. But ever since the communist-ruled island shut out the outside world in late March, it has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the virus.
    “The state has commanded tens of thousands of family doctors, nurses and medical students to “actively screen” all homes on the island for cases Covid-19 – every single day.
    “There’s no other country in the hemisphere that does anything approaching this,” said William Leogrande, professor of government at American University in Washington DC. “The whole organization of their healthcare system is to be in close touch with the population, identify health problems as they emerge, and deal with them immediately.”

  • Serco wins Covid-19 test-and-trace contract despite £1m fine Guardian June 6 on the apparently endless succession of Serco scandals: "Serco, one of the companies that has secured a lucrative government contract for the Covid contact-tracing programme, was fined more than £1m for failures on another government contract just months ago, the Observer has learned.
    "The revelation has led to campaigners against the privatisation of public services to call for the £45.8m test-and-trace contract to be cancelled.
    "Serco has a range of government contracts both in the UK and overseas, much of it focused on criminal justice and immigration. It has already had to apologise after breaching data protection rules on its test-and-trace contract by inadvertently revealing the email addresses of new recruits. The junior health minister, Edward Argar, is a former Serco lobbyist."

  • NHS trust bosses not consulted over new face mask rules BBC June 6 report: "NHS trusts were not consulted before the government announced changes to the use of face coverings and visitor policy in English hospitals, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.
    "Chris Hopson said trust leaders felt "completely in the dark" about the "significant and complex" changes.
    "From 15 June, hospital visitors and outpatients must wear face coverings and staff must use surgical masks.
    "The Department of Health says masks can be provided by the hospital if needed.
    "A spokeswoman said that, while the public were "strongly urged" to wear a face covering while inside hospitals, no-one would be denied care."

  • Care home residents foot £100 a week for coronavirus costs Guardian June 6 on the latest revelation of how dysfunctional our care home sector has become:
    “Older people and their families are being asked to pay more than £100 a week on top of their usual care home fees, with homes saying the cost of PPE and staff absences could push their finances into the red, threatening their sustainability.
    “ ‘Older people living in care homes and their families have been through the mill these last few months,” said Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK. “It is adding insult to injury that after going through so much, some residents who pay for their own care are now facing a big extra bill – on top of already expensive fees.’
    “Abrahams said that central government should meet care homes’ extra costs. ‘Otherwise there’s a risk that some homes could fold, leaving their residents homeless,” she warned.’ ”

  • £108m PPE contract was given to small pest control company Times June 6 report of another shocking award by ministers of a major tender to a firm with no qualifications:
    "A small family-run pest control company was handed a contract worth £108 million to procure personal protective equipment for frontline health staff at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
    "PestFix, which has only 16 employees and net assets of £18,000, was turned overnight into one of the government’s largest suppliers of PPE last month.
    "It is one of a number of companies to have been awarded multimillion-pound contracts to provide facemasks, gowns and visors despite lacking experience in the field.
    "The contracts were signed in early April when ministers were under huge public pressure to improve the supply of PPE to hospitals and care homes amid global shortages. The flurry of offers to help was so overwhelming that in late April the government paid £200,000 to a call centre supplier to clear a backlog of about 5,000 offers.
    "Last night the chairman of parliament’s public accounts committee said it and the National Audit Office would be scrutinising the contracts awarded to ensure that they represented value for money. “The need for PPE for frontline staff is urgent and critical but tendering outside the normal rules can be risky,” Meg Hillier said."

  • Vital health projects axed as Tory cuts batter Liverpool council Liverpool Echo report June 6: "Merseyside has areas with some of the highest health inequalities in the UK, yet projects to encourage people to make changes to their lifestyles to improve their health have fallen victim to a lack of funding.
    "With resources increasingly stretched rising to meet the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, the ability of Liverpool Council to address chronic health inequalities has been put under further pressure.
    "The cuts were agreed by councillors at the annual budget meeting in March and form part of £30m of savings needed this year to balance the council’s books."

  • NHS on life support: Up to one in six will be on waiting lists as health service turns to private hospitals Major June 6 report from Independent's Shaun Lintern begins: "More than one in six people in England could be waiting for NHS treatment by the autumn – the result of Covid-19 forcing hospitals to run at 60 per cent capacity as the threat reshapes healthcare services.
    "The Independent can reveal NHS England will extend its nationwide contract with private hospitals beyond June and into the summer.
    "Health chiefs are in talks to come up with a longer-term deal that will see private healthcare companies integrated into the NHS like never before and providing up to 2 million NHS procedures a year."

  • No return to 'business as usual' for dentists BBC June 5 report: "The British Dental Association (BDA) has warned there will be no return to "business as usual" for dentistry in England.
    "Practices were told last week that they could reopen from Monday 8 June, if they put in place appropriate safety measures.
    "But some dentists say it was not enough warning and they lack necessary kit. A poll of 2,053 practices in England suggests that just over a third (36%) plan to reopen on Monday.
    "Anyone expecting dentistry to magically return on Monday will find only a skeleton service," says BDA chair Mick Armstrong. "Those practices reopening now face fewer patients and higher costs and will struggle to meet demand."

  • We can't be 100% sure face masks work – but that shouldn't stop us wearing them Primary health care expert Trish Greenhalgh in Guardian June 5 notes the lack of relevant research on the effectiveness of face masks, and concludes:
    "Like dozens of other countries, England is about to have a natural experiment of face coverings in public places. Still, the scientists will continue to argue. If transmission rates of Covid-19 fall as predicted, public health experts – and I count myself among them – will say this has produced a “fact” that face coverings are effective source control. And triallists will say that in the absence of a trial (which they will continue to demand), this is not a fact because there’s no robust evidence that the association is causal. Whether we can agree on “the facts” or not, we’ll hopefully welcome the positive outcomes, as I predict that transmission of Covid-19 will fall and that any harms will be relatively minor and worth the trade-off."

  • 'Die-in' outside Dominic Cummings's house over COVID-19 response Sky News reports, June 5: "Protesters staged a "die-in" outside Dominic Cummings' house over the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
    "Holding signs and wearing face masks, about 20 campaigners lay on the street outside the north London home of the prime minister's controversial adviser on Thursday evening.
    "One of the placards read: "Over 50,000 dead while you're playing king of the castle.""

  • ‘Primary’ PPE portal relegated to ‘emergency top-up route’ (£) HSJ June 5 reports a fresh twist in the ongoing PPE supply chain scandal, with a new U-turn:
    "A government portal to supply personal protective equipment to primary and social care providers has now been branded “emergency only” - despite originally being intended to fill “the bulk” of demand.
    "This means the eBay-built website is only currently available as “an emergency top-up route”, to be used when existing supply routes have failed.
    "… In April, an internal update seen by HSJ said the portal would be “the primary method of centralised distribution” of PPE to primary and social care providers, fulfilling “the bulk” of demand during the covid-19 crisis once fully rolled out.
    "But Thursday’s presentation described the portal to customers as “an emergency top-up route” to be used only when existing supply methods failed.
    "Those that are registered can request small batches of gloves, masks and aprons through the portal on a weekly basis. At present, GPs can order up to 50 IIR masks, 200 aprons and 200 pairs of gloves per week. Small domiciliary care providers and care homes with 24 beds or fewer can order up to 100 IIR masks, 400 aprons and 400 pairs of gloves per week"

  • WHO advises public to wear face masks when unable to distance Guardian June 5: "People over 60 or with health issues should wear a medical-grade mask when they are out and cannot socially distance, according to new guidance from the World Health Organization, while all others should wear a three-layer fabric mask.
    "The announcement on Friday marks a significant change of stance by the WHO …
    "…Until now the global body has been reluctant to advocate the wearing of face coverings by the public because of limited evidence that they offer protection. There were also fears of a rush on masks leading to shortages of medical-grade versions for health workers."

  • Patients Not Passports – Migrants’ Access to Healthcare During the Coronavirus Crisis A new (June 5) Medact briefing paper, co-produced by Migrants Organise and the New Economics Foundation examines the barriers to accessing healthcare for migrants during the coronavirus crisis.
    The findings of the research lead to a series of urgent recommendations designed to help inform the government’s response to the public health emergency.
    The report’s findings highlights numerous cases of migrants being denied healthcare outright; or refusing to seek care due to fear of Government policies or racial profiling.
    The report shows that:
    • Migrants are not coming forward for healthcare because of the Government’s Hostile Environment, including during the coronavirus pandemic.
    • The coronavirus ‘exemption’ from charging and immigration checks is not working – people are still being asked to show their passports for coronavirus treatment, and migrants are still too fearful of the Hostile Environment to come forward for treatment for coronavirus.
    • Migrants are facing a wide range of additional barriers – including language and digital exclusions – to accessing care during the pandemic, including to emergency services.

  • Thousands more may have died with coronavirus without being diagnosed, data reveals ITV News report June 5: "The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that between March 7 and May 1 this year there were 46,380 more deaths than in an average year - but almost 13,000 of these deaths were not attributed to coronavirus.
    "The ONS concludes that many cases may have been missed - the vast majority were in care homes.
    "ITV News has spoken to several families who say their relatives passed away with symptoms of Covid-19, without the virus ever being recorded as a cause of death.
    "In April, 89 year-old Isobel Hick died at her care home in Scarborough, after several other residents had been diagnosed with Covid-19. But because she hadn’t been tested for the virus, her death certificate simply records “dementia” as the cause of death."

  • Covid-19 Shambles: 11 Reasons why “guided by science” claim is lie Keep Our NHS public report, June 5 "The government keeps telling us they are "guided by the science", but this mantra does not fit the facts. In truth, its policies have been characterised by callousness, greed and ineptitude. Here is Keep Our NHS Public’s 11-point guide to the shambles of our Government’s Covid-19 response. "

  • Healthcare workers should self-isolate if any colleague tests positive for COVID-19, says Hancock Nursing Notes June 5 with a change of policy that could trigger a new shortage of PPE and bring departments to a halt:
    “The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has told health and social care staff that they are not exempt from the self-isolation rules. Speaking live during today’s daily Downing Street briefing, Matt Hancock told health and social care workers that ‘if one of your team tests positive you have to test the isolation advice.’
    “The current guidance from Public Health England (PHE) means that any health or social care worker who has been in close proximity to a colleague who tests positive would need to self-isolate at home for 14 days, even if asymptomatic.
    “Mr. Hancock admitted that while the new measures may cause ‘logistical challenges’, insisted they were necessary.
    “This advice comes alongside new rules forcing staff to wear face masks “at all times” due to an increased risk of health and social care staff catching the virus. Hospital visitors and outpatients will also be required to wear face coverings.”

  • Parts of South West could face local lockdown as R-rate increases, says Health Secretary Cornwall Live report June 5: "The Health Secretary has said that local lockdowns will be brought in if the R-rate continues to rise in certain locations.
    "Earlier it was reported that the R-rate has risen to 1 in the South West, meaning the region now has the second highest rate of transmission of the virus in England.
    "Matt Hancock said Sage believes the R is below one and said local lockdowns would be used when flare-ups are spotted, pointing towards a success in Weston-super-Mare.
    "The Health Secretary told the Downing Street briefing: “You’re right that the R is closer to one in the South West and in the North West, the advice from Sage is that R is below one in all regions.
    “However, we want to increasingly have an approach in tackling local lockdowns where we spot a flare-up."

  • Experts told UK to boost test-and-trace in February, papers show Guardian June 5 new revelation on avoidable, but lethal government failures: “The government was advised to scale up its coronavirus test-and-trace effort using a call centre system as early as February, government documents show, raising questions about why the system launched last week as lockdown measures were eased is still not fully operational.
    “A report presented to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on 12 February, when the UK was still actively tracing contacts of those infected with Covid-19, recommended a 10-fold increase in Public Health England’s test-and-trace capacity in order to extend the number of cases that could be managed.
    “‘Scaling this response up, using for example a call-centre type system to support the local PHE teams, should be possible and feasible,’ the experts from Public Health England and the University of Cambridge recommended.
    “However, this suggestion does not appear to have been pursued and contact tracing was abandoned in March.”

  • The Brexit crisis led to totally incompetent leadership at a time of unprecedented calamity. Now we are paying for it Independent article from Patrick Cockburn June 5:
    "Britain is discovering the hard way how far its administrative machine has been weakened by cuts and outsourcing. Central government has monopolised authority and resources and starved local authorities of both, though they should be on the cutting edge of “test and trace”.
    "An editorial in the British Medical Journal of which the lead author is a professor of European public health, Martin McKee, succinctly sums up what has happened:
    “A hollowed out civil service has long turned to outsourcing companies, despite their repeated failures. Companies with little relevant experience have struggled to organise viral testing or contact tracing. The task of coordinating activities with existing organisations, such as NHS laboratories or local public health departments, is too complex for their business model.”

  • NHS test-and-trace system 'not fully operational until September' Guardian June 4 exclusive on leak revealing just how poor the privatised track and trace system really is:
    "The NHS coronavirus test-and-trace system designed to prevent a second deadly wave is not expected to work at full speed until September or October, the Guardian has learned.
    "Tony Prestedge, the chief operating officer of the NHS scheme, admitted in a webinar to staff that the programme would be “imperfect” at launch, adding that he hoped it would be operational at a world-class level within three to four months.
    "It comes as a leaked email from the chief executive of Serco – one of the main companies contracted to deliver the service – revealed how he doubted the scheme would evolve smoothly but said he wanted it to “cement the position of the private sector” in the NHS supply chain.
    "The disclosures come as scientists said lockdown measures should not be eased until the test-and-trace service is well established. The system, which tracks those who have contracted coronavirus and anyone they have been in contact with, before asking them to self-isolate, was rolled out across England last week with the help of 25,000 contact tracers."

  • Test and trace system not expected to be ‘world-class’ until September, leaked comments suggest Independent report June 4|: "Tony Prestedge, the chief operating officer of the scheme, is reported to have admitted in a video message to staff that the system will not be working at full speed for months.
    "The apparent admission came after the prime minister, Boris Johnson, claimed the UK would have a “world-beating” test and trace system by the start of June.
    “I am sure when Dido [Harding, the chief executive] announces this service later she will make clear that it is an imperfect service at launch that we will improve over time and make it world-class by the time that we are moving towards the September or October time,” Mr Prestedge said, according to The Guardian.
    “We know it will be imperfect, we know it will be clunky but we ask you to help us improve the service.”

  • Increased risk of infection behind higher ethnic minority deaths, Sage report suggests Independent June 3 report stresses findings from SAGE that underline impact of inequalities in raising risks to BAME people from Covid-19: “Black and minority ethnic (Bame) people are not more likely to die from Covid-19 once their characteristics and underlying conditions are taken into account, according to a report requested by the government’s Sage committee last month.
    “The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies ordered the analysis in mid-April after a “signal” that black people had a higher risk of death among coronavirus patients compared with the overall Bame population.
    “Experts from the University of Liverpool and Edinburgh University … concluded that while black and minority ethnic people were more likely to be admitted to hospital and critical care with Covid-19, once their characteristics were taken into account their risk of admission to intensive care and risk of death were equivalent to white patients.
    “The study, one of more than 50 documents released at the weekend, appears to show that the increased risk of death from the coronavirus for Bame patients is not due to medical reasons but to their likelihood of initially being infected and may be linked to occupation, housing and other non-medical risks.”

  • Swedish expert admits country should have had tighter coronavirus controls Financial Times, June 3 report: “The architect of Sweden’s controversial lighter lockdown policy for dealing with coronavirus has for the first time conceded the Scandinavian country should have imposed more restrictions to avoid having such a high death toll.
    “Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, agreed with the interviewer on Sveriges Radio that too many people had died in the country. “If we would encounter the same disease, with exactly what we know about it today, I think we would land midway between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world did,” said Mr Tegnell in the interview broadcast on Wednesday morning.
    “Mr Tegnell’s admission is striking as for months he has criticised other countries’ lockdowns and insisted that Sweden’s approach was more sustainable despite heavy international scrutiny of its stubbornly high death toll.”

  • Increased risk of infection behind higher ethnic minority deaths, Sage report suggests Independent June 3 “Black and minority ethnic (Bame) people are not more likely to die from Covid-19 once their characteristics and underlying conditions are taken into account, according to a report requested by the government’s Sage committee last month.
    “… Experts from the University of Liverpool and Edinburgh University used data on hospital coronavirus patients and matched patients from ethnic minorities to white patients using 23 different characteristics including age on admission, sex, obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, asthma, smoking and deprivation.
    “They concluded that while black and minority ethnic people were more likely to be admitted to hospital and critical care with Covid-19, once their characteristics were taken into account their risk of admission to intensive care and risk of death were equivalent to white patients.
    “The study, one of more than 50 documents released at the weekend, appears to show that the increased risk of death from the coronavirus for Bame patients is not due to medical reasons but to their likelihood of initially being infected and may be linked to occupation, housing and other non-medical risks.”

  • Keir Starmer warns PM: get a grip or risk second coronavirus wave June 3: “In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the Labour leader launched a stinging attack on the prime minister, accusing him of “winging it” over the easing of the lockdown and making an already “difficult situation 10 times worse”.
    “He also questioned whether the timing of some decisions over the relaxation of the lockdown rules had been taken “to try to deflect attention away” from the Dominic Cummings affair – an episode, he said, that showed Johnson was too weak to sack his chief adviser.
    “In a significant hardening of his language, Starmer said Johnson had to “get a grip” of the crisis. “My [worry] is that after a week or more of mismanagement, I’m deeply concerned the government has made a difficult situation 10 times worse,” he said.”

  • Censorship row over report on UK BAME Covid-19 deaths Guardian report June 3: “Concerns about censorship have been raised after third-party submissions were left out of the government-commissioned report on the disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic people
    “Public Health England said it had engaged with more than 1,000 people during its inquiry. But the report, which has been criticised for failing to investigate the reasons for the disparities or make recommendations on how to address them, did not mention the consultations.
    “Anger has been compounded by a report in the Health Service Journal claiming that before publication the government removed a section detailing responses from third parties, many of whom highlighted structural racism.
    “The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which called in its written submission for “specific measures … to tackle the culture of discrimination and racism [within the NHS]”, said it had contacted PHE to ask why its evidence was not included.”

  • England had the chance to prepare for lifting lockdown, but our leaders wasted it Outspoken Guardian June 3 comment by normally reticent former King’s Fund boss Chris Ham:
    “Unfathomably, the government decided to ease restrictions while the Covid-19 alert level was still at four, which denotes a high level of transmission. A reasonable inference to make is that politics has taken precedence over “the science”.
    “Indeed, members of Sage have expressed concern that the lockdown is being relaxed too soon. The more cautious approach taken by devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is a reminder of English exceptionalism, even in the face of death rates higher than anywhere else in Europe.
    “Relaxing the lockdown in advance of having an effective and fully integrated system of testing and tracing in place creates unacceptable risks to the public’s health. If infections and hospital admissions from coronavirus begin to increase, the NHS will face renewed pressure.”

  • An uncompromising defender of the NHS: colleagues remember Dr Ron Singer GP Online June 3 tribute to campaigner Dr Ron Singer who died aged 71:
    "In a 2014 interview with GPonline to mark the founding of the organsation - known then as the Medical Practitioners Union (MPU) - he explained the philosophy that underpinned his approach to medical politics.
    "'You have to be on the streets,' he said. 'You have to bring your colleagues to a point where they can see that unless they act collectively and in a fairly visible manner, the plight of general practice will not be recognised.'
    "The Newham GP campaigned powerfully - and visibly - for the NHS he believed in well beyond his retirement from frontline general practice.
    "In 2012 as then health secretary Andrew Lansley toured a north London hospital as his controversial health reforms went through parliament, Dr Singer confronted him in person, saying: 'I am a doctor of 30 years Mr Lansley, explain to me how this is going to make patients better.'"

  • Just one in three think government has done a good job managing coronavirus pandemic Telegraph (June 3) revealing that a third of the population clearly have no idea what's going on: "A new poll, conducted by YouGov on behalf of campaign group March for Change, found just 31 per cent of adults believe the government is doing a good job, while 44 per cent said it was doing a bad one.
    "Asked if there should be an independent public inquiry into how the government has handled the pandemic, 58 per cent said there should be.
    "Regional divides were also revealed in the data, as people in London (56 per cent) and Scotland (58 per cent) were the most likely to think the government is doing a bad job, compared to 40 per cent in the North, 40 per cent in the South and 38 per cent in both the Midlands and Wales."

  • Number of cases and deaths Government website updating daily, reveals continued failure to report numbers of people tested alongside number of tests.
    "As of 9am on 2 June, there have been 4,615,146 tests, with 135,643 tests on 1 June.
    277,985 people have tested positive.
    "As of 5pm on 1 June, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 39,369 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 31,136."

  • Reducing social distancing to one metre would double risk of infection, study suggests Independent June 2: "Reducing social distancing from two metres to one could double the risk of being infected with coronavirus, according to a comprehensive new study published amid growing calls for the UK to reduce its guidance to allow more businesses to reopen.
    "Researchers found distancing of a metre or more reduces the risk of infection to 13 per cent, compared to 3 per cent for less than a metre. However, analysis of modelling published in The Lancet suggests for every extra metre further away up to three metres, the risk of infection or transmission may halve.
    "In the UK people are advised to keep a distance of two metres from others, but there have been calls to reduce this to 1.5 metres like in other countries such as Germany to help the hospitality sector reopen.
    "Businesses such as theatres, pubs and music venues could be particularly hit hard by the two-metre rule, which would severely restrict the number of customers allowed inside."

  • Chris Whitty thwarted Boris Johnson’s bid to downgrade coronavirus threat level Times, June 2, reports: "Boris Johnson’s hopes of downgrading the virus alert level last week were resisted by the chief medical officer for England.
    "The prime minister had wanted to announce that the five-stage alert level was being reduced from 4 to 3 to coincide with yesterday’s partial relaxation of the lockdown. His road map published on May 11 said that the relaxation of social-distancing measures “must be warranted by the alert level”.
    "In the event Mr Johnson was able only to repeat that the level was “moving towards 3” after Chris Whitty insisted it remain at the second-highest level. The decision to relax the lockdown without a full reduction in the alert level has prompted questions over the system’s credibility. No 10 has yet to explain what benchmarks, such as the number and location of daily new infections, inform the five levels."

  • AI firm that worked with Vote Leave given new coronavirus contract Guardian June 2: "An artificial intelligence firm hired to work on the Vote Leave campaign may analyse social media data, utility bills and credit rating scores as part of a £400,000 contract to help the government deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
    "The company, Faculty, was awarded the contract by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last month. However the full details of its work for the government are unknown because the published version of the contract was partly redacted.
    "The disclosure comes amid questions from civil liberties groups as to how private companies hired by the government during the pandemic are using confidential data.
    "The unredacted portion of the contract shows that the MHCLG said such work was likely to require data from “social media, utility providers and telecom bills, credit rating agencies” as well as from the government, but provides few other specifics."

  • CQC publishes data on deaths of people with a learning disability Disturbing CQC report on huge 134% increase in death rates of people with learning disabilities this year compared with last year, suggesting this vulnerable group are also being failed by government policies.
    "While we know this data has its limitations what it does show is a significant increase in deaths of people with a learning disability as a result of COVID-19. We already know that people with a learning disability are at an increased risk of respiratory illnesses, meaning that access to testing could be key to reducing infection and saving lives.
    "These figures also show that the impact on this group of people is being felt at a younger age range than in the wider population – something that should be considered in decisions on testing of people of working age with a learning disability."

  • Covid-19: Questions of conscience and duty for scientific advisers Highly critical BMJ editorial pointing to government's departure from "the science" goes on to question how scientists and doctors should respond:
    “This is meant to be a moment of optimism, a green recovery, centred on the health of people and the planet, backed by an effective system of testing and contact tracing and possibly informed by a public inquiry.
    “Instead, England arrives here in a state of utter confusion. The public’s confidence in the official lockdown advice is shaken. The covid-19 response is short on testing, uncertain on contact tracing, and reliant on unreliable apps.
    “Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are not following England’s lead. The UK has the second highest number of covid-19 deaths of any nation and, by some calculations, the most deaths per capita.
    “… Scientists and doctors in advisory positions face a dual obligation to the state and to the public. But what happens when the government’s integrity no longer matches your personal or professional integrity, when your public accountability seems greater than that of the politicians you advise?”

  • Things are not getting better – our data is getting worse June 2 comment from The London Economic: “The UK death toll increased by four times the amount that was reported by Matt Hancock at the daily press briefing on Monday. Owing to “statistical housekeeping” on behalf of the government, they have been able to report figures that paint a much rosier picture of the current situation in the UK.
    “The health secretary announced that there were just 111 fatalities … When in fact 445 deaths were subsequently added, largely owing to cases which had been identified through commercial partners rather than by NHS and Public Health England laboratories.”

  • Tory MP husband of Test and Trace chief Dido Harding linked to anti-NHS group Mirror June 2: "The Tory MP husband of Test and Trace chief Dido Harding has been linked to a right-wing group calling for the NHS to be replaced by an insurance system.
    "Former minister John Penrose said last month he was “delighted” to join the advisory board of 1828.
    "One article authored by 1828’s co-founders argued Britain should be “bold and progressive” – scrapping the NHS in favour of a system where people pay for insurance either through private firms or a government scheme.
    "It said: “With a social health insurance system, you don’t need the state to own or subsidise hospitals, or to control policy from the centre; you simply need it to regulate the system to a satisfactory degree.”

  • BAME people twice as likely to die of COVID-19, finds PHE report Nursing Notes June 2: "Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities are twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19. A report by Public Health England (PHE) identifies those from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities as at greater risk from COVID-19 but has been criticised for failing to provide any recommendations.
    "The ‘Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19’ report was published by PHE earlier today despite rumours it would be delayed.
    "It concludes that members of the BAME community are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than white ethnic groups.
    "Following diagnosis “People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British.” All-cause mortality was said to be up to 4 times higher in some subsets."

  • Boris Johnson takes back control of coronavirus crisis with Downing Street shake-up This (£) Telegraph June 2 exclusive does raise questions of who has been in charge of the government's response for the past 3 months:
    "Boris Johnson is to take "direct control" of the Government's handling of the coronavirus crisis after a chaotic fortnight in which his chief aide was accused of breaking the lockdown rules and the Government's test and trace plans were hit by setbacks.
    "A shake-up in Downing Street will see the Government's entire approach to the pandemic run by two centrally-run committees, covering strategy and operational delivery.
    "Tory MPs said the changes could weaken the influence of chief adviser Dominic Cummings – who was heavily criticised for a 260-mile trip during lockdown – and allow Mr Johnson to tighten his grip on the fight against the pandemic after being treated in intensive care for the virus.
    "In the past fortnight, his Government has been criticised over plans to quarantine new arrivals in the UK, while a test and trace app to track people infected with coronavirus has failed to materialise.
    "The reforms will also free up some of the Prime Minister's top team to focus on the Brexit talks ahead of a crucial deadline next month when the UK must decide whether to extend the transition period beyond the end of this year."

  • Leaked report reveals just 1,749 people out of 4,456 contacted by track and trace Mirror June 2: "A leaked report has revealed that just 1,749 people have been contacted by the government's much heralded track and trace system in the first four days since it was launched.
    "Matt Hancock has described the NHS test and trace system as "successful" but has repeatedly been unable to provide figures for the number of people contacted under the system.
    "Around 25,000 people have been hired as tracers to help track new cases.
    "Today the national coordinator for the scheme Professor John Newton said that thousands of contacts had been successfully identified using test and trace."

  • Review into impact of COVID-19 on BAME community delayed again Sky News June 2, "A review into how the BAME community has been affected by COVID-19 has been delayed again because of "worries" around "current global events", Sky News understands.
    "Public Health England's review was commissioned by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and due for release "by the end of May" as per the terms of reference.
    "But government sources said it was being put on hold until Wednesday because it was not ready for publishing.
    "They now say it has been delayed further because it is in "close proximity to the current situation in America" and it would be a "bad combination" if it was released amid global outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
    "One Whitehall source told Sky News: "The government won't be able to put this out without concrete and solid next steps."
    Of course this is exactly what they did.

  • University Hospitals to cut pay of all doctors, including those working on coronavirus frontlines From the US, Cleveland Metro report on the latest contortions of the US health care market in response to Covid-19: "University Hospitals has temporarily cut the pay of doctors treating patients by 7%, including physicians working on the frontlines to care for coronavirus patients.
    "Doctors will receive a 10% drop in pay for any administrative work they do. Clinical leaders will also receive a 10% pay reduction.
    "The move to slash doctor’s pay comes after the hospital system in April slashed the hours and pay of 4,100 workers not directly involved in patient care by 20% for 10 weeks.
    "University Hospitals blamed the most recent pay cuts pay cuts on budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic. It’s spent more than $30 million to cover an increased need for labor, supplies and operations."

  • Government censored BAME covid-risk review June 2 article in HSJ: “The government removed a key section from Public Health England’s review of the relative risk of covid-19 to specific groups, HSJ has discovered. The report was published on Tuesday.
    “The review reveals the virus poses a greater risk to those who are older, male and overweight. The risk is also described as “disproportionate” for those with Asian, Caribbean and black ethnicities. It makes no attempt to explain why the risk to BAME groups should be higher.
    “An earlier draft of the review which was circulated within government last week contained a section which included responses from the 1,000-plus organisations and individuals who supplied evidence to the review. Many of these suggested that discrimination and poorer life chances were playing a part in the increased risk of covid-19 to those with BAME backgrounds. HSJ understands this section was an annexe to the report but could also stand alone.
    “… One source with knowledge of the review said the section “did not survive contact with Matt Hancock’s office” over the weekend.”

  • UK coronavirus death toll passes 50,000, official figures show Guardian report June 2: “The UK reached a grim milestone in its battle with coronavirus on Tuesday, as the death toll passed 50,000, according to official figures.
    “… The UK death toll is higher than the other worst-affected countries in Europe: Italy, France and Spain, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, and the number of people killed by coronavirus in the UK since it emerged in China in January is only currently surpassed by the United States.
    “The number of deaths registered in England and Wales with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 reached 44,401 by 22 May, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), but when more recent figures from the NHS and from statistics authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are added in, the tally hits 50,032.”

  • We cannot continue to run our health service focused solely on the short term June 2 Public Finance article by Anita Charlesworth of Health Foundation concludes:
    "It would be wrong to conclude that the Covid-19 experience means efficiency doesn’t matter, but it does highlight that however efficient our system, the overall level of funding and capacity matters even more.
    "… But there also needs to be a more nuanced and comprehensive view of system efficiency which extends beyond the narrow prism of short-term delivery of certain front-line services to include system resilience. "

  • Huge drop in overseas nurses (£) HSJ Exclusive June 1 notes: "The number of overseas nurses who joined the UK nursing and midwifery register on a permanent basis fell dramatically in April — but a large number signed up to work during the covid-19 crisis under special rules.
    "Figures collected by the Nursing and Midwifery Council show a drop from 1,348 overseas nurses joining its “permanent register” in March, to just 35 in April. There were also more than 1,000 in both January and February, with more overseas than English permanent registrants in those months.
    "It suggests the global outbreak, as predicted, severely restricted the flow of overseas nurses, which played a big part of NHS and government hopes for bolstering total numbers."

  • Almost a week now since Govt has been able to say how many people are being tested June 1 graphic and comment from digital journalism lecturer Paul Bradshaw: "This is how many tests have been done, and those that were sent out in May
    "In the last week of April the Government changed the counting criteria so they could add "delivered tests" to their daily testing figures. This chart separates the two types of counting, as well as "surveillance" tests.
    "Figures on "people tested" do not include the same breakdown, so although these are shown below they are less reliable. The statistics regulator has urged Matt Hancock to improve the level of detail provided in testing data."

  • Exercise Cygnus: NHS doctor's legal bid to force Government to release papers on pandemic preparedness (£) Telegraph June 1: "An NHS doctor has launched a judicial review of the Government's refusal to reveal the full findings of a secret simulation designed to test the UK's preparedness for a pandemic.
    "Dr Moosa Qureshi filed a claim against Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, in the High Court on Monday. Dr Qureshi and his legal team are seeking to force the Government to release the full findings of Exercise Cygnus, a cross-governmental dry run carried out in late 2016.
    "The Department of Health has repeatedly refused to publish Cygnus, citing concerns that doing so could jeopardise the ability of civil servants to speak freely behind the scenes.
    "However, a document setting out the broad conclusions of Cygnus was leaked to newspapers last month. It revealed that the Government had been forewarned of the likely impact of a new disease on care homes.
    "Whitehall insiders have also disclosed that Cygnus warned that the NHS might be overwhelmed in the event of a pandemic amid shortages of critical care beds, mortuary places and personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers."

  • Easing Covid-19 shielding in England 'risks second wave' Guardian June 1: “Care home operators have warned that easing Covid-19 shielding restrictions for 2.2 million vulnerable people risks a second wave of infections, as it emerged that government scientific advisers who previously warned against such a move were not asked to reconsider the matter.
    “New guidance allows the “clinically extremely vulnerable” to go outside and, if they live alone, meet one friend from Monday. They include many in long-term care facilities for elderly people, as well as those with chronic illnesses living at home.
    “Strict isolation rules were expected to stay in place for at least another two weeks. The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned in April that “lifting the policy of shielding the vulnerable would … lead to a sharp increase in hospitalisation, ICU admissions, and the death rates within this age group”.
    “… The sudden relaxation of the rules this weekend appeared to surprise many health officials. NHS England’s primary care medical director, Nikki Kanani, indicated on Twitter that she was not told in advance.”

  • Here to stay? How the NHS will have to learn to live with coronavirus Nigel Edwards of Nuffield Trust in an interesting discussion paper on future of the NHS now that Covid-19 has shaken things up:
    "Now, as the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions gradually declines, policy attention is turning to how the NHS can restart some more routine activities, with hospitals beginning to resume elective surgery and cancer treatments. But doing this while living alongside Covid-19 will involve major practical challenges that will need to be overcome.
    "It will inevitably have a large negative impact on the ability of the NHS to deliver what it was able to offer previously.
    "This could mean the public having to accept reduced services, health and care staff facing continued and long-term changes to their ways of working, and difficult choices
    ahead for policymakers in accepting a degree of rationing of health care that would previously have been seen as unacceptable. "

  • Critics round on No 10 over 'ridiculous' rules for 14-day quarantine Guardian June 1 report: "Tens of thousands of new arrivals to the UK will be able to go food shopping, change accommodation and use public transport from airports during a 14-day quarantine imposed to prevent a second wave of coronavirus, under draft plans to be laid before parliament.
    "The Guardian understands that about a fifth of people are expected to receive a spot-check to ensure that they are staying at the address or addresses they have provided to the authorities, but enforcement of the quarantine will be limited.
    "The rules, still being finalised and due to be published on Tuesday before coming into effect next week, have prompted cross-party concerns about the potentially limited impact on public health amid warnings of the severe damage that could be caused to the travel and aviation industry."

  • Almost two-thirds of care homes have had no staff tested, data shows - despite government's promise of universal testing by early June Independent May 31: "Only 15 per cent of care home staff have been tested for coronavirus since the start of the outbreak, according to data which suggests the government is failing to meet a key target.
    "Health secretary Matt Hancock pledged on 15 May that every elderly resident and member of staff in England would be tested by “early June”.
    "However research by the Data Analysis Bureau (T-DAB) and Person Centred Software revealed that by 27 May nearly two-thirds of homes had still not had any staff members tested.
    "Just six per cent of care home staff were tested in the seven days leading up to that date.
    “The rate of testing of care home staff has picked up in the last week but is still far too slow to get close to the target set by the government,” said Simon Briscoe, director of T-DAB."

  • How a decade of privatisation and cuts exposed England to coronavirus Major May 31 investigation by The Guardian begins "“Let’s not forget,” Boris Johnson said in early March, near the start of the coronavirus crisis, “we already have a fantastic NHS, fantastic testing systems and fantastic surveillance of the spread of disease.”
    “Yet those who have experienced the government’s emerging testing and tracing operations for Covid-19 have had limited contact with the NHS. Instead, Britons with symptoms are directed to a network of 50 drive-through testing centres, set up by management consultants at Deloitte.
    “Upon arrival, patients are marshalled not by NHS staff, but workers in hi-vis jackets supplied by outsourcing companies, such as Serco, G4S, Mitie and Sodexo. Those who cannot make the drive have received postal test kits, processed by the private diagnostics company Randox and delivered by Amazon.
    “When contact tracing to stop the spread of the virus finally moved up the agenda in late April, the health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, said the job would be done with an as–yet unproven NHS app. The app has been developed by private firms for NHSX, the technology wing of the health service, which is also responsible for a Covid-19 government data operation involving tech companies Palantir, Faculty, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
    “On Thursday the government finally launched its long-awaited NHS Test and Trace Service. But despite the name, many of the 25,000 contact tracers tracking those potentially exposed to Covid-19 and advising them to self-isolate will be working not for the NHS, but rather the outsourcing firms Serco and Sitel.”

  • ADPH Presidential Blog: A time for steady leadership, careful preparation and measured steps Association of Directors of Public Health May 31 President’s blog:
    “We are at a critical moment. We need to weigh up the balance of risks between easing restrictions, to enable more pupils to return to school, more businesses to open and more social connections to happen, with the risk of causing a resurgence of infections.
    “Directors of Public Health are increasingly concerned that the Government is misjudging this balancing act and lifting too many restrictions, too quickly.
    “This is a new disease; evidence is still emerging and there is much uncertainty. However, based on what is currently known, several leading scientists and public health experts have spoken out about a string of recent national policy announcements affecting England which project a degree of confidence that many – including ADPH members – do not think is supported by the science.
    “Over the weekend we have seen signs that the public is no longer keeping as strictly to social distancing as it was – along with this, we are concerned that the resolve on personal hygiene measures, and the need to immediately self-isolate, if symptomatic, is waning. A relentless effort to regain and rebuild public confidence and trust following recent events is essential.
    “… The Government has set five tests, each of which must be regularly reviewed as restrictions are adjusted and eased. Here is our current assessment…”

  • COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable Government guidance - issued at 10.33pm on May 31, to guide behaviour on June 1.

  • Care homes mentioned only twice in five months of Sage minutes Independent report, May 31: “The government’s top scientific advisers discussed care homes only twice between January and May, according to newly published minutes.
    “Records for meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, or Sage, which is the key group of experts advising ministers on how to react to the Covid-19 outbreak, reveal a lack of discussion about the risks facing care homes.
    “Between January and May, Sage minutes mention care homes only twice, before the start of lockdown in the UK and weeks before the numbers of deaths made headlines across the country.
    “… James Bullion, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services said the publication of the minutes "appears to reinforce the impression that social care has been an afterthought – a secondary consideration after the NHS. This cannot continue."

  • The silence of the chief scientists is worrying and deeply political New Statesman 31 may comment begins: "In the astonishing UK government update on the pandemic on the evening of Thursday 28 May, we watched the relationship between government and science collapse before our eyes.
    "Much of the media coverage has focused on Boris Johnson’s muzzling of his chief medical officer (CMO) Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser (CSA) Patrick Vallance, as he intervened to prevent them from answering questions about the public health repercussions of Dominic Cummings breaking the lockdown rules. But that much was business as usual: we should by now be used to this increasingly isolated prime minister shutting down inconvenient debate.
    "Far more troubling to those who care about the role of scientific advice during the coronavirus crisis was the servile response from those two scientists."

  • Why I quit working on Boris Johnson's ‘world-beating' test-and-tracing system Guardian May 30 anonymous account of working in privatised "track and trace": "The self-led courses were very basic – with some generic dos and don’ts about customer data, security and so on. I completed it all in less than one and a half hours, with a score of 95%+.
    "The next morning I was worried, and feeling very unprepared. I felt the job was an important thing to do. But it was essential to get this right, and I didn’t really understand the role and how to use the systems. I logged in and saw a message saying I would be invited to a chatroom and to please wait.
    "I waited seven and a half hours (my entire shift). I called the HR helpline after about one hour and was told to relax – everyone is waiting.
    "The next day I was scheduled to work again. This time, I was invited to a chatroom. I recognised many of the names in the group from my training, so knew the other people were also new. Many people were writing, “Did anyone do anything yesterday?” “Do we just wait?” “What are we waiting for?”
    "… [Wednesday] night I saw someone from the track-and-trace programme had spoken to the BBC, and noted that their group had spent the day watching Netflix or playing games online. Having spent days feeling frustrated, I started to feel dejected too.
    Two days later I logged in for my weekend shift and discovered nothing had changed – and that I had clocked up 40 hours of key worker pay for doing absolutely nothing."

  • UK abandoned testing because system 'could only cope with five coronavirus cases a week' (£) Telegraph, losing patience with government handling of pandemic, in May 30 revelation: “Britain’s disastrous decision to abandon testing for coronavirus occurred because health systems could only cope with five cases a week, official documents show.
    “Newly-released papers from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies shows routine testing and tracing of contacts was stopped because Public Health England’s systems were struggling to deal with a handful of cases.
    “At a meeting on Feb 18, advisors said PHE could only cope with testing and tracing contacts of five Covid-19 cases a week, with modelling suggesting it might only be possible to increase this to 50 cases.
    “Advisors then agreed it was "sensible" to shift to stopping routine testing - despite acknowledging that such a decision would “generate a public reaction”.
    “The decision to give up on testing those with symptoms of coronavirus is now seen as the key reason the UK has the highest death toll in Europe.”

  • Jennifer Arcuri warns against using NHS tracking app over data security fears Mirror May 30 report: "Boris Johnson’s alleged ex-mistress is advising against using the NHS coronavirus tracking app. Jennifer Arcuri, who gave him technology lessons at her flat, said: “There is no way I would download that app.”
    "The app, which may eventually hold data on millions of Brits, is set to be rolled out across the UK after its Isle of Wight trial.
    "Ms Arcuri, 35, raised her fears in an exclusive interview.
    She said: “The Government can say they’re doing the best to keep it secure, there’s just no guarantee it’s 100 per cent secure or the data is going to be kept secure, encrypted and used only for this.
    “I don’t think people should give away their freedoms.”

  • WHY WE NEED A #PEOPLESVACCINE – With Achal Prabhala and Mohga Kamal-Yanni Podcast May 30. A vaccine against COVID-19 is humanity’s best shot at ending this painful pandemic. But how can we ensure that a vaccine is available to all people, all countries, free of charge?
    We talk about the need for a #PeoplesVaccine, what to do about the big pharma monopolies and vaccine nationalism that stand in the way and what we can learn from iconic struggles to fight for access to medicines like the victories by HIV/AIDS activists.

  • Matt Hancock's obsession with hospitals has warped priorities and cost lives Guardian May 29 broadside at Matt Hancock's miserable record on Covid-19, by Richard Vize: "The health and social care secretary’s appearance at the 5pm briefing on Wednesday to finally announce the test and trace system in England showcased the flaws that have undermined the effectiveness of the entire coronavirus response: seeing everything through the lens of the NHS, marginalising and ignoring local government, and throwing money at private companies to fill the gaps left by public sector cuts.
    "The “NHS track and trace system” largely consists of thousands of people working in Serco call centres, for which the training has been so haphazard that the company’s chief executive has issued a video apology. Painting NHS lipstick on it is supposed to give people confidence it will work. Unheralded, much of the work will fall to local government public health teams.
    "And yet again Hancock delivered a calculated snub to councils, refusing to acknowledge their contribution in a thank-you list that included businesses.
    "Hancock knows all about shielding the vulnerable: he has been using the NHS as his personal human shield from the start. Setting himself up as the champion of the health service, the “protect the NHS” mantra quickly became pivotal to his entire approach to the pandemic. This warped priorities and cost lives, as the government initially decided to treat the sickness rather than prevent the illness."

  • NHS ordered to rush out ‘meaningless’ covid antibody tests ahead of PM’s deadline HSJ (May 29) flags up more government jiggery pokery with testing figures: “NHS pathology labs have been given just two days to roll out thousands of antibody tests, amid a push to reach a covid-19 testing target set out by Boris Johnson.
    “Earlier this month the Prime Minister set a target of having a testing capacity of 200,000 per day by the end of May. Capacity currently stands at 161,000, Matt Hancock has said.
    “… On 27 May, NHS England and Improvement wrote to local leaders giving them two days’ notice to put in place testing capacity for, and deliver, thousands of antibody tests of staff and patients.
    “… One head of pathology at a trust said: “There is one obvious answer as to why there is suddenly such an urgency to roll this out. While it will be interesting to have the results, there is nothing meaningful we can do with this test data at the moment.”
    “Another trust director involved in the scheme described the antibody tests as having “no clinical value”.”

  • Matt Hancock Faces Second Warning Over Coronavirus Test Figures Huffington Post (May 29) flags up another impending official warning against cooking the statistical books on testing:
    "Britain’s statistics watchdog is expected to warn Matt Hancock that it still has concerns about government figures for daily Covid-19 tests, HuffPost UK can reveal.
    "Hancock is in a race against time to hit Boris Johnson’s target of 200,000 daily tests by Monday, as part of the wider goal to get a “world beating” test-and-trace system in place by June 1 to ease the country’s path out of lockdown.
    "But with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) not expected to publish statistics on capacity until Sunday, just hours before the deadline, critics fear the target could be achieved by new moves to “artificially” inflate the figures.
    "Sir David Norgrove, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, told Hancock on May 11 that he had concerns about the “trustworthiness” of the way the government was presenting and counting its numbers of tests for the virus."

  • Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England – Sage advisers Guardian May 29: "Government advisers have voiced unease over the decision to lift England’s lockdown while thousands of people a day are still becoming infected with the coronavirus, warning that loosening restrictions could easily lead to a second wave.
    “We cannot relax our guard by very much at all,” said John Edmunds, a professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who attends meetings of Sage, the scientific advisory group on emergencies.
    "There are still 8,000 new infections every day in England without counting those in hospitals and care homes, Edmunds said. “If you look at it internationally, it’s a very high level of incidence.” World Health Organization statistics suggest it is the fifth highest in the world."

  • ‘40,000 excess deaths could have been avoided if government had acted responsibly’ – Prof Sir David King Channel 4 News interview (May 29) with Sir David King – a former government Chief Scientific Adviser. He leads a group of scientists who have been critical of the government’s approach to combating the virus. The interview begins by asking him what impact the easing of the lockdown will have on fears of a second wave.

  • Hancock says trusts must decide on paying for covid overtime HSJ May 29 report: "New guidance agreed by the NHS and unions suggests staff should always be paid for overtime work during the coronavirus pandemic – but stops short of making it compulsory.
    "The guidance has been agreed and welcomed by 15 staffing unions, which said NHS staff were often not being paid for their extra hours. It suggests an extension of overtime payments to all staff in bands 1-7, while being less clear about more senior staff.
    "A document published by NHS Employers this morning said health secretary Matt Hancock had been asked to introduce temporary changes to overtime payments during the pandemic response.
    "But it said Mr Hancock had “confirmed that he is content to leave the matter for local determination rather than agree the proposal for a national solution”."

  • COVID survivor receives $840,000 statement for treatment, with more on the way Another chapter in the horror story of US health care, from the Denver Channel:
    “Robert Dennis spent weeks in the hospital, fighting and beating the coronavirus. He’s now back at home, working his way through recovery, but he’s not done with the virus entirely just yet. The high school teacher just received his first itemized statement for the cost of his care: $840,386.94.
    “Seeing that number yesterday for the first bill it kind of took your breath away again,” Robert’s wife Suzanne, who also beat the virus, told Denver7. The statement covers Robert’s time at Sky Ridge Medical Center, where he was in the intensive care unit and intubated for two weeks.
    “His meds just at the hospital are a quarter million dollars,” Suzanne said.
    “What is not included is Robert’s three weeks at Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital, or his wife’s trips to the emergency room when she was fighting the virus. The couple estimates their total bills to top one and a half million dollars.”

  • Experts warned Cameron’s government the Lansley reforms would hobble Britain’s epidemic response New Statesman May 29 on the disastrous damage done to public health by Cameron govt's 2012 Health & Social Care Act: "Throughout 2011, experts wrote to the Health Select Committee about the impact of proposed changes under David Cameron’s health secretary Andrew Lansley — changes that would later be formalised in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.
    "The director of public health for County Durham, Anna Lynch, warned that abolishing Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) – which were responsible for improving regional health services and were axed in favour of a commissioning-based model – “means that the public will be less safe at times of outbreak or pandemic”. During flu seasons, the SHAs were vital “in co-ordinating responses to the challenges posed”, she said.
    "Dr Alison Merry, a public health consultant, said the changes would “fragment, weaken and ultimately destroy the specialty of public health” and "disrupt... the ability to effectively respond to an emergency or epidemic situation and undermine public trust and confidence”.

  • How H&F helped local care homes control COVID-19 outbreaks and save lives May 29 Report from LB Hammersmith & Fulham on the council’s intervention to test care home residents and staff:
    “Once we realised that hospitals were discharging residents into care homes without first testing them for COVID-19, we acted in late March and early April to protect residents by closing the borough’s homes (which are all privately run) to new admissions.
    “A team led by Dr Nicola Lang, the council’s Director of Public Health, and including doctors, nurses and academics from Imperial College NHS Trust, Public Health England (PHE) Colindale and Imperial College London then tested everyone in the homes – whether they had symptoms or not. This controlled the virus and prevented further deaths.
    “People were tested using a robotic testing platform specially developed by the UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI), which is based in the borough at Imperial College.
    “… [Dr Lang] swiftly drew together a unique collaboration of GPs, virology, elderly medicine, frailty matrons, infectious diseases teams, academia, and paediatric infectious diseases and epidemiology teams. Dr Lang added: “They helped us manage the outbreaks with the latest infection control and isolation advice, and enabled us to test all our care home residents twice, as well as all staff.”
    “Cllr Ben Coleman, H&F Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “Sadly, we found that there was no government ‘protective ring’ around care homes. In the absence of national guidance or support, and combined with the huge amount of PPE the council is providing to homes, this local action on testing saved lives.”

  • UK suffers second-highest death rate from coronavirus | Free to read Important, shocking update on FT tracking of real death toll, compared with much lower "official" statistics: “The UK has suffered the second-highest rate of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic after Spain, according to excess mortality figures. The UK has registered 59,537 more deaths than usual since the week ending March 20, indicating that the virus has directly or indirectly killed 891 people per million.
    “Until Thursday, the UK had a higher rate of death than in any country for which high-quality data exist. However, Spain made a revision to its mortality estimates, adding 12,000 to its toll of excess deaths from coronavirus in a one-off adjustment to 43,000.
    “This increased its death rate to 921 per million. The absolute number of excess deaths in the UK is the highest in Europe, and second only to the US in global terms, according to data collected by the Financial Times.
    “The country fares no better on another measure: the percentage increase in deaths compared with normal levels, where the UK is the worst hit in Europe and behind only Peru internationally.”

  • Matt Hancock slammed for hysterically laughing at concerns about the 'rushed' track and trace launch Indy May 28 report on Matt Hancock's further decline:
    "At Wednesday's coronavirus briefing Hancock announced that the coronavirus track and trace app, which had been trialled in the Isle of Wight, was going to be launched in the UK on Thursday.
    Many had questioned if this was being introduced a little hastily and Burley asked if the government had pushed the app forward to distract from the ongoing Dominic Cummings scandal. She said:
    “The problem is, you’ve rushed it forward haven’t you? Because you want to take the headlines away from Dominic Cummings so you brought it forward. It should have been 1st of June, when the app is being launched at the same time. You’ve had to rush it forward.”
    An almost maniacal grin came over Hancock's face as a result of this question and he actually began laughing and said:
    “It’s priceless Kay, I’m normally accused of delaying these things and bringing them in too slowly. I committed to getting the system in in mid-May. You can’t accuse me both of rushing it and of being delayed.”
    Burley then called Hancock out for laughing and pointed out that even the government had said that the app wasn't ready to be launched:
    “You said the app was ‘absolutely essential’ to this track and trace. The app is still not ready until next week at the earliest, maybe after that, and yet you’ve brought this forward. I suppose many of my viewers will think it’s not a laughing matter.”

  • How is COVID-19 changing the use of emergency care by region? Health Foundation report on the huge drop in attendances at A&E departments as people fear Covid-19 infection:
    "Recent NHS England data show that A&E visits in April 2020 were 57% lower than in April 2019 and were the lowest monthly number since records began in 2010. This chart explores how COVID-19 is changing use of emergency care on a regional level.
    "Falls in visits to A&E in March and April 2020 were very similar across regions. There were bigger falls in April, the first full month of the lockdown, than in March. The fall was also always greater in minor units than major units. Reductions were slightly larger in London than other regions.
    "There is more variation in reductions in emergency admissions through major A&E units. In March, there were larger percentage falls in admissions in London (30%) relative to the rest of the country (18-22%). In April, London again saw the largest fall in admissions (45%). Another five regions had falls of between 34% and 40%, with the North West an outlier, seeing a reduction of just 28%."

  • Boris Johnson accused of launching broken test and trace system before it was ready to distract from Dominic Cummings scandal Independent May 28: "The government has been accused of panic-launching its coronavirus test-and-trace system before it was ready in order to distract from the Dominic Cummings scandal rocking the Conservative Party.
    "The new contact-tracing scheme suffered from major technical problems on Thursday, with staff unable to even log in for most of the day and many only notified the night before that it was going live and that they would be needed.
    "Meanwhile the government’s test and trace tsar admitted to MPs that the whole system would not actually be “fully operational” until the end of next month – with still no date set for the launch of the supposedly “world-beating” app promised by the prime minister.
    "Contact-tracers working on the programme told The Independent that when they finally managed to log into the system at the end of the working day, they were presented with an empty page that contained no cases to review.
    “The only explanation for the government announcing and launching this scheme when it was clearly not ready is that they wanted to try to persuade the public to ‘move on’ from the Dominic Cummings scandal,” said Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who earlier in the day had participated in a conference call with Dido Harding, the government’s test and trace tsar."

  • Coronavirus testing hit by struggle to match results with NHS records Guardian May 28 report:
    "Efforts to prevent the nationwide spread of coronavirus have been dealt a blow after it emerged that health officials in England and Scotland are struggling to match hundreds of thousands of coronavirus test results to patient records.
    "Up to 350,000 Covid-19 test samples – those carried out at drive-through centres between 2 April and 6 May – are believed to have been taken without recording individual NHS numbers or full addresses, making it harder for health authorities to track the pandemic and cases in their areas, the Guardian has learned."

  • Government rejected radical lockdown of England's care homes Guardian May 28 reports on another aspect of the avoidable death toll in Britain's care homes: "Public health officials proposed a radical lockdown of care homes last month to stem surging coronavirus deaths, including staff moving in for four weeks and deploying NHS Nightingale hospitals – but it was rejected by the government, the Guardian has learned.
    "An 11-point plan proposing “a further lockdown of care homes” was submitted to Downing Street on 28 April by officials at Public Health England (PHE), as fatalities peaked in care homes and the virus spread to half of homes in the worst-affected areas.
    "They urged ministers to “use NHS facilities and other temporary accommodation to quarantine and isolate residents”, and to “consider whether staff can move into the care home for the next four weeks”.
    "But neither of the proposals, recommended as “high impact”, were included in a subsequent action plan on infection control announced by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, last week."

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey pilot: 28 May 2020 ONS figures May 28 report low seroprevalence around 7%. Still about 50,000 new infections/week. So R close to 1: virtually no room for error, and more than 90% of the country still susceptible to infection. Not a good time to lift the lockdown.

  • ITV News reveals plans to discharge Covid-19 patients into care homes PAUL BRAND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT ITV news May 28: "ITV News has uncovered plans to discharge at least 1,800 patients from hospital into care homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
    "The government has denied there was pressure to move people from hospital into care, after Care England recently blamed discharges for spreading the virus into nursing and residential homes.
    "But data obtained by ITV News shows how, at the outset of the pandemic, the NHS and councils block booked beds in care homes to ensure they were ready to deal with a surge in patients coming from hospital.
    "NHS clinical commissioning groups and councils in 17 regions of England replied to ITV News telling us that they had reserved a total of 1,800 beds in care homes, including 182 beds in Suffolk, 122 in the Wirral and 86 in Oxfordshire.
    "Until mid-April, patients were not routinely tested for coronavirus before being discharged into a home, with care managers having previously told ITV News that they believe that’s how the virus spread among their residents."

  • Coronavirus: 1,694 mental health patients discharged in 'error' News from Wales via BBC May 28, but it's likely to be echoed in similar "errors" in England: “Almost 1,700 mental health patients have been wrongly discharged from support services during the pandemic in north Wales.
    Last week it emerged Betsi Cadwaladr health board advised people to seek new referrals once the pandemic had eased.
    “It had estimated that between 200 and 300 were affected, but the true figure is 1,694, according to a letter it has since sent to a Plaid Cymru politician.
    “The health board has apologised and said it was contacting the patients.
    Last week, Simon Dean, the health board's interim chief executive, told a Senedd committee discharging the patients was an "error that should not have occurred".

  • 'A slap in the face to every citizen of this country' - nurse hits out at Dominic Cummings as she shares experience of working on the front line Manchester Evening News May 26 report of outspoken views from unnamed nurse from Fairfield General Hospital:
    “A nurse working on the front line during the coronavirus pandemic has described Dominic Cummings' actions as 'a slap in the face to every citizen of this country'.
    … "My colleagues have sent their children elsewhere so that they can continue to work on the frontline. Some haven’t seen or touched their children since the beginning of lockdown.
    "We haven’t seen our parents and friends for months. We have our own family members who have died alone.
    … "We have worked 6-7 night stretches. We have worked through our annual leave. We have sacrificed more and more and more as the weeks have unfolded.
    "The actions of Mr Cummings are wrong and unlawful. This is about the truth. And the truth is that his actions cannot be tolerated the Prime Minister and your fellow Tory members defending this man is the fundamental issue with your party and its politics.”

  • Johnson blocks top scientists from talking about Cummings Guardian May 28: “Boris Johnson has blocked his two most senior scientific advisers from answering questions on whether his senior aide, Dominic Cummings, broke the lockdown.
    “At No 10’s daily press conference, the prime minister twice prevented questions from journalists who wanted to know whether Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, believed Cummings had stuck to the rules.
    “Johnson said he wanted to “draw a line” under the Cummings affair, after Durham constabulary said the aide might have committed a “minor breach” of the rules.
    … “The prime minister then said he would not allow Vallance or Whitty to answer questions on the row to “protect them from what I think would be an unfair and unnecessary attempt to ask any political questions”.

  • After PPE and testing, contact tracing looks like the next government shambles Guardian May 28 from Dave McCoy comment sums up another simmering fiasco: "“As of this week, the government will begin to roll out the second part of this strategy. In theory, contact tracers will call or text people in England who test positive for coronavirus, asking them to provide a list of everyone they have met for longer than 15 minutes, who will then receive a message instructing them to self-isolate for 14 days (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are rolling out separate programmes).
    “But already, England’s contact-tracing strategy looks set to be hobbled by the government’s reluctance to involve local authorities and regional public health expertise in its coronavirus response from the outset, and its dogmatic commitment to outsourcing health services to the private sector.
    “Baroness Dido Harding, who is leading the programme of testing and tracing, recently conceded that the system won’t be fully operational at the local level until late June. Elsewhere, contact tracers have spoken of difficulties accessing the government system, describing it as a “complete shambles”. One recruit reportedly said their training amounted to reading a pdf and taking an online quiz - “all of which takes an hour”.”

  • Why did so many people die of Covid-19 in the UK's care homes? Guardian May 28, extended analysis sets out to answer key question: "Why did so many people die in care homes? That may be the most urgent question of the likely public inquiry into the UK’s Covid-19 response. The NHS wasn’t overwhelmed, but 16,000 residents of care and nursing homes have died so far, compared with fewer than 3,000 in Germany and none in Hong Kong. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, claims the government “threw a protective ring” around care homes. So, what went wrong?"

  • Boris Johnson accused of launching broken test and trace system before it was ready to distract from Dominic Cummings scandal Independent report May 28: “The government has been accused of panic-launching its coronavirus test-and-trace system before it was ready in order to distract from the Dominic Cummings scandal rocking the Conservative Party.
    “The new contact-tracing scheme suffered from major technical problems on Thursday, with staff unable to even log in for most of the day and many only notified the night before that it was going live and that they would be needed.
    “Meanwhile the government’s test and trace tsar admitted to MPs that the whole system would not actually be “fully operational” until the end of next month – with still no date set for the launch of the supposedly “world-beating” app promised by the prime minister.
    “Contact-tracers working on the programme told The Independent that when they finally managed to log into the system at the end of the working day, they were presented with an empty page that contained no cases to review.”

  • £1bn CCGs deficits revealed, prompting fears of a fresh financial squeeze Another Lowdown exclusive, May 27: "As the remaining 135 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) throughout England begin to hold virtual meetings in public and publish Governing Body papers once again, it is becoming clear that many face daunting financial pressures.
    "Even the limited number of CCGs that have published up to date information show deficits from 2019-20 combining with historic underlying deficits to total almost £1 billion, even before the costs and dislocation of the Covid epidemic are included.
    "While many CCGs have either not met, or not published any up to date financial figures in the last few months, a quick snapshot survey of CCG websites by The Lowdown (May 25) has revealed at least 13 CCGs with deficits or underlying deficits in excess of £20m"

  • Coronavirus: Test and trace system will start on Thursday BBC May 27 report on the half-baked test and trace system, with dysfunctional tracing and erratic and often delayed results from testing:
    "A massive system to find people who come into close contact with those infected with coronavirus will start in England on Thursday, Boris Johnson has said.
    The prime minister said it "will change people's lives".
    "The aim of the test and trace system is to move from lockdown for all towards more targeted measures.
    "However, scientists have warned it is not a "magic bullet" and may prevent between 5% and 15% of infections."

  • Carry the can... Roy Lilley e-letter May 26 argues that "The Cummings and goings to Durham and government looks to be run by the selfish, the privileged, the hypocrites, and deniers".

  • The truth about why Cummings hasn't gone: Johnson is too terrified to sack him Guardian's Marina Hyde sums up on May 26 "Perhaps on Sunday you watched the entire nation being lectured on what constitutes fatherly responsibility by Boris Johnson, a man who won’t even say how many children he has, and leaves women to bring up an unspecified number of them. Perhaps on Monday you watched the Guardian’s Rowena Mason being lectured in journalism by Johnson, a man sacked from a newspaper for fabricating quotes from his own godfather, and who blithely discussed helping a friend to have another journalist beaten up. Perhaps today, you heard Michael Gove tell LBC he has “on occasion” driven a car to check his eyesight.
    "If you did see these things, I can only direct you to the slogan flyposted all over Paris during the 1968 civil unrest. “DO NOT ADJUST YOUR MIND – THERE IS A FAULT WITH REALITY.” The term “gaslighting” is much overused, but let’s break the glass on it for the events of the past few days. As for “indefensible”… well, I don’t think that word means what you thought it meant."
    … "So here we are. Cummings stays, and only irresistible external events will make Johnson do the right thing. He is not himself capable. We have the highest death toll in Europe, we left the care homes to their fate, our test-and-trace blunders are an international embarrassment, and we didn’t even save our economy.
    "Johnson takes daily runs, but appears only once or twice a week in a crisis to fail at leadership.
    "This is the utter smallness of the man, and the tragedy for everyone stuck being governed by him. "

  • Military alleges horrific conditions, abuse in pandemic-hit Ontario nursing homes CBC Canada May 26 report "The Canadian military has drawn the curtain back on horrific allegations of elder abuse in five Ontario long-term care homes, with precise, graphic reports of residents being bullied, drugged, improperly fed and in some cases left for hours and days in soiled bedding.
    "Within the military's shocking catalogue of abuse, neglect and cruelty is an accusation that delinquent care led to the death of a resident.
    "Soldiers were called into the facilities as part of an effort to backstop the provincial system, which has been overwhelmed by novel coronavirus cases."

  • Needy Matt becomes Door Matt in defending Dom’s Durham flit Guardian May 26 sketch sums up Appless, Hopeless Matt Hancock: "“There was a brief moment after Matt Hancock recovered from coronavirus when he appeared to be a man of principle. That proved to be nothing more than a chimera. Now he has revealed himself to be the most abject of career politicians, who will literally do and say anything to save his job.
    “So there was no one Boris Johnson could have trusted more than Matt to have taken the Downing Street press conference on the day after Dominic Cummings had been granted the freedom of the No 10 rose garden – there’s a code for special advisers specifically saying they should not make public statements – to annihilate what was left of his credibility. Needy Matt is the health secretary with the perfect grasp of the public good.
    “When it came to a straight choice between sticking to government health guidelines or protecting the career of Boris’s boss, it was a no-brainer. Who cared if thousands more might die because they couldn’t see the point of sticking to the rules if Dom didn’t …
    “… How did Matt let it come to this? What makes the tragedy so riddled with pathos is that Hancock deep down knows he is so busted. That he has traded what passed for his self-respect for loyalty to two men who think morality is for suckers. You can see it in the terror in his eyes and the increasing shirtiness in his responses. He is now so brittle, he could shatter into a thousand tiny fragments at any moment. I give it five days at most.
    “Because not only has his track-and-trace app proved to be totally useless, but he’s also only got five days to meet the arbitrary target of 200,000 tests a day that Boris set when under pressure from Keir Starmer at prime minister’s questions. So far, we’re on under 110,000. It’s just not going to happen, Matt. And the public won’t get fooled twice with fake testing targets.”

  • Boris Johnson struggles to draw a line under Cummings row FT May 26: "“Boris Johnson’s efforts to draw a line under the crisis surrounding Dominic Cummings floundered on Tuesday as more Conservative MPs called on the prime minister to remove his chief adviser and one minister quit in protest.
    “Downing Street had hoped Mr Cummings’ defence on Monday of his actions during the coronavirus lockdown — after he was accused by newspapers of breaching the restrictions on people’s movements — would defuse the controversy.
    “But Mr Cummings’ refusal to apologise and concern that his actions would undermine public adherence to the lockdown led to more than 30 Tory MPs supporting the case for ousting him. These included several former ministers, such as Mark Harper and Caroline Nokes.
    “Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said Mr Cummings had breached the lockdown rules but stopped short of demanding his resignation.
    “Six opposition parties — including the Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats, but not Labour — called on Mr Johnson to remove his chief adviser, saying trust in public health advice was being “severely undermined”.”

  • NHS changes made under the radar Lowdown May 26 follow up on previous exclusive: "changes accepted as temporary measures are already being cemented in. NHS England’s plans in London make clear that to reverse away from any of these changes now requires the prior agreement of the Regional office.
    "NHS England have also begun to further cut back local accountability by establishing 18 so-called ‘Integrated Care Systems’ covering even wider catchment populations than most CCGs, but which are not public bodies, and are outside of existing legislation.
    "At the same time NHS England is encouraging the development of plans without any public discussion or scrutiny during the lockdown period, and “streamlined decision-making” – in other words minimal if any public consultation.
    "Even though the CCGs have continued to function behind the scenes, and some are meeting online while public attention is focused on the Covid crisis, it’s clear that in many areas the local government and other bodies that should be scrutinising their plans and performance have been suspended, and are yet to get going."

  • Coronavirus: UK hospital closes A&E and no longer accepting new patients Independent May 25; "An NHS hospital has been forced to close its accident and emergency department to new admissions as a result of high numbers of patients with the coronavirus.
    "Weston General Hospital, in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, stopped accepting A&E patients at 8am on Monday morning.
    "The University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said patients who needed care would be treated elsewhere in the local area.
    "The trust has not said how many new patients with the virus have been admitted or whether the closure has followed a sudden surge in cases."

  • Huge backlog in operations building due to lack of PPE and staff testing Guardian May 25 report: “A lack of vital protective equipment and long waits for coronavirus test results are stopping hospitals from tackling a huge backlog in operations, a key NHS leader is warning.
    “Patients whose surgery has been postponed because of the pandemic face even longer delays because hospitals are having to wait for as long as 13 days for the outcome of tests, Chris Hopson told the Guardian.
    “In thinly veiled criticism of the health secretary, Matt Hancock, the chief executive of hospital group NHS Providers blamed ministers for repeated failures to ensure easy availability of fast-turnaround testing for NHS staff, whiletrusts have warned about the lack of adequate supplies of surgical gowns.
    “Both problems risked patients unwittingly becoming infected with Covid-19 in hospitals across England, which would not be able to get back to providing the range of treatment they had before the pandemic until those problems were solved, said Hopson.
    “That along with ongoing shortages of the sterile gowns that operating theatre teams needed to perform surgery safely remained “major obstacles” to the NHS’s reopening, added Hopson.”

  • Boris Johnson’s defence of Dominic Cummings provokes furious backlash FT May 24 sums up the furore over PM Johnson's key advisor:
    "Dominic Cummings was facing a clamour for his resignation on Sunday evening, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempts to defend his closest adviser provoked a furious backlash.
    "Mr Cummings faced renewed pressure to resign after ministers, MPs, scientific advisers and pro-Conservative newspapers called on Mr Johnson to sack him, following reports that he had broken the government’s restrictions on more than one occasion.
    "A joint investigation by the Guardian and Daily Mirror newspapers alleged Mr Cummings, architect of the Vote Leave campaign to take Britain out of the EU, had driven 264 miles from London with his ailing wife and young son to a family home in County Durham, where he was spotted on April 5.
    "Speaking at the daily Downing Street Sunday press conference, Mr Johnson said he had “extensive face-to-face conversations” with Mr Cummings about the journey from his London home to County Durham and had concluded that he had not broken lockdown restrictions."

  • Care home coronavirus testing pledge in tatters as just 21% have been checked Mirror May 24 report: "The Government is on track to miss its own target to test every care home resident for coronavirus.
    "In the past week just 6% of residents have been tested for the Covid-19, The Telegraph reported.
    "Since the pandemic began 21% have been checked for the virus, but only 1% have been tested twice or more since March 18.
    "Across the country 40% of people have had no residents tested, data from The Data Analysis Bureau (T-DAB) and Person Centred Software shows.
    "The Government will have to get a move on if it is to meet its ambition of testing everyone living in a care home by early June."

  • Crumbs for the Hungry but Windfalls for the Rich Brutal reality of Trump's hard nosed favouritism towards the super-rich in this May 23 NYT feature: "While President Trump and his allies in Congress seek to tighten access to food stamps, they are showing compassion for one group: zillionaires. Their economic rescue package quietly allocated $135 billion — yes, that’s “billion” with a “b” — for the likes of wealthy real estate developers.
    "My Times colleague Jesse Drucker notes that Trump himself, along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may benefit financially from this provision. The fine print was mysteriously slipped into the March economic relief package, even though it has nothing to do with the coronavirus and offers retroactive tax breaks for periods long before Covid-19 arrived.
    "Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, both Democrats, have asked the Trump administration for any communications that illuminate how this provision sneaked into the 880-page bill. (Officially, the provision is called “Modification of Limitation on Losses for Taxpayers Other Than Corporations,” but that’s camouflage; I prefer to call it the “Zillionaire Giveaway.”)
    "About 82 percent of the Zillionaire Giveaway goes to those earning more than $1 million a year, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Of those beneficiaries earning more than $1 million annually, the average benefit is $1.6 million.
    "In other words, a single mom juggling two jobs gets a maximum $1,200 stimulus check — and then pays taxes so that a real estate mogul can receive $1.6 million. This is dog-eat-dog capitalism for struggling workers, and socialism for the rich."

  • What Parents Should Know About Coronavirus as Kids Return to Babysitters, Day Cares and Camps Well balance Maye 23 article from US ProPublica:
    "Reopening states after the COVID-19 lockdown raises unnerving questions for working parents who depend on some form of child care, from nannies to day camp.
    "Instead of coming home with a snotty nose, is your child going to bring back the coronavirus? And how do you know your in-home babysitter or nanny, even your child’s teacher, isn’t a symptom-free spreader?
    "The short answer is that there are no easy answers. Every family’s budget and needs and risk tolerance are going to be different. ProPublica scoured the latest research and talked to seven infectious disease and public health experts to help think through the issues facing parents."

  • ‘We don’t get paid for empty beds’: the crisis facing UK care home operators Important May 22 FT investigation: “Thousands of UK care homes … were already under financial pressure before the pandemic hit. Britain’s decision to leave the EU and the rise in the minimum wage had increased staffing costs, while an £8bn drop in government funding for social care since 2010 had hit fees paid for residents, even as the number of over-65s grew.
    “Now coronavirus has not only turned care homes into incubators for the most deadly pandemic in generations, but left their operators battling to survive, raising the risk of further closures in a country that already had less capacity to house the elderly than the rest of Europe.”

  • Report reveals mental health trust ‘culture of bullying’ as public excluded from meeting Eastern Daily Press May 22 with an update on the latest outrages at England's worst mental health trust: "The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), branded the worst mental health trust in England, unveiled a report on its staff culture ahead of a meeting of senior directors, held on Thursday, May 21.
    "The report described the trust’s environment as “characterised by bullying, disempowerment, lack of respect and unreasonableness.”
    "The trust, which remained in special measures following its latest inspection in January this year, has been slammed for the “disappointing” move of holding discussions behind closed doors.
    "The trust holds board meetings ten times a year, and says on its website “members of the public are welcome to attend”.
    "However, at Thursday’s meeting, held remotely via Microsoft Teams, the public were barred from listening in - despite the agenda describing it as a “public session”.
    A trust spokeswoman said the meeting would not be recorded or subsequently broadcast, but any decisions would be revealed by the end of May."

  • Coronavirus: Acting earlier would have saved lives, says Sage member BBC May 22 report picks up on an increasingly common criticism, this time from one of the scientists advising the government:
    "“One of the government's scientific advisers has said he would have liked ministers to have acted "a week or two weeks earlier" in the virus pandemic.
    “Sir Ian Boyd, who sits on the Sage scientific advisory group, said "it would have made quite a big difference" to the death rate.
    “… He told The Coronavirus Newscast: "Acting very early was really important and I would have loved to have seen us acting a week or two weeks earlier and it would have made quite a big difference to the steepness of the curve of infection and therefore the death rate.
    "And I think that's really the number one issue - could we have acted earlier? Were the signs there earlier on?"

  • Migrant charges: When we stand together we win Keep Our NHS Public response to the axing of the immigration surcharge for NHS staff:
    "“When Prime Minister Johnson was asked in parliament about lifting the surcharge on 20th May, he both paid tribute to “our amazing NHS staff” while simultaneously declaring: “We must look at the realities . . . those contributions help us raise about £900m”.
    “… Johnson’s claim quickly unravelled since according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the surcharge generated not £900m but only £90m a year. Even a number of prominent Conservative politicians spoke of the surcharge as “appalling and immoral”, saying that not to drop it was “mean-spirited, doctrinaire and petty”.
    “In an increasingly indefensible position, the government has already backtracked on leaving low paid workers out of a bereavement scheme which granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK to relatives of foreign national NHS staff who died from Covid-19.
    “With mounting disquiet within his own ranks together with mass opposition from campaigning organisations such as Keep Our NHS Public, NHS Staff Voices, trade unions and other migrant bodies, Johnson reversed his decision, leaving Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to announce this U-turn at the press conference on 21st May, a mere 24 hours after the PM’s House of Commons refusal.
    “This is a clear victory for those fighting against racism, against the hostile environment and for a universal and inclusive public NHS.
    “Now we must continue to demand the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) be lifted for all migrant workers and not just those in health and social care; for all key workers to be given the right to stay in the UK with no visa fees; for an end to the charging of ‘overseas visitors’ regulations and data-sharing practises that are doing so much harm.”

  • PRIVATISED AND UNPREPARED - THE NHS SUPPLY CHAIN: THE REPORT launch of new pamphlet on the NHS Supply Chain fiasco from We Own It:
    "More than 300 NHS and care workers have now died from coronavirus and many of these deaths were “avoidable with proper PPE”.
    "Businesses and communities have been ready to help out with vital protective equipment – masks, gowns, visors. But in the last few months, it’s often felt like the government was asleep at the wheel.
    "The NHS Supply Chain, responsible for procuring and delivering PPE during the coronavirus crisis, has itself been privatised.
    "Procurement and logistics in our NHS has been outsourced to a chaotic mish-mash of private contractors. There are 11 key outsourced procurement contracts and four levels of profit taking before equipment arrives at the hospital or care home.
    "The system is supposed to deliver "efficiency savings". In reality, supplies have been rationed and the country left unprepared. This has severely undermined the national effort to protect NHS, care staff and patients."

  • Up to half of government coronavirus home tests never returned, officials admit Independent May 22 on the latest dimension of the Covid-19 testing shambles: "Significant numbers of home-testing kits sent out under the government’s Covid-19 programme are not being used, officials have admitted.
    "Throwing fresh doubt on the government’s figures, the UK’s testing tsar on Friday admitted that the number of kits being sent back was not as high as health authorities would like and said steps were being taken to increase the rate.
    "Last month, ministers faced criticism that Britain was lagging behind the rest of the world in testing. The government rapidly increased the daily number of tests, relying heavily on home-testing kits.
    "But home tests are counted in the government’s figures as soon as they are put in the post, meaning that if they are not being returned, many of those recorded will never have taken place."

  • Canada is reopening without knowing where Canadians are getting COVID-19 CBC Canada report May 22: "Canada is emerging from months of lockdown, but key questions remain unanswered about where Canadians are getting infected with COVID-19 and why case levels remain high in our hardest-hit provinces.
    "Ontario and Quebec have seen their rate of new cases plateau in recent weeks, still in the hundreds each day, and have little information on the source of infection or what effect reopening will have.
    "It's scary. There's a large sense of unknown there," said Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist and chief of staff at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, who is a veteran of SARS and H1N1.
    "And there's no way around the fact that this is uncomfortable."
    "In Ontario, where the number of new daily cases is actually trending upward, testing is falling far below targets and the source of infection for new cases still remains a mystery."

  • Should Schools Reopen? Interim Findings and Concerns Second report of Independent SAGE committee bringing more rigorous science to bear on a crisis skewed by government's ideological approach:
    "We believe that decisions on school opening should be guided by evidence of low levels of COVID-19 infections in the community and the ability to rapidly respond to new infections through a local test, track and isolate strategy. There is no clear evidence that these conditions are met. Until they are it is not safe to open schools on June 1. Some rural areas might be ready to re-open schools earlier than other places.
    “Estimates of levels of infections must be based on up-to-date real time, detailed, local data on suspected and confirmed cases. To ensure that any local outbreaks are quickly spotted and contained, we strongly recommend that local test, track and isolate programmes are in place and tested before schools re-open. In cases where schools reopen where these safeguards are not in place, we suggest alternative testing strategies at the end of this document."

  • ‘Lord Have Mercy’: Inside One of New York’s Deadliest ZIP Codes Very moving May 22 video report from New York Times speaking to health workers from one of the hot spots of Covid infection in the most infected city of the US.

  • 22 days of dither and delay on coronavirus that cost thousands of British lives Extended and detailed Times May 22 analysis again points the finger of blame for the inflated British death toll at the Johnson government:
    "When the new [lockdown] measures came in on the evening of Monday, March 23, the infections had almost doubled again since the previous Friday and there were an estimated 1.5 million across the UK, according to Imperial and Oxford’s new data. Close to 1.2 million of those infections had happened since Johnson resisted calls to lockdown on Monday March 16.
    "An analysis of the data shows the lockdown swiftly reduced the spread of the virus but was introduced so late that Britain had a higher number of infections than every other major European country at the time they took the same emergency measures. For example, Italy had an estimated 1.2 million at its lockdown on March 10 and Germany, which locked down a day earlier than the UK on March 22, is estimated to have had just 270,000 infections.
    "Sir David King said the lockdown delay was “grossly negligent”. “The fact they were short of PPE, the fact they were short of testing equipment. The response of the government has not just been tardy. It has been totally disrespectful of British lives,” he said. “We created an unmanageable situation.”
    "There had been too much delay. The sheer number of people who had been allowed to become infected meant the country was riddled with the virus and the only defence was the workers of the NHS who had been left critically short of testing and protective equipment."

  • Two-thirds of BME staff feel unsafe at work, reveals snapshot survey Nursing Times May 22 report: "“A small-scale survey organised by Channel 4 News has found that more than half of BME staff in NHS trusts in England feel additional pressure to work on the coronavirus frontline.
    “Out of 473 health workers who responded to the poll, 61% felt they had unequal access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
    “While more than two-thirds (67%) of respondents reported feeling unsafe at work during Covid-19 outbreak, 50% said they did not feel able to speak up about safety in the workplace.”

  • Government Silent On Involving Credit Firm in COVID-19 Testing Byline Times May 22 report begins: “The Department of Health and Social Care is remaining tight-lipped about its decision to award a contract to the UK subsidiary of a multi-billion dollar US credit reporting agency that checks patient data when attempting to book a Coronavirus home test online.
    “Tens of thousands of people have already visited the Government website to book their test. Users are told that, in order to confirm their identity, they need to share their information with TransUnion. It is the smallest of the three largest credit agencies, along with Experian and Equifax.
    “Individuals unwilling to share their credit data are asked to start the process again and advised to choose the drive-through test option. It is unclear what possible COVID-19-related reason there would be for the Government to grant the company access to UK citizens’ information.
    “Privacy and civil liberties campaigners have already warned about tech firms getting their hands on patient data in the battle against the Coronavirus.”

  • Coronavirus: People in deprived areas face higher risk of death – with women disproportionately affected Independent May 21 report on findings of Health Foundation research: "The risk of dying from coronavirus is more than twice as great in the most deprived areas of England – with the disparity largest for women, analysis shows.
    "A study by the Health Foundation of deaths from Covid-19 showed women in the most deprived parts of the country had a risk of dying that was 133 per cent higher than those in the least deprived neighbourhoods.
    "Between men the difference in risk was 114 per cent higher in worse-off areas, suggesting that while deprivation is a key factor in risk of death from coronavirus for both sexes, its effect is worse for women.
    "Experts say the evidence shows the impact of Covid-19 is falling disproportionately on the poorest in society."

  • Nurses express their frustration at those flouting lockdown rules Nursing Notes May 21: "Nurses and other healthcare professionals across the UK have taken to social media to express their frustration over the actions of some members of the public.
    "It comes after huge crowds flocked to beaches and parks across England yesterday – the hottest day of the year so far.
    "Earlier this month the Government eased lockdown restrictions, encouraging many back to work alongside allowing unlimited exercise and the ability to travel around the country.
    "Lockdown rules in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland remain unchanged with the devolved Governments advising the public to stay at home."

  • Why are Africa's coronavirus successes being overlooked? Guardian May 21 comment: There have been coronavirus mistakes and misjudgments, and deaths, and each one is a tragedy. … But what has also happened is that many African nations, realising early on that large-scale, expensive testing and hospitalisation was not an option for the populations, had no choice but to take a more creative approach.
    “Take the two African countries I have called home – Senegal and Ghana. Senegal is developing a Covid-19 testing kit that would cost $1 per patient, which it is hoped will, in less than 10 minutes, detect both current or previous infection via antigens in saliva, or antibodies. …
    “Senegal is in a good position because its Covid-19 response planning began in earnest in January, as soon as the first international alert on the virus went out. The government closed the borders, initiated a comprehensive plan of contact tracing and, because it is a nation of multiple-occupation households, offered a bed for every single coronavirus patient in either a hospital or a community health facility.
    “As a result, this nation of 16 million people has had only 30 deaths.
    "… At every single one of those stages, the UK did the opposite, and is now facing a death toll of more than 35,000.
    “Ghana, with a population of 30 million, has a similar death toll to Senegal, partly because of an extensive system of contact tracing, utilising a large number of community health workers and volunteers, and other innovative techniques such as “pool testing”, in which multiple blood samples are tested and then followed up as individual tests only if a positive result is found.”

  • Tens of thousands of coronavirus tests have been double-counted, officials admit may 21 report indicates even Johnson's previous employers at the Telegraph are losing their confidence in his govt's handling of the covid crisis: "Tens of thousands of Covid-19 tests have been double-counted in the Government’s official tally, public health officials have admitted.
    "Diagnostic tests which involve taking saliva and nasal samples from the same patient are being counted as two tests, not one.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England each confirmed the double-counting.
    "This inflates the daily reported diagnostic test numbers by over 20 per cent, with that proportion being much higher earlier on in the crisis before home test kits were added to the daily totals. Almost 350,000 more tests have been reported in Government data than people tested since the start of the pandemic."

  • Greater Manchester STILL doesn't know how many people are testing positive for COVID-19 because it can't get results from government May 21 Manchester Evening News report on chaos in the testing system: “Public health officials and local leaders still have no idea how many people are testing positive for Covid-19 in Greater Manchester, due to continued chaos within the national system.
    “… The data issue has now been dragging on since May 4 and stems from the two separate testing systems currently in operation.
    “One involves tests carried out by the public sector, which are then processed in NHS laboratories - such as at the Manchester Royal Infirmary - and fed back to public health officials, who use them to track the pandemic’s pattern here and plan local infection control.
    “But results from the second set of testing, which is carried out through a government process at various locations - including Manchester Airport - before being processed at private laboratories, have not been reaching local authorities since the first week in May.”

  • Britain’s tracing army sits idle as lockdown deadline looms Another excellent FT report, May 21: “New recruits hired by the UK government to trace the spread of coronavirus have spent the past few days mowing lawns, trimming hedges and enjoying a mini-heatwave as technical problems and unexplained delays prevented them from starting work.
    “Speaking just hours before Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday that a “world-beating” track and trace scheme would be in place by June 1, one tracer, hired by outsourcer Capita, told the FT he and many of his peers have been left in limbo, unable to get the technology to function on their own PCs and laptops.
    “You can’t speak to anybody, you can’t see any data, there are massive communication issues,” said the recruit, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s a ludicrous situation. I’ve done my washing, I’ve done my ironing, I’ve got the cleanest house around, we’re all just out in the garden,” he said.
    “This rocky start to Operation Charcoal — the name given to the project to identify and call people who have been in recent contact with new virus sufferers and advise them to isolate — would appear to confirm concerns over ill-founded political promises, a failure to tap relevant expertise and competing power centres.”

  • NHS fees to be scrapped for overseas health staff and care workers A welcome bit of belated good news from BBC May 21: NHS staff and care workers from overseas will no longer have to pay an extra charge towards the health service after mounting pressure from MPs.
    "Boris Johnson's spokesman said the PM had asked the Home Office and Department for Health to exempt NHS and care workers "as soon as possible".
    "Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was "a victory for common decency".
    "The health immigration surcharge on non-EU migrants is £400 per year and set to rise to £624 in October.
    "The move to grant the exemption came after the PM's spokesman defended the fee earlier on Thursday.
    "Officials are now working on the detail and more will be announced "in the coming days".
    "But it is understood the plan will include exemptions for all NHS workers, including porters and cleaners, as well as independent health workers and social care workers."

  • Battle Covid-19, Not Medicare for All: Doctors Demand Hospital Industry Stop Funding Dark Money Lobby Group Common Dreams May 21 report from US: "A progressive organization of 23,000 physicians from across the U.S. demanded Thursday that the American Hospital Association (AHA) divest completely from a dark-money lobbying group that has spent millions combating Medicare for All and instead devote those financial resources to the fight against Covid-19 and to better support for patients and healthcare workers.
    "Dr. Adam Gaffney, president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), said in a statement that "the Covid-19 pandemic has stretched hospitals' resources to the limit, and the AHA should not waste precious member hospitals' funds lobbying against universal health coverage" as a member of the Partnership for America's Health Care Future (PFAHCF).
    "Because Medicare for All would provide a lifeline to hospitals in underserved areas that have been hit hard by Covid-19, Gaffney argued, the AHA "cannot claim to represent hospitals while also opposing a single-payer system that would keep struggling hospitals open." The AHA represents around 5,000 hospitals and other healthcare providers in the U.S."

  • These Labs Rushed to Test for Coronavirus. They Had Few Takers. May 21 report from New York Times shows more grim similarities between UK and USA:
    "When a stay-at-home order in March all but closed the revered labs of the gene-editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna, her team at the University of California, Berkeley dropped everything and started testing for the coronavirus.
    "They expected their institute to be inundated with samples since it was offering the service for free, with support from philanthropies. But there were few takers.
    "Instead, the scientists learned, many local hospitals and doctors’ offices continued sending samples to national laboratory companies — like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics — even though, early on, patients had to wait a week or more for results. The bureaucratic hurdles of quickly switching to a new lab were just too high.
    “It’s still amazing to me, like, how can that be the case, that there is not a more systematic way to address a central need?” said Fyodor Urnov, the scientist who oversaw the transformation of the Innovative Genomics Institute into a clinical laboratory.
    "The inability of the United States to provide broad diagnostic testing, widely seen as a pivotal failing in the nation’s effort to contain the virus, has been traced to the botched rollout by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the tardy response by the Food and Drug Administration, and supply shortages of swabs and masks.
    "Yet one major impediment to testing has been largely overlooked: the fragmented, poorly organized American health care system, which made it difficult for hospitals and other medical providers to quickly overcome obstacles to testing."

  • Minister says 'wrong' advice at start of COVID-19 outbreak could have led to mistakes “Sky News May 20 report: “A senior minister has told Sky News that "wrong" advice at the start of the coronavirus outbreak could have led to mistakes in the government's response.
    “Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey made the comments during an interview with Kay Burley in which she was challenged about ministers' handling of COVID-19 in adult social care.
    “Asked if the government had, in hindsight, got the approach to care homes wrong, Ms Coffey told Kay Burley@Breakfast that "you can only make judgements and decisions based on the information and advice that you have at the time".
    “Pressed again, she replied: "If the science was wrong, the advice at the time was wrong, I'm not surprised if people then think we made a wrong decision. But you have to take judgements based on what you have."

  • Andrew Neil gives brutal assessment of government's 'scandalous' handling of coronavirus Indy May 20 reminds us of the growing unease amongst right wing commentators over the incompetence of the Johnson government, quoting Andrew Neil:
    "I think when you look at whether it’s testing, the time that we went into lockdown, what has happened in care homes – where there has been a crisis, if not the makings of a national scandal – and some of the conflicting guidance that seems to be coming from the government. And then in the end, the deaths themselves from this, which every way you cut it and then compare it to other equivalent countries – France, Italy, Germany, Spain and so on – the British record, I don’t think you could argue is great at all.
    "In terms of excess deaths, the number of deaths that have taken place since this virus broke out compared to a five year average, we are among the worst, if not the worst. So I don’t think people will be coming to us to learn how to cope with the virus. ​"

  • 'No one had any idea': Contact tracers lack knowledge about Covid-19 job Guardian May 20 exposes the poor quality and ineptitude of the privatised track and trace system:
    "They were hailed as stepping up to serve their country, with all the “rigorous” and “detailed” instruction needed for such an important role – but a programme to train thousands of contact-tracers to help control the spread of coronavirus has been described as shambolic and inadequate by recruits.
    "People hired to contact those exposed to someone with Covid-19 and advise them to self-isolate have reported spending days just trying to log into the online system, and virtual training sessions that left participants unclear about their roles.
    "New contact tracers have been told to rely on a two-page script and a list of frequently asked questions, both seen by the Guardian. When one taking part in a training session, run by contact centre company Sitel, asked for guidance on how to speak with somebody whose loved one had died of coronavirus, they were reportedly told to look at YouTube videos on the topic."

  • Serco apologises for sharing contact tracers' email addresses BBC May 20 with another aspect of the shambolic privatised track and trace system:
    “Outsourcing firm Serco has apologised after accidentally sharing the email addresses of almost 300 contact tracers.
    “The company is training staff to trace cases of Covid-19 for the UK government. It made the error when it emailed new trainees to tell them about training. Serco said it had apologised and would review its processes "to make sure that this does not happen again".
    “… In the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 21,000 contact tracers have been hired, some of whom are healthcare professionals.
    “… Serco is one of the companies hiring, training and operating the 15,000 contact tracers who do not have clinical training.”

  • Plans for contact-tracing in doubt as app not ready until June Guardian May 20 report; "the deputy chief scientific adviser acknowledged the decision to abandon track-and-trace in March was made because of a lack of testing capacity, but said it was “the right thing to do” in the circumstances.
    "Prof Angela McLean told the No 10 press briefing: “The advice that we gave certainly took account of what testing was available. It was what was the best thing to do with the tests that we had. We could not have people in hospital with Covid symptoms not knowing whether or not they had Covid.”"

  • Earlier lockdown could have prevented three-quarters of UK coronavirus deaths, modelling suggests May 20 feature in Torygraph pulls no punches: “Researchers said that if the UK had imposed the measures seven days earlier its death toll now would be on a par with the 8,000 in Germany.
    “They also said it would have been possible to have a shorter and less economically damaging lockdown.
    “Britain introduced its lockdown measures on March 23, when 359 deaths had been reported. Germany took such steps on the same day, but had reported only 86 fatalities at that time.
    “The UK's death toll has now exceeded 35,000 people.
    “Modelling from British scientist James Annan suggests that entering lockdown a week earlier would have reduced the number of deaths by three-quarters.”

  • We must demand the COVID-19 vaccine be free for everyone Oxfam petition: “The vaccine will become the currency of life and death. Nearly every person on the planet will need it to stay safe from the virus. Ensuring everyone has access is the only way to protect us all from another COVID-19 pandemic.
    “The greatest challenge is ensuring everyone on the planet gets the vaccine as quickly as possible and free of charge.
    “… We can demand a commitment from world leaders to guarantee NOW that the vaccine will be free and fairly distributed to everyone on the planet.
    “Tell world leaders that we cannot put a price on global immunity, sign the petition now.”

  • Stop the blame game: trusts have supported care homes through the COVID-19 crisis Special pleading promoting a more extensive May 19 pamphlet by NHS Providers, keen to deny any responsibility of trust bosses for the NHS England/Department of Health policies that led to them discharging untested older patients into unprepared care homes in March and April, with what we now know were disastrous results:
    "A new report by NHS Providers shows how trusts have gone to great lengths to support care homes through the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
    "The report, Spotlight on...NHS discharges into care homes, confronts and dispels the damaging and mistaken belief – deeply resented by trust leaders - that their organisations systematically and knowingly discharged COVID-19 patients to the home care sector."

  • The UK government was ready for this pandemic. Until it sabotaged its own system Guardian May 19, George Monbiot on top form: "“We have been told repeatedly that the UK was unprepared for this pandemic. This is untrue. The UK was prepared, but then it de-prepared. Last year, the Global Health Security Index ranked this nation second in the world for pandemic readiness, while the US was first. Broadly speaking, in both nations the necessary systems were in place. Our governments chose not to use them.
    “The climate modeller James Annan has used his analytical methods to show what would have happened if the UK government had imposed its lockdown a week earlier. Starting it on 16 March, rather than 23 March, his modelling suggests, would by now have saved around 30,000 lives, reducing the rate of illness and death from coronavirus roughly by a factor of five.
    “But even 16 March would have been extraordinarily late. We now know that government ministers were told on 11 February that the virus could be catastrophic, and decisive action was urgently required. Instead, Boris Johnson told us to wash our hands and “go about our normal daily lives”.”

  • Coronavirus: Hundreds of learning disability deaths in just eight weeks, new data shows Independent May 19: "More than 460 people with a learning disability have died from coronavirus in just eight weeks since the start of the outbreak in England.
    "New data shows between the 16 March and 10 May 1,029 people with a learning disability died in England, with 45 per cent, 467, linked to coronavirus.
    "Overall the number of deaths during the eight weeks is 550 more than would be expected when compared to the same period last year.
    "The charity Mencap warned people with a learning disability were “being forgotten in this crisis” and called for action to tackle what it said could be “potentially discriminatory practice.”
    "It highlighted the percentage of Covid-19 related deaths among learning disabled people was higher than those in care homes, where the proportion of Covid-19 deaths was 31 per cent for the same period."

  • Security flaws found in NHS contact-tracing app “BBC report May 19: “Wide-ranging security flaws have been flagged in the Covid-19 contact-tracing app being piloted in the Isle of Wight.
    “The security researchers involved have warned the problems pose risks to users' privacy and could be abused to prevent contagion alerts being sent.
    “… Specifically, they call for new legal protections to prevent officials using the data for purposes other than identifying those at risk of being infected, or holding on to it indefinitely.”

  • Fee on foreign medics for using NHS is branded a gross insult Hard hitting Times May 19 headline indicates growing pressure for govt to change its line:
    "Charging overseas medical staff higher fees to use the NHS is a “gross insult” to professionals who are risking their lives to fight Covid-19, doctors’ leaders say.
    "They have urged the government to reconsider plans to make foreign medical workers pay a £624 health surcharge as part of a post-Brexit immigration system, saying scrapping it would be the “smallest recognition” of their role in the pandemic.
    "Downing Street said yesterday that the government would press ahead with plans in the Conservative manifesto to increase the fee levied on overseas workers to cover the cost of their healthcare, which is due to be extended to those from the EU."

  • Care homes threatened with losing insurance cover for accepting Covid-19 patients Independent May 19: "Care homes that take patients who test positive for coronavirus could lose their insurance cover, the care watchdog has said – meaning sick residents may be forced to move homes.
    "The Care Quality Commission said it knew of more than 10 care providers who had been told they would lose their insurance cover if they knowingly accepted coronavirus patients, while other providers have been unable to renew their employee and public liability cover.
    "In a new report published on Tuesday, the CQC also raised fears that social care providers could go out of business following the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and warned the government it needed to do more to join up services."

  • Matt Hancock’s ‘protective ring’ around care homes does not exist Independent May 19: "Last week, Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health, claimed that the government had “thrown a protective ring around care homes” since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
    "Unfortunately, since that protective ring was thrown, 20,000 people have somehow found a way to die within it, so somewhat unsurprisingly, the quality of that protective ring, and the degree of protection it provides, is a subject on which Hancock was required to provide more detail to the House of Commons."

  • NHS remains 'unprotected' in future trade deal with Donald Trump's government Mirror May 19 warning: "The NHS is left “unprotected and at risk of privatisation” in a future trade deal with President Trump, campaigners warn.
    "On Wednesday the Trade Bill 2019-2021, which is where the Government outlines how the UK would implement and police new deals, reaches its second reading in Parliament.
    "Campaign groups Keep Our NHS Public and We Own It say it fails “to give Parliament oversight of, or votes on, trade agreements; to improve existing and inadequate processes for parliamentary processes; and gives the executive unchecked powers on trade”.
    "MP Caroline Lucas is proposing an amendment to the bill, which calls for the House of Commons to decline a second reading as it “fails to uphold democratic scrutiny”.

  • The editor of the prestigious Lancet medical journal said a study Trump cited to justify pulling out of the WHO doesn't exist Business Insider May 19: " “The editor of prestigious British medical journal The Lancet has disputed the existence of a study that President Donald Trump claimed was published in the journal in December 2019, sounded an early alarm on the novel coronavirus, and was ignored by the World Health Organization.
    “Trump's letter, addressed to WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had accused the agency of accepting China's attempts to downplay the outbreak in its early days, despite scientific reports indicating its urgency.
    “It also threatened to permanently withdraw US funding and membership of the WHO unless the agency made "major substantive improvements" within 30 days.
    "The World Health Organization consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet medical journal," he wrote. But it appears such a study doesn't exist.
    “Richard Horton, The Lancet's editor-in-chief, disputed Trump's claims about the study, saying in a Tuesday morning tweet: "Dear President Trump — You cite The Lancet in your attack on WHO. Please let me correct the record. The Lancet did not publish any report in early December, 2019, about a virus spreading in Wuhan.”

  • The NHS surcharge shows what the Tories really think of key workers Guardian May 19 comment "Clap for them, then charge them. This is the how the Conservatives treat migrant key workers.
    "For all the admiration and thanks heaped upon these workers during the coronavirus pandemic, the government has refused to scrap the NHS immigration surcharge. The majority of non-EU migrants, including those who work in the NHS, will have to pay the surcharge on top of taxes, national insurance contributions and extortionate immigration fees.
    "And so it has to be said plainly: the government praises NHS workers for providing life-saving care, then makes them pay through the nose to access that same care themselves. Migrant staff have to pay twice for the very healthcare system they work for. Just because they are immigrants."

  • Coronavirus: The care homes catastrophe Hard hitting and well-researched report on BBC Radio Four's File on 4, showing the way in which NHS and Department of Health and Social Care policy decisions to empty hospital beds led to covid-positive patients being dumped onto unprepared care homes -- resulting in thousands of deaths. One in twelve care home residents died in just six weeks -- almost three times the average care home death rate.

  • Bereaved families of migrant NHS cleaners and porters locked out of leave-to-remain scheme Independent May 19 report: "NHS porters and cleaners and social care staff have been left out of a Home Office scheme granting families of health workers indefinite leave to remain in the UK if they die of coronavirus, it has been revealed.
    "The exclusion of some of the NHS’s lowest-paid workers – many of them employed by private companies under outsourcing arrangements – was branded an “outrageous scandal” by the GMB union.
    "Some 8 per cent of social care home workers are foreign nationals from outside the EU, while non-UK nationals are also strongly represented among the ranks of hospital cleaners, porters, security guards and catering staff who are regarded as key workers but do not qualify for the bereavement scheme.
    "One NHS cleaner from Nigeria, a mother-of-two who gave her name only as Catherine, said she had been in the UK for 10 years working on a “right to remain” visa which had to be regularly renewed. She said it was “hurtful” to know she was being treated differently from colleagues working alongside her at the hospital."

  • The UK’s public health response to covid-19 Shocking piece in the BMJ outlining the failures of the U.K.’s response to the Covid crisis. Some naming and shaming. No pay wall.

  • NHS hospitals accused of using crisis as excuse to deny women caesarean sections Independent May 18: "Multiple NHS trusts have told women preparing to give birth since March that requests for a caesarean section will not be granted due to the viral pandemic.
    "It has led to accusations from the charity Birthrights that the coronavirus outbreak is being used as an excuse to promote an ideology that more women should have a natural birth.
    "During the coronavirus crisis some women have been forced to give birth alone due to bans on partners attending hospital. Hospitals changed their policy after new visiting rules were released.
    "Maria Booker, from Birthrights, told The Independent: “We continue to be contacted by women being told they cannot have a maternal request caesarean and we are concerned that in some places coronavirus is being used as an excuse to dictate to women how they should give birth, which contravenes Nice [the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidance."

  • Why didn't the government protect us earlier from coronavirus? ITV's Robert Peston (May 18) belatedly shares his overview of the government failure so far: "I assumed, naively it turns out, that in government money would be no object and that behind the scenes all possible defences would be erected to protect us from this most savage of black swans.
    "But they weren't erected, or at least not until the virus had spread so far and so fast that only the most economically expensive of comprehensive national lockdowns was capable of holding its vicious advance in check.
    "And even after that unprecedented restriction on our freedoms, the prevalence of the virus has been permitted to become so great, there are still so many people infected, that restarting the economy is now that much more distant."

  • British army veteran faces £27,000 NHS hospital bill Shocking Guardian May 18 story of the brutal realities of the continued "hostile environment" policy being viciously imposed by NHS and home office bureacrats:
    "A Commonwealth-born veteran, who served for more than a decade in the British army including tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, has been told he must pay more than £27,000 for NHS hospital bills after an emergency operation to remove a brain tumour.
    "Hospital staff have classified Taitusi Ratucaucau, 49, as an overseas patient, and therefore ineligible for free NHS care. He joined the British army in 2001 and has been continuously in the UK since being discharged from the military in 2011, living here with his wife and three daughters, and paying tax and national insurance."

  • There is revolution in the air now, but history shows the old order will fight back Guardian comment May 18: "Coronavirus policies to help the vulnerable are already being jettisoned. Those who want change need to be up for the battle
    “The language of a resilient infrastructure doing its best is deliberate – useful in creating the impression that once the pandemic passes, so does the problem. Failures in the care sector are “challenges”; the NHS, rather than being underfunded and weakened, has been a success because it has not been overwhelmed, ignoring the infected patients who were shipped out from hospitals to care homes to spread the deadly virus to the most frail.
    “Fuelled by dissembling and denial, the country lurches forward with a broken economy, a depleted public sector, an underpaid and underprotected class of workers, and a vilified migrant population.
    “In the final stages, policies to help the vulnerable launched at the start of the pandemic will be quietly jettisoned. A pledge to review the NHS surcharge for foreign doctors has come to nothing. A popular programme to house homeless people in England in hotels was quietly scrapped last week. The homeless returning to the streets will be joined by others sent there by the economic downturn. They will be scapegoated, along with the rest of the dispensable victims.”

  • Thanks to NHS managers, I’ve now got two care homes infected with Covid-19 Angry, wide-ranging anonymous May 17 article in Sunday Times from care home owner furious at government and NHS handling of Covid-19 crisis:
    “The government has given £3.2bn to local authorities to help cope with Covid. We hear about it every day. But councils are holding on to it, because they’re so short of money. …
    “And we’re starting to see care homes fail because residents are dying and there are no new referrals. …
    “… we’re getting no new residents, and the implications are calamitous. The 3,500 care homes with fewer than 40 beds are the most vulnerable. A 30-bed home makes profits only on the last six or seven beds; if they’re not filled, it’s a ticking timebomb.”

  • Majority of doctors have ‘little to no confidence’ that NHS will cope in coming weeks, BMA survey finds Independent May 17 reports on a BMA survey of its members:
    "NHS England this week published a “road map” to support the resumption of routine treatments over the next six weeks.
    "But the BMA’s poll of 10,328 doctors, surveyed between 13 and 15 May, found 52 per cent of those in England were either not at all or not very confident that their department could manage patient demand if services went back to normal.
    "Confidence was at its lowest in community settings, such as care homes, where 69 per cent of doctors said they were not very or not at all confident they could cope with patient demand."

  • Boris Johnson's promised workplace safety inspections 'don't exist' i-news May 17: "In answer to a question on workplace safety measures from Labour MP Chi Onwurah following his Covid-19 strategy statement last Monday, Mr Johnson said: “We are going to insist that businesses across this country look after their workers and are Covid-secure and Covid-compliant.
    "The Health and Safety Executive will be enforcing that, and we will have spot inspections to make sure that businesses are keeping their employees safe.”
    "However, when asked by i about the spot inspection a spokeswoman for the HSE said: “In line with government guidance to cease all but essential work that cannot be done outside of the home, minimising contact between individuals, HSE has paused all proactive inspections at this time to reduce any risk posed to our own staff and to members of the public.”
    "Instead of spot inspections, the HSE is encouraging companies to self-police safety measures and workers can report concerns via the group’s website."
    "Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, slammed the ‘self-policing’ strategy and demanded the Government do more to protect workers as lockdown conditions ease.
    Ms O’Grady said: "Self-policing is just spin for no policing."

  • State may run private care homes Times report May 17: "On Wednesday, Holyrood is expected to pass emergency powers to allow care homes to be taken under public sector control if conditions are thought to pose a significant risk to life, health or wellbeing or if a provider is unable to deliver care.
    "Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservative leader, said private care home owners are increasingly nervous about criticising the Scottish government for fear their homes may be taken into public ownership, following pronouncements from figures in the SNP about private homes.
    "While Carlaw emphasised he has no sympathy with the operators of poorly run care homes, he said unnecessary anxiety was being caused for some businesses by SNP parliamentarians, whose constituencies include Skye."
    … "Jackie Baillie, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, welcomed the intervention at Home Farm but said she could not understand why action had not been taken in other homes, such as Castle View in West Dunbartonshire and Tranent care home in East Lothian, where significant numbers of residents have also died."
    Evidence of very different politics in Scotland where the Tories are in opposition can be seen in the response of Miles Briggs, the Scottish Tory shadow health secretary, who said "care for some of the most vulnerable was being delivered “on the cheap”, and demanded “more professionalisation of the service and better remuneration and support for staff”.

  • Anger as Priti Patel says NHS fees paid by foreign health staff must stay, just three weeks after announcing ‘review’ Independent May 16 on an outrageous government decision that will deter overseas recruits to jobs in health and social care: "Priti Patel has sparked anger by refusing to cut or axe the huge fees paid by foreign healthcare workers to help fund the NHS – just three weeks after promising to “review” the controversial charges.
    "The home secretary raised expectations when she hinted at concessions for migrants working in the NHS themselves, as she praised their “extraordinary contribution” during the Covid-19 crisis.
    "But The Independent has now learnt there will be no changes to what ministers consider the “important” principle that everyone coming to work in the UK contributes extra for the NHS.
    "It means the immigration health surcharge is still due to soar from £400 a year to £624 from this October – to be and extended to all EU citizens from next January, when Brexit is completed."

  • How 10 Years of Tory Policies Led to Coronavirus Calamity KONP co-chair Tony O'Sullivan's May 15 Tribune article summing up the past few months, arguing that a decade worth of Tory policies, from pro-market reforms of the NHS to austerity and the hostile environment, have undermined Britain's response to coronavirus – with fatal consequences.

  • NHS staff told not to join pay demonstrations as they ‘adversely affect public confidence’ HSJ (May 15) reports that, not content with gagging staff protesting at lack of adequate supplies of PPE, NHS staff in London have been warned by national regulators not to take part in public protests over pay:
    "NHS England and NHS Improvement’s London regional team sent an email to all five sustainability and transformation partnerships in the capital warning staff against protesting at the current time."

  • Abbott joins Roche in winning UK approval for virus antibody test Financial Times May 15 report: “American multinational Abbott Laboratories has joined Swiss pharma company Roche in getting a green light from Public health England. The company said it stood ready to ship “5m tests to the UK each month with immediate effect”, adding that it had already sent some to the NHS labs with which it was “working closely”.
    “Abbott’s lab-based test, which detects past infection with the virus, was endorsed by PHE on Thursday — hours after news emerged that its competitor Roche’s version had been evaluated successfully by the government agency
    “… Governments expect antibody tests to be a key tool for tracking the spread of the virus and helping to decide how to ease lockdowns.”

  • Coronavirus outbreaks reported in a third of care homes BBC May 15 report: “More than a third of care homes in England have now recorded a coronavirus outbreak, official figures reveal.
    “Public Health England data shows 5,546 care homes out of a total of 15,514 had confirmed or suspected outbreaks since early March and almost every district has now had an outbreak in at least one.
    “Age UK said the situation in care homes was "a scandal behind closed doors".
    “… More than 9,700 care home residents across the UK have died with Covid-19, according to the Office for National Statistics and its counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

  • Covid-19: Testing testing Hard-hitting, evidence based critique of government failures in BMJ May 14 Editorial comment on the lockdown:
    “Tragically, the UK government has squandered much of the precious eight weeks bought at such great social and economic cost.
    “The question now is whether it is willing to admit mistakes and do what’s really needed to suppress the virus.
    “It seems clear the UK locked down late and too gradually, that we lacked basic preparedness despite clear warnings of a likely future pandemic, and that our healthcare and public health systems were already reeling from lack of investment and the unnecessary disruptive reorganisations of the previous decade.
    “In the past frantic few weeks the NHS has responded magnificently, but it has survived only by discharging people back into the community and by stopping everything other than covid related care.
    “The resulting loss to health and life will become clear, as will the impact on staff who have shouldered the covid burden. Despite these exceptional efforts it is therefore wrong to say that the NHS has not been overwhelmed.”

  • Doctors 'told not to discuss PPE shortages' BBC’s Newsnight, which seems to be the one area of BBC News with consistently hard focus on facts rather than ministerial bluff, May 15 report:
    “Some NHS managers have tried to stop doctors speaking publicly about shortages of personal protective equipment, the BBC has been told. WhistleblowersUK said more than 100 healthcare workers had contacted them since the beginning of March, raising concerns about Covid-19 and PPE.
    “The Department of Health said no one should be prevented from speaking up.
    “But Newsnight has seen evidence of pressure being applied to doctors to not share concerns they have about PPE.
    “A newsletter sent out to staff at one trust suggested subjects for tweets, such as thanking staff for their hard work, paying tribute to retired NHS staff who had returned to the workforce and retweeting posts from the trust's account. It specified that staff were to avoid "commenting on political issues, such as PPE".
    “Another trust put up posters in hospital staff areas which told healthcare workers not to "make public appeals for equipment, donations or volunteers".”

  • Coronavirus: Only 8% of government target of 18,000 contact tracers appointed, minister admits Independent May 15 report: “The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said in April the government wanted to recruit 18,000 contact tracers by the middle of May, who would be in place for the roll out of the promised NHS tracing app.
    A shortage of contact tracers could slow the delivery of the smartphone app, which Mr Hancock also promised would be available by the middle of the month. …
    “Asked how many of the contact tracers have been appointed, [Northern Ireland secretary Brandon] Lewis told Sky News: "I don't think we've got to 18,000 just yet, I think there's about 15,000 applications, we're looking to as you say get up to 18,000."
    “Pushed again on how many of the 15,000 applicants have been appointed, he added: "As of this morning I'm not sure of exactly how many of the 15,000 have been hired, earlier in the week it was about 1,500, it would have gone up since then."

  • Hancock says 'key thing' is R number has not risen above 1 More important than the headline of this May 15 Sky News report is this has the famous Hancock lie on care homes:
    "Right from the start we've tried to throw a protective ring around our care homes. We set out our first advice in February... we've made sure care homes have the resources they need" says Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. "

  • Lessons from the COVID Emergency – 6: Unlike the public, non-EU doctors and nurses have to pay for NHS services Former advisor to Blair-era ministers Paul Corrigan in a May 15 blog arguing a moral case against Tories' vicious new charges:
    "During the recent election campaign the Conservative Party announced it was increasing this surcharge from £400 to £625 for all non-EU migrant workers. Their plan is to extend it to EU workers on Jan 1st 2021 – the date they have set for leaving the EU. The fee is payable for each member of the migrating family, so an individual, their partner and 2 children would have to pay the government £2500.
    "When this increase was announced both the RCN and the BMA rightly concentrated on the fact that nurses and doctors would have to pay. They called it pernicious.
    "After the election, when the new Government promised numbers of new nurses (many from abroad), it was pointed out that these charges would act as a strong disincentive for nurses and doctors to come and work in the NHS. Richard Murray, CEO of the Kings Fund, called it perverse to make people pay for a service they themselves are providing."

  • Nurses have already had a ‘very significant pay rise’, insists Hancock Nursing Notes May 15, responding to leaked documents showing ministers are discussing another possible public sector pay freeze, reports:
    "A recently leaked Treasury document proposed a two-year public sector pay freeze.
    The health secretary has today refused to guarantee a pay increase for frontline healthcare workers.
    "When questioned by a member of the public at today’s daily Downing Street press briefing, Matt Hancock refused to commit to increasing pay but instead promised staff a “fair reward”. Speaking live, Hancock admitted nursing was a “highly skilled profession and deserves decent pay” but quickly claimed that nurses had already received a “very significant” pay rise.
    "NHS staff in England recently received their final annual rise following a multi-year pay deal. The majority of nurses saw a pre-tax rise of just 7% over three years."

  • The UK’s public health response to covid-19: Too little, too late, too flawed Tough, no nonsense May 15 summary Editorial in BMJ on the government's failures in responding to the pandemic - with an excellent graphical comparative chronology:
    "How did a country with an international reputation for public health get it so wrong? The UK’s response to covid-19 is centrally coordinated through a series of scientific advisory groups led by Whitty and Vallance. Critical to this is the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which models the future epidemic and feeds into SAGE. SPI-M and SAGE are dominated by modellers and epidemiologists. None of the members were experts in developing and implementing a public health response, and other relevant groups such as communicable disease experts, women, and ethnic minorities are under-represented.
    "The Guardian revealed that several SAGE meetings had been attended by Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief political adviser, and Ben Warner, his adviser on data science. The involvement of two influential political advisers makes a mockery of SAGE’s claim to provide independent scientific advice to the government."

  • LGA OVERVIEW OF ISSUES Local Government Association (representing all local authorities) report dated May 15 notes continued crisis in provision of PPE:
    "Care providers and councils are still not able to access sufficient supplies of PPE. This
    continues to be a major concern and additional drops of PPE to LRF’s have not significantly addressed this issue. Care workers and other staff are not being provided with the protection they need to carry out their roles looking after vulnerable people. This is putting workers and vulnerable people at risk. This has become a major credibility issue for the government and needs to be addressed in a manner which restores confidence to the sector. "

  • A gross injustice is being done to universities, students and all our futures as the government abandons higher education to its fate Richard Murphy notes May 4: “The government announced overnight that it is not going to bail out the university sector as a result of the coronavirus.
    “Numerous thoughts follow.
    “First, this will lead to mass redundancies at universities, and most especially amongst academic staff, many of whom are on temporary contracts.
    “Second, this will scar the reputation of UK universities for a long time to come.
    “Third, the failure of the government to support research when Brexit is also causing untold damage to the sector as a result of the loss of European cooperation cannot be overstated: we will now be in the research wilderness.”
    He might have added that it is also a grim warning of what could be in store for other public services – including the NHS.

  • Coronavirus tracked: the latest figures as countries fight to contain the pandemic | Free to read Excellent explanation and graphs from the Financial Times May 14:
    “The human cost of coronavirus has continued to mount, with more than 4.3m cases confirmed globally and more than 292,700 people known to have died.
    “The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic and it has spread to more than 190 countries around the world.
    “This page provides an up-to-date visual narrative of the spread of Covid-19, so please check back regularly because we will be refreshing it with new graphics and features as the story evolves.”

  • The Beginning of the End of Boris Johnson? Double Down News video blog by public health expert John Ashton slams government record on Covid-19. “When Coronavirus was getting into its stride in UK, the Secretary State for Communities & Local Government wrote to all local authorities giving them details on how to organise street parties for VE Day”

  • Drivers tell of chaos at UK's privately run PPE stockpile Guradian investigation May 14: “The private firm contracted to run the government’s stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) was beset by “chaos” at its warehouse that may have resulted in delays in deploying vital supplies to healthcare workers, according to sources who have spoken to the Guardian and ITV News.
    “The allegations from delivery drivers and other well–placed sources raise questions about whether Movianto, the subsidiary of a US healthcare giant, was able to adequately manage and distribute the nation’s emergency stockpile of PPE for use in a pandemic.
    “The investigation by the Guardian and ITV News also established that in previous years Movianto temporarily stored the emergency pandemic equipment in a smoke-damaged warehouse that was found to contain asbestos.”

  • Care home residents paid ‘huge price’ for emptying of acute beds, says STP chair HSJ 14 May reports comments by former New Labour health secretary Patricia Hewitt:
    “Patricia Hewitt, the chair of Norfolk and Waveney STP, said hospitals had sped up discharges to social care settings in March due to instructions from national NHS leaders.
    “Speaking on a webinar on health and social care today, she said: “Emptying acute beds, which was essential…came at a high price and it was paid by those patients in social care or transferred to social care who already had covid-19 or [subsequently] got it.
    “Nobody can remember a time when acute beds were as empty [as currently]…it is quite an extraordinary situation. But it was at a huge price paid, there will be all kinds of questions to come… once we are past the crisis phase.”
    “When discussing the initial public health messages sent out by the government, Ms Hewitt added: “Where was social care? It was obviously not in that first message.”

  • 'The numbers on the streets are going to rocket': Homeless people put up in hotels amid pandemic to be kicked out as government quietly scraps scheme Manchester Evening News breaks the story that triggered a vicious backlash by ministers trying to cover up the facts: "Hundreds of homeless people who had been put up in hotels during the coronavirus pandemic must now be moved out after ministers quietly pulled the plug on the programme, the M.E.N. can reveal.
    "Civil servants have told Greater Manchester officials that the scheme - known as ‘Everyone In’ - is no longer being funded by central government and that March's original Covid guidance to local authorities has been scrapped.
    "So far 1,600 homeless people with nowhere to self-isolate have been put up in emergency accommodation here during the crisis, including hundreds in hotels, as authorities were directed to protect them from the spread of the virus.
    "But a leaked report to the region’s combined authority reveals the Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government has now ‘drawn a line’ under its programme and has told councils it will no longer be funded, although no ministerial statement has been made to that effect."

  • NHS Labs Were Frozen Out Of Coronavirus Testing Programme, Says Top Scientist Huffington Post, following earlier reports in the Lowdown, on creation of parallel network of unaccredited "super-labs" for Covid-19 testing, sidelining NHS labs:
    "President of the professional body for biomedical science Allan Wilson says a dual system of NHS labs and new government labs processing Covid-19 tests has contributed to the target of 100,000 tests a day regularly being missed.
    "He accused the government of pushing ahead with setting up three new laboratories – known as the Lighthouse labs – to roll out coronavirus testing without first asking if NHS labs had capacity to do it.
    "Wilson, who represents scientists from at least 130 NHS labs across the country, says these NHS labs should have been the central plank on which testing infrastructure for the national programme was built. "

  • NHS Staff Voices with Professor John Ashton NHS Staff Voice's chair, Alia Butt (psychologist and psychotherapist) interviews public health expert Professor John Ashton CBE, a British doctor and academic, and former regional director of public health for north-west England, on the government's mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis.

  • Plans for post Covid NHS hatched behind the lockdown May 14 exclusive from The Lowdown: "The Lowdown has seen a letter from NHS England’s London Regional Director Sir David Sloman, sent out internally on April 29 but not published, requiring Integrated Care System Chairs and Senior Responsible Officers to take “urgent action” on system plans for London that “fundamentally change the way we deliver health and care.”
    "Each ICS is ordered to supply a “revised ICS plan” by Monday May 11. The letter spells out a 12-point list of issues on which bureaucrats in each area are supposed to devise new policy, on the hoof, for a “Recovery Board” meeting on May 13.
    "Even if the country was not on lockdown, this 12-day turn-round period for proposals on fundamental changes for a New Health and Care system for London, to be in place by November 2021, would indicate a complete disregard for any serious consultation or discussion.
    "But it’s clear from the way this is being done that any notion of public engagement or accountability is a very low priority afterthought. The accompanying Powerpoint presentation entitled ‘Journey to a New Health and Care System’ states that over the next 12-15 months they hope to keep public engagement to a bare minimum: “Include public and stakeholders in the process within the constraints of an emergency”.

  • Commentary: COVID in Care Homes—Challenges and Dilemmas in Healthcare Delivery Free access academic study of the impact of Covid on care homes: points raised include:
    "The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected care home residents internationally, with 19–72% of COVID-19 deaths occurring in care homes.
    "COVID-19 presents atypically in care home residents and up to 56% of residents may test positive whilst pre-symptomatic. In this article, we provide a commentary on challenges and dilemmas identified in the response to COVID-19 for care homes and their residents.
    "We highlight the low sensitivity of PCR testing and the difficulties this poses for blanket screening and isolation of residents. We discuss quarantine of residents and the potential harms associated with this.
    "Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply for care homes during the pandemic has been suboptimal and we suggest that better integration of procurement and supply is required. "

  • Ministers were warned two years ago of care homes' exposure to pandemics Guardian report May 13: "Council social care directors in England warned the government two years ago, in a series of detailed reports, about care homes’ exposure to a pandemic, the Guardian has learned.
    "They called for better supply plans for personal protective equipment – warning that “demand for PPE could rapidly outstrip supply” – plus improved infection control and a system to enlist volunteers to help services expected to be stretched to breaking point.
    "The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), which represents directors of adult social services in England, told the Guardian it carried out the work to improve government planning for a flu pandemic at the request of the Department of Health and Social Care.
    "But it said: “We are not aware of whether government departments picked up on any of the recommendations set out.”

  • COVID in Care Homes—Challenges and Dilemmas in Healthcare Delivery Academic paper from Age and Ageing looks at lessons from UK, Netherlands and Ireland:
    "The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected care home residents internationally, with 19–72% of COVID-19 deaths occurring in care homes. COVID-19 presents atypically in care home residents and up to 56% of residents may test positive whilst pre-symptomatic. In this article, we provide a commentary on challenges and dilemmas identified in the response to COVID-19 for care homes and their residents. "

  • DfE chief scientific adviser admits he hasn’t assessed school reopening guidance May 13 revelation in Schools Week: the department had done no modelling on consequences, their advisor had not been in SAGE discussions, and the decision to begin reopening schools was taken by cabinet, not the Department.
    "Education committee chair Robert Halfon asked what scientific evidence base underpinned the decision to reopen schools to pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6, and what modelling had been done.
    “The department has not done any modelling,” [Osama] Rahman replied. “One of the SAGE groups has done various bits of modelling for different scenarios on what years you can bring back. My understanding is those will be published in due course.”
    "Halfon responded that “surely you must have scientific evidence the base underpinning the department’s decision?”, to which Rahman responded: “That was a cabinet decision following advice from SAGE.”"

  • With Millions Out of Work, the Trump Administration Pushes to Limit Food Stamps In the US, Time magazine (May 13) notes: "Amid a global pandemic that has rattled the United States economy and led to record-breaking job losses, the Trump Administration is continuing to push to restrict access to the nation’s largest food assistance program.
    "On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture quietly issued a notice that it was appealing a judge’s injunction that blocked the cabinet agency from proceeding with cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), colloquially known as food stamps.
    "If the USDA wins its appeal, the new requirements would strip 688,000 Americans of their food benefits, according to Department’s own estimates. "

  • Excess UK deaths in Covid-19 pandemic top 50,000 Financial Times May 12 report: “The number of UK deaths during the coronavirus pandemic over and above normal levels has exceeded 50,000, official figures confirmed on Tuesday. The Office for National Statistics said that in the week ending May 1, there had been 17,953 deaths in England and Wales recorded, 8,012 higher than the average of the past five years in that week, as the disease killed three times the normal number of people in care homes.
    “This represented the seventh consecutive week that deaths exceeded normal levels and once equivalent figures from Scotland and Northern Ireland were included, takes total mortality across the UK during the pandemic to 50,979.”

  • How Boris Johnson refused to fight the virus Appeasement.org with a chronology of Johnson's failure to wage the necessary fight to contain and tackle the virus:
    "Through a deadly combination of arrogance and incompetence, Boris Johnson’s government ignored international warnings and allowed Covid-19 to spread largely unchecked in the UK.
    "Like one of his predecessors he ignored a gathering storm, downplayed the threat then failed to act. He appeased the virus.
    "By the time he realised his mistake it was too late, thousands would needlessly die and the economy would face a protracted lockdown.
    "Today the UK is the second worst hit country in the world. He’s not Churchill. He’s Chamberlain."

  • Coronavirus outbreak: Lessons on civic duty from Boris Johnson? No thank you Guardian’s Marina Hyde on Johnson’s back to work announcement May 12:
    “On Sunday, construction and manufacturing workers were told to get back to work by a man who skived off five consecutive Cobra meetings during a wildly mushrooming global epidemic. Five! Boris Johnson couldn’t even be bothered to turn up and grip the government’s crucial early response to a deadly virus – are we supposed to believe he’d be rushing back to finish a loft extension out of civic duty? He’s not even prime minister out of civic duty.
    “Still, that’s showbiz. You miss one universal credit meeting and your benefits are stopped; you miss five Cobra meetings and you get to address the nation on its working responsibilities from a drawing room so vast you’d need a hansom cab to traverse it.
    “… As for Johnson’s Sunday address, it was taped in advance, which at least spared people his involuntary smirk as they were apparently being told to trudge into work in 12 hours’ time.”

  • Treasury blueprint to raise taxes and freeze wages to pay for £300bn coronavirus bill Telegraph May 12 exclusive on options being discussed by ministers on a package of tax increases and renewed austerity measures to make sure it is workers and pensioners rather than bankers or billionaires who carry the cost of their apparent generosity in supporting furlough scheme. It notes:
    "The document suggests a two-year freeze on public sector pay could generate savings of £6.5 billion by 2023-24, while "stopping the rising cost" of the pension triple lock would produce savings of £8 billion a year."

  • Government’s handling of Covid-19 is a very British disaster Remarkable May 12 comment, broadside slamming failures of government policy -- from of all people the Torygraph: "I have been silent on Covid-19 for a while. There was little to be gained from harrying the Government once it had abandoned the misadventure of herd immunity and was at least trying to get a grip. Much of the belated media onslaught is reflexive gotcha-journalism (where were they in February when the mistakes were made?), or hides an ideological agenda.
    "But claims by both Downing Street and Public Health England that they “got it right” cannot be allowed to stand.
    "Nor can the pretence that each stage of the containment policy is being fed out at just right time and at just the right calibration under the Jupiterian guidance of behavioural theorists.
    "There was never anything to be gained from delaying the lockdown once the brushfire had slipped control due to lack of testing/tracing. Each three days of prevarication meant a doubling of the infection case load. It was to sink deeper into the quagmire. Nor did the SAGE committee ever have a sufficient grasp of the basic facts to fine-tune the timing, let alone to play God."

  • Healthcare firm advised by Owen Paterson won £133m coronavirus testing contract unopposed Guardian May 11: "A healthcare firm which employs the prominent Conservative politician Owen Paterson as a paid consultant has been awarded a £133m contract without any other firms being given the opportunity to bid for the work.
    "The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has given Randox the contract to produce testing kits to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic. It was awarded “without prior publication of a call for competition”, according to details of the contract seen by the Guardian.
    "The founder of Randox Laboratories is Peter FitzGerald, a polo-playing multimillionaire Northern Irish doctor who is the UK’s 475th richest person with a £255m personal fortune, according to the Sunday Times rich list.
    "Matt Hancock’s department awarded the contract last month under fast-track arrangements that enable public bodies dealing with the pandemic to give contracts to commercial companies quickly without the need to ask other firms to bid for them."

  • Most oppose FoI restrictions during lockdown, poll finds Journalism website Hold the Front Page May 11 on a threat to limit access to information in Scotland:
    "The majority of people oppose an extension of Freedom of Information request deadlines during the coronavirus crisis, a new poll has found.
    "The Survation poll for the Open Knowledge Foundation found 52pc of respondents believe that “restricting the public’s right to information is an unnecessary measure”.
    "The responses were given from those polled across the United Kingdom when asked about new timescales set by the Scottish government for replying to FoI requests.
    "In Scotland the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill has extended the response deadline to FoI requests from 20 to 60 days with a potential further extension of 40 days."

  • Plans for post Covid NHS hatched behind the lockdown Lowdown article May 11 reveals leaked correspondence on plans by NHS England at least in London to frame and rush through fundamental changes to NHS after the Covid crisis with minimal if any public consultation:
    "a letter from NHS England’s London Regional Director Sir David Sloman, sent out internally on April 29 but not published, requir[ed] Integrated Care System Chairs and Senior Responsible Officers to take “urgent action” on system plans for London that “fundamentally change the way we deliver health and care.”
    "Each ICS is ordered to supply a “revised ICS plan” by Monday May 11. The letter spells out a 12-point list of issues on which bureaucrats in each area are supposed to devise new policy, on the hoof, for a “Recovery Board” meeting on May 13."

  • New guidance launched to help get Brits safely back to work Official May 11 guidance aimed at getting people back to work, claims:
    "Practical guidelines published today to make workplaces as safe as possible and give people confidence to go back to work during coronavirus pandemic
    "Documents developed in consultation with approximately 250 businesses, unions, industry leaders as well as devolved administrations
    "Up to an extra £14 million made available for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for extra call centre employees, inspectors and equipment"
    but in fact HSE budget has been slashed by over £100m per year since 2010, when it received £230m. In 2019 it received just £126m. That is a huge real-term cut and neglect of workplace safety: £14m nowhere near enough to put back what has been lost.

  • Government must set out better testing strategy to help UK exit lockdown, says laboratories chief Independent May 9 flags up the chaotic creation of a parallel system of "super-labs": "The government’s arbitrary target of increasing coronavirus testing to 200,000 a day is fuelling a “wild west” of diagnostics without a focus on the longer-term strategy needed to help the UK exit lockdown, the head of Britain’s biomedical science body has warned.
    "Allan Wilson, president of the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), told The Independent the “political dogma” driving decisions on the next phase of testing for Covid-19 was causing frustration among NHS laboratories.
    "He said the industry wanted to see a more considered approach than the “first come, first served” system in place at the moment with NHS laboratories competing with the government’s hastily set up Lighthouse Labs – three mega-labs in Milton Keynes, Cheshire and Glasgow with the capacity to do tens of thousands of tests a day."

  • NHS staff asked to make 390-mile trip to have coronavirus tests - despite testing units in Durham Chronicle Live report May 9 from the North east: "The Government has been slammed after key workers were offered coronavirus tests that would force them to make a 390-mile round trip ,it is claimed.
    "Three mobile testing units have visited County Durham - but the Government has come under fire for the “poor performance” of its national website for booking test appointments by a Durham county councillor.
    "Councillor Lucy Hovvels, Cabinet member for adult and health services chairwoman of the County Durham Health and Well-being Board, has written to the Health Secretary to ask for the issues to be looked at with “extreme urgency”.
    "She [said] testing sites not being listed, appointments as far as Perth being offered, and the length of time to make a booking have been raised as concerns has led to a 75% drop in the number of tests being carried out in the area."

  • 50,000 coronavirus tests secretly flown to the US after UK lab issues Signs the Torygraph has begun to lose patients with government incompetence in May 9 report: “Britain has been secretly flying tens of thousands of coronavirus tests to America as it struggles to lift the daily testing rate over 100,000 a day in the UK, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
    “The Department of Health admitted last night that 50,000 test samples were sent to the US last week as problems were reported in laboratories in the UK. The samples were airlifted across the Atlantic in chartered flights from Stansted airport.
    “The Government insisted that "all results will be returned to patients as quickly as possible".
    “The UK has failed to hit the hundred thousand a day target for testing for each of the past seven days, and only hit the 100,000 a day target by the end of last month by mailing 40,000 testing kits to people at home.
    “The Government admitted on Thursday that there had been a problem in a lab in Northern Ireland, but made no reference to shipping tens of thousands of tests to America.”

  • 'That's not fair - give me a break': Matt Hancock pleads with PM in bust-up over Health Secretary's handling of Covid crisis as No 10 unveils new 'stay alert' slogan and five-stage threat level system Daily Heil reveals tensions between Tories in May 9 report: “Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged Boris Johnson to ‘give me a break’ in a furious bust-up over the coronavirus crisis.
    “The row – which raises questions over the beleaguered Minister’s Cabinet future – can be revealed as the Prime Minister prepares to use a televised address to the nation this evening to set out his roadmap for easing the national lockdown.
    “…Pressure intensified on Mr Hancock over his handling of the crisis last night after more than 25 million goggles were found to offer frontline NHS workers inadequate defence against the deadly virus.
    “The latest in a string of embarrassing Government failures over Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) came as senior sources suggested to The Mail on Sunday that Mr Hancock was now living ‘on borrowed time’ in the Cabinet.
    “One source claimed Boris Johnson had raised questions with Mr Hancock about his department’s grip on the crisis, only for the Minister to plead: ‘That’s not fair – give me a break.’”

  • NHS nurse quits London hospital after six weeks without hand gel or masks Mirror report May 9: "A nurse on the coronavirus front line has quit claiming her hospital failed to provide adequate PPE, leaving her too scared to work.
    "Laura Demmen – who has a son aged five – said she walked out after weeks working without hand gel, a face mask or gloves as the pandemic gathered pace.
    "She said when Covid-19 patients were first moved to intensive care, which shared a door with Laura’s ward, there was still no hand gel by her ward’s beds, or face masks for staff."

  • In the era of Covid-19 healthcare should be universal and free Rob Yates May 9 in South Africa's Mail & Guardian: "Covid-19 is, therefore, perhaps the ultimate example of why we need universal health coverage ― if anyone is left out, it threatens the health security of everyone.
    "If the objective is to guarantee universal access to healthcare, it is vital to eliminate barriers that inhibit people accessing services and one obvious place to start is to remove financial barriers ― services should be publicly financed and provided free of charge.
    "Worldwide, it has been shown that healthcare-user fees dramatically reduce demand for health services ― especially preventive services, because people may not perceive that they need interventions. For example, when a $0.30 charge for preventive deworming medicines was introduced for school children in Kenya, demand fell 80%. Conversely, when countries have removed user fees, for example when the United Kingdom launched its National Health Service in 1948, they have witnessed huge increases in demand for services."

  • Hundreds more care homes report outbreaks in just one week Independent May 8: "Coronavirus continues to spread in care homes across England with more than 600 new homes reporting an outbreak in just seven days, new data has revealed.
    "The government is coming under increasing pressure over its support for vulnerable and elderly people in residential homes after more than a dozen documents from the government’s scientific advisory committee, Sage, failed to show any consideration of the challenges faced by care providers, or how to support them in the run-up to the UK entering lockdown.
    "The documents, which date back to the beginning of the crisis earlier this year, discuss at length the risks to the NHS and the lack of hospital beds as well as the need to introduce social distancing measures. But there is no detailed assessment of what should be done for care homes."

  • Deaths in mental health hospitals double as Covid-19 spreads Independent May 8 report: "Deaths in mental health hospitals have doubled compared with last year – with 54 fatalities linked to coronavirus since March began.
    "Mental health hospitals have now been warned by the care watchdog that they must take action to protect vulnerable patients.
    "The Care Quality Commission regulator said 106 deaths were recorded in mental health hospitals between 1 March and 1 May, compared with 51 over the same period in 2019.
    "Fifty-four of these deaths are from confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections.
    "The CQC has now written to all mental health hospital providers highlighting its fears over the spread of the virus in secure hospitals and units, and to patients who are under Mental Health Act restrictions in the community."

  • Public health directors in England are asked to take charge of Covid-19 testing Guardian May 8 report: "Ministers have asked local directors of public health to take charge of Covid-19 testing in English care homes in what will be seen as a tacit admission that centralised attempts to run the programme have fallen short.
    "In a letter to sector leaders, seen by the Guardian, the care minister, Helen Whately, acknowledged that testing of care home residents and staff needs to be “more joined up”. She describes the new arrangements as “a significant change”.
    "Under the new approach, public health directors employed by local councils will take lead responsibility for arranging the testing of some 400,000 care home residents and 500,000 staff, in discussion with directors of adult social services, local NHS bodies and regional directors of Public Health England (PHE)."

  • We care workers face a terrible decision: risk people's lives or go without pay Anonymous Guardian Opinion column from a care worker May 8 reveals the horrific under-resourcing of social care: “Like many care workers in the UK, I’m on a zero-hours contract. My hours plummeted to between four and eight a week, amounting to less than the £95 a week we can get from statutory sick pay, and definitely not enough to live on.
    “Though my manager reassured me there would be more hours, there weren’t – and he refused to furlough me in case there were staff shortages later on.
    Work became increasingly stressful. Our team of carers had to make boxes of gloves last as long as possible. Face masks or visors were out of the question, and hand sanitiser quickly ran out.
    “We continued as if it were business as usual. One client was discharged from hospital with pneumonia (she hadn’t been tested for coronavirus as it was still early in the pandemic). I was instructed to carry on her calls as normal – taking her out to get shopping and fresh air – despite government advice about social distancing.”

  • Creeping NHS privatisation is hampering our Covid-19 response Guardian letters May 8 highlight the damaging proliferation of private contracts that are undermining the response to Covid-19

  • UK scientists condemn 'Stalinist' attempt to censor Covid-19 advice Guardian May 8: “Government scientific advisers are furious at what they see as an attempt to censor their advice on government proposals during the Covid-19 lockdown by heavily redacting an official report before it was released to the public, the Guardian can reveal.
    “The report was one of a series of documents published by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) this week to mollify growing criticism about the lack of transparency over the advice given to ministers responding to the coronavirus.
    “However, large blocks of text in the report, produced by SPI-B, the Sage subcommittee providing advice from behavioural scientists on how the public might respond to lockdown measures, were entirely blanked out.
    “Several SPI–B members told the Guardian that the redacted portions of the document contained criticisms they had made of potential government policies they had been formally asked to consider in late March and early April. One SPI-B adviser said: “It is bloody silly, and completely counterproductive.” A second committee member said: “The impression I’m getting is this government doesn’t want any criticism.”

  • Coronavirus latest: NHS start building second Covid-19 contact tracing app with Apple and Google after MPs raise ethical issues i-news May 8 reports: "A second smartphone app to trace the spread of Covid-19 is being produced after the first app launched on the Isle of Wight this week presented technological issues and sparked ethical debate.
    "Built by the NHS, the new application will instead incorporate technology provided by Google and Apple that is more compatible with the most commonly used smartphones."

  • Boris Johnson Is Using Scientists As Human Shields May 8 comment from Huffington [post: "The Neil Ferguson story had everything. There was sex, hypocrisy and a “married lover”. At a time when pubs are closed and the football is cancelled, the solid British tradition of a good old public shaming remains comfortingly accessible. But the most interesting element was not the revelation that scientists are in fact fallible human beings like the rest of us. It was the reaction of the media, which used the story to distract us from the real news: that the UK now had the worst death toll in Europe. This story wasn’t about a scientist’s hypocrisy: it was about deflecting from the government’s failure."

  • Revealed: the secret report that gave ministers warning of care home coronavirus crisis Guardian May 7 on the findings from the Cygnus exercise that were ignored: “A secret government report that said the UK was not prepared for a pandemic and forewarned of the Covid-19 crisis in care homes is being published by the Guardian.
    “The report is based on the findings of a government simulation of an influenza pandemic, codenamed Exercise Cygnus. It concluded starkly that Britain was not adequately prepared for a flu-like pandemic’s “extreme demands”. The 2017 report is likely to raise questions over whether ministers ever implemented key recommendations pertaining to the care home sector.
    “It contained 26 key recommendations, including boosting the capacity of care homes and the numbers of staff available to work in them. It also warned of the challenge facing homes asked to take in patients from hospitals.”

  • The Guardian view on BAME death rates: inequality and injustice Guardian May 7 Editorial: “The disproportionately high toll of BAME people was already evident, notably among medical staff: a review of just over a hundred NHS staff who died found that almost two-thirds were black or Asian, though those groups account for less than one in seven workers in the health service. It is all the more striking, given that age is one of the biggest risk factors and the over-65s comprise only one in 20 of the BAME population, compared with almost one in five of the white population.
    “The reasons are complex, interlocking and not yet fully understood. Geography has doubtless played its part; urban dwellers have been worse hit. The prevalence of underlying conditions such as diabetes vary markedly between communities. But health is intimately tied to economic wellbeing. It cannot be divorced from other considerations. We know that, in general, the poor die younger. Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani populations face higher levels of unemployment and child poverty than white groups, and are much more likely to live in overcrowded conditions.
    “Even stripping out such factors, the ONS figures show black people are still almost twice as likely as white people to die a Covid-19-related death, with Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian individuals also disproportionately affected.”

  • UK may ditch NHS contact-tracing app for Apple and Google model Guardian May 7: "The government has left open the prospect of ditching its own contact-tracing app in favour of the “decentralised” model favoured by Apple and Google after it was revealed that a feasibility study into such a change is under way.
    "After repeated warnings that the UK will be an outlier if it insists on using its own centralised app rather than relying on Google and Apple’s technology, rights groups and MPs said on Thursday that the lack of privacy and data protections could mean that the app would be illegal.
    "With growing questions over that approach, it emerged that the Swiss-based consultancy Zühlke Engineering has been hired to undertake a two-week “technical spike” to investigate implementing Apple and Google’s system “within the existing proximity mobile application and platform”."

  • ‘I’m furious’: Failing care homes are the real coronavirus scandal Hard hitting May 7 Wired report: “The week before prime minister Boris Johnson ordered a nationwide lockdown, Rachel Beckett decided to take matters into her own hands. As chairman of Wellburn Care Homes, she worried the virus could seep into one of her 14 locations across northeast England. Beckett stopped hiring agency workers – fearing they could unknowingly carry and spread the virus as they work between multiple locations – closed all homes to visitors and refused to admit any discharged hospital patients, unless they tested negative for coronavirus.
    “And then, three weeks into the self-imposed lockdown, the inevitable happened. Two residents tested positive and four more showed symptoms of Covid-19.
    “After Public Health England refused to supply tests for the residents in the home, Beckett went to the shops to buy two trolleys full of toiletries, camp beds and sleeping bags for her staff, who moved on site. “Five weeks ago, I would say, we were very much on our own,” she says.
    “Even after three more homes were hit by coronavirus outbreaks and testing kits were finally sent out to them, hospitals refused to take in some of the residents who tested positive. “As a sector we support hospitals because we take admissions from the hospitals to relieve their beds, yet they were just not working with us,” says Beckett.
    “She argues that there has generally been little guidance from government and social care regulators on how to protect elderly residents from coronavirus.”

  • Boris Johnson doubles coronavirus testing target to 200,000 per day by end of May Independent May 6 on an even more unattainable target and even emptier promise from PM Johnson: “Returning to the House of Commons for the first time since his recovery from coronavirus, Mr Johnson confirmed that he will set out his roadmap out of lockdown in an address to the nation on Sunday, when he is expected to announce some easing of social distancing restrictions.
    “And he said it was now the government's "ambition" to hit 200,000 tests by the end of May and go beyond that at a later date. Although his announcement was a significant increase on Mr Hancock's earlier commitment, it still fell short of the PM's own promise as long ago as 25 March that test numbers would "very soon" reach 250,000.”

  • Coronavirus testing restricted across London after chemical shortages, as Boris Johnson announces even bigger target Independent May 6: “Widespread testing for coronavirus has been suspended among staff and patients at hospitals and GP practices serving 3.5 million people because of a shortage of vital chemicals.
    “On the day Boris Johnson unveiled a new target of 200,000 Covid-19 tests a day by the end of May (before backtracking and clarifying it was a target of capacity, not testing), pathology services in south London – including four major hospitals and hundreds of doctors’ surgeries – have been forced to impose restrictions on testing both in hospitals and in the community.
    “And the head of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, warned that the government’s crude targets were putting hospitals across the country at risk of the same shortages, as testing was aimed at high overall numbers rather than where need was greatest.
    “A leaked email to NHS staff from the South West London Pathology Partnership has confirmed only patients and staff who show symptoms will now be tested for Covid-19 after the labs, based at St George’s Hospital, were unable to source enough of the chemical reagents needed for the tests.”

  • Accurate accounting is part of honouring the dead Powerful comment from Keep Our NHS Public May 6: "Accurate accounting is part of honouring the dead: the Government should start with transparency and humility
    "The UK looks on course to be one of the worst affected countries in Europe with respect to deaths from coronavirus. While this should prompt careful and critical examination of how the Government has handled the crisis, we can already see an attempt to obscure the reality that too little was done too late.
    "Prime Minister Johnson has referred to our “success” in responding to the pandemic as part of constructing a narrative that diverts attention away from his own incompetence. This was too much even for some of the right-wing press. There is also plenty of scope to muddy the waters in terms of the scale of the disaster."

  • Mental health service sends letter to 300 young people removing them from waiting list The Eastern Daily Press May 6 on the latest screw up by Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust: “The region’s mental health service has apologised after sending a letter to more than 300 young people telling them they were taking them off the waiting list because of coronavirus. The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) admitted today it never should have sent the letter.
    “It read that patients would no longer be getting any more appointments and told them that their referrals had been closed. The letter said that because of coronavirus “our service is not able to support everybody in the way that it used to”. Instead it offered them a phone call to get advice.
    “A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “The coronavirus crisis is a reason to put people on mental health waiting lists, not take them off them.”

  • Child mental health was in crisis before Covid-19. We can't go back to 'normal' Guardian May 6: “When the coronavirus curve starts to flatten, what will become of the mental health curve that was snowballing pre-Covid 19 as a consequence of psychosocial upheaval and austerity?
    “The large child and adolescent mental health services team I work for has been running waiting lists of a number of months for a first appointment, and then equally long waits for specialist therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy or art therapy. Trying to absorb dozens of referrals a week, many of which are highly complex, is a truly Sisyphean task.
    “Post-lockdown referral rates have, however, plummeted. Teenagers who would have previously overdosed and presented at A&E are avoiding hospital; parents queue for hours to get a consultation with their GP or don’t contact them at all.
    “Referrals from schools are currently zero. What a wonderful time to catch up and get our waiting lists down.”

  • Care homes still expected to take Covid-19 hospital patients as deaths mount Independent report May 5: “Hospitals are continuing to discharge patients infected with Covid-19 into Britain’s struggling care homes, despite new figures showing deaths in the care sector still rising while those in hospitals are falling.
    “Deputy chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean revealed the government was now seriously concerned about the scale of the outbreak in care homes. She said the number of deaths was now almost half of those in hospitals adding: “There is a real issue that we need to get to grips with.”
    “The latest statistics show 5,890 care home residents died in the week ending 24 April, an increase of 2,500 compared to the week before, according to the Office for National Statistics. The ONS said the total number of deaths in care homes increased 8 per cent on the previous week.”

  • The Comforting and Misleading Political Response to Britain’s Coronavirus Disaster New Yorker comment May 5: "The Department of Health continues to describe Britain as “one of the most prepared countries in the world for pandemics.” And yet. In the weeks after December 30th, last year, when Chinese officials first informed the World Health Organization of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the U.K. made no striking plans to respond. Even as the virus tore through Northern Italy, and the British authorities had a chance to see, at relatively close quarters, what covid-19 could do to a prosperous European society, they dithered. Countries such as Germany, South Korea, and Singapore, which have responded well to the virus, all appear to have followed a similar playbook of mass testing, contact tracing, and collective vigilance. Each nation that has failed is more likely to have its own particular story of what went wrong."

  • In shielding its hospitals from COVID-19, Britain left many of the weakest exposed Strong research report on care homes from Reuters May 5: Even as the government was promising to protect the elderly and vulnerable from the deadly virus, local councils say they didn’t have the tools to carry out the plan, and were often given just hours to implement new government instructions.
    "Policies designed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed pushed a greater burden onto care homes. With hospitals given priority by the government, care homes struggled to get access to tests and protective equipment. The elderly were also put at potentially greater risk by measures to admit only the sickest for hospital treatment and to clear out as many non-acute patients as possible from wards. These findings are based on documents from government agencies seen by Reuters, interviews with five leaders of local authorities and eight care home managers."

  • Coronavirus has exposed the dangerous failings of NHS marketisation May 5 comment by Dave McCoy in the Guardian: "“Though it’s too early to judge how successful different countries have been in managing this pandemic, it’s hard to escape the view that the UK has failed in several respects. The government muddled its initial epidemic control strategy and was slow to roll out testing and contact tracing. Shortages in PPE may have contributed to the tragic deaths of frontline health workers. And measures to shield the vulnerable in care and residential homes have been inadequate.
    “These failings aren’t just the result of recent decisions – in England they’re also symptoms of structural weaknesses in the health system, many of which can be traced back to the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.”

  • Hospitals could be blamed for NHS staff deaths as coroners barred from investigating government failings Independent May 4: "“While coroners will be barred from looking at national policies and decision-making around shortages of protective equipment, the chief coroner has insisted they will still be able to investigate the deaths of health workers who may have contracted Covid-19 due to inadequate local supplies.
    “The Doctors’ Association UK has warned the situation could mean local managers are held “accountable for a situation out of their control”.
    “NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson, who represents local NHS organisations, told The Independent the wider context of the situation that hospitals were operating in needed to be considered.”

  • Plan to use private firm at centre of outsourcing scandal to run contact tracing attacked Independent May 4: “A plan to use a private firm at the centre of an outsourcing scandal to help run the ‘test-and-trace’ system crucial to curbing Covid-19 has drawn criticism.
    “Labour hit out at ministers after it emerged that Serco – and probably other giant contractors such as G4S – will carry out most of the contact tracing work, by recruiting 15,000 call centre staff.
    “They will be given only about one day’s training in the principles of contact tracing, The Times reported, stating Serco was in “advanced talks”.
    “Last year, the outsourcing giant was fined £19.2m by the Serious Fraud Office as part of a settlement over an electronic tagging scandal, also paying £3.7m in costs. Both Serco and G4S were accused of charging the government for electronically monitoring people who were either dead, in jail, or had left the country.”

  • UK government 'using pandemic to transfer NHS duties to private sector' Hard hitting Guardian report May 4: “Doctors, campaign groups, academics and MPs raised the concerns about a “power grab” after it emerged on Monday that Serco was in pole position to win a deal to supply 15,000 call-handlers for the government’s tracking and tracing operation.
    “They said the health secretary, Matt Hancock, had “accelerated” the dismantling of state healthcare and that the duty to keep the public safe was being “outsourced” to the private sector.
    “In recent weeks, ministers have used special powers to bypass normal tendering and award a string of contracts to private companies and management consultants without open competition.
    “Deloitte, KPMG, Serco, Sodexo, Mitie, Boots and the US data mining group Palantir have secured taxpayer-funded commissions to manage Covid-19 drive-in testing centres, the purchasing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the building of Nightingale hospitals.”

  • Ministers under fire as Covid-19 testing drops back below 100,000 daily target May 4 Guardian report: “On Friday, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that the government’s target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April had been achieved, with more than 122,000 tests provided on the last day of the month – though it emerged that a third had not been carried out.
    “Since then, the number of tests per day dropped by more than 40,000, with 76,496 delivered in the 24 hours up to 9am on Sunday.
    “… Earlier, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, admitted that more lives could have been saved if the UK had been able to test on a large scale at an earlier date.”

  • UK behind most European states in tackling coronavirus, says EU agency Guardian may 4 report: “Andrea Ammon, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), suggested on Monday that the UK had yet to progress as far as the majority of European countries in tackling the disease.
    “In evidence to the European parliament’s committee on public health, Ammon said Europe as a whole appeared to have passed the peak of infections on Saturday, with only Bulgaria still experiencing an increase in cases of infection.
    “But she told MEPs that the UK, along with Poland, Romania and Sweden, stood out as showing “no substantial changes in the last 14 days”.
    “All the others, we really see this substantial decrease,” Ammon said of the cumulative incidence rate, which provides a measure of the prevalence of active cases in the population. She did not offer any explanation of the differences.”

  • The U.K. Needs a Real Government, Not Boris Johnson’s Puppet Cabinet May 4 comment in New York Times: “LONDON — On the day a paler, thinner, notably less boisterous Boris Johnson returned to work after his near-death coronavirus experience, a Tory member of Parliament tweeted a GIF of a magnificent lion perched on a mountaintop, his mane blowing in the wind. “Good to see @BorisJohnson back at the helm!” he wrote.
    “This fawning sycophancy is not the norm in British politics. We haven’t, on the whole, run Trumpian courts, or implied that our prime ministers are kings among men. And yet, unusual and unwelcome as the adulation was, the tweeter had a point.
    “Mr. Johnson’s cabinet is so markedly weak, with so few politicians of intellect and experience, that the prime minister’s absence for nearly a month left an alarming void. A shifting cast of ministers stood in for him at the daily pandemic press briefings, with performances ranging from mortifying to faltering or defensive to occasionally, thankfully, competent.
    “The lack of depth in the cast around this cabinet table was mercilessly displayed, as was the nervousness of many of those obliged to face public interrogation at such a critical time.”

  • Coronavirus fears leading families to remove relatives from UK care homes Guardian May 4: “The devastating spread of the coronavirus among care homes has led to a growing number of families seeking legal advice about bringing their relatives home, the Guardian has learned.
    “One law firm said it had received at least 10 calls a week from families wanting to overturn guidance that prevents them from withdrawing their loved ones.
    “Advice lines said they had also seen a small but growing number of calls from those experiencing what one lawyer called a new “fear factor … the fear that coronavirus will sweep through the care home and everyone will die”.
    “Recorded care home deaths from Covid-19 have been running at around 2,400 per week. When Boris Johnson said on Friday that the UK has passed the peak of the pandemic and he could see a light at the end of the tunnel, care networks hit back, saying this was not true in care homes.”

  • Britons may be unable to travel abroad because of UK failure to join international tracing app system May 4 warning from Telegraph: "The UK launched its app to trace coronavirus on Monday but was immediately warned that failure to join an international system could hamper Britons' attempts to take foreign holidays.
    "The smartphone app, which begins testing on the Isle of Wight on Tuesday, will work on a different method of contact tracing to that being used in a system developed by Apple and Google and already in use in countries including Germany and Switzerland.
    "The two operating systems are not compatible, leading to fears that, if contact tracing becomes mandatory for travel, Britons will have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in a country. "

  • Britain On Track For Highest Health Worker Deaths IN EUROPE May 4 investigation by Byline Times: "“The media is awash with graphs looking at COVID-19 deaths by country and the general consensus is that the UK is heading for the highest death toll in Europe as we are at least two weeks behind Italy. But so far there haven’t been comparisons of health worker deaths by country.
    “Byline Times has partnered with Nursing Notes to report weekly on the tragic deaths of both Health and Care workers in the UK. Today the total who have sadly lost their lives helping COVID-19 patients and care home residents has risen to 171.
    “…Why did health workers in Italy and the UK pay such a higher price than in Spain and France, or indeed Germany where no deaths were recorded.”

  • Almost half of doctors have sourced their own PPE or relied on donations Sky News May 3: “Almost half of doctors have had to source their own personal protective equipment or have relied on donations, according to a survey.
    “More than 16,000 doctors were asked about the supply of PPE amid continued claims of shortages for health workers treating COVID-19 patients.
    “Forty-eight percent of doctors said they had bought PPE for themselves or their department, or they had used donations from a charity or local business.
    “Fifty-five percent of GPs said they had done this, compared to 38% of hospital doctors.”

  • A ‘tsunami’ of coronavirus survivors could overwhelm NHS rehabilitation services, experts warn Independent May 3: “Coronavirus can leave patients with lasting physical damage and scarring to their lungs, meaning many could struggle to breathe and move around as well as they did before – in some cases permanently.
    “Patients admitted to intensive care can also suffer physical effects of being paralysed weeks and almost half who are ventilated with a tube in their windpipe will experience a form of delirium that can include terrifying hallucinations and leave survivors with lasting mental problems including post-traumatic stress.
    “Experts have warned a long-term lack of funding of NHS rehabilitation services and post-discharge care for ITU patients means the health service will struggle to help the thousands of patients who beat the virus but face a long road to recovery.”

  • Top scientists set up ‘shadow’ SAGE committee to advise government amid concerns over political interference Independent May 3: "Sir David King, a former government chief scientific adviser, has assembled a group of independent experts to look at how the UK could work its way out of the coronavirus lockdown.
    "He said the 12-strong committee had been created “in response to concerns over the lack of transparency” from Sage.
    "The body, which will hold its first press conference on Monday, will focus on seven key points, including how testing and tracing can work, and the future of social distancing."

  • 'Biggest failure in a generation': Where did Britain go wrong? Hard hitting view of UK response to Covid from Sydney Morning Herald May 3: “a growing chorus of health experts, MPs and members of the public … think Britain's response to the crisis has suffered from a series of deadly mistakes and miscalculations.
    “The charges focus on four areas: that healthcare workers struggled to access personal protective equipment, that Britain was too slow to implement a lockdown, that it bungled testing, and that vulnerable care home residents were not properly protected.
    “Downing Street and key ministers such as Hancock have been reluctant to concede many errors, although their tone has shifted over recent days as the official death toll hit 28,446, one of the highest in the world and well above the 20,000 figure Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance once said the government hoped to not exceed.
    “Says Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an adviser to the World Health Organisation: "The countries that moved fast have curtailed the epidemic. The countries that delayed have not. It's as simple as that."

  • Unions angry after pay talks for Cornish carers deferred due to coronavirus Union News May 2 reports: "GMB, UNISON and Unite said the announcement by Cornwall Council-owned Corserv to defer talks until September contrasts poorly with neighbouring Devon which has awarded its care workforce a pay rise from this April.
    "The Cornish workforce are key workers such as qualified care staff caring for elderly and isolated vulnerable people in their own homes and also looking after people who have had Covid-19 being discharged from hospital to newly opened ‘isolation units’ in the community where they are recovering. Fire and rescue services are also employed within Corserv, as are those in social housing and road maintenance."

  • Clapping the NHS is all very well, but with my sister on the frontline, I need to speak up May 2 Comment from Guardian's Hadley Freeman: "anyone with a brain can see that this is a scandal unfolding in real time, and that where the government neglected one public sector, it is now neglecting another.
    "Some 179 British servicemen were killed in the invasion of Iraq; we have already lost more than half that in the NHS – and doctors, unlike soldiers, are not called upon to risk death to do their job.
    "Already the letters pages of newspapers are filled with messages from desperate families, terrified for relatives who went into healthcare in order to help others. And it’s up to the families – us, me – to speak for them, given that NHS workers are being warned by their employers not to speak to the media."

  • UK seeks access to EU health cooperation in light of coronavirus May 2 Guardian report: "The UK is seeking “something akin to membership” of the EU’s early warning and response system (EWRS), which has played a critical role in coordinating Europe’s response to the coronavirus, as well as to earlier pandemics such as bird flu. According to an EU source, this would be “pretty much the same” as membership of the system.
    "The government’s enthusiasm in the privacy of the negotiating room contrasts with noncommittal public statements. Detailed negotiating objectives published in February merely stated that the UK was “open to exploring cooperation between the UK and EU in other specific and narrowly defined areas where this is in the interest of both sides, for example on matters of health security”."

  • Coronavirus testing: Government accused of ‘misleading the public’ amid criticism over figures Independent sums up May 2: "The government has been accused of “misleading the public” over the number of people being tested for coronavirus, amid claims that ministers have “massaged” figures to make it look like targets have been met.
    "On Friday, the health secretary claimed that he had met his target of testing 100,000 people a day before the end of April, but significant discrepancies have emerged in the figures.
    "Matt Hancock had said 122,347 tests were performed in the 24 hours up to 9am on Friday, but a closer look at the figures revealed that many of the claimed tests counted had in fact not actually been completed yet.
    "The government had counted the posting of 27,497 home testing kits to households around the deadline as tests being carried out in the total, as well as 12,872 testing kits delivered to satellite locations – boosting its final day total by more than 40,000.
    "The change partly explains why the government claimed the 100,000 tests target had been met on the final day despite only 52,000 tests a day being carried out as of Tuesday and making very slow progress in the course of the month."

  • Lack of PPE caused death of care home nurse who contracted Covid-19, says son Independent May 2: "The son of a care home nurse who died after testing positive for Covid-19 has said in an online tribute that a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) caused his mother’s death.
    "Ian O’Neal described his mother Suzanne Loverseed as a “lioness” who gave everything to protect her children and died “sacrificing herself for others”.
    "He said his family was forced to say goodbye to her via an iPad. “I cannot bring myself to recount the trauma of what we have been through, even though it will haunt me for the rest of my life,” Mr O’Neal wrote in a blog post.
    “But I will say this: there are some people out there still urging that the virus is not that threatening, or that the government has overreacted, or that it doesn’t matter if a few oldies die. They are mistaken.”

  • NHS doctor: Forget medals and flypasts – what we want is proper pay and PPE Rachel Clarke in Guardian May 2: "doctors, nurses and carers are not typically members of the armed forces.
    "We signed up to save lives – not, if necessary, to kill. And the increasingly bombastic proposals for honouring our “sacrifice” are beginning to feel more burdensome than uplifting.
    "Alongside last week’s minute of silence to remember the frontline staff who have died so far of Covid-19, for example, at least three national newspapers are campaigning for all NHS staff to be awarded a medal for our bravery in “fighting” the virus. Medals, I imagine, are a matter of glory.
    "But right now, my needs are frankly more prosaic. What I crave is sufficient masks and gowns."

  • Care home provider HC-One sounds alarm over £265m loans Telegraph May 2: "Britain’s largest care home provider has sounded the alarm over its ability to carry its debt burden as it warned of the blow to its finances from the pandemic.
    "HC-One is at risk of breaching the terms on loans worth more than £265m agreed with a group of lenders including Citi. The care home giant, which has lost nearly 500 people to confirmed or suspected coronavirus, could be forced to ask lenders to waive its debt covenants or to defer its payments.
    "HC-One is at the centre of concerns over mounting levels of debt in the social care sector, whose finances have come under strain from the spiralling cost of buying more protective masks, gloves and aprons. "

  • Coronavirus: Which regions have been worst hit? BBC May 1: "The number of people killed by coronavirus in London in the four weeks to 17 April has narrowly surpassed the number of civilians killed during the worst four-week period of aerial bombing of the city during the Blitz in World War Two.
    "Figures held in the National Archives, and collated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, show that 4,677 people were killed during the Blitz and buried in London cemeteries in the 28 days to 4 October 1940.
    "Registered deaths in London attributed to Covid-19, in the four weeks to 17 April this year, have now reached 4,697 according to a BBC count based on data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)."

  • Coronavirus set to re-emerge in society through care homes, warns NHS chief Independent May 1: "In a private online briefing for hundreds of NHS chiefs on Thursday, Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s senior incident director for coronavirus, said there had been a “shift in the recognition” of the extent of coronavirus now spreading between patients and staff in care homes.
    "He said the proportion of care-home residents dying had increased from a quarter to 30 per cent, adding: “The expectation is that for the next few weeks … those care homes will be the epicentres of transmission back into society and feeding the endemic problem that we will have going forward.”
    "His comments come amid growing criticism that the NHS may have introduced the virus into care homes earlier in the epidemic when homes were told they had to take Covid-19 patients from hospitals to help free up beds on wards."

  • Modification notice: EHC [education, health and care] plans – legislation changes Government notice confirming a new round of institutional government discrimination against children and young people with special edicational needs. As of 1 May, children and young people with EHC Plans no longer have a right to all the provision set out in those plans. LAs / CCGs only have to use ‘reasonable endeavors’ to secure the provision

  • Coronavirus death rates twice as high in more deprived areas, new figures show Independent May 1 report on latest ONS figures which show inequalities in patterns of mortality: "Death rates from coronavirus in the most deprived parts of England are more than double than in less deprived areas, according to new figures that show London is the worst-hit part of the country.
    "The mortality rate for the most deprived areas for March and early April was 55.1 deaths per 100,000 population – compared with 25.3 deaths per 100,000 in the least deprived areas, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
    "The statistics show London has by far the highest mortality rate, with 85.7 deaths per 100,000 persons. This was found to be “statistically significantly higher” than any other region – almost double the next highest rate.
    “By mid-April, the region with the highest proportion of deaths involving Covid-19 was London, with the virus being involved in more than 4 in 10 deaths since the start of March,” said Nick Stripe, head of health analysis at the ONS."

  • Coronavirus: Black African Brits dying at 3.5 times rate of white people, study finds Independent May 1: "Britons from black African backgrounds are dying from coronavirus at more than three times the rate of white people, an alarming study concluded on Friday.
    "Pakistani deaths are almost as disproportionate at 2.7 times higher, while fatalities among people of black Caribbean origin are 1.7 times greater, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found.
    "The research rejects demographic differences as the reason for the higher death toll – pointing out most ethnic minority groups are much younger than the white British population, so could be expected to survive in higher numbers.
    "But it may be partially explained by more black and Asian people being in “key worker” roles, while health conditions such as diabetes may also “be important”."

  • The UK carried out 122,000 coronavirus tests on the last day of April, passing the government's target Naive and uncritical BBC headline puffs up government spin, on a claim that has been almost instantly refuted. Indeed even a few paragraphs in to the NNC story it reveals the fiddle, with 40,000 tests sent out but not carried out:
    "Of the 122,347 tests provided in the 24 hours up to Friday morning, the number of people tested was fewer - at just over 70,000 - as has been the case since the testing programme began. This is because some people need to be tested more than once to get a reliable result.
    "The total testing figure includes 27,497 kits which were delivered to people's homes and also 12,872 tests that were sent out to centres such as hospitals and NHS sites.
    "However, these may not have been actually used or sent back to a lab."

  • Obesity dangers make Covid-19 a rebuke to unequal societies Financial Times May 1 article notes:
    "“We urgently need to understand the connections between these conditions and Covid-19. In France, the US and UK, figures suggest that patients who are overweight are at significantly greater risk. In New York City, a study of 4,000 Covid-19 patients found that obesity is the second strongest predictor, after their age, of whether someone over 60 will need critical care.
    “… A second New York study says that being overweight is the main driver of whether younger people will be hospitalised with Covid-19. Patients under 60, the researchers found, are twice as likely to need intensive care if they have a body mass index over 30, and 3.6 times more likely to need it with a BMI over 35. Once in ICU, we must remember, survival odds are tragically only 50:50.”

  • Government counts mailouts to hit 100,000 testing target HSJ May 1 article lifts the lid on the fiddles needed to claim 100,000 tests by April 30.

  • How poor planning left the UK without enough PPE Another hard hitting, detailed report from the Financial Times, May 1, which points out that government twists, turns and lies brought total confusion:
    "“Behind the scenes, some hospital procurement chiefs moved unilaterally to protect their staff and began “parallel sourcing”, having lost confidence in the Health Department’s central procurement operation.
    “The result has been confusion, according to one person with a ringside view of the process: “The NHS central team don’t know what the NHS hospitals are doing. The [Cabinet Office] team don’t know what the NHS are doing and the army — brought in to help with logistics — are pulling their hair out.”

  • Revealed: NHS procurement official privately selling PPE amid Covid-19 outbreak Guardian May 1 reveals moonlighting and profiteering as another factor in the ongoing scandalous failure to deliver adequate NHS supplies of PPE.
    "A head of procurement for the NHS has set up a business to profit from the private sale of huge quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, an undercover investigation by the Guardian can reveal.
    "David Singleton, 42, a senior NHS official in London who has been working at the capital’s Covid-19 Nightingale hospital, launched the business two weeks ago to trade in visors, masks and gowns."

  • Breathless bullsh*tter Boris can boast about his ‘successful' coronavirus war all he wants, but Britain’s horrendous death toll tells the real shameful story Daily Mail May 1: Yes, the Daily Heil gives prominence to a born-again Piers Morgan tearing strips off the Prime Minister's record on Covid-19:
    "Going full Julie Andrews, Boris assured us that though it’s been like coming through ‘some huge alpine tunnel’, we’ll soon be seeing sunlight and pastures again!
    "Oh, and he wanted us to know ‘we are throwing everything at it, heart and soul, night and day’!
    "Wow, this all sounded fantastic.
    "It also sounded like complete and utter bullsh*t."

  • Black African Brits dying at 3.5 times rate of white people, study finds Independet May 1 flags up a major problem: "Britons from black African backgrounds are dying from coronavirus at more than three times the rate of white people, an alarming study concluded on Friday.
    "Pakistani deaths are almost as disproportionate at 2.7 times higher, while fatalities among people of black Caribbean origin are 1.7 times greater, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found.
    "The research rejects demographic differences as the reason for the higher death toll – pointing out most ethnic minority groups are much younger than the white British population, so could be expected to survive in higher numbers.
    "But it may be partially explained by more black and Asian people being in “key worker” roles, while health conditions such as diabetes may also “be important”."

  • Rethinking Tax Systems for a Post-Covid Social Contract May 1 blog from tax expert Richard Murphy and Andrew Baker: "One of the consequences of the current covid-19 pandemic and the associated economic slowdown is that the UK government will likely face a record annual fiscal deficit and a consequent increase in so-called government debt. Calls for another round of austerity are already gathering pace.
    "Our paper helps to explain why such calls are misplaced, while pointing towards an alternative future path that rehabilitates both the macroeconomic and social policy roles of tax."

  • London’s Nightingale Hospital being ‘wound down’ after no new patients for a week Independent May 1: "London’s Nightingale Hospital is effectively being wound down after taking no new patients in the past week.
    "Staff were told today that a decision on its future would be made within days.
    "The field hospital, built in just 10 days at the start of April, had only 19 patients on Friday, down from a peak of around 35 earlier in the month.
    "London hospitals are increasingly choosing to keep patients in their own intensive care units.
    "One source said London’s Nightingale was in effect being “wound down”, with staff from the Royal London Hospital, who were due to be seconded to work there, told they were no longer needed on Friday due to the small numbers of patients.
    "The situation has been replicated across the country: none of the other Nightingale hospitals in Birmingham, Manchester or Harrogate have patients."

  • Global: Crackdown on journalists weakens efforts to tackle COVID-19 May 1 warning from Amnesty International: “There is no hope of containing this virus if people can’t access accurate information. It is truly alarming to see how many governments are more interested in protecting their own reputations than in saving lives,” said Ashfaq Khalfan, Amnesty International’s Director of Law and Policy.
    “From the earliest days of this pandemic, when Chinese authorities censored media reports and punished whistle blowers, journalists around the world have been risking their lives, freedom and jobs to share potentially lifesaving information with the public.”

  • Stanford Health Care to cut workers' wages by 20% Hospital claims cuts are necessary due to COVID-19 economic impact Another aspect of the craziness of the US health care system revealed in Palo Alto April 24: "Employees of Stanford Health Care, including doctors, nurses and technicians who are caring for COVID-19 patients, will have their pay reduced by up to 20% starting Monday, April 27, for 10 weeks, according to a tip sheet the organization sent to workers on April 21.
    "The medical center briefly stated it was making the cuts due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the organization instead of laying off employees. The "temporary workforce adjustment" program was created as part of the hospital's "cost-saving measure and initiatives," hospital administrators stated. The pay reductions will apply to all employees at Stanford Hospital, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford and, in the East Bay, Stanford-ValleyCare. Asked if the cuts included to doctors' salaries, hospital spokeswoman Lisa Kim reiterated the cuts are "across the board."

  • Open Letter to UK Government: “Do you want our PPE or not?” Open Letter to Matt Hancock from businesses:
    "We are a group of businesses and individual suppliers from around the UK who are desperate to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS. Between us, we can produce masses of pieces of PPE.
    "Together, we can help save lives. But you’re making this impossible.
    "We’ve done what you asked us to do: we’ve contacted the Government through the official procurement process you set out. None of us has had a definitive response. We don’t know when we can expect one.
    "With every passing day that you don’t respond, people are dying. Every day that we are left waiting, there are health workers, care workers, cleaners, supermarket staff, volunteers and delivery staff left exposed to coronavirus. Our PPE can help protect them."

  • Liverpool facing bankruptcy after government's shock coronavirus funding failure Hard hitting Liverpool Echo report April 30 on how ministers are failing to support councils: "Liverpool Council could face bankruptcy and is considering imposing emergency spending controls after the government failed to offer anywhere near enough support during the coronavirus crisis.
    "The city council, already battered and bruised after ten years of austerity, is now facing a financial cliff edge of £44m because of extra spending to support residents through the crisis and a loss of income.
    "Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has previously pledged that councils will be reimbursed for their emergency epidemic spending - but the funding support from government has shockingly decreased in the second tranche.
    "The council faces £78m in increased costs and loss of income because of Covid-19 this financial year. It has only received £34m from government in two tranches, with the second lower than the first."

  • NHS could run out of surgical masks within weeks, senior NHS England director warns Independent report April 30: "Parts of the NHS could run out of basic surgical masks in the next few weeks, NHS England’s senior director for coronavirus has warned hospital chiefs.
    "Just hours before prime minister Boris Johnson said face masks could be “useful” for coming out of lockdown, Professor Keith Willett told a private webinar for 800 NHS managers that the levels of masks being delivered to the UK for the NHS were not good enough and hospitals may have to share what they have with each other if they run out.
    "Surgical masks are the most basic level of face protection for NHS staff and could become even more scarce if the NHS re-starts routine operations in coming weeks or increasing numbers of the public use them."

  • UK carers who lost jobs after raising safety fears consider legal action Guardian April 30: "Five carers who lost their jobs in the past fortnight after raising concerns about understaffing and personal protective equipment shortages at homes are considering taking legal action, according to a charity that is warning more whistleblowers face being sacked before the end of the Covid-19 crisis.
    "As the care industry struggles to grapple with the unfolding pandemic, Compassion in Care, a charity that runs a helpline for whistleblowers, claims the five carers came forward this month to say they no longer had positions after disclosing safety problems.
    "The health workers are contemplating legal action after contacting regulators and authorities with concerns, the charity has said.
    "There is growing concern about the situation inside the country’s care homes, with the sector feared to be at the centre of crisis."

  • Hundreds of ventilators UK bought from China 'are wrong type and could kill patients if used' Sky News April 30 on a letter from doctors to warn ministers to withdraw potentially dangerous ventilators:
    "Seen by Sky News' partner organisation NBC, the document also claims the ventilators cannot be cleaned properly, are an unfamiliar design and come with a confusing instruction manual.
    "Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove triumphantly announced the arrival of "300 ventilators from China" to help treat COVID-19 patients on 4 April. But the letter of warning from doctors was issued just nine days later.
    "We believe that if used, significant patient harm, including death, is likely," it says.
    "We look forward to the withdrawal and replacement of these ventilators with devices better able to provide intensive care ventilation for our patients."

  • PIERS MORGAN: Breathless bullsh*tter Boris can boast about his ‘successful' coronavirus war all he wants, but Britain’s horrendous death toll tells the real shameful story As Boris Johnson's lobotomised fans rail at critical BBC and press coverage of the government, a newly-reborn Piers Morgan uses the pages of the Daily Heil on April 30 to have a full wellie go at ridiculing their hero:
    "Going full Julie Andrews, Boris assured us that though it’s been like coming through ‘some huge alpine tunnel’, we’ll soon be seeing sunlight and pastures again!
    "Oh, and he wanted us to know ‘we are throwing everything at it, heart and soul, night and day’!
    "Wow, this all sounded fantastic.
    "It also sounded like complete and utter bullsh*t."

  • NHS could run out of surgical masks within weeks, senior NHS England director warns Independent April 30: "Just hours before prime minister Boris Johnson said face masks could be “useful” for coming out of lockdown, Professor Keith Willett told a private webinar for 800 NHS managers that the levels of masks being delivered to the UK for the NHS were not good enough and hospitals may have to share what they have with each other if they run out."

  • Coronavirus Testing Firm Forced To Furlough Staff As Government 'Ignores' Offer To Help NHS Huffington Post April 30: "A UK coronavirus testing firm says it has been forced to furlough staff because the government has “ignored” its offers to supply test kits to the NHS.
    "Cumbrian-based medical diagnostics company Better2Know says it could provide at least 2,000 coronavirus test kits a week but has been stonewalled despite its persistent attempts to offer its support to government.
    "The company provides Covid-19 home testing kits and has already delivered a large order for one NHS trust in early April.
    "But since then the firm has had to furlough seven of its 16 staff, with the government paying 80% of their wages, because there is not enough testing work to keep them employed."

  • Coronavirus: Matt Hancock refuses to apologise to relatives of elderly residents who died in care homes Independent on April 29: "Health secretary Matt Hancock has refused to apologise to the relatives of elderly residents who died of coronavirus in care homes, as fresh figures showed more than 5,000 fatalities in England alone.
    "The new figures from the Office for National Statistics and Care Quality Commission put the UK on track for a higher overall death toll than Italy, Spain or France, lagging only behind the US.
    "And experts warned that deaths in care homes may not yet have reached their peak, with one suggesting that they could be running at as much as 400 a day – around the same as are occurring in hospitals."

  • Mail's £1m airlift for NHS heroes Daily Heil April 29 front page unwittingly exposes government failure to act to ensure supplies of PPE to frontline NHS and care staff.

  • Coronavirus: NHS Nightingale chief says NHS must ‘never go back’ to old bureaucratic ways Independent April 29: "“The chief executive of London’s NHS Nightingale hospital has said the health service’s agile response to the coronavirus pandemic means it “can never go back” to its previously bureaucratic ways of working.
    Professor Charles Knight also revealed the NHS is now planning to double London’s permanent intensive care bed capacity from 799 to more than 1,600 beds so a future Nightingale hospital would never be needed in any future epidemic.
    “… “We can never go back to how we used to work”, Prof Knight told a Royal Society of Medicine webinar on Tuesday, adding: “I think we were described in a newspaper as a lumbering bureaucracy. I think we have proven, once and for all that that’s not the case. I don’t think there’s many private sector companies that could have, or indeed have, responded to the pressures of Covid in the way we did.
    “One mustn’t ignore the fact that for most of one’s time in the old NHS you were talking about money and business case approvals. We haven’t had to do that. … what we can do is to take pride in what’s been achieved in terms of the flexibility of the response across the whole country. And also, to learn from that, to be more agile in the future and not go back to quite the sort of level of bureaucracy that we used to deal with.”

  • Coronavirus crisis could lead to 18,000 more cancer deaths, experts warn Guardian April 29 reports: "Cancer experts claim that an extra 6,270 people in England who have been newly diagnosed with the disease could die from it over the next 12 months as a direct result of the disruption caused by coronavirus, and the additional toll taking into account all those living with cancer could be 17,915.
    "That is an increase of 20% on the 89,576 deaths among cancer patients recorded annually in England, according to the latest available statistics."

  • UK minister admits main coronavirus focus was NHS rather than care homes Guardian April 29: "A cabinet minister has acknowledged the government focused more on the NHS than care homes in the early stages of the outbreak, as the UK prepares to publish daily death figures for the community as well as hospitals.
    "As the outbreak continues to worsen in care homes, George Eustice, the environment secretary, defended the government’s handling of the crisis for older people, while acknowledging its approach had not been “perfect”."

  • To protect older people from COVID-19, state coordination of the social care sector is urgently needed David Rowland of CHPI in an April 29 LSE blog: "Using the market to deliver social care on a low-cost basis had manifestly failed even before the current pandemic: one in five care homes are rated as inadequate or needing improvement, personal care is provided to people in their own homes in 15-minute slots, with the sector as a whole suffering from a 30% turnover rate – a fact which might explain why there are currently over 120,000 vacancies.
    "But this market failure, whilst tolerated by politicians of all parties for over 20 years, is fast becoming the cause of a national tragedy. Due to the fragmented nature of social care provision, it is almost impossible to say what is happening to these older people. Within one local authority, as many as 800 different care businesses are delivering vital care services at any one time, making it all but impossible for public health teams to track and monitor the spread of the disease across these providers."

  • Concerns over training at emergency morgues run by UK festival firm Guardian April 29: "A music festival company contracted to operate emergency mortuaries in London has been accused of inadequately training workers in handling bodies, and demanding staff sign non-disclosure agreements.
    "Workers have not been issued with written contracts of employment but are told by text message when to report for work, according to two recruits who contacted the Guardian.
    "The temporary mortuaries, with capacity for thousands of bodies, have been set up as overflow facilities in case hospital, funeral home and local authority morgues are overwhelmed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic."

  • Remdesivir in adults with severe COVID-19: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre trial Lancet article April 29 reporting research reveals that the drug promoted by US and some British media as answer to Covid-19 is not associated with clinical benefits:
    "Remdesivir use was not associated with a difference in time to clinical improvement …. Although not statistically significant, patients receiving remdesivir had a numerically faster time to clinical improvement than those receiving placebo among patients with symptom duration of 10 days or less …. Adverse events were reported in 102 (66%) of 155 remdesivir recipients versus 50 (64%) of 78 placebo recipients. Remdesivir was stopped early because of adverse events in 18 (12%) patients versus four (5%) patients who stopped placebo early.
    "…In this study of adult patients admitted to hospital for severe COVID-19, remdesivir was not associated with statistically significant clinical benefits. However, the numerical reduction in time to clinical improvement in those treated earlier requires confirmation in larger studies."

  • BBC Statement on Panorama, Monday 27 April: Has The Government Failed the NHS? Statement April 29 by BBC standing fully behind the Panorama programme April 27 and rejecting government attempts to undermine it.

  • NHS staff coronavirus inquests told not to look at PPE shortages Guardian report April 29 warning of new guidelines to limit scope of inquests to reveal systemic failings in provision of PPE:
    "Inquests into coronavirus deaths among NHS workers should avoid examining systemic failures in provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), coroners have been told, in a move described by Labour as “very worrying”.
    "The chief coroner for England and Wales, Mark Lucraft QC, has issued guidance that “an inquest would not be a satisfactory means of deciding whether adequate general policies and arrangements were in place for provision of PPE to healthcare workers”.
    "Lucraft said that “if there were reason to suspect that some human failure contributed to the person being infected with the virus”, an inquest may be required. The coroner “may need to consider whether any failures of precautions in a particular workplace caused the deceased to contract the virus and so contributed to death”.

  • Home Secretary announces visa extensions for frontline health and care workers Official April 29 announcement of free visa extensions -- as demanded by the health unions. These “will be automatically granted to more crucial overseas health and care workers”.
    “Frontline workers, including midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists, with visas due to expire before 1 October 2020 will receive an automatic one-year extension. It will apply to those working both in the NHS and independent sector and include their family members.
    “This builds on the Home Secretary’s announcement last month for NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics. All will be exempt for the Immigration Health Surcharge for the duration of the exemption. …
    “In total approximately 3,000 vital health and care workers and their families will benefit from the extension.
    “… The Home Secretary has also confirmed family members and dependants of healthcare workers who sadly pass away as result of contracting the virus will be offered immediate indefinite leave to remain.”

  • Revealed: the inside story of the UK's Covid-19 crisis Detailed Guardian April 29 article examining the history of failure on Covid-19:
    "The health secretary, Matt Hancock, supported by Downing Street, has persistently denied that attaining herd immunity, by allowing the disease to infect most people, was ever a policy, goal, strategy or even “part of the plan”. Well-placed government sources said on the strictest reading of the word “policy” that may be true. But they do not understand how the government can claim that herd immunity was not part of its plan.
    "The Guardian’s account of the government’s response to the crisis is based on interviews with sources in or close to Downing Street, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Cabinet Office, Cobra and Sage, as well as other advisers and experts. Many asked not to be named, because they were not authorised to speak publicly. Some said that while they had concerns, they were holding back some of their criticism because they did not want to damage public trust in government at such a delicate time. All are wary of being wise in hindsight, and sympathetic to ministers who took decisions they felt were right at the time."

  • Hospices will run out of PPE 'within days' as they are denied access to government supply chains ITV News April 29: "Hospices could run out of essential personal protective equipment “within days” because providers of end of life care are being denied access to government supplies of PPE.
    "ITV News has learned deliveries of PPE to hospices in England have all but stopped as they struggle to access affordable supplies.
    "Hospices are being quoted up to twenty six times more for surgical masks than NHS suppliers, leaving them unable to place orders and quickly running out."

  • Britain’s shockingly high Coronavirus death rate means we need to learn from abroad – fast Surprisingly thoughtful April 29 article from David Davis (yes THAT David Davis) in reaction.life poses questions as Boris Johnson boasts about British performance in response to covid: "before we move on to the next stage the Prime Minister should be looking very hard at the practices in Asia, and in Norway, Austria, Finland, and Germany, to establish how they have maintained a death rate less than one third of ours, and adapt it to our own use as fast as possible. And give our NHS a better chance of victory."

  • NHS Trust ‘leak’ suggests doctors ‘gently discouraged’ from listing all Covid-19 deaths Left Foot Forward (April 17): "The Good Law Project say the guidance suggests doctors are being ‘gently discouraged’ from reporting deaths as COVID-19. That would mean “we have no way of knowing if the government figures on deaths from coronavirus – the daily in hospital figures as well as the weekly ONS figures – are accurate,” the group said in an email to supporters.
    "The leaked guidance from an NHS Hospital Trust says: “Doctors are asked to use the standard MCCD (Medical Certificate of Cause of Death) form to certify death. ‘Pneumonia ‘or ‘community acquired pneumonia’ are acceptable at 1(a) on the MCCD.
    “There is no requirement to write COVID 19 as part of the MCCD. It may be mentioned at 1(b) on the form, should the doctor wish.”

  • NHS staff told they’re not allowed to tweet about ‘political issues’ – including not having PPE Indy100 April 20: "An NHS trust has been accused of "gagging" its staff by asking them not to tweet about "political issues" such as "PPE, testing and exit strategies".
    "Workers at the Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust were issued guidance on "Covid-19 suggested subjects for tweets" as part of a staff newsletter.
    "Acceptable tweets included praising staff for their hard work, volunteering to move departments, working over the weekend and keeping people safe."

  • Health Insurers Prosper As COVID-19 Deflates Demand For Elective Treatments Kaiser Health News in the US reports April 28 that some corporations are doing well under Covid-19: "...a report out last week by credit rating agency Moody’s, which looked at a range of pandemic scenarios — from mild to severe — and concluded “U.S. health insurers will nonetheless remain profitable under the most likely scenarios.”
    "Earlier this month, UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann told analysts that cost reductions so far are outstripping expenses for COVID-19 and that revenue is up compared with the previous year. He expects — barring a worsening situation — the rest of the year’s earnings to match projections.
    "Other insurers, including Centene, Anthem, Humana and Cigna, are scheduled to release earnings reports this week."

  • Coronavirus: Care home deaths up as hospital cases fall BBC report April 28: "Office for National Statistics data showed there were 2,000 coronavirus care home deaths in the week ending 17 April, double the previous week.
    "It brings the total number of deaths in care homes linked to the virus since the start of the pandemic to 3,096.
    "Health Secretary Matt Hancock said testing will be expanded to all care home residents and staff in England.
    "This includes those who do not have symptoms, Mr Hancock told Tuesday's coronavirus briefing."

  • Care home fatalities to be included in daily coronavirus death tolls Guardian April 28: "The death toll from coronavirus in care homes will be announced daily from Wednesday after figures revealed a sharp rise of more than 4,300 deaths in a fortnight in England and Wales and care operators said they were at the centre of the crisis.
    "The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said care deaths would now be tracked in the same way as hospital fatalities “to keep the focus on what is happening in care homes” and allow policy to be changed swiftly if needed.
    "Until now, data has been published weekly and a week out of date. But Hancock declined to apologise to bereaved families for failing to protect their loved ones, amid widely reported shortages of personal protective equipment and testing in care homes."

  • COVID-19: PPE Shortages? Who to Tell? Medscape April 28: "Are health professionals being gagged over PPE shortages? A recent BMJ report suggested that some doctors had been warned off talking to the media about their concerns.
    "Health Secretary Matt Hancock has backed the right of NHS workers to speak out publicly about shortages insisting that, "people should be free to talk about what happens at work".
    "Even so there is a sense that people don't want to stick their heads above the parapet in case it has damaging personal consequences for them.
    "The Doctors' Association UK has said that some GPs have been told by local CCGs not to talk to the press and to avoid posting on social media about any shortages."

  • Anger as Priti Patel stands by ‘mean and counterproductive’ migrant Universal Credit ban amid coronavirus crisis Politics Home April 28 report: "Priti Patel has batted away calls to suspend “mean and counterproductive” rules that bar some migrants from accessing Universal Credit during the coronavirus crisis.
    "Opposition MPs and campaign groups hit out at the Cabinet minister after she said those with ‘No Recourse To Public Funds’ should instead apply to have the status lifted on a case-by-case basis - a process that PoliticsHome has been told can take “months”.
    "Under the NRPF status, migrants subject to immigration control by the Home Office are shut out of most social security benefits, council tax help, state housing support and free school meals for their children, although they can access the NHS."

  • 14% With Likely COVID-19 to Avoid Care Due to Cost Scary results of US poll, published April 28: "One out of every seven (14%) U.S. adults report that they would avoid seeking healthcare for a fever and a dry cough for themselves or a member of their household due to concerns about their ability to pay for it.
    "When framed explicitly as believing to have been infected by the novel coronavirus, 9% still report that they would avoid seeking care. Adults under 30, non-whites, those with a high school education or less and those in households with incomes under $40,000 per year are the groups most likely to indicate they would avoid seeking out care."

  • Trusts told it is ‘paramount’ to free up stroke beds for covid patients HSJ (April 27) on potential rolling back of years of controversial centralisation of stroke services "Stroke victims could be admitted to district general hospitals which do not normally provide such care if specialist units do not have the beds or staff as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
    "Guidance published by NHS England states that freeing up beds usually occupied by stroke patients to care for those suffering from coronavirus is “paramount”.

  • Has the Government Failed the NHS? The hard-hitting Panorama programme (April 27) that exposed the disastrous government failings on preparation for a pandemic threat and provision of PPE. Don't miss it.

  • Coronavirus: UK government again runs out of home testing kits after just over one hour Independent April 27 on a continuing failure to deliver yet another promise:
    “The UK government has run out of coronavirus home testing kits in just over an hour. Key workers could no longer order any online by 9.10am on Monday – the fourth day in a row where tests have become unavailable within hours of the booking system opening.
    “The kits ran out around two minutes after the service launched on Friday, and people were reportedly told there were none left on Saturday morning after around 15 minutes. As of 10am on Sunday, home testing kits for England were listed as “unavailable” on the government’s website – two hours after booking slots reopened.”

  • Questions raised over wisdom of “Nightingale” hospitals Lowdown April 27 raises the question that more and more NHS staff are asking: what are these new field hospitals for? Focused on the London Nightingale it comments:
    "It has made some good headlines, and has actually been compared with the massive Chinese effort in Wuhan, which involved clearing land and building a vast prefabricated hospital from scratch in just ten days: but reconfiguring a large pre-existing building comprised mostly of open space is not really in the same league, and questions are now being asked about how wise it was to do this, and whether the building has proved to be an asset or a liability.
    "Not least because … the hospital turns out to be lacking two key ingredients for success – staff, and patients."

  • Closed Hospitals Leave Rural Patients ‘Stranded’ as Coronavirus Spreads New York Times April 27 another horror story of for-profit health care in the US:
    "Fairmont was one of three hospitals that have shut down in this corner of rural West Virginia and Ohio since September. They delivered hundreds of babies each year, treated car crash and gunshot victims, repaired hearts and knees and offered addiction treatment and psychiatric care.
    "They had been acquired by a for-profit company, Alecto Healthcare Services, beginning in 2014. Employees expected the new ownership to put the institutions on solid footing after years of financial struggle.
    "Instead, decisions made by Alecto wound up undercutting patient care and undermining the hospitals’ finances, according to more than two dozen interviews with doctors, nurses, other staff members, government officials and patients, as well as a review of court records.
    "Doctors were pushed out to save on salaries; many patients followed them elsewhere. Medical supplies ran short. Vendors went unpaid. Finally, one after another, the three hospitals ceased operating. At the request of the governor, the West Virginia attorney general’s office is investigating the company’s decision to close them.
    "The shutdowns — besides Fairmont, Alecto owned Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, W.Va., and East Ohio Regional Hospital in neighboring Martins Ferry, Ohio — have forced the region to fight a coronavirus outbreak with 530 fewer licensed hospital beds than it had a year ago."

  • N.Y.C. Deaths Reach 6 Times the Normal Level, Far More Than Coronavirus Count Suggests New York Times April 7 reveals shocking calculations: "More than 27,000 New Yorkers have died since March 11 — 20,900 more than would be expected over this period and thousands more than have been captured by official coronavirus death statistics.
    "As of Sunday, the city had attributed 16,673 deaths to coronavirus, either because people had tested positive for the virus, or because the circumstances of their death meant that city health officials believed the virus to be the most likely cause of death.
    "But there remains a large gap between the 16,673 figure and the total deaths above typical levels in the last six and a half weeks: more than 4,200 people whose deaths are not captured by the official coronavirus toll."

  • Mitigating the wider health effects of covid-19 pandemic reponse Open access BMJ article concludes: "In the longer term, policy decisions made now will shape the future economy in ways that could either improve or damage sustainability, health, and health inequalities. These include decisions about which sectors to prioritise for support, whether to direct financial support to business or workers, and how to fund the costs. To protect population health it will be essential to avoid a further period of austerity and the associated reductions in social security and public service spending.
    "Instead we must build a more sustainable and inclusive economy."

  • Leading statistician slams UK’s reporting of swab tests as “travesty of science” BMJ News April 27: “The UK’s data collection and reporting of swab testing is a travesty of statistical science, as you can draw no inferences whatsoever about the evolution of the epidemic,” said Sheila Bird, former programme leader at the MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge Institute of Public Health. “Politicians only seem to be interested in the number of tests performed rather than what is actually happening in the epidemic,” she told The BMJ.
    “… Bird, a member of the Royal Statistical Society’s covid-19 taskforce, said that it makes no sense that swab test results from people in pillar 1 are combined rather than reported separately. There are potentially more direct exposure routes among the most critical workers than their household members, she warned, adding, “The grouping into pillars is a political construct and is not the way an epidemiologist would have organised the results.”

  • The government's secret science group has a shocking lack of expertise Guardian April 27 comment by Anthony Costello: "“Beyond that, what does the membership of this committee actually tell us? We’ve learned from the list of attendees at a crucial Sage meeting on 23 March, leaked to the Guardian, that the group includes seven clinical academics, three microbiologists, seven modellers, two behavioural scientists with backgrounds in disasters and terrorism, one geneticist, one civil servant and two political advisers, one of which is the most powerful prime ministerial lieutenant in recent memory.
    “The makeup of Sage reflects an oddly skewed and overwhelmingly medical view of science. Indeed, there are many other perspectives that could bring value to a pandemic crisis team. Did Sage consult public health epidemiologists at the frontline of the response to coronavirus in China or Hong Kong, such as Prof Gabriel Leung? Did the group get input from infectious experts at the World Health Organization, such as the epidemiologist Mike Ryan, who leads the team responsible for containing of Covid-19 across the world?
    “The group includes no molecular virologists who could explain detailed pathogenic differences between Covid-19 and influenza, not one intensive care expert or nursing leader, and no immunologist to examine whether this virus produces lasting and protective immunity. There are no social scientists who could work on community engagement, nor a logistician, who would have expertise in planning for the delivery of supplies and resources during a pandemic.”

  • Why bypass NHS labs for mass testing? Concerns over new super-labs Lowdown April 27 exclusive highlighting damaging fragmentation as government ignores NHS labs to build 3 new unregulated "superlabs":
    "Staff in NHS laboratories are increasingly alarmed at the implications of the government’s turn to create a new network of “super-labs” to process what is supposed to be a rising number of tests for Covid-19, leaving 44 NHS labs under-used.
    "The development of a new network of labs running parallel to the NHS has taken place with no transparency and no attempt to consult with the unions.
    "NHS scientific staff in south London have now contacted the Lowdown to express their frustration that while they have the capacity to process large numbers of tests, the NHS labs are struggling to get supplies of the kits and the reagents required.
    "One member of staff explained their concerns: “I am so annoyed about this testing fiasco.
    “I want to know why the new super-labs have been set up, because if they gave the NHS labs the resources they could easily to the tests. Our lab has been ready for ages to do large numbers of tests. We have the equipment and we have staff."

  • To tackle this virus, local public health teams need to take back control Guardian April 26 article by Prof Allyson Pollock and Peter Roderick: "Contact tracing and testing, case finding, isolation and quarantine are classic public health measures for controlling communicable diseases. They require local teams on the ground, meticulously tracking cases and contacts to eliminate the reservoirs of infection. This approach is recommended by the WHO at all stages of the epidemic. It was painstakingly adopted in China, Singapore and Taiwan, with a high percentage of close contacts identified and many housed in hotels. Germany has traced contacts throughout. The leaked UK national risk register proposes it.
    "Yet Public Health England, the agency responsible for communicable disease control in England, stopped contact tracing on 12 March, having reportedly only contacted 3,500 people, of whom about 105 were found to be positive. It’s now about to resume. But why was it stopped, and how will it be resumed?"

  • Who is the Government Trying to Fool – Us or Itself? Typically blunt article from Prof John Ashton in Byline Times 26 April, slamming government PR spin and failures to lead:
    "There was no mention here of the changing criteria for hospital admissions, leaving the frail to be nursed and die at home without the Coronavirus being recorded on the death certificate; no mention of the 400,000 care home residents abandoned and forsaken to take their chances with staff protected only by bin bags and whatever they could find in their wardrobes; of the seeds being planted for multiple deaths in individual care homes and of a similar scenario cooking up in prisons, with prisoners and prison officers and their families alike being off the radar of incompetence and hubris."

  • Test, test, test: can Britain find a way out of lockdown? “Guardian April 26 on the testing centres: “Nic Mitchell, a property and financial services adviser, began developing symptoms a few days ago, which forced her partner, the head engineer at a food processing factory, to go into isolation with her. … Mitchell’s partner is considered to be an essential worker, so they managed to book a test online.
    “The nearest centre for her was in Worcester, 22 miles from her home in Cheltenham. …
    “When Mitchell arrived at the testing site at Worcester Warriors rugby club just before 3pm on Saturday, she was told that there would be a two and a half hour wait – but the centre would shut at 5pm regardless. The only option was to attempt to rebook. “They told me they couldn’t cope,” she said. “It was very disappointing.”

  • Coronavirus tests run out in minutes again — and results will take a month (£) Times April 26 continues its critical line, calling out the inadequate new system for testing for Covid-19:
    "NHS staff are being forced to wait up to 25 days for the results of coronavirus tests as the government’s testing regime descends into farce.
    "The revelation came as tests for key workers via the government’s booking website ran out within minutes yesterday for the second day in a row.
    "Last week the Department of Health and Social Care said that it had finished setting up “the biggest network of diagnostic labs in British history”.

  • If ministers fail to reveal 2016 flu study they ‘will face court’ Guardian April 26: "The government faces being taken to court if it refuses to disclose the findings of an exercise confirming the UK could not cope with a flu pandemic.
    "Dr Moosa Qureshi, an NHS doctor, is demanding the government publish its report into Exercise Cygnus, a three-day simulation involving government and public health bodies conducted in 2016.
    "Qureshi, who is a campaigner with the group 54000doctors.org, represented by Leigh Day solicitors, has sent a pre-action protocol letter to the secretary of state for health requesting a response by 4pm .
    "If the government fails to disclose the findings of Exercise Cygnus without adequate reason, Qureshi’s lawyers will seek an urgent judicial review challenging the decision and seeking publication. A crowdfunding page to support the challenge was due to go live on Saturday night."

  • Public trust plummets in Britain's handling of pandemic, new poll reveals Observer April 26, in an article which the government tried to bully them into changing:
    "“The public’s confidence in the government’s ability to handle the coronavirus crisis has fallen sharply in the past fortnight, with less than half of voters now having faith in decisions made by ministers, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer.
    “A particularly low proportion of people (15%) believe the government is handling the key issue of testing well (down from 22% two weeks ago). Some 57% disapprove of the way testing has been handled, up from 48% on 7 April.
    “Just 7% of people think the level of testing for Covid-19 has been sufficient, while 71% think it has been insufficient – a finding barely changed since two weeks ago, despite the government’s huge efforts to “ramp up” the number of tests to 100,000 a day by the end of this month.
    “With more doubts raised over the past week about ministers’ handling of the crisis … Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, and Matt Hancock, health secretary – have both seen falls in public trust.”

  • Fresh anger over Doncaster Covid testing centre as keyworkers wait hours to be told to do their own test Doncaster Free Press reveals yet another failing test centre at Doncaster Airport:
    "“Those arriving at the front of the queue … are told by mobile phone to briefly open their window, while a test kit is thrown into their car. Then they have to close the window again, read the instructions and work out what to do, before swabbing themselves, and then throw the swab back out at another station.
    “… Angry workers have told the Free Press they only went to the testing centre because they thought they would be tested by a medic who knew what they were doing, and would have tested themselves at home if they had wanted to self test.
    “… James Collins, a care worker from Lincoln, drove from Lincoln to Doncaster on Saturday. He was seen for his 12noon appointment at 5.30pm. He fears the self testing flaws the process. He said: “I thought it would be done in 15 minutes. But I’m angry that it all had to be administered by myself. They might as well just give us tests at home. …
    “I think many of the tests will be invalid because it is something people have not done before, and it is scary to push the swab a long way up your nose and down your throat.”

  • Attendees of Sage meetings worried by presence of Cummings Guardian April 26: "The involvement of the prime minister’s chief political adviser, Dominic Cummings, in meetings of the scientific group advising the UK government’s response to the coronavirus has left other attendees shocked, concerned and worried for the impartiality of advice, the Guardian can reveal.
    "One attendee of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said they felt Cummings’ interventions had sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be an impartial scientific process.
    "A second Sage attendee said they were shocked when Cummings first began participating in Sage discussions, in February, because they believed the group should be providing “unadulterated scientific data” without any political input."

  • Coronavirus: Boris Johnson's return to work 'a boost for the country' BBC's April 26 headline borrows from the North Korean media handbook on fawning to flawed leaders. The content is no better. This passes for "analysis" from Political Correspondent Leila Nathoo:
    "It has been a "difficult time", acknowledged Dominic Raab of the period he's spent deputising for the PM.
    "The government has been without its leader through much of this tumultuous time but Boris Johnson is now well enough to be back in charge as the next major decision looms - where the lockdown goes from here."

  • Birmingham's Nightingale hospital 'has no patients' BBC Birmingham April 26 reports NHS leaders complacent about absorbing the extra pressure, when in fact much of the potential caseload of the new hospital has instead been dying without support in care homes:
    “Birmingham's Nightingale hospital is "not being used at all" 10 days after it was opened by the Duke of Cambridge. Set up inside the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), the site is intended to take up to 500 coronavirus patients at a time from 23 Midlands hospitals.
    “The chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said it was a "good thing" the hospital had not received patients. It showed the NHS had "absorbed" the extra pressure Dr David Rosser said.
    “Unlike the ExCel in London, Birmingham's Nightingale hospital was always devised as a step-down facility, so it would accept patients who had recovered sufficiently from coronavirus or who were not suitable for ventilation.
    “Fortunately, although the number of coronavirus cases have been significant, social isolating is working and the NEC has not been required for this purpose.
    “Trusts who have also had up to 20% of their staff off self-isolating or sick have not wanted to second employees to the new facility because their rotas are already stressed.
    “The Birmingham Nightingale is expected to be in use for 12-18 months and may be called upon if there is a second greater surge.”

  • Boris Johnson must overcome any public sector inertia (£) Torygraph at its most Tory, April 25, reveals its real view of the NHS: "It’s the story of this crisis: the private sector responds with innovation and energy, while government bureaucracies, on whose shoulders so much responsibility has been placed, are slow to act."

  • Top Tories join calls to bar Cummings from scientific advisory group Guardian April 25: "The former Brexit secretary, David Davis, is among those calling for Dominic Cummings and Ben Warner, an adviser who ran the Tories’ private election computer model, to be prevented from attending future meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
    "Davis said that Cummings’s presence could alter the advice offered in meetings, adding: “We should publish the membership of Sage, remove any non-scientist members, publish their advice in full, and publish dissenting opinions with the advice.”
    "It comes after the Guardian reported that Cummings and Warner were among the 23 who attended Sage on the day Johnson announced the lockdown, and had been able to question attendees at other meetings."

  • Coronavirus: how the government tried to dismiss Sunday Times investigation Sunday Times April 25 hits back at government attempts to rubbish their detailed revelation of the saga of its incompetence and callous disregard for life in its mishandling of the Covid-19 response.

  • Coronavirus and the Price of Trump’s Delusions Hard hitting summary from New York Times April 25 notes: "Trump, meanwhile, spoke of the crisis in the past tense, as something America is now emerging from, suggesting that all the country will face in the future is “some embers of corona.” The day before, the country had recorded around 2,200 deaths, making it one of the deadliest days of the pandemic in the United States.
    "Over the last three and a half years, Americans have had to accustom themselves to a relentless, numbing barrage of lies from the federal government. In one sector after another, we’ve seen experts systemically purged and replaced with toadying apparatchiks. The few professionals who’ve kept their jobs have often had to engage in degrading acts of public obeisance more common to autocracies. Public policy has zigzagged according to presidential whim. Empirical reality has been subsumed to Trump’s cult of personality."

  • Hospitals running out of kidney dialysis equipment needed to keep coronavirus patients alive More top stuff from Independent April 24: "Doctors told The Independent they were already under pressure to use equipment conservatively and choices were needing to be made about which patients should receive the treatment, without which they would likely die within 24 hours.
    "One consultant said supplies were now "just-in-time" addiing: "We are being asked to guess how many sets we will need four days in advance and bits of kit are being ferried between hospitals in taxis where those predictions aren't known. Clinically, for renal failure as part of critical illness we usually deliver filtration continuously. Because of shortages of kit and machines we are having to deliver it on an intermittent basis which is suboptimal.
    "For context, we have one machine per two ICU patients normally, but now have the same four machines for over four times the number of beds."

  • Revealed: UK ministers were warned last year of risks of coronavirus pandemic Guardian April 24: "Ministers were warned last year the UK must have a robust plan to deal with a pandemic virus and its potentially catastrophic social and economic consequences in a confidential Cabinet Office briefing leaked to the Guardian.
    "The detailed document warned that even a mild pandemic could cost tens of thousands of lives, and set out the must-have “capability requirements” to mitigate the risks to the country, as well as the potential damage of not doing so."

  • BAME doctors hit worse by lack of PPE BMA report April 24 on the findings from analysis of responses to the most recent BMA survey of thousands of frontline doctors battling COVID-19.
    "Almost double the proportion of BAME doctors (64 per cent) have felt pressured to work in settings with inadequate PPE where aerosol-generating procedures are carried out exposing them to risk of infection. This compares with 33 per cent of doctors who identified as white.
    "Only four out of 10 BAME doctors in general practice said they had sufficient PPE for safe contact with patients with possible or confirmed COVID-19 or those with non-COVID-19 symptoms. A far greater proportion – seven out of 10 doctors who identified as white – said the same."

  • Care homes' soaring death rate blamed on 'reckless' order to take back Covid-19 patients (£) Telegraph report April 24: "A Government diktat that NHS hospitals should move hundreds of elderly patients to care homes has been branded “reckless” and blamed for the homes’ soaring coronavirus death rates.
    "In two damning policy documents published on 19 March and 2 April, officials told NHS hospitals to transfer any patients who no longer required hospital level treatment, and set out a blueprint for care homes to accept patients with Covid-19 or who had not even been tested.
    "Analysis by the Telegraph suggests that the rate of coronavirus deaths accelerated more than twice as fast in care homes than in hospitals in the week beginning 7 April - two and a half weeks after the first policy document was published."

  • Testing for Covid-19 – an unresolved fiasco Detailed Lowdown update on the continued government failure to meet its own targets to rolling out testing for Covid-19.

  • Revealed: Dominic Cummings is on secret scientific advisory group for Covid-19 Guardian April 24 referring to leaked list: "The prime minister’s chief political adviser, Dominic Cummings, and a data scientist he worked with on the Vote Leave campaign for Brexit are on the secret scientific group advising the government on the coronavirus pandemic, according to a list leaked to the Guardian.
    "It reveals that both Cummings and Ben Warner were among 23 attendees present at a crucial convening of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on 23 March, the day Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown in a televised address.
    Multiple attendees of Sage told the Guardian that both Cummings and Warner had been taking part in meetings of the group as far back as February. The inclusion of Downing Street advisers on Sage will raise questions about the independence of its scientific advice."

  • Government and Covid-19 — A story of power, arrogance and incompetence Op-ed in PMQ magazine: "To try and wriggle out of the target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April – which he himself set at the beginning of the month, Hancock changed the wording of his promise. Claiming the government was perfectly on track to meet the “challenging” target, he and his two sidekicks (Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, and Professor John Newton, the director of health improvement at Public Health England) announced the official figures and talked about ‘testing capacity’, not ‘tests carried out’."

  • Six Royal Colleges write to the new PPE "Tsar" April 24 letter looks for action -- and some honesty:
    “It will be no surprise to you that our members remain concerned about PPE availability and stocks. While some report improvements over the last few weeks, too many still say there are significant issues.
    "Clinicians are facing the challenge of their lives and doing the very best for their patients. It saddens us that at this extraordinary time they are also having to worry about the fundamentals of personal safety, including when the next PPE consignment will arrive at their workplace and how long it will last. …
    “We encourage you to be open and frank in your new role about the challenges you face, while doing everything possible to get the supplies to where they are needed.”

  • Hospitals are using AI to predict the decline of Covid-19 patients — before knowing it works More US issues from Statnews April 24: "Dozens of hospitals across the country are using an artificial intelligence system created by Epic, the big electronic health record vendor, to predict which Covid-19 patients will become critically ill, even as many are struggling to validate the tool’s effectiveness on those with the new disease.
    "The rapid uptake of Epic’s deterioration index is a sign of the challenges imposed by the pandemic: Normally hospitals would take time to test the tool on hundreds of patients, refine the algorithm underlying it, and then adjust care practices to implement it in their clinics."

  • Time to demand a wholly public NHS and to create a public National Care Service Thoughtful video presentation by Keep Our NHS co-chair Dr Tony O'Sullivan

  • Hospitals sound alarm over privately run virus test centre at Surrey theme park Guardian April 23: "Hospitals sought to take over the operation of a flagship government coronavirus testing centre from the accounting firm Deloitte after severe failings in the service led to the test results of NHS staff being lost or sent to the wrong person, the Guardian can reveal.
    "The drive-through centre, at Chessington World of Adventures, in Surrey, was among the first in what will be a network of about 50 regional facilities, trumpeted by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, as key to delivering on the government promise of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April."

  • Flagship Nightingale hospital has only 30 patients amid staff shortage – claim Yahoo News April 23: "The NHS’s flagship Nightingale pop-up hospital is operating at roughly one per cent of its capacity because it does not have the staff required to expand the number of patients it can accept, a report has suggested.
    "The NHS Nightingale, in east London’s Royal Victoria Dock, was opened on April 3 amid much fanfare, promising to alleviate the pressure on hospitals in the city as the coronavirus took hold.
    "But insiders told The Independent how staffing levels had been “quite poor”, meaning it has barely been able to see more than 30 patients treated at a time."

  • Inside NHS Nightingale: Staff speak out about the reality of care in London’s coronavirus field hospital Excellent report from Independent's Shaun Lintern April 23: "…at the 100-acre ExCel centre in London Docklands, the number of patients fighting for their lives in the field hospital is approximately 30.
    "Questions are being asked about why the Nightingale isn’t taking more patients from London’s hospitals, which have carried the burden of the surge in patients needing intensive care, cancelling operations, creating makeshift intensive care units in overspill areas and stretching staffing to unsafe levels.
    "Up to 3,800 staff were needed for the initial creation of the hospital, although The Independent has been told only around a third of that number had been recruited and trained. NHS England refused to provide any staffing details, but denies there are shortages.
    "Insiders who work at varying levels in the hospital, who have spoken to The Independent on condition of anonymity, also criticise the “political spin” and portrayal of the Nightingale which they say has given a “false perception” of what it is like, with social media posts doing “more harm than good”."

  • Emails reveal doctor's plea for PPE before Covid-19 death Guardian April 23: "An NHS doctor who died of Covid-19 had pleaded in vain for his hospital to provide protective equipment in the days before he caught the virus, emails shared with the Guardian by his family show.
    "Dr Peter Tun, from Reading, died on 13 April. Three weeks before his death, he warned Royal Berkshire hospital that unless they supplied the vital kit he and his colleagues needed to avoid becoming infected, “it will be too little and too late”."

  • http://sushrutajnl.net/index.php/sushruta/article/view/34 Paper on an online self-administered survey of healthcare workers was undertaken by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin in April 2020. The respondents were predominantly hospital doctors (67%), aged between 40-60 years (72%) and from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds in the UK (86%).
    “Over 78% reported either lack of, or inappropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for their role and 68% of respondents felt that they were unable to comply with or that it was impractical to adhere to social distancing at work (including commuting).”
    It concludes: “These results add to the emerging concerns expressed internationally on the observation that BAME ethnicity appears to have a higher risk of developing COVID-19 … Our work supports the imperative for designing and conducting urgent larger studies to understand this risk and plan appropriate mitigation of the risks to health care workers”

  • How politics thwarted the UK’s Covid-19 response Financial Times April 23 joins the line up of establishment press critical of the government’s handling of the biggest health crisis in many years:
    “When the inevitable national inquiry reports into Britain’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the first item on the charge sheet will be a failure to act decisively at the outset to suppress the pandemic.
    “Some Whitehall insiders call this a stumble, a passing hesitation. Some talk about reckless complacency. Others observe laconically that Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not react well to bad news. Britain lagged behind most of Europe in the spread of the infection.
    “Yet, in spite of the lessons to be drawn from Italy and elsewhere, it has one of the highest death rates outside of the US. Management failures in procurement and distribution compounded political mistakes in depriving it of critical resources such as ventilators, testing capacity and personal safety equipment.”

  • Coronavirus-linked deaths FT calculations show more than 40,000 deaths from Covid-19

  • Dozens of British firms offering PPE “ignored” by government, says Labour Labour List April 22: "36 British companies have contacted the opposition since the weekend to say they have offered help with the provision of PPE for frontline staff but “not received a reply”.
    "The details of these companies have been passed on to the government by Labour in an effort to support the national drive to adequately equip NHS and care workers."

  • Covid-19 bonuses for prison staff, what about care workers? While @MattHancock continues to insist that now is “not the time” to discuss any increase in NHS pay, the Prison and Probation Service have agreed to fork out substantial Covid-19 bonuses to staff - says a March 23 document leaked to The Lowdown

  • '60,000 cancer patients could die because of lack of treatment or diagnosis': Oncologist on coronavirus dilemma ITN reports April 22, quoting private sector cancer specialist Karol Sikora: "In a usual April, we would normally see around 30,000 people diagnosed with cancer. I would be surprised if that number reaches 5,000 this month.
    "Coronavirus will steal the headlines, but cancer kills 450 people a day in the UK - there is no peak and the numbers aren’t coming down. Unless we act urgently, that number will rise. A group of oncologists, including myself, estimate that 60,000 cancer patients could die because of a lack of treatment or diagnosis.
    "It’s absolutely right to stop the treatment for some cancers in the face of coronavirus. The immunosuppressive effects of the treatment would put the patient at risk as their immune system is significantly weakened. But for others, a delay of more than a month would have a negative impact on the future prognosis."

  • Two-thirds of voters say government has done bad job getting protective equipment to NHS staff - poll Politics Home April 22 quotes a YouGov poll: "A clear majority of British people believe the Government has done a bad job in providing personal protective equipment for NHS frontline staff, according to a new poll.
    "The YouGov survey also showed public support for the Government's overall performance in the coronavirus crisis is beginning to fall.
    "According to the results, 65% of UK adults think ministers have done a "fairly bad" or "very bad" job in getting healthcare workers the PPE they need.
    "By contrast, only 26% think they have done a good job in sourcing and delivering vital kit."

  • Coronavirus Kent: 'Mass' Covid-19 testing site to open in county Kent Online April 21 reveals plans for a single testing centre to cover the whole of Kent – with the involvement of management consultants Deloitte: “Plans are underway to create a "mass" coronavirus testing site in Kent, it has emerged.
    “A major centre is expected to be built at an undisclosed location in the county after a proposal was discussed between public health bosses at Kent County Council and consultant firm, Deloitte.
    “Boris Johnson's government and NHS England will have the final say on the testing centre plans, with more details expected from the government later this week.”

  • Millions of pieces of PPE being shipped from Britain to Europe despite NHS shortages (£) Telegraph April 21 joins the Mail and Sunday Times in criticising government: "Millions of pieces of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) are being shipped from British warehouses to Germany, Spain and Italy despite severe shortages in the UK, The Telegraph can disclose.
    "Lorries are being packed with masks, respirators and other PPE kit before heading to supply hospitals in the EU, it has emerged.
    "On Monday night, UK firms said they had "no choice" but to keep selling the lifesaving gear abroad because their offers of help had been repeatedly ignored by the British Government."

  • Matt Hancock: Report the true death toll from COVID-19 Leaked guidance from an NHS hospital trust reveals that doctors are not being required to report COVID-19 as the cause of death for patients. Here’s what the guidance says:
    "Doctors are asked to use the standard MCCD (Medical Certificate of Cause of Death) form to certify death. ‘Pneumonia ‘or ‘community acquired pneumonia’ are acceptable at 1(a) on the MCCD. There is no requirement to write COVID 19 as part of the MCCD. It may be mentioned at 1(b) on the form, should the doctor wish."

  • Government shelves Priti Patel’s immigration bill during coronavirus outbreak The European April 21 reports: "The bill - which would have formally ceased freedom of movement with Europe after the Brexit transition period - was pulled from the Commons order paper by Jacob Rees-Mogg ahead of a second reading on Tuesday.
    "It comes as ministers spent the last week mulling over plans to delay the reading because of the outbreak of the coronavirus, and MPs grappled with new technology as the House of Commons moves into a new “virtual parliament”."

  • Union Leaders Demand Judge-Led Inquiry Probes 'Grotesque' PPE Shortages Huffington Post April 21 reports TUC call for “A judge-led public inquiry” to investigate the “grotesque” failure to give frontline workers personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic.
    It should also investigate “Whether frontline workers were threatened with disciplinary action if they refused to work and whether official PPE guidance left them at risk.”
    “Ministers have repeatedly faced criticism for failing to provide enough PPE since the outbreak began and have blamed “distribution problems”, delays and “international demand” for shortfalls. But critics say poor planning and chaos within government have put NHS frontline workers in harm’s way.”

  • Foreign NHS workers are risking their lives for us – and paying for the privilege Guardian April 19 comment on yet another incoherent Theresa May/Johnson policy that manages to be racist and damaging to the NHS: indeed it's bad enough before they implement their 2019 election promise to further jack up the "immigration surcharge" from £400 to £625 per person per year:
    "Many of the foreign doctors, nurses and care workers on the NHS frontline without adequate protection are secretly struggling on another front, too.
    "They cannot afford to pay the fees levied by the Home Office to enable them to remain in the UK and continue their work.
    "Often they fall into debt to pay the charges. Some of them simply leave the country once their permits are up for renewal, unable to find the money. The highest single fee they face is the immigration health surcharge, which must be paid in advance. So you have the spectacle of NHS staff paying to use the NHS, even though they already pay tax and national insurance contributions."

  • This is how many chances the government 'missed' to buy £1.3bn worth of PPE with the EU, reports suggest Indy reports April 18: "Downing Street originally said that it only failed to join the scheme because of an email miscommunication, but it was revealed at the end of March that British officials in Brussels had attended four meetings where bulk-buying was discussed, according to EU minutes reported by The Guardian. At the time, the government was accused of choosing "Brexit over breathing" in choosing not to participate in the ventilator, but Downing Street stressed that it was down to communication mixup, not politics.
    "It is now reported that the UK missed three opportunities to buy protective equipment – which appears to contradict No 10’s claim that the confusion was down to a missed email."

  • The government must commit to a full public inquiry into lack of PPE for NHS staff Change.org petition: "Frontline NHS staff are putting their lives on the line every time they turn up to work in the fight against COVID-19.
    "The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) has been lobbying for weeks for adequate personal protective equipment in our Protect the Frontline campaign. Despite our efforts and multiple reassurances the PPE situation has now become dire.
    "Doctors are dying. Nurses are dying. This is unforgivable. DAUK is now calling for a full public inquiry into the government’s failure to source adequate PPE and protect frontline staff. We need a commitment to this now, with a full inquiry to be launched once the COVID-19 crisis is over."

  • Conditions at coronavirus hospital NHS Nightingale 'as tough as war zone' Mirror April 18: "Army medic Jamie Jones, 41, retired from the forces in 2010 after 15 years and became a health adviser.
    "But when he was furloughed he helped build the 4,000-bed facility and then accepted an offer to do 12-hour shifts maintaining ventilators and other emergency gear in the critical resuscitation team.
    "He said: “Working at Nightingale is as tough as Camp Bastion or any of the other seven operational deployments and tours I’ve done – only this time the enemy is an incredibly evil and dangerous virus we still don’t understand."

  • Union leader says Matt Hancock may have to consider his position over PPE failures Mirror April 19 report on toughening line of GMB and Unite over PPE crisis: “Union leaders say faith in Health Secretary Matt Hancock is "draining away" after the change in personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance, suggesting he might have to consider his position.
    “ Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced in today's daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing very large consignment" of personal protective equipment - including 400,000 gowns - is due to arrive in the UK from Turkey tomorrow. But the NHS is currently using 150,000 gowns a day - meaning the new shipment will last just days.
    “Earlier, Rachel Harrison, national officer of the GMB, said the union raised critical protective equipment supply issues with the Government more than a month ago.
    "It took until last Friday for ministers' PPE plan to be published, and it's falling apart after just a week. It is key workers on the front line who are paying the price for this litany of failure. It appears Government guidance is being hastily redrawn based on availability, not on evidence or best practice. This is downright dangerous territory and one that will amplify the concerns of NHS staff.
    "The Health Secretary now has serious and urgent questions to answer. Trust is draining away.”

  • Could Covid 19 bring an end to privatisation in our NHS? Morning Star feature (April 18) from HCT and Lowdown editor John Lister discussing the need to ensure the NHS is not dragged back to its pre-pandemic situation when the current crisis eventually subsides. With much of the 2012 Health & Social Care Act and the competitive market suspended, debts written off, spending limits lifted, extra beds opened and damaging plans postponed, it's shown how much better the NHS could have been without Tory laws and 10 years of austerity. "A properly integrated NHS must not be seen as only for pandemics — we need it all year round."

  • Response to Sunday Times Insight article Department of Health spin doctors roll out an unprecedented attempt to rebuttal of the well-researched and widely-respected Sunday Times critique of government mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Revolves around arguing that Johnson's role in Cobra is irrelevant and insignificant -- not the attitude of previous prime ministers.

  • UPDATE 'A National Scandal' Timeline of the UK Government’s Response TO THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS Ian Sinclair and Rupert Read with a weekly Byline Times update on how Britain came to have one of the highest COVID-19 per capita death rates in the world.

  • U.K. Medics Told to Decide If Safe to Work Amid PPE Shortage Bloomberg report April 20: "The U.K. is struggling to acquire enough protective gear for its front-line staff amid a global surge in demand, prompting criticisms that is failing to protect them adequately. Last week, the government advised medics to reuse gowns, something the Royal College of Physicians warned would “cause consternation” among health care workers.
    "Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said the country distributed 12 million pieces of protective equipment yesterday, and today received 140,000 gowns from Myanmar."

  • Nurses Sue Montefiore for ‘Systemic Failure’ to Protect Them US report from Bloomberg 20 April: "A union representing New York nurses sued Montefiore Medical Center and Westchester Medical Center for failing to safeguard its members and their families, as health care workers across the country demand personal protective equipment in the pandemic.
    "The New York State Nurses Association, which represents 42,000 nurses, is seeking an order requiring Montefiore and WMC to give the nurses sufficient PPE such as masks and gowns, provide improved ventilation and protection from the virus, and comply with negotiated staffing ratios, particularly for patients in intensive care units or on respirators. It said at least eight of its nurses have died from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, across the state."

  • Contrary to claims by US president, CDC experts long-advised the White House from Geneva, officials say Independent report April 20: "A dozen US researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organisation as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration, according to US and international officials.
    "The presence of so many US officials undercuts President Donald Trump‘s assertion that the WHO’s failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States."

  • Government advisers 'lying to support regime with collapsing credibility', says Lancet editor April 20 MSN report: “Richard Horton, the editor of medical journal The Lancet, criticised the government’s advisers, accused them of telling “manifest untruths”.
    “In a tweet posted on Sunday evening, he wrote: “When you see supposedly independent medical advisors to government tell what are manifest untruths to shore up a political regime whose credibility is rapidly collapsing, you have to say that those advisors have lost their integrity and our trust.”
    “On Sunday, during the government’s daily COVID-19 briefing, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, claimed the UK has been an “international exemplar in preparedness” during the pandemic.
    “She made the remark despite anger from NHS officials over a continued lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and a report in the Sunday Times claiming the government dithered in its response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.”

  • UK’s scientific advice on coronavirus to be secret until after pandemic (£) Times article April 20: The scientific evidence that has underpinned No 10’s response to Covid-19 will not be made public until the pandemic ends, the government chief science adviser has told MPs.
    "Sir Patrick Vallance said that the minutes of meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) — the government’s most senior team of expert advisers — would only be released “once Sage stops convening on this emergency”.

  • WHO head warns worst of virus is still ahead Politico April 20: "The head of the World Health Organization has warned that “the worst is yet ahead of us” in the coronavirus outbreak, raising new alarm bells about the pandemic just as many countries are beginning to ease restrictive measures.
    "WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn’t specify exactly why he believes that the outbreak that has infected nearly 2.5 million people and killed over 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, could get worse. Some people, though, have pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed."

  • The government can’t fight coronavirus, so it’s fighting journalists instead Excellent stuff from Independent April 20: "The Conservatives’ 2,000-word rebuttal to a news article they don’t like shines a light on precisely nothing beyond their own towering ineptitude."

  • Mid Yorks nurses given 'cagoules' instead of gowns BBC April 20 report: "Nurses have been left in tears after being given what look like cagoules to protect themselves at an NHS trust, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said.
    "Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said it was trying to conserve stocks in the "absence of certainty" about the next delivery of gowns."

  • Care home deaths 'far higher' than official figures BBC (April 19) catches up with some of the press coverage highlighting unreliable figures that underestimated deaths of CV-19 in care homes:
    "New data has added to growing evidence that the number of deaths linked to coronavirus in UK care homes may be far higher than those recorded so far.
    "The National Care Forum (NCF) estimates that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all residential and nursing homes.
    "Its report comes amid calls for accurate data on virus-linked deaths.
    "Only 217 such care home deaths have been officially recorded in England and Wales up to 3 April.
    "The NCF, which represents not-for-profit care providers, said its findings highlight significant flaws in the official reporting of coronavirus-related death statistics."

  • Backlash as NHS staff told: ‘Avoid tweeting about political issues like PPE’ April 19 report from east Anglia daily Times reveals mechanism for gagging orders preventing staff speaking out on vital issues: branding shortages of PPE as a "political" issue:
    “PPE, Covid-19 testing and an exit strategy from the pandemic are vital clinical matters, not ‘political’ subjects for suppression to save the government from embarrassment,” said a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk.
    "Campaigners also feel the move means “genuine front line ‘heroes’ cannot say what they really think”.

  • When this is over, we must give our most vulnerable the dignity they deserve AND reward the heroes who give them such devoted care, says SIR KEIR STARMER Labour leader Keir Starmer in remarkably limp and low key article in Daily Mail:
    “First, our carers need to be kept safe. … too many of them are being left exposed because of shortages of personal protection equipment (PPE).
    “The Government says it is doing everything it can to supply equipment. I do not doubt its sincerity. However, there is a mismatch between the statements coming out of Downing Street and the realities for staff on the ground. That needs to come to an end, and fast.
    “Second, we need more information. The crisis in our care homes has gone unheard for too long, in part because we do not know the full scale of the problem. That is why we urgently need Ministers to publish daily figures on the number of deaths in care homes. …
    “Third, testing, testing and more testing. Matt Hancock’s announcement that all care home residents and staff with symptoms would be tested is welcome. But many of us will be asking why on earth was this not done sooner? A council leader I spoke to last week told me that of its 5,000 social care workers, only ten had been tested. That is astonishing.”

  • Medical staff face weeks without protective gowns Observer April 19: "Doctors and nurses treating Covid-19 patients face shortages of protective full-length gowns for weeks to come, it has emerged, as anger builds over the failure to stockpile the garments.
    "Critical shortages of the gowns have meant that some trusts have already had to make do with the best available alternatives as a result of the shortages, which forced a sudden change in Public Health England (PHE) guidelines on the use of gowns on Friday. Concerns are being raised within the NHS over why the gowns did not form part of the government’s pandemic stockpile."

  • Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster Free access link to keynote (£) paywalled Sunday Times extended analysis of blunders and negligence of Johnson government

  • Half of frontline care workers paid less than living wage Under valued, under risk, under paid. Observer April 19 reports: "More than half of social care workers putting their health at risk during the coronavirus outbreak are paid below the real cost of living, according to an analysis of their working conditions. Staff are also four times more likely to be on a zero-hours contract than the average worker.
    "Many care workers and providers were continuing to experience shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and access to testing this weekend, amid concerns in local government over the extent of the pandemic. One estimate suggests that 5,300 people have died in care homes from Covid-19, dwarfing official estimates. Care England, an industry trade association, said the figure could be above 7,000 deaths."

  • Front-line NHS staff deserve extra £29 a day, Lib Dems say BBC reports that as Matt Hancock offers rounds of applause and a crappy badge, it's the Lib Dems of all people who suggest extra cash for the staff facing the biggest risks. They might of course prefer adequate supplies of PPE, and an increase in basic pay.

  • Trusts need certainty on gowns delivery and focussing on individual consignments is unhelpful April 19 press comment from NHS Providers, which seems to be cautiously edging towards an actual criticism of the government's handling of the crisis -- at least in regards to broken promises of supplies of PPE to NHS staff. It's still a long way from the outspoken lines taken by NHS Providers before the pandemic struck.

  • Hospital leaders hit out at government as PPE shortage row escalates Guardian 19 April report slightly exaggerates the open criticism but highlights shifting mood of hospital booses:
    "Hospital leaders have directly attacked the government for the first time during the coronavirus crisis over the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) after a desperately needed consignment of surgical gowns that had been announced by ministers failed to arrive.
    "In an unprecedented intervention, which hospital leaders privately say is the result of “intense frustration and exasperation”, the organisations representing NHS trusts in England urged ministers to “just focus on what we can be certain of” after weeks of “bitter experience” with failed deliveries."

  • 'Enormous strain' on protective kit for NHS - Williamson BBC 19 April report which notes almost at the very end the appointment after weeks of fudge, failure and the failure of even the army to make the privatised "NHS Supply Chain" work for delivery of PPE that Matt Hancock has now appointed a new supremo to tosrt it out: "The government has appointed Lord Deighton, who headed the organising committee of the London Olympics, to resolve problems with supplies and distribution of PPE." Deighton is a former Tory MP, Treasury Minister and investment banker. Don't hold your breath waiting for results.

  • Domestic violence: Hotels say offer of refuge for domestic abuse victims has been snubbed Observer April 19 flags up yet another display of ineptitude and bungling by ministers: "Hotel and hostel chains which offered the UK government thousands of rooms to ensure domestic abuse victims could flee violence during the coronavirus lockdown say their gesture has been snubbed.
    "The chains, which asked not to be named, wanted to help solve the absence of refuge places as domestic violence soars.
    "Jennifer Nadel, co-director of Compassion in Politics, described the government’s response as “foot-dragging at its most unnecessary, irresponsible and lethal”."

  • Piers Morgan is right about the coronavirus crisis – and this is why you’re surprised Interesting Independent April 19 article on why the attack dog of the Brexit right has now become a champion of the NHS retweeted by the left:
    "In this climate, Morgan is giving voice to the moral outrage felt over the government’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus crisis, which has led to thousands of potentially avoidable deaths. Labour has positioned itself as broadly supportive and its MPs note how difficult it must be for government, none of which speaks to the mounting sense of public despair. It is not helped by parliament being mothballed in an ill-advised recess (it will sit virtually from next week)."

  • Government not being honest enough, says former Chief Scientific Adviser Channel 4 April 19: As the Chief Scientific Adviser, he dealt with crises including the foot and mouth disease outbreak, but now Professor Sir David King says he’s shocked and saddened that the UK failed to respond quickly to this pandemic. And he wants the government to be more open and honest with the public.

  • Japan's medical system faces catastrophe as sick people turned away from hospitals Independent April 19: “The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine and the Japanese Society for Emergency Medicine say many hospital emergency rooms are refusing to treat people including those suffering strokes, heart attacks and external injuries.
    “…The outbreak has highlighted underlying weaknesses in medical care in Japan, which has long been praised for its high quality insurance system and reasonable costs.
    “… Japan lacks enough hospital beds, medical workers or equipment. Forcing anyone with the virus into hospital, even those with mild symptoms, has left hospitals overcrowded and understaffed.”

  • Undocumented migrants dying of coronavirus because they’re too afraid to seek help, MPs and charities warn Independent April 18 report: "The current NHS charging policy, introduced in 2018 as part of the “hostile environment”, charges non-EU patients 50 per cent more than it costs the NHS to treat them and requires hospital staff to demand proof of entitlement to free healthcare.
    "In response to the coronavirus outbreak, ministers introduced regulations on 29 January that meant no charge could be made to an overseas visitor for diagnosis or treatment of the virus, saying it was “very important, for public health protection, that overseas visitors are not deterred from seeking treatment for Covid-19”.
    "However, the MPs warned that while this was a “welcome step” it did “not go far enough”, adding: “It does not undo years of hostile environment policies, in which migrants have been told that they will be charged for healthcare or faced with immigration enforcement when accessing public services. In the present moment, this undermines the government’s efforts to respond to the pandemic.”

  • Trusts told sending patients and staff to almost empty Nightingale is essential to recovery HSJ report April 18: "NHS organisations in London have been asked to send more than 200 doctors and nurses to the temporary Nightingale hospital, as regional leaders seek to increase the number of patients being treated there.
    "The facility in east London was built to provide intensive care to around 3600 Covid positive patients. But it has remained largely empty since it opened as London trusts have been able to absorb the demand within their own expanded critical care capacity.
    "A letter to senior leaders in the capital, leaked to HSJ, said that using the Nightingale’s capacity was vital in helping London’s hospitals restore some of their typical services, such as elective surgery, as well as coping with rising emergency demand as social distancing measures are relaxed. There has been a major reduction in normal hospital activity during the coronavirus outbreak."

  • Coronavirus UK: large consignment of PPE to arrive tomorrow, says Jenrick – as it happened Guardiian April 18: "NHS frontline workers may refuse to work if there is not enough PPE to ensure their safety, the UK’s largest union said. The warning came in response to new guidance from Public Health England, revealed by the Guardian on Friday, which instructs healthcare workers to reuse disposable PPE and recommends that medics wear aprons if they are unable to access full-length gowns. There are growing concerns that some PPE supplies are dangerously close to running out."

  • Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster Major (£) Sunday Times analysis exposes the record of government negligence and incompetence in addressing Covid-19 threat: "The virus had spread from China to six countries and was almost certainly in many others. Sensing the coming danger, the British government briefly went into wartime mode that day, holding a meeting of Cobra, its national crisis committee.
    "But it took just an hour that January 24 lunchtime to brush aside the coronavirus threat. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, bounced out of Whitehall after chairing the meeting and breezily told reporters the risk to the UK public was “low".

  • How did Britain get its coronavirus response so wrong? Guardian's extended and detailed critique of government handling of the pandemic:
    "It is perhaps too early to conclude for sure that Johnson, Hancock and the government’s entire team of scientific and medical advisers were caught asleep at the wheel. But the fact that Johnson and Hancock themselves, in common with much of the Downing Street staff, would go on to contract the virus or suffer symptoms, further suggests that people at the top had not been sufficiently on their guard.
    "Now, 11 weeks on from the first cases being confirmed in the UK on 31 January – a period during which more than 14,000 people (and probably several thousands more once care home fatalities are counted) in the UK have died from Covid-19 – and with the country in lockdown, the economy facing prolonged recession as a result, schools closed, and no sign of an end in sight – hard questions have to be asked.
    "We already know with some certainty that other countries, such as Germany, South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand, will emerge from this crisis having performed far better than the UK."

  • Revealed: The UK’s “Three Stage” Exit Strategy To Ease The Coronavirus Lockdown Buzzfeed analysis April 18: "A "best case scenario" would see some non-essential retail shops and industries reopen in early to mid-May, further social distancing measures relaxed over the summer, but the elderly and vulnerable facing strict "shielding" restrictions lasting until a vaccine is found."

  • 'There's no pandemic...Media's the cancer' — People across the U.S., many of whom are vocal Trump supporters, are protesting stay-at-home orders." Scary display of US ignorance and unbelievable stupidity whipped up by Trump from Now This video

  • A Nurse’s Hospital Wouldn’t Let Her Wear an N95 Mask. She Hasn’t Been Back to Work in Weeks US news from ProPublica April 18: "ProPublica spoke to 15 doctors and nurses from New Jersey to California to North and South Carolina who said their administrators have normalized poor infection control practices — putting them at risk and likely spreading the virus.
    "A study published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that health care workers are getting infected at high rates, which also makes them a source of transmission.
    "ProPublica and others have reported on staff who were suspended or fired for bringing their own gowns and masks and other protective equipment, or speaking up about it. But clinicians are saying there’s an even deeper problem.
    "The conditions are so unsafe they’re being forced to choose between their livelihoods and risking their lives — and that means some are walking away."

  • Unseen footage of Boris Johnson on 3rd February stating the UK will stand alone against world wide lockdowns Interesting reinforcement for the growing number of critiques revealing how badly wrong he and his government were in the early handling of the pandemic, with disatrous and lethal consequences.

  • UK care home Covid-19 deaths 'may be five times government estimate' Guardian April 18: "“Care England, Britain’s largest representative body for care homes, told the Daily Telegraph that up to 7,500 care home residents may have died of the virus.
    “This is significantly higher than the figure of 1,400 people estimated to have died by the government earlier this week.
    “Without testing, it is very difficult to give an absolute figure,” Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, said. “However, if we look at some of the death rates since 1 April and compare them with previous years’ rates, we estimate a figure of about 7,500 people may have died as a result of Covid-19.”
    “The figure is also significantly higher than the 217 care home deaths recorded in the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which runs up to 3 April.”

  • Will Big Pharma Fleece Us On A COVID Treatment That We Helped Fund? Blog from US commentator David Sirota: “Drug companies often justify their high prices by insisting that when a medicine comes to market, they need to recoup the money they spent on R&D, some of which inevitably ends up being a loss as they chase promising but unsuccessful therapies. That same return-on-investment logic could also apply to taxpayers -- when we take the financial risk of funding original medical research, our ROI could be in the form of affordable prices for the medicines that eventually come from that research.
    “In fact, that was the very concept embedded in our laws during the Bush I administration, after criticism of the high price of a leading anti-AIDS drug developed at taxpayer expense.
    “The NIH rule’s principle was simple: drugs developed at taxpayer expense and then licensed to commercial pharmaceutical companies must ultimately be offered to consumers at a fair and reasonable price. …
    “That NIH rule, however, was rescinded by Bill Clinton’s administration -- a big win for “the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, which campaigned against the pricing clause,” according to a contemporaneous report from the New York Times”

  • C.D.C. Labs Were Contaminated, Delaying Coronavirus Testing, Officials Say New Yoprk Times April 18 highlights confusion and incompetence in US similar to that revealed in British government handling of the crisis: "To this day, the C.D.C.’s singular failure symbolizes how unprepared the federal government was in the early days to combat a fast-spreading outbreak of a new virus and it also highlights the glaring inability at the onset to establish a systematic testing policy that would have revealed the still unknown rates of infection in many regions of the country.
    "The blunders are posing new problems as some states with few cases agitate to reopen and others remain in virtual lockdown with cases and deaths still climbing.
    "While President Trump and other members of his administration assert almost daily that the U.S. testing capacity is greater than anywhere else in the world, many public health officials and epidemiologists have lamented the lack of consistent, reliable testing across the country that would reflect the true prevalence of the infection and perhaps enable a return to some semblance of normal life."

  • Hancock faces calls to resign over coronavirus PPE shortages (£) Times April 18: “A “very large consignment” of personal protective equipment — including 400,000 gowns – is due to arrive in the UK tomorrow as the health secretary faced calls to resign over the shortages.
    “Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said that 84 tonnes of PPE would arrive in the UK from Turkey on Sunday amid reports that 60 NHS trusts were expecting to exhaust their stocks of gowns within hours.
    “The announcement came as Matt Hancock, the health secretary, was told he might have to “consider his position” as union leaders criticised his handling of the PPE crisis.
    “Faith in Hancock is “draining away”, union leaders said as NHS staff were told to re-use PPE and wear aprons to treat coronavirus patients.”

  • Half of nursing staff under pressure to work without PPE RCN survey, conducted over the Easter weekend, "shows that half of nursing staff have felt pressure to carry out their work without the levels of protection set out in official guidance. This includes those working in the most high-risk environments, such as areas where patients with or suspected of having COVID-19 are being treated on ventilators.
    "Of those treating possible or confirmed COVID-19 patients in these high-risk areas, around half (51%) reported that they are being asked to reuse items of personal protective equipment (PPE) that are marked ‘single use’ by manufacturers. Of those treating COVID-19 patients elsewhere, over a third (39%) said they were being asked to reuse this equipment.

    "RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “These figures unmask the gut-wrenching shortages nursing staff are dealing with in all health care settings. It is little wonder they are in such fear for their own safety and that of their patients. This crisis is taking the lives of nursing staff, and their colleagues feel they’ve been left exposed. All decision makers involved here need to get an urgent grip on the situation. Nursing staff just want to do their jobs – they must be given protection in order to do so.”

  • NHS director warned smaller care providers could fail last month and Government failed to act A hint of criticism from the stoutly loyal (£) Daily Torygraph April 18 as they survey the instability and chaos of the social care in private hands: "An NHS director warned "lots" of private care homes could fail before the sector burned through two thirds of the coronavirus support package for councils in just three weeks, The Telegraph can disclose.
    "Such is the scale of financial turmoil facing smaller homes dealing with Covid-19 that an initial £1.6billion support package to cover demand across council services was immediately branded insufficient.
    "On Saturday, the Government doubled that contribution, handing over another £1.6billion to the wider effort by local authorities.
    "However, ministers will continue to face mounting questions over a financial black hole facing the care sector."

  • Could Covid 19 bring an end to the privatisation of our NHS Morning Star April 18 article from HCT and Lowdown Editor John Lister looking at the issues to be addressed as the crisis level is reduced: campaigners must prevent the Tories from wanting to drag the NHS back to its pre-pandemic system.

  • Could Covid 19 bring an end to the privatisation of our NHS Morning Star April 18 article from HCT and Lowdown Editor John Lister looking at the issues to be addressed as the crisis level is reduced: campaigners must prevent the Tories from wanting to drag the NHS back to its pre-pandemic system.

  • Could Covid 19 bring an end to the privatisation of our NHS Morning Star April 18 article from HCT and Lowdown Editor John Lister looking at the issues to be addressed as the crisis level is reduced: campaigners must prevent the Tories from wanting to drag the NHS back to its pre-pandemic system.

  • Refugees among hundreds of overseas medics to respond to NHS call Guardian April 17 report: "Hundreds of foreign-born doctors, including refugees, have signed up to become medical support workers as part of a new scheme aimed at helping the NHS tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
    "NHS England launched the initiative for international medical graduates and doctors after calls to fast track the accreditation of overseas medics.
    "The NHS plans to deploy the workers, who have passed an English language exam, in small numbers initially.

  • Muddled thinking punctures plan for British ventilator Financial Times (April 17) analysis: "Matt Hancock invoked the wartime “Blitz Spirit”, urging companies to pivot factory lines to make ventilators. “We cannot make too many,” he wrote.
    "That was March 14 and the genesis of a project designed as a showcase for British innovation and self-reliance, likened to the production of Spitfire fighter aircraft in the second world war.
    "But what emerged was a procurement programme insiders say was plagued by disjointed thinking that sent volunteer, non-specialist manufacturers down the wrong track, designing products clinicians and regulators so far deemed largely unsuitable for treating Covid-19 patients. "

  • NHS staff told 'wear aprons' as protective gowns run out Guardian report April 17: "NHS bosses have asked doctors and nurses to work without protective full-length gowns when treating Covid-19 patients, as hospitals came within hours of running out of supplies.
    "The guidance is a reversal of Public Health England (PHE) guidelines stipulating that full-length waterproof surgical gowns, designed to stop coronavirus droplets getting into someone’s mouth or nose, should be worn for all high-risk hospital procedures.
    "In a significant U-turn, PHE advised frontline staff to wear a flimsy plastic apron with coveralls when gowns ran out, in a move that doctors and nurses fear may lead to more of them contracting the virus and ultimately putting lives at risk. "

  • Mortality associated with covid-19 outbreaks in care homes: early international evidence April 17 update of report from International Long term Care Policy Network:
    "Official data from 7 countries suggests that the share of care home residents whose deaths are linked to COVID-19 is much lower in 2 countries where there have been fewer deaths in total (14% in Australia, where there have been 63 deaths, and 20% in Singapore, where there have been 10 deaths).
    "In the remaining 5 countries for which we have official data (Belgium, Canada, France, Ireland and Norway), and where the number of total deaths ranges from 136 to 17,167, the % of COVID-related deaths in care homes ranges from 49% to 64%).
    "Data reported by media as coming from official sources for Portugal and Spain suggests rates of 33% and 53% respectively.
    "The authors have considered that it is not possible to draw accurate estimates from the data that is currently in public domain in the United Kingdom."

  • Peers call for a public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 crisis Yorkshire Bylines April 17 reports: "ifteen senior peers, including Chris Patten, Bob Kerslake and Helena Kennedy have written a letter to the Financial Times calling for a full public inquiry into the UK’s handing of the coronavirus crisis. They argue that the public but particularly “health and care professions, the medical science community and those who have lost loved ones to the virus, are entitled to reassurance that the relevant questions will be addressed.”

  • Considerations for acute personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages Latest government changes in guidance on PPE, brought in as a response to dwindling stocks and without proper consultation with professional bodies.

  • How do we escape lockdown? Community testing, new tech and an army of volunteers Paul Evans in The Lowdown spells out the missing links for a plan to escape from lockdown:
    “Mass testing of the community for Covid-19 is yet a priority in the UK, despite evidence from South Korea and China showing that it was vital in beating back the virus – so why aren’t we recruiting an army of public health volunteers to help make it possible?
    The theory is that tracking down people who have newly acquired the virus before they have time to pass it on will help put a lid on transmission. It is a standard tool in the public health response to infectious disease and the UK deployed it at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.”

  • Now or Never for Global Leadership on COVID-19 April 7 statement in Project Syndicate calling for an international effort to contain the spread of Covid-19 co-authored by Gordon Brown:
    “During the global financial crisis of 2008, G20 leaders coordinated a global response, and in other emergencies – such as tsunamis, civil wars, or epidemics – coalitions of countries have convened donor conferences to generate the necessary resources. Today, we need both”

  • Britain faces a care crisis that could overwhelm the NHS Hard hitting April 4 report from Independent’s Shaun Lintern: “Across the country, care providers say they have been pushed to the brink of closure because some local councils are refusing to release emergency funding made available by the government, while many face staff shortages, a lack of equipment and too few nurses to care for extra patients being discharged by the NHS.
    “Some care-home managers have warned that the vulnerable or elderly who fall ill may be all but abandoned by local NHS services, with reports of unlawful do-not-resuscitate orders being put in place by some GPs.
    “While national efforts have focused on shoring up the health service to help it cope with a surge in coronavirus infections, experts warned not enough has been done to make sure the 18,000 care sector companies, on which the health service may rely, can withstand the next few weeks and months.”

  • Covid vs. US Daily Average Cause of Death Astonishing animated graph showing the impact of Covid-19 compared to other major causes of death in the USA.

  • Protecting migrants from Covid-19 Campaigners unite behind letter from Liberty Medact and many others including Health Campaigns Together, to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to call for urgent changes to ensure the safety of migrants in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
    “We call on the Home Secretary to:
    “ensure access to healthcare - this means immediately suspending all NHS charging and data sharing with immigration enforcement, and launching a public information campaign that makes clear that healthcare services are available and safe for all migrants to use
    “ensure all migrants have access to vital public services by suspending 'No Recourse To Public Funds' conditions
    “make assurances that no one will be penalised for missing appointments, reporting or court dates due to illness
    “make sure no one is made an 'overstayer' because of being self-isolated or unable to return to a country that is not safe to travel to, by extending or modifying visas
    “release everyone detained under immigration powers to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering the detention estate and causing avoidable harm
    “provide specialist support for those housed in shared Asylum Accommodation to enable safe access to medical services, testing, and where necessary, re-housing for particularly vulnerable people.”

  • No matter how you crunch the numbers, this pandemic is only just getting started US doctor in Guardian (April 16) dissects arguments for lifting the lockdown
    "An editorial in the British Medical Journal has reported data from China suggesting that as many as four in five cases of Sars-CoV-2 infection could be asymptomatic.
    "It then goes on to quote people from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine in Oxford, who say that if this is true “What the hell are we locking down for?” I wish those people would be brave enough to go and repeat that opinion in an ER in the Bronx right now, in which actual medicine is going on.
    "Worrying about the exact rate of asymptomatic infection, or the currently unknown duration of immunity and a possible “second wave”, is like politely applauding the performance in a jazz club and murmuring “nice” while the building is demolished around you and the piano player gets decapitated."

  • Bracing for coronavirus but losing money every day, this East Texas hospital had to cut employees More from the tragically dysfunctional world of US health care. Texas Trubune reports on hospitals laying off staff as the virus gathers pace:
    "Just two months ago, Titus County in northeast Texas had a high-traffic medical center with 800 employees, an average of 65 patients in the emergency room and an entryway manned by senior volunteers selling buttery popcorn.
    "Now, ER traffic has slowed to a crawl. Ten percent of the staff is out of work. And the hospital’s chief executive officer, Terry Scoggin, says the 108-bed facility is sitting on just a few months of cash — even with new money it's getting from a federal stimulus package.
    "It's not alone.
    "As hospitals brace for a potential influx of COVID-19 patients, some facilities are shedding staff members, cutting hours and hemorrhaging money. It’s an unexpected side effect of a steep drop-off in lucrative surgeries, meant to free up hospital bed space and preserve protective equipment for the coronavirus outbreak."

  • Trump turns against WHO to mask his own stark failings on Covid-19 crisis Guardian reports (April 15) “Donald Trump’s declared suspension of funding of the World Health Organization in the midst of a pandemic is confirmation – if any were needed – that he is in search of scapegoats for his administration’s much delayed and chaotic response to the crisis.
    “The US is the WHO’s biggest donor, with funding over $400m a year in both assessed contributions (membership fees) and donations – though it is actually $200m in arrears.
    “Theoretically the White House cannot block funding of international institutions mandated by Congress. But the administration has found ways around such constitutional hurdles on other issues – by simply failing to disburse funds or apply sanctions, for example.”

  • Coronavirus: Around half of COVID-19 deaths are in care homes Sky News April 14 reports statistics that suggest British death toll figures are massively understated:
    “Figures from five European countries suggest that care home residents have accounted for between 42% and 57% of all deaths related to COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
    “The figures are contained in a report by academics at the London School of Economics, which focuses on Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium.”

  • Older people being 'airbrushed' out of virus figures BBC April 14 report: “Industry leaders from Age UK, Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer's Society have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding a care package to support social care through the pandemic.
    “They have also called for a daily update on deaths in the care system.
    “It comes after the government confirmed there had been coronavirus outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes in England - although they did not specify the number of deaths that had occurred.
    “The figures prompted the charity Age UK to claim coronavirus is "running wild" in care homes for elderly people.
    "The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don't matter," Caroline Abrahams, the charity's director, said.
    “Meanwhile, Britain's largest care home operator, HC-One, said coronavirus was present in two-thirds - 232 - of the group's care homes.

    “… About 410,000 people live in care homes in the UK, living in 11,300 care homes for older people supplied by 5,500 different providers.
    “… Labour's shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said daily figures were essential to dealing with the "emerging crisis" in care homes and called for the government to offer social care "whatever resources it needs".
    “… Conservative peer and former work and pensions minister Baroness Altmann told Today that "one or two" people in care homes had said to her they felt as though older people are being treated "like lambs to the slaughter. They [care homes] are left without protective equipment, they are left without testing," she said.”

  • UK scraps plans to buy thousands of ventilators from Formula One group Guardian April 14 with another story of confused action by ministers: “A plan to buy thousands of medical ventilators from a group including the Renault and Red Bull Formula One teams has been cancelled amid signs that symptoms specific to Covid-19 could make building new devices more difficult than hoped.”

  • The right wing have begun their attack on the most vulnerable, who they want to pay for coronavirus Tax expert Richard Murphy (April 14) quotes from the Guardian:
    “The Social Market Foundation (SMF) proposes that the massive economic cost of the emergency measures deployed to manage the pandemic must be shared fairly between old and young, and that some of the huge anticipated government deficit could be funded by abandoning the so-called triple lock guarantee on state pension rises.”
    Murphy comments: “The economic logic underpinning this demand is entirely flawed. It assumes that there the coronavirus crisis must be paid for, when all that is missing is credit at present, as I have explained.
    “It assumes that payment must come from across society when many have nothing more that they can contribute.
    “And it assumes that there must be a squeeze on public spending because the private sector is in meltdown when the exact opposite is the case.”

  • Two of UK's largest care home providers report 521 coronavirus deaths Guardian (April 14) reports: “Two of the largest providers of care homes in the UK have revealed the deaths of 521 residents from coronavirus in recent weeks, in the clearest sign yet of the rising scale of fatalities outside the NHS which have not been officially announced.
    “HC-One, which operates about 350 homes, said that as of 8pm on Monday there had been 311 deaths from confirmed or suspected Covid-19, with outbreaks in two thirds of its homes. MHA, a charitable operator, said there have been 210 deaths across 131 homes, with outbreaks in about half of its homes.
    “The figures contrast both with Monday’s assertion by Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser, that there are outbreaks in one in seven care homes in England and data published weekly by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which has a 10-day time lag.”

  • Coronavirus tests have been given to only 505 social care workers in Britain Mirror (April 14) reports: “Only 505 social care workers in Britain have had coronavirus tests, the government admitted today.
    “Downing Street said specific testing of care home and home-care staff had only rolled out in the last few days due to a lack of capacity. As of 9am on Easter Monday, just 505 have been tested - compared to 47,784 once NHS staff and their families are included.
    “The tiny figure was revealed despite the Health Secretary pledging on Friday that "all key social care staff" could now get tests if needed.”

  • England coronavirus testing has not risen fast enough - science chief April 14 report in The Guardian: “Public Health England did not increase testing for Covid-19 as quickly as was needed to control the spread of the virus, the government’s chief scientific adviser has suggested.
    “Sir Patrick Vallance’s comments echo those of Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, who said a week ago that Germany “got ahead” in testing people for Covid-19 and that the UK needed to learn from that.
    “So far, the government has prioritised tests for seriously ill patients in hospital and frontline NHS staff. But Vallance said testing needed to be done at sufficient scale “to look at outbreaks and isolate”, as has happened in countries such as Germany and South Korea.”

  • Top creditors to suspend poorest countries' debt payments: France Reuters April 14 report: “Major international creditors have agreed to suspend debt payments owed by the poorest countries this year, throwing a financial lifeline to help them cope with the coronavirus crisis, France's finance minister said on Tuesday.
    “Some 76 countries, of which 40 are in sub-Sahara Africa, were eligible to have debt payments worth a combined $20 billion suspended, out of a total of $32 billion the countries were to spend on debt servicing this year.
    "We have obtained a debt moratorium at the level of bilateral creditors and private creditors for a total of $20 billion," Bruno Le Maire told journalists.
    “The government creditors, including not only the Paris Club group of creditors, but also China and other members of the Group of 20 economic powers, are to suspend $12 billion under the agreement, which remains to be finalised on Wednesday.”

  • Risky numbers: the national reporting of Covid-19 Nuffield Trust analysis of weakness of official data published on Covid-19 concludes:
    "displaying forecasts – we know that some exist – may also help the public understand whether the latest data is as expected or showing a new trend. This can be guided by lessons from history. Following a flawed attempt by government to articulate the risk of the swine flu a decade or so ago, there is now an established principle that government should continually communicate “most probable scenarios” with the public, while also being open about the worst-case scenario.
    "Third, providing a single, consistent and accessible source of information on a variety of health service data can give a more accurate picture. This could include available capacity (e.g. ventilators); activity (e.g. hospital admissions – data currently provided on this is poorly explained); intermediate outcomes (e.g. admissions to intensive care units); and outcomes (e.g. deaths and recoveries). A suite of indicators could be supported with evidence on the relationship between the measures, such as the proportion of intensive care patients that die or recover"

  • Reconciling COVID-19 death data in the UK “How many people have died from COVID-19 in the UK? You’d think this was an easy question to answer, but you would be wrong. There are numerous places in which you can find this data, and they don’t always give the same answer.” Fascinating information (April 8, since updated) from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine.

  • Ministers 'must be open with NHS about PPE shortages' Guardian April 13 quotes Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, who appears more concerned that factual information might be “weaponised” than to ensure honest answers are given.
    Hopson “wants the government to start alerting health service trusts when they are about to face a lack of equipment such as the ongoing dearth of gowns and visors that frontline staff need to repel Covid-19.
    Writing for the Guardian about PPE shortages, Hopson says: “National NHS leaders will continue their massive efforts to fill current PPE gaps. But trust leaders believe that they should be included earlier in helping to find the solutions. For example, if there is going to be a stock shortage of a particular item, then far better to know about it well in advance.
    “Trusts then have more time to effect the solutions like the mutual support approach they’ve adopted for gowns over the last few days.”

  • Coronavirus: Government 'close to lies' over coronavirus deaths, warns expert Sky News April 13: “A former public health director has accused the government of "coming very close to lies" over the UK's coronavirus death figures.
    “Professor John Ashton, former regional director of Public Health England, said the number of people dying with COVID-19 could be double what the public is being told.
    “This is because officials counts are not including deaths outside hospitals, such as those in the community or in care homes, he said.”

  • Furor Erupts: Billions Going To Hospitals Based On Medicare Billings, Not COVID-19 April 13 updated article from Kaiser Health News revealing more chaos, waste and inequality in the disastrous US hospital sector, where the Trump administration has adopted:
    “one-size-fits-all approach to distributing the first $30 billion in emergency grants. HHS [Health and Human Services] confirmed Friday it would give hospitals and doctors money according to their historical share of revenue from the Medicare program for seniors — not according to their coronavirus burden.
    “… States such as Minnesota, Nebraska and Montana, which the pandemic has touched relatively lightly, are getting more than $300,000 per reported COVID-19 case in the $30 billion, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.
    “On the other hand, New York, the worst-hit state, would receive only $12,000 per case. Florida is getting $132,000 per case. KHN relied on a state breakdown provided to the House Ways and Means Committee by HHS along with COVID-19 cases tabulated by The New York Times.”

  • UK missed three chances to join EU scheme to bulk-buy PPE Guardian (April 13) “Britain missed three opportunities to be part of an EU scheme to bulk-buy masks, gowns and gloves and has been absent from key talks about future purchases, the Guardian can reveal, as pressure grows on ministers to protect NHS medics and care workers on the coronavirus frontline.
    “European doctors and nurses are preparing to receive the first of €1.5bn (£1.3bn) worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) within days or a maximum of two weeks through a joint procurement scheme involving 25 countries and eight companies, according to internal EU documents.
    “The EU’s swift work has led to offers of medical equipment, including masks, overalls and goggles, in excess of the number requested, a spokesman for the European commission said. The EU is separately establishing stockpiles within member states, with the first being set up in Romania.”

  • Coronavirus: Top scientist claims Government recklessly allowed thousands to catch bug Mirror April 13: “Professor Helen Ward, of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London has warned ministers "there will be a reckoning, and it will not be forgiving".
    “The academic tweeted: "It’s very sad that so many people have died, and so many more are desperately ill because politicians refused to listen to advice.
    "We said lockdown earlier, we said test, trace, isolate. But they decided they knew better. There will be a reckoning, and it will not be forgiving."
    Professor Ward told the Mirror the decision in early March to stop community testing and contact tracing was a "big problem" which meant we "lost sight" of the pandemic.”

  • NHS staff still putting their lives on the line without vital protection kit Mirror April 13 report launches a campaign for PPE to save lives of health workers (and patients):
    “So far, around 40 health and care workers have died of Covid-19. And those on the ground insist government claims there is enough equipment do not match the desperate reality.
    “So today, the Mirror launches a campaign demanding ministers urgently provide the gowns, masks, visors and gloves staff on the front line need to keep them safe while trying to save others.
    “… It comes as the BMA revealed it continues to receive stories of “serious shortages” of personal protection equipment from worried doctors around the land.”

  • 'Growing crisis' as 92 care homes report COVID-19 outbreaks Sky News (April 13): “A total of 92 care homes have reported outbreaks of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, England's chief medical officer has said.
    “Speaking at the daily COVID-19 news conference, Professor Chris Whitty said 13.5% of care homes have been affected by the virus.”

  • One in three UK surgeons lacks enough protective kit, survey finds “Surgeons treating Covid-19 patients have a “terrifying” lack of personal protective equipment that is risking lives, the profession’s leaders warn today.
    “Almost a third (32.5%) of UK surgeons say they do not have access to enough masks, gowns and other clothing to keep them safe, a new survey reveals.
    “The widespread lack of PPE for frontline staff is “a disgrace”, according to the Royal College of Surgeons of England, which collated the views of 1,978 surgeons and surgical trainees.
    “There are often young doctors and nurses, many with kids at home, putting themselves in challenging situations without proper PPE. It’s not acceptable, morally or ethically, that people should put their lives at risk to do their job unless they have adequate PPE,” Sue Hill, the college’s vice-president, told the Observer.”

  • Patel refuses to take children from Greek camps threatened by Covid-19 Guardian April 12 report on yet more “shameful” behaviour by the appalling Home Secretary:
    “Priti Patel has refused pleas to accept more unaccompanied children from the notoriously overcrowded refugee camps on the Greek islands amid dire warnings of an impending humanitarian catastrophe.
    “The charity Médecins Sans Frontières wrote to the home secretary on 13 March asking her to “significantly increase” the number of child refugees transferred to the UK as well as “facilitate the urgent evacuation” of those with chronic and complex health conditions.”

  • Ministers must get PPE to NHS frontline, says business secretary Guardian April 12 reports Business Secretary Ashok Sharma, two days after NHS published PPE distribution plan, refusing to apologise for its failures so far to carry out previous promises:
    “Sharma told Sky News’s Ridge on Sunday: “It is absolutely right that no medical professional should be placed in a position where they have to make that choice. That for me is self-evident. That is why we are making sure we get the equipment to the frontline.”
    “However, he refused to apologise specifically over the supply of PPE and said he was “sorry for the loss of any life during this pandemic”.
    “It is our job to make sure we get that healthcare equipment, that PPE, out to them,” he said. “Right now, your viewers will be asking does the government have a plan to get this PPE out to the frontline and the answer is yes, we do have a plan.
    “We are putting that in place, with millions of pieces of PPE kit going out to the frontline. Of course, we need to be doing even more,” he said.

  • Community nursing will 'blow’ as discharge threshold is reduced HSJ April 12 report: “Both the Royal College of Nursing and the Queen’s Nursing Institute — the charity for community nursing — told HSJ that district nurses were now having to prioritise patients more than normal, as staffing numbers have become “extremely stretched”.
    “The demands on nursing care in people’s homes has worsened due to instructions from NHS England and the government to discharge people from hospital more quickly, and when their health is “medically optimised” but not yet “back to baseline”, freeing up tens of thousands of beds for acute covid-19 admissions.
    “One GP, who asked not to be named, told HSJ: “The skill base in community nursing is high, but before covid19 we didn’t have [enough] staff, and that is without the increase in early discharge, complex patients [moving out of hospital] and the slower consultations that having to wear personal protective equipment will also cause. The NHS is really going to struggle, it is going to blow.”

  • Coronavirus is ripping through this care home at a frightening speed Sky News April 12 report from Sheffield: “Half of the residents in a care home we visited have coronavirus.
    “The disease has ripped through the wards with frightening speed in the past two weeks. COVID-19 has attacked the old and frail who are now locked in the fight of their lives.
    “Staffing levels are running dangerously low because nurses are either self-isolating or have been infected themselves.”

  • Coronavirus: 'Half of A&E team' test positive BBC report (April 12): “About half of A&E consultants and nurses at a major Welsh hospital have tested positive for coronavirus, a doctor there has said. Consultant Tim Rogerson, from the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, appeared in a video on the Aneurin Bevan health board's Facebook page.
    “Dr Rogerson is self-isolating and said he had "pretty much a full house" of coronavirus symptoms. The health board area is one of the worst affected of the UK.”

  • Revealed: value of UK pandemic stockpile fell by 40% in six years Guardian April 12 report: “Analysis of official financial data suggests £325m was wiped off the value of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) emergency stockpile, reducing it from £831m in 2013 under the Conservative-led coalition government to £506m by March last year.
    “The finding is likely to raise further questions for the health secretary, Matt Hancock, who faced criticism over the weekend after urging healthcare workers not to “overuse” personal protective equipment (PPE).
    “The revelation raises questions about why the value depreciated so quickly and how the fall related to stock-levels.
    “According to official figures at least 19 UK healthcare workers had died after contracting coronavirus. Frontline medical staff have complained of PPE shortages, which they say are putting lives at risk.”

  • Coronavirus: Health secretary Matt Hancock declines to apologise to nurses forced to choose whether to work without PPE Independent (April 12) report: “The health secretary has declined to apologise to nurses forced to choose between treating coronavirus patients or protecting themselves due to shortages of vital protective kit.
    “Matt Hancock came under pressure to make an apology to frontline staff who are putting themselves at risk by working without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
    “Nursing leaders have issued guidance to staff that they should refuse to treat coronavirus patients as a “last resort” if appropriate PPE was not provided.
    “Asked whether he would apologise to medics “who are being put in that impossible position”, Mr Hancock did not answer directly, instead saying: “We are working night and day to make sure that we get the right PPE.”

  • 10,000 UK coronavirus deaths: don't forget that this was preventable Guardian comment article (April 12): “Not only did the UK have the experience of Italy play out before the virus hit its own shores, illustrating clearly the measures that needed to be taken, it had explicit warnings from Italians spelling out the pitfalls to be avoided.
    “… It is a jarring experience to wake up to a British death toll that is almost a thousand a day, and not see that number on every front page, being put to every politician in every single interview, with a demand for an explanation. It is as if those who should be asking these questions, from the media to opposition politicians, have been subjected to a mass memory-erasing exercise.
    “Every report showing the scale of the crisis should be framed in the language of accountability and anchored in the premise of preventability. With all the benefits of hindsight, the government dragged its feet, wasted precious time and infused the issue with a sense of British exceptionalism: drastic measures need not be taken because in the UK things will somehow be different.”

  • UK cancels order for simple ventilators, needs more complex ones: source Reuters April 12: “Britain has cancelled an order for thousands of units of a simple model of ventilator developed by industrial companies to treat COVID-19 because more sophisticated devices are now needed, a source involved in the project said on Sunday.”

  • Pressure grows for developing world debt relief over coronavirus Powerful April 12 Guardian report: “Calls for a comprehensive package of debt relief to help poor countries cope with the coronavirus pandemic have intensified after research showed that more than 60 countries are spending more on paying their creditors than they are on health.
    “Before a series of key meetings this week, the Jubilee Debt Campaign said it was vital to relieve the mounting financial pressure on poor countries by cancelling their debt payments this year.
    “The JDC said that among the 121 low and middle-income countries for which 2019 data was available an average of 10.7% of government revenue was spent on public health systems, compared with 12.2% on external debt payments.”

  • Priti Patel 'sorry if people feel there have been failings' on PPE Tame April 11 BBC report picks up on Priti Patel’s now infamous phrase:
    “The home secretary has said she is sorry if NHS staff feel there has been a failure to provide protective kit for those treating coronavirus patients.
    … Speaking at Saturday's coronavirus briefing in Downing Street, the home secretary said: "I'm sorry if people feel that there have been failings. I will be very, very clear about that.
    "But at the same time, we are in an unprecedented global health pandemic right now. It is inevitable that the demand and the pressures on PPE and demand for PPE are going to be exponential."

  • 'We're all scared': brave carers battling daily tragedy in a broken system Liverpool Echo April 11 report: “When Boris Johnson admitted just a month after his thumping December election win that he didn't, as he had previously claimed, actually have a plan for the country's social care crisis the response was one of resigned disappointment.
    “In a BBC interview, the Prime Minister backtracked on his pre-election claim to have a 'ready-to-go' rescue package for social care - instead committing to a vague promise of bringing forward a proposal later in the year.
    “… Just three short months later and the challenge facing those looking after our most vulnerable citizens has exploded into something no one could have imagined at the turn of the year.
    “Coronavirus has presented an existential threat to so many different sectors - but it is important to remember that in Britain, social care was in crisis long before this horrific disease.
    “The situation in the country's care homes is now beyond bleak, to the point where hundreds of people with either confirmed or suspected coronavirus are now dying without even having their death recorded as linked to the illness.”

  • Recovered coronavirus patients test positive again in blow to immunity hopes April 11 feature from (£) Daily Telegraph that should kill of any lingering illusions in “herd immunity” as a way to contain the virus: “South Korea reported on Friday that 91 recovered coronavirus patients have tested positive for the disease again, raising questions over health experts' understanding of the pandemic.
    “The prospect of people being re-infected with the virus is of international concern, as many countries are hoping that infected populations will develop sufficient immunity to prevent a resurgence of the pandemic.
    “The reports have also prompted fears the virus may remain active in patients for much longer than was previously thought.”

  • Matt Hancock says NHS staff death toll at 19 amid PPE row Guardian April 11 report: “The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has revealed that 19 UK health workers have died after contracting coronavirus, amid further backlash over his request that NHS staff do not overuse protective equipment.
    “Hancock said on Saturday he was unaware of any link between the deaths and a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) but an investigation would be carried out into the extent to which health workers had caught the virus on the frontline.
    “He told Sky News his “heart goes out to their families” and it was “heart-rending” that such a high proportion of the victims were people who migrated to the UK to work for the NHS.
    “On Friday Hancock urged the public to “treat PPE as the precious resource it is” following weeks of criticism over the lack of vital equipment.”

  • While 'low-skilled' migrants are saving us, the government is cracking down on them Guardian April 11: “The day Dominic Raab encouraged us all to clap for the workers who are risking their lives to keep society going, the government restated that some of those same people won’t be allowed in the country come January 2021. While Priti Patel is conspicuously absent – notably on immigration issues – the department she oversees decided now was the time to reiterate that as part of its new immigration rules, “low-skilled” people would not be able to apply for a UK work visa.
    “Millions of key workers in the UK are migrants – approximately 23% of all hospital staff, including 29% of doctors and 18% of nurses, 20% of agricultural workers, more than 40% of food production workers and 18% of care workers, rising to 59% in London. These are the human beings who, for decades, politicians have blamed for holding down wages, ruining “British culture” and overburdening public services.
    “If the government forges ahead with its plans, recognising them as key workers will be just a momentary suspension of the norm. Many of them were dismissed as low skilled before the crisis, and it seems they will be once again when it’s over.”

  • He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus Top New York Times (April 11) analysis of Donald Trump’s refusal to heed repeated early warnings – resulting in an increased US death toll from Covid-19:
    “Throughout January, as Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action.
    “The president, though, was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials. It was a problem, he said, that had come out of nowhere and could not have been foreseen.”

  • Reveal cost of 3.5m unusable Covid-19 tests, health chiefs told Guardian April 11 report: “Senior health officials are facing demands to reveal how much has been spent on millions of inaccurate coronavirus antibody tests, after it emerged that payments had been guaranteed even if the kits failed to work.
    “Public Health England is also being asked to disclose which companies the tests came from and why payment was not made contingent on the tests proving accurate. A formal request for the details is being made in a letter by Greg Clark, the former Conservative cabinet minister and chair of the Commons science and technology committee.
    “Britain ordered at least 3.5 million of the antibody home-testing kits, which are designed to detect whether someone has had coronavirus. The UK government talked up the potential of the tests last month, with Boris Johnson heralding them as a “game-changer” that could give individuals a “green light” to go back to work.”

  • PRITI PATEL RUNS HANCOCK CLOSE FOR WORST BRIEFING SO FAR “In what future seminars on leadership failure will study for years ahead, Mr Hancock, the political head of the NHS, the man who keeps talking about ‘my colleagues on the frontline’ in an effort to associate himself with the more heroic part of the government response to this disaster, said these words. ‘I think this is a question for you Ruth,’ throwing the ball, to use a phrase used by the Prime Minister when he did likewise at an earlier briefing, to Ruth May, Chief Nurse.
    “I actually gasped as Mr Hancock said it. The gasping continued through an evening when I felt so angry I had to be restrained by my partner from going over the top in my twitter tirade, and eventually turned my phone off. What else can one do but get angry though, watching on as government and media fail to discharge their responsibilities to the public?
    “… Had this been a minister in the Labour government, in a similar situation, showing such a lack of empathy for the people working and dying in service of the public, trying to clear up a mess in part created by government decisions as the crisis began, the media and the Tories would have gone into 24/7 meltdown. Tony Blair and I would probably have had a discussion, as I went to deal with the media fallout, about whether actually the minister could carry on."

  • Coronavirus testing 'inadequate' in care home outbreaks, Merseyside MPs warn More strong reporting (April 11) from Liverpool Echo on impact of Covid-19 on social care and care homes. A letter from 16 local MPs points out:
    “Referring to problems with testing, it says: "There continues to be a significant inadequacy of testing right across the health and social care system, even where outbreaks have occurred in some care homes.
    "The criteria for access to testing remains oblique and therefore not transparent. The accessibility to testing continues to be piecemeal.
    "It is difficult to establish the numbers of people who have been tested against the Government's planned rollout.
    "In addition, health and social care staff do not have access to routine testing. There is also insufficient tracing and this is vital if the use of testing is to be effective."

  • BBC bosses have warned interviewers not to put ministers under pressure over coronavirus crisis, says former Today presenter John Humphrys Mail Online report April 11 explains some of the limp reporting of the government’s inept handling of the Covid-19 crisis:
    “BBC bosses are warning interviewers not to put ministers under pressure over the coronavirus crisis, says former Today Programme presenter John Humphrys.
    The veteran broadcaster, 76, made the revealing claim in his column for today's Daily Mail.
    He wrote: 'I'm told BBC bosses are warning interviewers not to put ministers under pressure. Why? If the questioning is well informed and polite, surely the tougher the better. All this stuff might be justified if we were at war. But we're not. To talk of the virus as an enemy is to misunderstand the crisis with which we are faced.'

  • A nurse revealed the tragic last words of his coronavirus patient: 'Who's going to pay for it?' CNN (April 11) with more grim revelations of the US health care horror show:
    “Certified registered nurse anesthetist Derrick Smith is no stranger to the horrors of losing patients. But now, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed him into a completely different, "much more terrifying" reality.
    “Smith, who is predominantly treating Covid-19 patients at a hospital in New York City, revealed the tragic last words of a dying man he was about to place on a ventilator: "Who's going to pay for it?" the coronavirus patient asked Smith in between labored breaths.
    "They were last words I'll never forget," Smith told CNN.
    "(This patient) was in severe respiratory distress, had difficulty speaking, and yet still his main concern was who could pay for a procedure that would his extend his life but statistically he doesn't have a good likelihood of survival."

  • 'A National Scandal' - A Timeline of the UK Government’s Woeful Response to the coronavirus crisis Byline Times contributors Ian Sinclair and Rupert Read provide a comprehensive countdown to how Britain came to have one of the highest COVID-19 per capita death rates in the world.

  • Are minorities being hit hardest by coronavirus? BBC report April 10: “Coronavirus can affect anyone, but statistics are highlighting that some communities appear to be affected more than others.
    In Chicago, the city reported that 70% of coronavirus victims were black, despite representing only a third of the population.
    “Similar reports have emerged from New York, Detroit and New Orleans.
    “Unlike in some US states, both the overall number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the UK are not currently broken down by ethnicity.
    “But there is some evidence to suggest that coronavirus is having a disproportionate impact on people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
    Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) suggests that 34% of critically ill coronavirus patients are from black or minority ethnic backgrounds. The research is based on 3,300 patients from intensive care units across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

  • Health and care workers are dying of Covid19 Keep Our NHS Public April 10 video flagging up the continued crisis of lack of PPE and resultant deaths of NHS staff.

  • Coronavirus: Manchester United’s Harry Maguire sets up food distribution network for elderly in Sheffield Independent April 10 report: “Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has spoken of his pride in being able to provide essential food packagers to pensions in his native Sheffield.
    “The England international has been a driving force behind both the formation of #PlayersTogether - a charitable fund set up by players to support the NHS – as well as United’s various efforts to help those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
    “Maguire has now also set up a food distribution network for elderly residents in the village of Mosborough, where he was raised, with the help of two local businesses.”

  • UK government urged to investigate coronavirus deaths of BAME doctors Guardian April 10 report: “The head of the British Medical Association has called on the government to urgently investigate if and why black, Asian and minority ethnic people are more vulnerable to Covid-19, after the first 10 doctors in the UK named as having died from the virus were all BAME.
    “Those doctors have ancestry in regions including Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Even allowing for the overrepresentation of BAME staff in the NHS – they comprise 44% of medical staff compared with 14% of the population of England and Wales – the fact that they were all from ethnic minorities was “extremely disturbing and worrying”, the BMA chair said.”

  • Coronavirus park closures hit BAME and poor Londoners most Guardian April 10: “Londoners living in deprived areas and those from BAME backgrounds share less space and have less access to private gardens and public parks, according to an examination of mapping data.
    “A third of all land in the wealthiest 10% of London wards was taken up by private gardens, while in the poorest 10%, just over a fifth was found to be taken up by garden space.
    “That suggests people in the most deprived areas would be disproportionately affected by further park closures if lockdown restrictions became more severe.”

  • 'Inappropriate' to say how many NHS staff have died from coronavirus says nursing chief Mirror April 10 report on new ways of ducking hard questions on numbers of NHS staff dying in fight to contain Covid-19:
    “It would be 'inappropriate' to say how many NHS staff have died from coronavirus since the start of the outbreak, according to England's Chief Nursing Officer.
    “At this evening's Downing Street coronavirus press conference Health Secretary Matt Hancock was asked how many frontline NHS workers had died from Covid-19. He passed the question on to England's Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May who paid tribute to staff but declined to give a figure.
    “She said: "We do have numbers of people that have died, be they nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, doctors... it would be inappropriate for me right now to go into listing them and numbering them because we haven't got necessarily all of the position across England with all of the people's families giving us permission to talk about them."

  • NHS workers angered at Hancock's warning not to overuse PPE Guardian April 10 report of Matt Hancock’s car crash press briefing where he tries to blame NHS staff for causing shortages by excessive use of PPE:
    “The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has urged NHS staff not to overuse personal protective equipment, sparking criticism from doctors’ and nurses’ leaders.
    “We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource it is,” he said on Friday. “Everyone should use the equipment they clinically need, in line with the guidelines: no more and no less.”
    “After weeks of criticism over the lack of vital equipment, Hancock told the daily Downing Street briefing a “herculean effort” was under way to ensure every health and social care worker dealing with coronavirus has the equipment they need.”

  • The Guardian view on coronavirus: as deaths mount, so do questions Guardian Editorial comment April 10: “One must always be cautious about apportioning blame with the benefit of hindsight. This is never more true than when confronting unprecedented events. But ministers’ decision to disregard the example set by east Asian countries in January, and the failure to prioritise testing and the sourcing of vital equipment (ventilators, masks), have cost lives.
    “Suggestions that, as recently as a month ago, Mr Johnson was worried about the impact of a lockdown on his popularity, and feared that northern voters would object to pubs being shut, require closer examination. That the UK’s coronavirus strategy could have been influenced by such narrowly political calculations and stereotypes is horrifying.”

  • NHS 111 staff 'turning up to work with coronavirus symptoms' Guardian April 10 report on unsafe working practices by privatised 111 call handlers – another reminder of the dangers of privatisation that leaves staff on inferior terms and conditions to their NHS equivalents:
    “Call centre staff at the NHS’s 111 helpline are turning up to work with coronavirus symptoms owing to a lack of adequate sick pay, according to a whistleblower who has filed a complaint to MPs.
    “Concerns about health and safety have been raised by call handlers at at least three call centres where thousands of people are employed by outsourcing firms to field calls to the 111 service.
    “One employee, whose complaint has been published by a commons select committee, told the Guardian that colleagues felt ill-prepared for the mass volume of calls and “terrified” they would catch the virus due to “unsafe” working conditions.”

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19): personal protective equipment (PPE) plan April 10 – and the government finally publishes a “plan” to get PPE distributed where it’s needed: but leaving it until April 10 merely confirms Hancock and his ministerial colleagues have simply been lying to us, unchallenged by a limp media, for the last 6 weeks when they claimed to be working 'round the clock' on precisely this issue.

  • Deaths in New York City Are More Than Double the Usual Total New York Times April 10: “Over the 31 days ending April 4, more than twice the typical number of New Yorkers died.
    “That total for the city includes deaths directly linked to the novel coronavirus as well as those from other causes, like heart attacks and cancer. Even this is only a partial count; we expect this number to rise as more deaths are counted.
    “These numbers contradict the notion that many people who are dying from the new virus would have died shortly anyway. And they suggest that the current coronavirus death figures understate the real toll of the virus, either because of undercounting of coronavirus deaths, increases in deaths that are normally preventable, or both.”

  • Sir Keir Starmer urges 'openness' on lockdown exit plans BBC (April 10) reports the new Labour leader’s plan to duck any hard criticism of government failures and concentrate on hypothetical questions about the future – despite the fact the government plans up to now on Covid-19 have been misguided or simply worthless:
    “Sir Keir said he "completely understands" why the government cannot provide a timetable yet.
    “But he said the public "need these questions answered" and, by being transparent, the government was "much more likely to get their trust".
    He added: "That's why I'm pushing the government to publish and tell people what is the exit strategy, the principles, not the precise timing."”

  • Brave whistleblowers are being punished for saving lives during a pandemic Freedom of the Press Foundation highlights gagging of whistleblowers in China and US – but could also mention problem in Britain:
    “Some of the most shocking stories about the disarray in the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak have concerned the shortages of personal protective equipment, or PPE, used every day in medical settings. The reasons for the shortages are varied — ranging from an insufficient national stockpile to the absence of a strategy for coordinating supplies between states — but reporting on the shortages has likely made a significant difference in spurring action to remedy those problems.
    “Some hospital administrators, however, have been openly hostile in their response to that reporting. In fact, at many hospitals around the country, doctors and nurses have been told that they could be fired for speaking with the media about the lack of PPE available to them. As the New York Times reported, in “the epicenter of the crisis in the United States, every major private hospital system has sent memos in recent weeks ordering workers not to speak with the media, as have some public hospitals.” Several nurses and doctors in the U.S. have already been suspended or fired for posting on Facebook about PPE shortages, protesting the shortages, or talking to the media about them.”

  • Medical Staffing Companies Owned by Rich Investors Cut Doctor Pay and Now Want Bailout Money Propublica.org reveals another side to the chaotic US health care “system” run for profit:
    “Medical staffing companies — some of which are owned by some of the country’s richest investors and have been cutting pay for doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic — are seeking government bailout money.
    “Private equity firms have increasingly bought up doctors’ practices that contract with hospitals to staff emergency rooms and other departments. These staffing companies say the coronavirus pandemic is, counterintuitively, bad for business because most everyone who isn’t critically ill with COVID-19 is avoiding the ER. The companies have responded with pay cuts, reduced hours and furloughs for doctors.
    “Emergency room visits across the country have fallen roughly 30%, and the patients who are coming tend to be sicker and costlier to treat, the American College of Emergency Physicians said in an April 3 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. The professional group asked the Trump administration to provide $3.6 billion of aid to emergency physician practices.
    “…Envision, which has 27,000 clinicians, said it’s cutting doctors’ pay in areas that are seeing fewer patients, as well as delaying bonuses and profit-sharing, retirement contributions, raises and promotions. The company also cut senior executives’ salaries in half and will impose pay cuts or furloughs for nonclinical employees. However, Envision said that it’s adding doctors in hard-hit New York and other coronavirus hot spots.”

  • Media questions at No10 briefings are woeful. Here are 20 they should ask April 10 article from former spin-doctor Alistair Campbell on puncturing the government spin in press briefings: “I go back to something I wrote here at the end of last month — “Having done thousands of briefings on behalf of the government, I can say that the toughest questions are the short ones, with a factual answer, and where it is reasonable to expect the person being asked to know it.
    “The easiest questions are those which present an opportunity simply to repeat what you have already said. If you give the choice of three questions, you make it easier for them either to evade one or more of the questions, or to give themselves more time to think.”
    “For a couple of days, I thought some of them might be listening. But in the choice between brevity and verbosity, they have gone back to verbosity. Also, I found myself agreeing with Piers Morgan yesterday, who tweeted similar frustrations to mine, and said the media had become far too tame. I am not suggesting rudeness, or shouting, or talking over people, but on this, he totally has a point.”

  • 5 things we learnt when voluntary sector leaders asked the government for a funding deal to support charities and social enterprises through Covid – and what happened next didn’t blow our minds Blog from Beanbags and Bullshit responding to announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak of measures to address the financial pressures on charities and the voluntary sector under the Lockdown:
    “Given the estimates that charities are set to lose at least £4 billion in income during the first 12 weeks of the Covid lockdown, the £350 million allocated to small community charities (around 150,000 of them even if social enterprises are not included) seems a long way off what’s needed.
    “The money is nowhere near enough for the small community charities – it would be amazing if it helped one in five of those that need it – and it ignores many larger charities (supporting millions of vulnerable people) entirely.
    “It also stacks up particularly badly against the £585 million worth of business rates relief given to a single supermarket group (Tesco), who are about to pay £635 million in dividends to shareholders. “

  • Hancock setting a bad example on social distancing, say NHS leaders HSJ report April 10: “Senior NHS leaders have expressed alarm that Matt Hancock is providing a bad example by holding regular video calls in his office surrounded by many colleagues.
    “One of the sector’s most senior figures – speaking to HSJ on condition of anonomity – said the health and social care secretary was holding a number of video conference meetings each day with service leaders alongside between 10 and 20 colleagues.
    “… One very senior NHS source who witnessed the meetings said: ”It looks like the health secretary and his colleagues think ‘social distancing’ is for other people and that coming into the office is necessary for senior leaders. It is encouraging presenteeism and making it very hard to send the right messages about the importance of following national guidance on staying home and staying safe.”

  • On Sunday the Bank of England said it would not fund the government and today it is going to do just that: welcome to the world where we realise that there isn’t taxpayer money because the government Tax expert Richard Murphy (April 9) on why Rishi Sunak does not have to reimpose austerity and tax increases to “pay back” the cost of the response to Covid-19.

  • NHS staff forbidden from speaking out publicly about coronavirus Guardian April 9 report: “Many NHS staff are increasingly concerned that their ability to share stories about their work is being restricted by a clampdown on speaking out publicly.
    “It follows reports of doctors and nurses being gagged by hospitals and other NHS bodies from speaking out about widespread shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE). Tactics have included threatening emails, the possibility of disciplinary action, and some people even being sent home from work.
    “While there could be some logic to hospitals wanting to stop scaremongering when communications departments are overloaded with work at a busy time, many staff feel they are being blocked from highlighting their work during the pandemic.”

  • Public urged to raise £5m for NHS staff with One Million Claps appeal Guardian report April 9: “People taking part in the “clap for carers” are being urged to also show their appreciation for health workers fighting the Covid-19 pandemic by donating to a charity appeal seeking to raise at least £5m for NHS staff.
    For the last two weeks, people throughout the country have been leaning out of windows, standing in gardens and on balconies to join in a national round of applause for the key workers helping the country through the pandemic.
    “Together with the third such show of appreciation on Thursday, NHS Charities Together is asking people to text “clap” to 70507, which will trigger a £5 donation, along with a message of support.
    “Organisers of the “One Million Claps” appeal are asking for at least 1 million people to donate £5 by text message to fund food deliveries, overnight stays, kits and travel costs.”
    The public support is splendid, but what is the logic of asking people to donate money that is just a drop in the ocean of NHS spending at a time when ministers have said there's no limit on NHS spending, and these "extras" should be provided by the NHS everywhere?

  • Covid-19 could push half a billion people into poverty, Oxfam warns April 9 Irish Times report: “The economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty unless action is taken to bail out developing countries, Oxfam has warned.
    “In its new report Dignity Not Destitution, the charity group is calling on world leaders to agree an economic rescue package to keep poor countries and poor communities afloat. It said this should help vulnerable small businesses, and provide cash grants to people who have lost their income.
    “A United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU Wider) paper, written by researchers from King’s College London and the Australian National University, estimates that between 6 per cent and 8 per cent of the global population could be forced into poverty as a result of the economic shutdowns that have been introduced to slow the spread of coronavirus.”

  • Lives at risk due to 50% drop in heart attack A&E attendances April 9 warning from British Heart Foundation of collateral damage from Covid-19 response:
    “New data from hospitals across England show that the number of people seen in hospital with a suspected heart attack has halved since the beginning of March. We are concerned that thousands of people may be at greater risk of suffering long term heart damage, needing intensive care, or even dying as a result.
    “The new data show that the number of people attending emergency departments in England with symptoms of a possible heart attack dropped from an average of around 300 per day at the beginning of March, to around 150 per day recorded by the end of March.
    “A 50 per cent drop is equivalent to approximately 5000 of the expected people every month, or more than 1100 people every week, with possible heart attack symptoms not being seen in emergency departments.
    “In another survey of six heart attack centres in London, where the rates of Covid-19 are highest, there was an average drop of 38% in the number of emergency percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedures carried out to treat heart attacks in the second half of March this year compared to the same period last year.”

  • Pakistan doctors beaten by police as they despair of 'untreatable' pandemic Guardian report “Doctors in Pakistan have warned of “deplorable” conditions on the frontlines of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, describing the pandemic as untreatable in one region and accusing police of brutally suppressing protests over working conditions.
    “One doctor who took part in a sit-in on Monday to protest against a lack of personal protective equipment said he had been “beaten and humiliated” by police.
    “In the beginning, I thought, ‘How could police use violence against the frontline fighters of Covid-19 when some days ago the same officers had saluted us for leading during the pandemic?’” said Amanullah, speaking from the police station where he was being held in Quetta, in the Balochistan region.
    “But we were wrong. Sticks and butts of AK-47 rifles rained down on us. We were dragged through the street and thrown into trucks.”

  • Hedge funds 'raking in billions' during coronavirus crisis Guardian April 9: “Hedge funds have been accused of raking in billions from market bets during the coronavirus crisis while care workers in high-risk environments can barely scrape by.
    “Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC trade union body, launched a stinging attack on hedge fund managers on Thursday after it was revealed one London hedge fund had made £2.4bn betting on market moves as investors panicked over a global economic shutdown.
    “News of the multibillion-pound windfall came as Crispin Odey, the Brexit supporter who made millions betting against the pound in the run up to the EU referendum, said his fund had made its biggest monthly gain since the financial crisis.”

  • Doctor who pleaded for more hospital PPE dies of coronavirus Guardian April 9: “Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a consultant urologist at Homerton hospital in Hackney east London, died after spending 15 days in Queens hospital, Romford.
    “Last month he wrote a Facebook message to Boris Johnson outlining the urgent need for PPE for frontline staff and calling for testing for healthcare workers to be fast-tracked.
    “He wrote: “Dear and respectable prime minister Mr Boris Johnson, Please ensure urgently PPE for each and every NHS health worker.”

  • Social carers urge industry to meet safety equipment demand Financial Times (April 9) reports: “Britain’s social care sector has urged the government to mobilise industry to produce personal protection equipment in the same way as it has for ventilators as a growing shortage leaves workers exposed to coronavirus.
    “In a bid to source much-needed masks and gowns to protect staff, along with hand sanitiser and thermometers, care homes and other social care providers have been forced to look abroad for extra supplies. But many providers have struggled to secure the kit because of the strong demand with suppliers often prioritising the NHS.
    “Last week the government designated four suppliers of PPE to give priority to the social care sector, which employs 1.6m care workers and looks after 1.2m people across the UK. But Lisa Lenton, chair of the Care Providers Alliance, which represents the independent and voluntary adult social care providers in England, told the FT that those “suppliers didn’t necessarily have enough equipment and the NHS continues to have priority”

  • Lack of surgical gowns for medics 'a disaster in waiting', say NHS bosses Guardian April 9, after months of government assurance that there were ample stocks of PPE and it was being distributed: “Hospitals across England are running out of the surgical gowns needed to treat patients with Covid-19 and do not know when fresh supplies will arrive, two secret NHS memos reveal.
    “Senior NHS leaders in London who were warned about the shortage in an email on Thursday evening say they are “alarmed” and that the lack of gowns is “a disaster in waiting for staff health”.
    “The grim picture of serious shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) is underlined by a separate letter sent on Thursday morning to intensive care nurses at the Royal Free hospital in London warning them bluntly that “we will no doubt run out of items over the weekend”.

  • The inequality virus: how the pandemic hit America's poorest As millions of Americans sign on as unemployed, Guardian April 9: “The US is not alone in face a huge surge in unemployment because of the pandemic. But American workers are particularly vulnerable because they have neither the welfare safety nets afforded by France or Germany, nor the public healthcare of the UK and Canada.
    “The rise of outsourcing, contract work and gig economy jobs has seen ever increasing numbers of workers exposed to sudden economic shock, whether because of a financial crisis or a pandemic.
    “Coronavirus has also thrown a spotlight on the president’s claims of a strong economy when so many American workers lack the resources to cope with even a brief period without work. A Federal Reserve survey last year said four in 10 workers would struggle to find $400 in an emergency, with out-of-pocket medical expenses presenting a particular hardship.”

  • Coronavirus is the greatest global science policy failure in a generation Lancet editor Richard Horton in a hard hitting comment piece for the Guardian on April 9:
    “Austerity blunted the ambition and commitment of government to protect its people. The political objective was to diminish the size and role of the state. The result was to leave the country fatally weakened. Whatever the reasons for failing to act upon the lessons of Sars and influenza simulations, the fact remained, as Boyd summed it up, “we were poorly prepared”.
    “The global response to Sars-CoV-2 is the greatest science policy failure in a generation. The signals were clear. Hendra in 1994, Nipah in 1998, Sars in 2003, Mers in 2012 and Ebola in 2014; these major human epidemics were all caused by viruses that originated in animal hosts and crossed over into humans. Covid-19 is caused by a new variant of the same coronavirus that caused Sars.”

  • SC makes coronavirus testing free of cost, directs private hospitals not to charge fee for testing Times of India reports a dramatic ruling of the Supreme Court which has riled the private sector

  • Nurses and Doctors Speaking Out on Safety Now Risk Their Job New York Times (April 9) reports on concerted efforts to gag hospital and other key workers criticising the lack of PPE:
    “As the coronavirus crisis has escalated, workers as varied as grocery cashiers, customer-service representatives and flight attendants have clashed with the employers they accuse of failing to protect and properly value them. Amazon drew attention when it fired a worker who had led a protest over health concerns at a Staten Island warehouse.
    “But perhaps the most curious and persistent management-labor tension has arisen between health care providers like doctors and nurses, who are at the forefront of the virus battle, and the administrators they report to.
    “In New York City, the epicenter of the crisis in the United States, every major private hospital system has sent memos in recent weeks ordering workers not to speak with the media, as have some public hospitals.”

  • Results of BMA survey of hospital doctors working in high-risk AGP areas April 8, showing “shocking lack of PPE supplies to frontline”

  • Results of BMA survey of GPs April 8, showing “shocking lack of PPE supplies to frontline”

  • NHS Providers on coronavirus (08.04.20) Lame statement from NHS providers concludes with the mildest of criticisms of government failure:
    "We also know that despite real progress in distribution, there are continuing concerns, for example with regard to gowns.

    "It's vital these are addressed as quickly as possible wherever they arise – be it in hospitals, mental health, community or ambulance settings – or indeed in other areas such as hospices and social care where we are aware of continuing difficulties."

  • Swedish hospitals abandon trial of promising malaria drug chloroquine for coronavirus patients after it caused them blinding headaches, vision loss and agonising cramps Daily Mail (April 8) reports worrying side effects of the drug promoted as Covid-19 cure by Donald Trump: “Hospitals in Sweden have stopped using the malaria drug chloroquine on coronavirus patients after reports it was causing blinding headaches and vision loss.
    “Doctors in the Vastra Gotaland region, 200miles west of Stockholm, are no longer administering the medication, touted as a 'miracle drug' by Donald Trump.
    “A number of patients at hospitals in the county reported suffering cramps, peripheral vision loss and migraines within days of being prescribed the tablets.
    “For one in 100 people, chloroquine can also cause the heart to beat too fast or slow, which can lead to a fatal heart attack.”

  • Most U.K.-Made Ventilators Won’t Arrive Ahead of Virus Peak April 8 blast of realism from Bloomberg: “When Britain’s government issued an urgent call to industry for thousands of hospital ventilators, more than 5,000 companies offered to help. Coronavirus infections are expected to peak next week and there’s little to show for their effort.
    Significant deliveries from the firms are still weeks away, and the embattled National Health Service has resorted to foreign imports and loans from the armed forces and the private sector to double its ventilator count to around 10,000.”
    “For now, the supply of ventilators from British manufacturers is tiny. The NHS expects to receive 30 locally-made machines this week, compared to 300 sourced from China over the weekend.
    Department of Health and Social Care officials say they are confident there will be enough ventilators to meet demand, given the steps being taken to increase the number available, and as long as people continue to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus.”

  • Bus driver killed by coronavirus 'told his pay would be cut if he missed work' Mirror April 8 report “A bus driver who died after contracting coronavirus told his family he couldn't miss work because his bosses would "cut his pay" his grief-stricken mum claims.
    “Dad-of-one Emeka Nyack Ihenacho, 36, lost his fight on Saturday and is one of at least 14 transport workers in London to die after catching Covid-19.
    “His devastated mum, Anne Nyack, has criticised Mayor Sadiq Khan and said all transport workers should be given personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves to protect them from the killer bug.
    “Anne said: “I only discovered after talking to my daughter that she begged him not to go to work and his words to here were, ‘If I don’t go in they are going to cut my pay’."”

  • Silencing NHS staff who speak out is sheer stupidity April 8 BMJ blog by frontline doctor David Oliver: “On 31 March the media reported on a dossier from the Doctors’ Association UK detailing numerous instances of medical and nursing staff being warned, disciplined, threatened, monitored, and gagged for speaking out on social or mainstream media.
    “Their concerns included a lack of personal protective equipment and testing for covid-19—putting them, their families, and their patients at risk.2 The staff also highlighted what they saw as inconsistent and unconvincing guidance from their employers and national authorities.
    “There’s a long history of NHS executives and managers being leant on to prevent them speaking out publicly about other issues, such as serious overcrowding and bed pressures in winter.
    “Speaking to the Guardian’s Denis Campbell about the Doctors’ Association report, an NHS England spokesperson emphasised the importance of consistent, clear, centralised official communication during a major national incident but said that individual staff members remained free to speak out in a personal capacity.”

  • Billionaire Dyson’s 10,000 Ventilators Risk Missing Coronavirus ‘Peak Week’ In U.K. Hospitals Forbes magazine (April 8) joins the widespread derision at the incompetence of British government procurement of ventilators to tackle Covid-19:
    “With U.K. hospitals already approaching the suggested “peak week” time frame, doctors are now concerned that the ventilators promised by entrepreneurs, with much fanfare, are not going to hit wards in time to meet the rapid rise in need. None of the doctors approached by Forbes expect an influx of ventilators (installed and manned) by this weekend.”

  • Tesco defends £900m dividend payout (£) Times report April 8: “Tesco has defended its decision to hand investors a total £900 million in dividends despite taking £585 million from the government’s business rates relief holiday.
    “Dave Lewis, 55, Tesco chief executive, said that the business rates holiday allowed the supermarket to invest in “making the right decisions to feed the nation” during the pandemic and he argued that the relief covered only half of the additional costs the supermarket chain would face.
    “Supermarkets have witnessed a spike in sales from stockpiling shoppers. They have come under fire for taking the government handout, with a boss of a large non-food retailer recently telling The Times that Tesco “should hand the money back to the NHS”.

  • Most doctors still lack protective equipment, finds survey BMA April 7 press release to accompany shocking survey figures:
    “The survey found that more than half (55 per cent) of hospital doctors felt pressured often or sometimes to be involved in risky ‘aerosol-generating procedures’ without adequate protection.
    “The fitted masks and face protection recommended by Public Health England for the riskiest situation were in shortest supply, the survey found. More than half (54 per cent) reported a shortage or ‘no supply’ at all of FFP3 (Filtering Face Piece) masks. Seventy per cent said the same for full-faced visors.
    Supplies in GP surgeries were even worse, the survey found.
    “Almost nine out of 10 GPs (88 per cent) lacked access to eye protection, 58 per cent had not received a regular supply of face masks. Only 2 per cent of GPs said they felt ‘fully protected’.”

  • A public inquiry into the UK's coronavirus response would find a litany of failures Guadina April 1 Comment is Free: "More than three months after the virus first appeared in Wuhan, England and Wales still lack the necessary testing capacity and surveillance infrastructure to shut down the epidemic. Crucial frontline workers are still doing their jobs without adequate personal protective equipment. Public Health England (PHE) seem unable to increase the daily number of tests in line with European neighbours. As other countries acted swiftly to contain the epidemic, the UK appears indecisive and delayed, shifting late in the day from a controversial herd immunity strategy to a lockdown. History won’t look kindly on Britain’s response."

  • UK care home bosses threaten to quit over return of coronavirus patients Guardian April 2 report on the neglected issues of care homes and social care: "Care home managers have threatened to resign over new government guidelines that state they have to accept residents who have coronavirus.
    "The guidance also says hospitals will not routinely test residents entering care homes, meaning managers will not know if returning residents are infectious but asymptomatic.
    “Some [returning] patients may have Covid-19, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic,” the guidance says. “All of these patients can be safely cared for in a care home if this guidance is followed.”
    "The guidance also states that if a home has more than one symptomatic resident, health protection teams may arrange swabbing for up to five residents to confirm the existence of an outbreak. “Testing all cases is not required as this would not change the subsequent management of an outbreak,” the guidance says."

  • Healthcare expenditure across the EU Handy comparative figures from Eurostat include the UK, and show that while the revised recent figures show UK spending just below the European average share of GDP on health, British spending per head is 15th, well below the level of most other comparable countries.

  • ‘These aren’t just numbers, they are lives’: How black Americans are dying from coronavirus – and institutional racism is blocking testing Independent April 7 report: "A senior African American politician has denounced as “devastating” a report that black people made up up to 70 per cent of coronavirus deaths in her city.
    "As anecdotal reports are increasingly being backed up by data to show people of colour in the US make up a disproportionate number of those both being infected and dying from the virus, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot launched a new effort to urge people to remain at home to try and limit its spread."

  • Medical ethics during the coronavirus pandemic Statement of principles from Doctors for Unite, which notes: "There may come a time where our healthcare system is overwhelmed. But we have not yet reached that point. How we act now affects whether the country runs out of ventilators, oxygen, protective equipment, and medication. The single priority for all UK manufacturing must be the production of these goods. There is nothing more important. We must never reach the point where a person goes without a lifesaving treatment only because it is in too short supply. "

  • Hospices warn they could close as virus hits fundraising BBC April 7 noting the problems of funding vital hospice services through charities rather than government funding: "Hospices could close as they "cannot wait any longer" for emergency funding after the coronavirus lockdown hit fundraising, charities have said.
    "Sue Ryder said it is facing a £12m gap in funds over the next three months while Marie Curie said it would need £30m to keep services running over the same period.
    "Bosses say they are helping the NHS by freeing up beds for Covid-19 patients.
    "Hospice UK estimates the sector has already lost more than £70m in revenue.
    "With charity shops closed and fundraising events such as the London Marathon as well as individual events run by charities being postponed, the charities that run end of life facilities said services may have to be closed unless the public or government, stepped in."

  • Special Report: Johnson listened to his scientists about coronavirus - but they were slow to sound the alarm Excellent report from Reuters shows how government policy on the coronavirus has evolved, but always lagged behind the situation when it was not steering in the wrong direction.

  • Trump announces, then reverses, freeze on funding for World Health Organization Politico website flags up first Trump moves towards cutting funds to WHO in the midst of a pandemic: “U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced plans to put a hold on American funding for the World Health Organization, accusing the United Nations specialized agency of being “very China centric” and criticizing its early guidance aimed at countering the international spread of the coronavirus.
    “We're going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We're going to put a very powerful hold on it and we‘re going to see," Trump said at the outset of a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House.
    Minutes later, though, the president walked back the declaration, telling reporters that he was “looking into it” and conceding that a global pandemic was “maybe not” the best time to freeze funding for the international organization.
    “I mean, I'm not saying I‘m going to do it, but we are going to look at it,” Trump said, denying his comments from minutes earlier when pressed by reporters. “I said we’re going to look at it. We’re going to investigate it, we're going to look at it. But we will look at ending funding.”

  • How Greece flattened the coronavirus curve Al Jazeera April 7 report: “Greeks quickly put their revolutionary spirit aside, however, and largely heeded government advice to remain indoors. The result has been a remarkably low number of deaths - 81 by Tuesday, compared to more than 17,000 in neighbouring Italy. Even adjusted for population sizes, Italy's fatality rate is almost 40 times greater.
    Compared with other European Union members, too, Greece has fared better. Its fatalities are far lower than in Belgium (2,035) or the Netherlands (1,867), which have similar populations, but a much higher gross domestic product (GDP).”

  • Give foreign nationals in NHS indefinite leave to remain, say MPs Guardian April 7 report on a cross-party group of 60 MPs: “The MPs – led by the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine and the shadow justice secretary, David Lammy – have written to the home secretary, Priti Patel, urging her to say that “those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it”.
    They also want indefinite leave to remain to be extended to the families of foreign nationals working in the NHS. Last week, Patel announced a free-of-charge one-year extension for 2,800 foreign doctors, nurses and paramedics, whose visas are due to expire by 1 October. But the cross-party group, which includes one Conservative MP, Daniel Poulter, argue it does not go far enough.”

  • New Zealand's coronavirus lockdown has resulted in only one death April 7 article from The Hill: “New Zealand’s coronavirus lockdown has led to only one death in the country so far, data from Johns Hopkins University shows as of Tuesday morning.
    “New Zealand implemented a strict lockdown last month, beginning on March 25, set to last four weeks with a focus on eliminating the virus rather than containing it. Less than two weeks in, the number of new coronavirus cases per day has decreased two days in a row.
    “A total of 65 recoveries were confirmed on Tuesday, higher than the 54 reported new cases, The Washington Post reported. One person, an elderly woman with underlying health conditions, has died from the virus.”

  • Britain faces a care crisis that could overwhelm the NHS Independent major report by Shaun Lintern April 6 on the chaotic, largely private social care system: "Britain’s fractured and underfunded social care system is at risk of collapsing within weeks due to pressure from coronavirus – piling further strain onto hospitals, an investigation by The Independent has found.
    "Across the country, care providers say they have been pushed to the brink of closure because some local councils are refusing to release emergency funding made available by the government, while many face staff shortages, a lack of equipment and too few nurses to care for extra patients being discharged by the NHS.
    "Some care-home managers have warned that the vulnerable or elderly who fall ill may be all but abandoned by local NHS services, with reports of unlawful do-not-resuscitate orders being put in place by some GPs.
    "While national efforts have focused on shoring up the health service to help it cope with a surge in coronavirus infections, experts warned not enough has been done to make sure the 18,000 care sector companies, on which the health service may rely, can withstand the next few weeks and months."

  • NHS coronavirus nurse, 23, dies after 12-hour shift 'without right protective kit' Distressing Mirror story (April 6): "A third NHS nurse has died after caring for patients sick with coronavirus.
    "John Alagos, 23, is believed to be the youngest medic in the UK to succumb to the devastating virus after he collapsed.
    "His mother, Gina Gustilo, said her son fell ill during a 12-hour shift at Watford General Hospital but was allegedly not allowed to return home due to short-staffing.
    "She says that instead, he remained at work because his ward was so short-staffed."

  • Britain has millions of coronavirus antibody tests, but they don’t work (£) Times report April 6 reveals yet another flaw in the government's approach:
    "None of the antibody tests ordered by the government is good enough to use, the new testing chief has admitted.
    "John Newton said that tests ordered from China were able to identify immunity accurately only in people who had been severely ill and that Britain was no longer hoping to buy millions of kits off the shelf.
    "Instead government scientists hope to work with companies to improve the performance of antibody tests. Professor Newton said he was “optimistic” that one would come good in months."

  • UK ministers accused of prioritising careers over lives of coronavirus victims Guardian April 6 report, linked to an article by Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union, which represents the UK’s most senior public servants: “As pressure mounts over the capacity for coronavirus testing and the supply of PPE and ventilators, finding someone to blame rather than fixing the problem seems to be the priority for some at the heart of government,” said Penman. “Well-placed anonymous sources have started pointing fingers at everyone from the cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill, to Public Health England.
    “If mistakes have been made, ministers and civil servants will rightly be held accountable … While ministers and officials must be scrutinised for their decisions as events unfold, many of these questions will inevitably be for another day."

  • Leading surgeon at Cardiff hospital dies after contracting coronavirus Wales online April 6 reports the death of another top NHS doctor:
    "Jitendra Rathod, a cardiac surgeon, was admitted to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, before being taken to intensive care.
    "However, despite the best efforts of his colleagues, Mr Rathod died on Monday morning.
    "The tragic news was confirmed by health officials on Monday evening.
    "A statement by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: "It is with profound sadness that we must inform you that Mr Jitendra Rathod, associate specialist in cardiothoracic surgery, has passed away."

  • After this crisis, remember the NHS is not drained by migrants, but sustained by them Important Guardian article April 6 highlights key role of migrant doctors:
    "Many of these migrant doctors will be paying a hefty annual NHS surcharge for the privilege of using an NHS they staff, in addition to paying tax and national insurance contributions. This surcharge is set to rise from £400 to £624 a year this October.
    "The health secretary, Matt Hancock, who in November declared that the NHS surcharge was going to be extended because 'it’s the National Health Service not the International Health Service', on Thursday saluted those NHS staffers who perished as 'people who came to this country to make a difference'.
    "These are likely to be temporary face- and life-saving platitudes and measures. When it’s back to business as usual, when the NHS is used as a political pawn, and blame for its underfunding is placed at the feet of migrants, remember Amged El-Hawrani and all the others who fell on its frontline to save lives. Remember their names, their faces, their stories and the families they left behind."

  • Coronavirus: Hospital A&E closes even for emergencies amid rising numbers of Covid-19 patients Worrying April 5 Independent report on Watford General: "Patients needing emergency care are being ordered to stay away from a Hertfordshire hospital after it started to run critically low on oxygen amid rising numbers of coronavirus admissions.
    "Watford General said people requiring accident and emergency treatment should go to the nearest other facility until further notice.
    "Although the temporary closure was not explicitly linked to Covid-19, The Independent understands that supplies of oxygen are in such demand by those being treated for the novel virus that it is feared they could soon run out.
    "It is believed the move makes the hospital – run by West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust – the first in the country to have to offload patients as a result of demand caused by the pandemic."

  • The NHS workers wearing bin bags as protection BBC April 5 report: "Several healthcare workers in England have told the BBC of a lack of equipment in their hospitals.
    "Warned against speaking to the media, they were unwilling to talk publicly. However, one intensive care doctor from the Midlands wanted to go on record. The BBC agreed to change her name in order to protect her identity.
    "Dr Roberts describes a hospital on the brink. Intensive care is already full of coronavirus (Covid-19) patients. All operations deemed non-urgent, even the cancer clinics, have been cancelled. There is a lack of staff, a lack of critical care beds, a shortage of basic antibiotics and ventilators.
    "… However, nothing Dr Roberts describes is quite as alarming as the fact that these medical professionals, who continue to care for critically ill patients for 13 hours every day, are having to resort to fashioning personal protective equipment (PPE) out of clinical waste bags, plastic aprons and borrowed skiing goggles."

  • NHS needs a third fewer ventilators than forecast, says Hancock In yet anotherr revision of government plans and claimed action, HSJ report April 5 notes: "Matt Hancock has revealed the NHS is now aiming to have 18,000 ventilators to meet a “worst case scenario” - a reduction of more than a third from previous estimates.
    "The health and social care secretary said previous estimates of around 30,000 had reduced because of the successful impact of social distancing measures in slowing the spread of coronavirus. Thousands of people severely affected by covid-19 require mechanical ventilation to supply oxygen to their lungs.
    "Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning, Mr Hancock acknowledged the number of machines currently in the system falls far short of both estimates.
    "He said: “We have between 9,000 and 10,000 ventilators within the NHS right now, and we have two thousand spare critical care beds with ventilator capacity should we need them…[and] there should be another 1,500 [in a week’s time].”

  • ExCeL owner scraps all fees for NHS to use Nightingale field hospital Guardian report April 5 shows the positive power of media and public opinion: "The ExCeL centre has U-turned on charging the NHS to turn the exhibition space into a 4,000-bed field hospital.
    "The chief executive of the London event centre, Jeremy Rees, said the deal with the health service had included some contributions to costs, but “we have since decided to cover the fixed costs ourselves”.
    "Rees said in a statement: “The use of ExCeL London for NHS Nightingale London has always been provided to the NHS rent-free. We joined the national effort to combat coronavirus immediately and worked in close partnership with the NHS to ensure this hospital could be up and running in a matter of days.
    “The initial agreement with the NHS included a contribution to some fixed costs. We have since decided to cover the fixed costs ourselves. The ExCeL London facility is fully available to the NHS, and we are here to support all their needs and requirements during this crisis.”"

  • Nearly 400 care groups 'face protection shortages' BBC April 5 report highlights the continued disconnect between government statements and reality on supplies of PPE:
    "Almost 400 care companies which provide home support across the UK have told the BBC they still do not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE).
    "Without protection, providers say they may not be able to care for people awaiting hospital discharge.
    "Of 481 providers, 381 - 80% - said they did not have enough PPE to be able to support older and vulnerable people.
    "The government said it was working "around the clock" to give the sector the equipment it needs."

  • Coronavirus response could create 'very serious unintended consequences' HSJ (April 5): "National NHS leaders are to take action over growing fears that the “unintended consequences” of focusing so heavily on tackling covid-19 could do more harm than the virus, HSJ has learned.
    "NHS England analysts have been tasked with the challenging task of identifying patients who may not have the virus but may be at risk of significant harm or death because they are missing vital appointments or not attending emergency departments, with both the service and public so focused on covid-19.
    "… Nuffield Trust deputy director of research Sarah Scobie said it was “a considerable worry that people are keeping away from routine and urgent health services, and also from emergency departments”.
    "She added: “The PHE data suggests there could be significant problems already developing for heart disease related conditions patients, for example. Attendances relating to myocardial infarction at emergency departments have dropped right down, whereas ambulance calls in relation to chest pain have gone right [up]. "

  • Care home boss: hospitals refusing to admit residents with coronavirus York Press April 5 report: "A York care home boss has told of her heartbreak as it is 'stretched to breaking point' by the coronavirus crisis.
    "Rachel Beckett, chair of Wellburn,which has 14 homes across the north-east including several in the York area, claims hospitals are refusing to admit any residents who test positive for the virus and the firm has received calls from local doctors instructing it to be prepared for 'multiple end of life situations.'
    She said: "We know we’re going to lose people. Hospitals are now turning their backs on us, sending residents who have been admitted with symptoms back to our homes."

  • There’s Never Been a Better Time for Us to End Private Health Insurance Than Right Now Jacobin magazine: "he US health care system is going to be overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic for months to come. But when the spread of the virus finally does subside, many of its impacts will be here to stay. With millions of Americans likely to need expensive hospital stays this year, our nationwide health care costs are expected to increase by as much as $251 billion, according to a new analysis. As a result, US health insurance premiums could rise by up to 40 percent in 2021, exacerbating a crisis of ever-increasing costs that already leave Americans paying far more for care than the people of any other country.
    "What this means is that we’re about to hit a fork in the road with the private insurance industry. The coronavirus is shredding insurers’ profits right now, underlining the fact that private insurance is simply not built to handle a medical crisis."

  • NHS worker quit when she was stopped from wearing face mask Guardian April 4 report on Hillingdon Hospital HCA:
    “Tracy Brennan … a healthcare assistant … said she had returned to work after self-isolating for 14 days because her daughter had shown symptoms of Covid-19. She said that patients in the ward where she was working, which was not a coronavirus treatment ward, felt comfortable with her wearing the surgical mask and some positively encouraged her to do so.
    “She wrote in the letter: “Upon arriving to work on Tuesday morning, whilst still wearing a mask, you asked me for a word in your office. You outlined to me that wearing a mask wasn’t following the trust policy and asked me to remove it. I responded stating that I wasn’t pleased with this instruction and defended myself stating that I was uncomfortable not wearing a mask while dealing with patients who may be carriers of Covid, however I adhered to the request.”

  • Government's 100,000-a-day coronavirus testing pledge 'not achievable', fear scientists Mirror April 4 report: "A government promise to test 100,000 people a day for coronavirus by the end of April is unlikely to be achievable, scientists have warned.
    "The Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) says its members are already “testing to the limit of our materials” and that a lack of vital equipment is stopping them from scaling up.
    "The body, which represents around 17,000 NHS lab scientists and staff, says it stands ready to carry out more Covid-19 tests but needs more chemical reagents, test tubes and swabs to do so.
    "The government has been facing growing pressure to increase the rate of screening as the UK - which is currently carrying out just 10,000 tests a day - has lagged behind countries such as Germany and South Korea. "

  • The Financial Times has abandoned neoliberalism – and they must never be allowed to forget this Richard Murphy, April 4 reports: "This is quite a surprising editorial comment in a UK newspaper today:
    "If there is a silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that it has injected a sense of togetherness into polarised societies. But the virus, and the economic lockdowns needed to combat it, also shine a glaring light on existing inequalities — and even create new ones. Beyond defeating the disease, the great test all countries will soon face is whether current feelings of common purpose will shape society after the crisis. As western leaders learnt in the Great Depression, and after the second world war, to demand collective sacrifice you must offer a social contract that benefits everyone."

  • £55 billion of NHS PFI debt has not been written off: with so much else that now needs to be reformed if the NHS is to serve us into the future Tax expert Richard Murphy (April 3) commenting on the announcement that £13.4bn of unpayable borrowing run up by trusts in past few years to minimise deficits are to be written off. In practice the trusts were never going to be able to pay them back anyway.

  • Coronavirus hospital plans paused over potential lack of demand April 3 HSJ report notes: "Potential plans for the region — which sources told HSJ included a potential 500-bed facility in the industrial unit near Nissan’s Sunderland car factory — were halted on 1 April.
    "However, HSJ understands the region’s acute chiefs are still keen to explore options for a surge facility so they can react if the situation changes.
    "One local NHS leader told HSJ they feared the north east, where 124 covid-related deaths — or around 4 per cent of England’s total covid-19 deaths — have so far been reported, is “being lulled into a false sense of security, because the storm [is] not fully hitting here yet, but it might”.
    "Another leader in the north east expressed doubt a temporary hospital in the region will ever be signed off or fully commissioned despite several weeks of preparatory work. They told HSJ: “The field hospitals [plan] feels like a right mess”."

  • Two young nurses die as NHS braces for more coronavirus losses Guardian April 3 report: "Two nurses in their 30s have died after contracting coronavirus, and it has emerged that nurses and frontline health workers are being offered grief counselling and psychological support, with the loss of more NHS lives anticipated.
    "Areema Nasreen, a 36-year-old NHS nurse from Walsall in the West Midlands, who was believed to have had no underlying health issues, died shortly after midnight on Thursday in intensive care at Walsall Manor hospital, where she had worked for 16 years.
    "Tributes were also paid to another NHS nurse, named locally as mother of three Aimee O’Rourke, who is is believed to have contracted the virus before she died. She was described as “a wonderful friend and colleague” to those who worked with her at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital in Margate, Kent."

  • NHS trust debts written off: now for a real change of regime Keep Our NHS Public comment on a policy step that is welcome in itself, but won't cost any money, save trusts any money, or increase front line funding. The loans to bridge funding gaps created since 2010 have long been unpayable, and no trusts were going to even try.

  • Nightingale hospitals will strain NHS staffing to limit, warn doctors Financial Times April 3 report: “London hospitals, already facing acute staffing shortages, will be expected to provide some 1,000 doctors, nurses and other workers for the capital’s Nightingale facility that will start with 500 beds but have the capacity to expand to 4,000.
    “Matt Hancock, the health secretary, hailed the temporary facility in the capital’s ExCeL exhibition centre as a symbol of the “best of the National Health Service” at the opening on Friday. But clinicians said it risked exacerbating an existing staffing crunch.
    “Even before the Covid-19 crisis, the King’s Fund, a think-tank, warned that NHS staffing levels were dangerously depleted, with 96,000 vacancies last year from a workforce of 1.1m.”

  • Germany’s virus response shines unforgiving light on Britain Financial Times April 3 report: “With the pandemic bearing down, Boris Johnson on March 17 called on Britain’s captains of industry to start building ventilators to supplement the country’s stock of 8,000, lightheartedly dubbing the scheme “Operation Last Gasp”.
    “But almost a week before the prime minister spoke, Germany had ordered 10,000 from an established manufacturer, adding to its existing 20,000 machines. This week Germany had more than twice as many critical care beds vacant — around 15,000 to 20,000 — as England has in its system overall.
    “Even more stark is relative performance on testing. The UK and Germany entered the crisis in lock-step, working together on virus tests, some of the first developed in the world. But Germany’s labs ran at more than five-times the NHS rate, completing 918,460 tests versus Britain’s 163,194.”

  • The inflexibility of our lumbering NHS is why the country has had to shut down Predictably reactionary (£) ranting comment article from former Torygraph editor (and boss of Boris Johnson) Charles Moore heaping blame on "inflexible" NHS for failings of ministers, Public Health England and almost anything else. Ironically winds up arguing the merits of the much more expensive and much more bureaucratic German system with three times as many beds per head as Britain.

  • Government seeks urgent PPE audit amid widespread shortages HSJ reports in an exclusive (April 1) that despite constantly claiming in daily press conferences that supplies of PPE are adequate, “The government has ordered an urgent national audit of personal protective equipment, body bags, swabs and infection control products”.
    “Local resilience forum planners were earlier this week asked to share stock levels and daily consumption rates of the items at ambulance, acute trusts and in primary care and other services by 9pm on Tuesday.
    “… The email added the data collection was “authorised” by Number 10. Yet on Tuesday afternoon — just hours before the audit results were due — a Downing Street spokesperson played down supply issues, telling reporters he had “not seen anything to suggest we don’t have enough [PPE].”
    “The news comes days after a new national PPE supply channel was announced in response to weeks of major shortages at trusts, GPs and community partners. HSJ revealed on Tuesday that retail logistics firm Clipper would manage the new coronavirus-related channel.
    “The audit request came from a Ministry of Defence planner at the resilience and emergencies division of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. As well as trusts, resilience forum staff were asked to share stock levels among adult social care services, numbers of mortuary staff, other local authority staff, police, prisons, fire and rescue services and funeral directors.”

  • PHE publishes updated guidance on use of PPE Pulse reports on the new PPE guidance, and notes, in context of primary care, BMA comments and warnings that supplies are vital -- and have not been getting through to many NHS hospitals or GPs:
    "BMA chair of council Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'Although PHE has produced updated guidance, what fundamentally matters is that doctors and healthcare workers get the adequate and appropriate supplies of PPE on the frontline. Without these supplies there is continued unacceptable danger to the health and lives of healthcare workers and their patients.'
    "The BMA has warned that without adequate protection, GPs and hospital doctors 'will die' from Covid-19.
    "Dr Nagpaul said: 'It is four days since the minister Robert Jenrick gave the assurance that no frontline staff should be working without the right protective equipment. Yet this week the BMA has received concerns from doctors in over 30 hospital trusts about inadequate PPE supplies and GPs across England who are yet to receive eye protection.'"

  • COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) The long awaited revised guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) from Public Health England. It notes:
    "This guidance …seeks to set out clear and actionable recommendations on the use of PPE, as part of safe systems of working, for health and social care workers relative to their day-to-day work. Incidence of COVID-19 varies across the UK and risk is not uniform and so elements of the updated guidance are intended for interpretation and application dependant on local assessment of risk."

  • America doesn’t have a health care system First hand account in the Outline dispels some myths about US health care: "in my 26 years as a patient in American hospitals, I’ve experienced rationing of all kinds. Bed shortages, medications being out of stock, nurses given too many patients, a single specialist available for an entire inpatient population. Which is why, in early March, as reports came in from Italy of hospitals buckling under the strain of coronavirus patients, I realized that regardless of the true scale of the pandemic in the U.S., New York was likely to experience the same fate. Despite being in a high-risk demographic and having a history of pneumonia and heart and lung disease, my concern wasn’t about the virus itself or my ability to survive it. What panicked me was visions of overrun ERs, full intensive care units — a world where I was sick and insured and still couldn’t be treated, because I had already experienced those things in smaller ways many times."

  • NHS nurse who died 'would still be alive if given proper protective equipment' Sky News April 2 report: "An NHS nurse who died after contracting coronavirus would still be alive today if he had been given proper protective equipment, his family believe.
    "Thomas Harvey, a healthcare assistant at North East London NHS Foundation Trust, had been unable to eat for several days and struggled to breathe after catching COVID-19, two of his children told Sky News."

  • Only 30 British-built ventilators to arrive in NHS next week, government admits Independent April 2 report: "Only 30 new British-built ventilators will be delivered to the NHS next week to treat coronavirus patients, the government has admitted.
    "Cabinet office minister Michael Gove told a press conference on Tuesday that the "first of thousands" of new devices manufactured in the UK would be sent to the front line next week but he did not specify how many would be in the first delivery.
    "Officials admitted on Wednesday that the first batch will only include 30 ventilators, with hundreds more expected in the coming weeks."

  • Coronavirus patients more likely to die may have ventilators taken away Sky News report April 2: ""Health professionals may be obliged to withdraw treatment from some patients to enable treatment of other patients with a higher survival probability," the document states.
    "This may involve withdrawing treatment from an individual who is stable or even improving but whose objective
    assessment indicates a worse prognosis than another patient who requires the same resource."
    "The BMA's guidance says that during the peak of the pandemic doctors may have to assess a person's eligibility for treatment based on a "capacity to benefit quickly" basis."

  • Wycombe Hospital receive equipment from the public Bucks Free Press report: "A former parliamentary candidate for Wycombe is doing her bit to get businesses and schools to donate pieces of equipment to the NHS.
    "… So far, the Wycombe High School and the Royal Grammar School in Wycombe have got involved, and she hopes more will follow soon.
    "Both schools have supplied masks, goggles and gloves to Wycombe Hospital.
    "Ms Brodelle, who is a teacher by day, told the Bucks Free Press: “The Government is trying to get what they can but there’s no way that the NHS would have these stocks in reserve as we’re not geared up for a pandemic."

  • 'A glimmer of hope but little detail': experts react to Hancock's test plan Guardian April 2 report on comments of various experts on the latest change of direction by ministers on testing.

  • Government has bought no Covid-19 home testing kits despite Matt Hancock's claim millions had been purchased Surprisingly critical April 2 report from Daily Telegraph: "The Government has still not bought any Covid-19 immunity home testing kits, more than a week after Matt Hancock claimed 3.5 million had already been purchased.
    "The accuracy of the kits – described as "game changers" by Boris Johnson – is still being validated by a panel of experts appointed by ministers. Public Health England (PHE), which had previously said the antibody tests would be available for home delivery by firms such as Amazon in days, said on Thursday it was not involved in procuring the kits.
    "The confusion over the antibody testing kits will add to growing concern that the Government is losing any grip it had on the coronavirus pandemic."

  • COVID-19 Roundup: Health Workers/LTC Residents Infected, Government Supports & Relief Measures Ontario Health Coalition giving comprehensive summary of major developments on the spread of the virus and attempts to contain it in the giant province.

  • NHS trusts suspend life-saving organ transplants April 2 HSJ report on potential knock-on impact of fight to contain Covid 19:
    “Major transplant centres have stopped performing many of their procedures due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the national coordinating body says a complete cessation “may only be days away”.
    “Reasons for the suspensions include a lack of critical care capacity, staff shortages and difficulties in segregating covid-19 patients.
    “… NHS Blood and Transplant, the special health authority that coordinates donations, told HSJ that most transplant centres are now only considering the “most urgent patients”.
    “The authority has already written to hospitals asking they cut the number of potential donors by almost 50 per cent. HSJ understands this is to reduce the use of intensive care beds as organ donors must remain on ventilators until the organs are ready to be removed.”

  • Delay and dithering mean targets for coronavirus testing are way off (£) Times report April 1: "Boris Johnson says that he hopes to reach 250,000 daily tests for coronavirus infections, but the country is still testing fewer than 10,000 patients a day. At the heart of the problem are two key decisions taken by the prime minister, his advisers and public health officials."

  • Doctors kept away from front line BMA (27 March) again challenging government's failure to test healthcare workers for Covid-19, and its implications:
    "BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul (pictured above) has written to health secretary Matt Hancock urging priority testing for healthcare workers at the NHS’s time of ‘greatest need’.
    "The Government has pledged to keep NHS staff safe and give ‘everything’ frontline workers need, with Mr Hancock promising to ramp up testing, but Dr Nagpaul has demanded clarity.
    "He said: ‘I am writing to ask you when specifically will priority testing for healthcare workers and their symptomatic household members become available? Each day that goes by is illogically perpetuating further reductions of doctors from the workforce who could be treating patients instead.’
    "Dr Nagpaul added: ‘Put simply, this failure to test is resulting in significant numbers of doctors off work, many unnecessarily, adding further pressure to an already stretched service. This is ironic at time when the NHS is actively recruiting retired doctors and medical student to support doctor shortages.’"

  • COVID-19 Bonanza: Stimulus Hands Health Industry Billions Not Directly Related To Pandemic Kaiser Health News (March 31) reports on the emergency measures adopted by US Congress:
    "The coronavirus stimulus package Congress rushed out last week to help the nation’s hospitals and health care networks hands the industry billions of dollars in windfall subsidies and other spending that has little to do with defeating the COVID-19 pandemic.
    "The $2 trillion legislation, which President Donald Trump signed Friday, includes more than $100 billion in emergency funds to compensate hospitals and other health care providers for lost revenue and other costs associated with COVID-19. The measure also calls for spending up to $16 billion to replenish the nation’s depleted stockpile of medical gear, such as ventilators, medicines and personal protective equipment, or PPE.
    "But health care businesses will get billions of dollars in additional funding not directly related to the pandemic, in some cases because Congress agreed to reverse scheduled cuts in the rates paid by Medicaid and Medicare, which the federal government had tried for years to impose."

  • For the sixteenth consecutive day, the government has refused to answer one very simple question about coronavirus Brilliant and funny Independent March 31 take on the government's continued failure to implement WHO policy of mass testing (or carry out its own promises):
    "For the sixteenth consecutive day, we go live to 10 Downing Street for the daily coronavirus press conference.
    “Good afternoon prime minister/health secretary/foreign secretary/chief medical officer/senior NHS management bod/dog/cat/off-duty police officer/inanimate lectern-based object. My question is the same as it has been for the last two weeks. Why is Germany doing more than a half a million coronavirus tests a week and we still haven’t managed to reach our target of 10,000 a day?”
    “Well thank you, Mr or Mrs Blurry Head from the BBC/ITV/Guardian/Beano/Dandy/Razzle/Nuts magazine. May I just say how nice your kitchen is?"

  • The Covid-19 outbreak will lead to untold misery & death in besieged Gaza Grim 27 March warning from Labour & Palestine: "Last weekend, the devastating news broke for the people of Palestine of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the densely populated Gaza strip.
    "It is important for everyone in the labour and solidarity movements to understand why this is truly a nightmare situation for the people of the besieged Gaza strip, and why these 1.8 million people are particularly vulnerable.
    "The UN has previously warned that Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020, and now 13 years of an illegal blockade mean that Gaza’s fragile healthcare system is already stretched to a point that it is hard for us to imagine. Covid-19 means it will now be placed under a simply unbearable strain.
    "Alongside this, the situation in Gaza is one of malnutrition on the rise, poorly controlled non-communicable diseases, dense living and housing conditions.
    "There are deep levels of poverty, the power supply is sporadic and sources of drinking water are largely contaminated.
    "Older people are without access to proper nursing and healthcare.
    "At the current time, Israel has restricted testing kits to the strip, where there are only 60 working ventilators and 2,800 hospital beds. Stocks of essential drugs are already chronically low."

  • Hospitals Tell Doctors They’ll Be Fired If They Speak Out About Lack of Gear Bloomberg report March 31 reveals that the lack of adequate protective equipment and the efforts to gag staff who speak out are similar in Trump's USA and Johnson's NHS:
    "Hospitals are threatening to fire health-care workers who publicize their working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic -- and have in some cases followed through.
    "Ming Lin, an emergency room physician in Washington state, said he was told Friday he was out of a job because he’d given an interview to a newspaper about a Facebook post detailing what he believed to be inadequate protective equipment and testing.
    "In Chicago, a nurse was fired after emailing colleagues that she wanted to wear a more protective mask while on duty.
    "In New York, the NYU Langone Health system has warned employees they could be terminated if they talk to the media without authorization."

  • Royal College of Nursing says lack of PPE puts nurses and their families at risk RCN CEO Dame Donna Kinnair, March 30 says:
    "“The government is finally prioritising Covid-19 testing for NHS staff, including social care, but it is completely unacceptable that weeks into this crisis, there are colleagues in all settings – hospitals, community or care homes – who have not been provided with personal protective equipment.
    "I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all. This cannot continue. They are putting themselves, their families, and their patients at risk.
    “As the professional trade union representing potentially the largest group of affected workers, the RCN has said repeatedly that we will not accept anything less than aprons, gloves and masks for all staff, in all settings. But this is a minimum – and that is why we are so disappointed even that level of protection has yet to be provided."

  • UK insurers tighten terms to explicitly exclude coronavirus FT report March 31, shows hoe British health insurers are proving they are as anti-social and as profit-obsessed as their bigger US equivalents, making sure they carry no risk at all on the major health issue of the day:
    “Insurers are tightening the terms of their business coverage to make sure anything related to the coronavirus pandemic is explicitly excluded. The industry has been criticised for sticking to a tough line since the crisis began that the outbreak is already excluded from many policies.
    “According to brokers and other advisers, insurers have been closing any remaining loopholes on contracts that are up for renewal to try to reduce their exposure to any future costs.
    “They are rushing out a whole series of exclusions in all kinds of different contracts,” said Bruce Hepburn, chief executive of Mactavish, a claims specialist. “The big worry is that these are very broad exclusions.” “They are making sure not only that they were not on the hook when [the outbreak] happened, but that they won’t be on the hook at all. It really doesn’t feel like they are sharing the pain,” he added."

  • UNISON writes to PM over lack of PPE for front line staff Text of a letter from the largest public sector union to Boris Johnson demanding action on the continued lack of adequate personal protection equipment in NHS and social care.

  • Why Did Government Downgrade COVID-19? Can We Trust Numbers & Why Little Testing? Blog by prominent public health expert Prof John Ashton on the latest twists and turns of government policy and the failures to deal scientifically with the Covid-19 epidemic.

  • Chronicle of a “national scandal” – blunders and deception Detailed account in The Lowdown (March 31) of the ways ministerial statements day by day have bluffed waffled and lied to journalists:
    "However the attempts to palm off journalists and the public with superficial claims and statements have proved increasingly ineffective, while the frustrations of the NHS staff whose own lives are potentially being put at risk have been voiced more loudly and effectively.
    "Time and again Matt Hancock, whose department assured us in February that the NHS was “extremely well prepared for coronavirus,” has been seen to have lied and dissembled when asked about the extension of testing, supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital staff, and delivery of ventilators to supplement the inadequate stocks.
    "Hancock’s claim – made on BBC Question TIme, that he was working with supermarkets to secure deliveries of food to vulnerable patients was denied by retail insiders and described as “totally made up”. Even the Daily Mail cast doubt on the assertion that new ventilators could be in hospitals ‘within days’ when manufacturers were warning that it would take a month to start large scale production."

  • PPE delays – the Unipart way March 30 from the Lowdown: "NHS Supply Chain is the organisation which should be coordinating the distribution of the vital PPE gear, ventilators, supplies of sanitiser and other basics to hospital trusts, GPs and community health providers. But it is manifestly failing in its task.
    "Who, then are NHS Supply Chain? Technically it is a holding company owned by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. But in practice it is an immensely complex and dysfunctional web of contracts at the centre of which is Unipart, the one-time supplier of components to the motor industry, which won the £730m contract to take over the logistical contract from DHL back in 2018.
    "Since March last year Unipart Logistics has been tasked with delivering medical devices and hospital consumables (other than medicine) to NHS trusts, warehousing, inventory management, order processing and delivery, and a subcontracted home delivery service, which makes up 10% of the contract. So if they are not being delivered, it’s down to them."

  • Urgent: PPE provision for the adult social care sector: Letter to Secretary of State Matt Hancock from the LGA and ADASS Letter from local government and social care bosses again flags up the glaring gap between ministerial claims and the harsh reality on the ground:
    "As the Government recognises, social care is at the frontline of responding to the unique challenges posed by Covid-19 and the workforce is doing an incredible job in extremely testing circumstances. It is also doing a dangerous job, with colleagues putting themselves, their families and their communities at risk. Ensuring their safety must be the number one priority alongside the safety of those they are supporting.
    "Despite welcome recognition from Government of the importance of PPE, we continue to receive daily reports from colleagues that essential supplies are not getting through to the social care frontline.
    "Furthermore, national reporting that equipment has been delivered to providers on the CQC registered list does not tally with colleagues’ experience on the ground.
    "Of equal concern, there is a notable lack of confidence in national planning for, and provision of, PPE for the thousands of people who work in non-regulated services, such as personal assistants. The advice they are being given is to contact their local council. To be absolutely clear, councils do not have stocks of PPE equipment to distribute."

  • https://www.union-news.co.uk/social-care-workers-at-breaking-point-over-lack-of-ppe-warns-unison/ Union News reports: "Social care workers across the country are at breaking point with many being given just plastic aprons and gloves to protect against coronavirus as they support the vulnerable and elderly, UNISON has said.
    "Care workers say some managers are either refusing to issue face masks or not providing training in how to use them, and not supplying hand sanitiser. This has triggered widespread anxiety among staff that they and their families may become infected or they may spread the virus among the people they care for, says UNISON.
    "The news comes as the government cracks down on whistleblowers, threatening to discipline health workers who speak to the media.
    "The union has also received reports of some employees being asked to work even if they have underlying health issues, and to bring their children in if they cannot get childcare."

  • A WORLD AT RISK September 2019 report of Global Preparedness Monitoring Board supported by WHO and World Bank:
    "In this first annual report, the Board explores and identifies the most urgent needs and actions required to accelerate preparedness for health emergencies, focusing in particular on biological risks manifesting as epidemics and pandemics.
    The Board analysed evidence and commissioned seven review papers that explore the challenges of preparedness through various lenses: governance and coordination; country preparedness capacities; research and development; financing; enhancing community engagement and trust; preparing for and managing the fallout of a high-impact respiratory pathogen pandemics; and, lessons learned and persistent gaps revealed by recent outbreaks of Ebola virus disease in Africa. The Board has drawn on these papers and other data to identify areas where preparedness efforts are working
    and where they are faltering (1)."
    It warns (page 8): "A rapidly spreading pandemic due to a lethal respiratory pathogen
    (whether naturally emergent or accidentally or deliberately released) poses additional preparedness requirements. Donors and multilateral institutions must ensure adequate investment in developing innovative vaccines and therapeutics, surge
    manufacturing capacity, broad-spectrum antivirals and appropriate non-pharmaceutical interventions. All countries must develop a system for immediately sharing genome sequences of any new pathogen for public health purposes along with the means to share limited medical countermeasures across countries."

  • Counting deaths involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) ONS blog March 31:
    "Knowing the exact number of people whose death involved coronavirus (COVID-19) is of great importance, but it’s not a simple question. Sarah Caul introduces the provisional new figures published on 31 March and explains why the different ways of counting used across the government give different answers."

  • Italian doctors warn protective equipment vital to prevent healthcare system collapse Independent report March 31: "Shortages in protective equipment could cause whole healthcare systems to collapse, doctors at the forefront of efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Italy have warned.
    "In a new paper, more than a dozen Italian anaesthetists and intensive care doctors warn other countries to make sure nurses, doctors and other staff are protected from the virus after large numbers of Italian staff became sick themselves.
    "The UK government continues to face criticism from doctors and hospital staff over the lack of equipment and shortages across the country. Ministers have called in the army to help deliver 170 million masks, gloves and other items in recent days.
    "The Italian experts warn: “The ramifications of losing significant proportions of frontline healthcare workers remain uncertain, but this may contribute to the collapse of healthcare systems affected by Covid-19”."

  • COVID-19 TRACKING AND TESTING MUST RESUME Doctors for the NHS: "DFNHS member Allyson Pollock has co-written an editorial in the BMJ calling for the resumption of widespread tracking and testing for Covid-19.
    "The editorial, written with NHS Reinstatement Bill co-author Peter Roderick and others, suggests the lack of testing means the cited number of cases nationally is an underestimate, and also points out the shortcomings of regarding the pandemic in the UK as one large infection instead of more accurately gauging it as many local ones at different stages. It lays the blame for this firmly at the feet of years of neglect of public-health provision, especially in England."
    The BMA editorial concludes: "‘So what now? WHO’s mantra of “trace, test, and treat” must be followed. It is not too late to adopt WHO Guidance.2122 A second and third wave of the epidemic is likely. Contact tracing must recommence. This means immediately instituting a massive, centrally coordinated, locally based programme of case finding, tracing, clinical observation, and testing. It requires large teams of people, including volunteers, using tried and tested methods updated with social media and mobile phones and adapting the manuals and guidance published by China."

  • England's ravaged public health system just can't cope with the coronavirus Guardian Comment is Free report March 30: "The NHS has also had 10 years of significant underfunding – and England, in particular, has an operational and management system that is fragmented and lacks an effective command and control structure. The public health function in England has been removed from the NHS and incorporated into local government, where its budgets have been systematically raided to prop up local councils that have suffered catastrophic cuts in the name of austerity.
    "Local authority functions closely aligned with public health, such as environmental health and social services, have been notable casualties. Within the local government world, the once powerful directors of public health have seen their influence decline, along with their staffing and resources."

  • Coronavirus: Questions over true death toll as hospital records almost three times more deaths than official figures show Telegraph report, March 30: "The official death toll for coronavirus is lower than the true number of casualties reported by hospitals, it was claimed on Sunday night.
    "Channel 4 News reported that an email sent to staff at one of London's biggest hospitals suggested the daily tally, made public by the Government, did not tally with the actual number killed by Covid-19.
    "The message, sent to staff at King's College Hospital Trust, said: "The number of deaths reported at King's in national figures is below what they are experiencing. It is not just King's but a number of other trusts, and the centre has been made aware."

  • ‘I’m losing the will to live, god help us all’: despair of NHS procurement chief HSJ reports March 30: "Gowns for front-line staff were not included in the national pandemic stockpile of personal protective equipment, procurement chiefs have been told.
    "Trust procurement leads have raised concerns over dwindling gown supplies. Health Care Supply Association chief officer Alan Hoskins tweeted he could not order the products through NHS Supply Chain, even after escalating the matter to NHS England.
    "Mr Hoskins’ tweet on Sunday, which has since been deleted, said: “What a day, no gowns NHS Supply Chain. Rang every number escalated to NHS England, just got message back — no stock, can’t help, can send you a PPE pack. Losing the will to live, god help us all.”
    "Senior procurement leads told HSJ that major trusts, including Barts Health in London, ran out of gowns at the end of last week. Calling the supplies situation “extremely bad,” one source said there were “virtually no gowns left in the system” and no communication from NHS Supply Chain as to when more would be available."

  • Coronavirus: NHS doctors ‘gagged’ over protective equipment shortages Independent report from March 31 raising real doubts on the extent to which supply problems of PPE and other vital kit have really been resolved as ministers claim:
    "Frontline doctors have told The Independent they have been gagged from speaking out about shortages of protective equipment as they treat coronavirus patients – with some claiming managers have threatened their careers.
    "Staff have been warned not to make any comments about shortages on social media, as well as avoiding talking to journalists, while NHS England has taken over the media operations for many NHS hospitals and staff.
    "The Independent has seen a series of emails and messages warning staff not to speak to the media during the coronavirus outbreak."
    …"One intensive care doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, raised concerns with their managers about a shortage of protective masks after being told they would have to use less safe surgical masks. They claimed they were later warned in a meeting with trust bosses that their social media profiles would be watched.
    "The doctor said they were told: “If we hear of these concerns going outside these four walls, your career and your position here will not be tenable going forward.”

  • How South Korea Flattened the Curve New York Times (March 23) on the success in containing Covid-19 in South Korea:
    "At the peak, medical workers identified 909 new cases in a single day, Feb. 29, and the country of 50 million people appeared on the verge of being overwhelmed. But less than a week later, the number of new cases halved. Within four days, it halved again — and again the next day.
    "On Sunday, South Korea reported only 64 new cases, the fewest in nearly a month, even as infections in other countries continue to soar by the thousands daily, devastating health care systems and economies. Italy records several hundred deaths daily; South Korea has not had more than eight in a day.
    "South Korea is one of only two countries with large outbreaks, alongside China, to flatten the curve of new infections. And it has done so without China’s draconian restrictions on speech and movement, or economically damaging lockdowns like those in Europe and the United States."

  • UK ministers accused of overstating scale of coronavirus testing Guardian report March 30: "Ministers have been accused of overstating the scale of coronavirus testing in the UK as figures for the number of daily tests fell to 8,278 on Saturday – far short of the 10,000 target it was meant to have met last week.
    "Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, claimed over the weekend that the 10,000 target had been reached.
    "However, it turned out only 9,114 tests had been carried out on about 6,900 people on Friday – falling to 8,278 tests on 4,908 patients on Saturday.
    "The figures are well below the 10,000 daily tests promised by the government on 11 March and cast doubt on whether it would hit the next target of 25,000 daily tests within a fortnight.
    "It shows the UK is lagging behind other countries such as Germany, which is testing 70,000 people daily, despite the World Health Organization’s advice for countries to “test, test, test”."

  • Privatised cleaning for new Nightingale Hospital The Lowdown reports March 31: "“For some it will come as a shock that the cleaning, portering and waste management services are to be contracted out to multinational corporation ISS, the company whose failure to pay domestic staff at Lewisham Hospital triggered an angry walk-out early in March.
    “A company press release on March 27 was headed “ISS is proud to support the new Nightingale hospital:” but it also made clear that many of the staff drafted in to take on the new contract will be taken from vital work on other NHS contracts:
    “At this stage the workforce is being drawn from around the country, starting with contracts the company holds with the NHS. Additional staff will be recruited from other areas that are currently on furlough.”
    “So the decision to bring in a private company to carry out this work was not linked to their ready supply of available staff: and we know that the NHS has been told it can spend as much as is necessary to get through the crisis, so budget constraints are not an issue.”

  • Low-paid women in UK at ‘high risk of coronavirus exposure’ Guardian March 29: “Out of 3.2 million workers employed in the highest-risk roles, about 2.5 million are women, according to Autonomy, an economics thinktank.
    “As many as a million of those workers – who are considered to be at highest risk because they normally work closely with the public and people with diseases and infections – are also among the lowest paid, according to the study.
    “… Eighty-nine percent of nurses and 84% of care workers are women.
    “This pandemic has exposed deep inequalities at the heart of our economy,” said Will Stronge, the director of Autonomy.
    “… This study has shown not only that many of these occupations are at a high risk of exposure to the Covid-19 virus, but that are often paid at poverty wages and are carried out overwhelmingly by women. It is about time we pay these workers properly for the valuable work they do.”

  • Coronavirus: UK ‘wasting time’ on NHS protective gear orders BBC March 29 report: "UK clothes makers say the government has wasted time in ordering personal protective equipment for NHS staff.
    "Fashion and textile firms believe they could have begun making gowns and masks for front-line workers 10 days ago.
    "The government is dragging its heels and it is really, really frustrating," said Kate Hills from Make it British, a trade group.
    "But the government says it is working "around the clock" to provide support to the NHS and social care staff.
    "However, factories are receiving calls directly from local hospitals saying "can you make us anything, we are desperate for any protective equipment, anything that you can provide", according to Make it British."

  • Letter from Professor Stephen Powis National Medical Director, NHS England and NHS Improvement, Public Health England and Academy of Medical Royal Colleges March 28 letter which claims, despite continual complaints from hospital staff, care home staff and GPs, that:
    "Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE
    delivery. All care homes, hospices and home care providers are also receiving a
    PPE delivery.
    "We acknowledge there have been some issues related to the supply of equipment
    and we are working hard and at pace to resolve these. We are now confident that all
    logistical issues are being solved and that every part of the NHS that needs PPE will
    be supplied in good time with adequate stock."

  • Trusts advise widespread use of PPE as staff ‘refuse to see patients' HSJ March 28 reports on pressure from staff for more protection, and new guidance from NHS England:
    "Several major hospital trusts are telling staff to use personal protective equipment in a wider set of areas than recommended by current national guidance, amid staff concern and reports of doctors refusing work without it.
    "It comes as national medical leaders seek to address concerns in a new letter.
    "… The letter also gives an update on PPE supply, which has faced huge problems ongoing through last week. “We are now confident that all logistical issues are being solved,” it says.
    "Responding to the letter, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson, who has been among those repeatedly calling for clearer guidance, said: “National NHS leaders say it will be important that trusts support staff in following this guidance, so PPE kit is used appropriately, and the NHS can ensure the right equipment is available to all, both now and in the future.
    “Alongside this clarification, it’s vital that NHS national leaders ensure continuous, uninterrupted, supply of all the items needed for staff to be able to follow this guidance.
    “Taken together, this will hopefully be the reset moment on PPE that we all need and that trust leaders have been calling for over the last week.”

  • MORE THAN 50 DOCTORS IN ITALY HAVE NOW DIED FROM CORONAVIRUS Newsweek March 27 report: "A total of 51 doctors who tested positive for COVID-19 have succumbed to the disease as of Friday, according to CNN, citing the Italian Association of Doctors. Filippo Anelli, president of the association, had recently called for doctors in the country to be provided with more personal protective equipment (PPE), noting that the possibly preventable deaths have taken a heavy toll on the profession.
    "The first thing to do is to protect healthcare workers, to make sure they are not the ones spreading the virus. Our doctors have been sent to war unarmed," Anelli told The Financial Times in a Thursday article. "The dead do not make a noise. Yet, the names of our dead friends, our colleagues, put here in black and white, make a deafening noise."
    "Italy has the highest COVID-19 death toll of any country in the world, with over 10 percent of cases resulting in death so far. Out of over 86,000 cases in the country as of Friday, there were over 9,100 deaths and almost 11,000 recoveries. At least 6,414 health care workers in Italy have reportedly contracted the virus."

  • Diverting NHS care away from cancer patients ‘threatens more lives than the coronavirus’ (£) Times report on potential consequences of cancellations of cancer and other operations in Covid-19 response:
    "“The NHS focus on fighting the coronavirus could have “serious consequences” for the health of millions of Britons suffering from other illnesses, health experts have warned.
    “NHS trusts are already cancelling some cancer operations and treatments, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, in order to free up beds for virus patients, while routine hospital procedures for other conditions are being postponed.
    “One health policy expert cautioned that diverting care away from those with other health conditions such as heart, liver and kidney disease, cancer and diabetes would have a “much greater” impact than the virus itself.”

  • Coronavirus May Add Billions to U.S. Health Care Bill March 28 New York Times report on another dimension of the US health care system:
    "With so much still uncertain about how widespread hospitalizations for coronavirus patients will be around the United States, a new analysis says premiums could increase as much as 40 percent next year if the pandemic results in millions of Americans needing hospital stays.
    “Health plans went into 2020 with no hint of coronavirus on the horizon,” said Peter V. Lee, the executive director of Covered California, the state insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act, which conducted the analysis. To protect businesses and individuals from sharply higher rates, he supports a temporary federal program that would cover some of these costs.
    “No insurer, no state, planned and put money away for something of this significance,” Mr. Lee said."

  • Worcester's Gtech told not to produce much-needed ventilators by the government, chief executive says Worcester News report on another twist in the saga of the failure to buy in ventilators for the NHS:
    "CITY-BASED manufacture Gtech has been told by the government to not produce much-needed ventilators less than a week after getting the go-ahead, the company’s chief executive has said.
    "Nick Grey, chief executive of Gtech, said he had been advised by the government on Thursday (March 27) to not push forward with production of ventilators, despite answering a call for help to assist in producing more than 30,000 ventilators, less than two weeks ago."

  • Coronavirus: Teenage boy whose death was linked to COVID-19 turned away from urgent care for not having insurance Independent report on brutality of US health care system: "A 17-year-old whose death was initially linked to the novel coronavirus despite not having any previously reported health conditions was denied treatment at a California medical facility over his lack of insurance, according to the mayor.
    "R Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster, California, confirmed the teen’s death in a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, in which he warned residents to take the global pandemic seriously and practice self-isolation and social distancing measures.
    “The Friday before he died, he was healthy,” the mayor said about the teenager. “By Wednesday, he was dead.”

  • Deficits are going to skyrocket but taxes and borrowing aren’t, because QE is going to cover the cost of coronavirus Tax analyst Richard Murphy arguing that FT estimate of cost of Covid-19 measures are a major under-estimate, but that it does not matter:
    "It took more than a decade for UK notional national debt (without QE being taken into account) to increase by £1 trillion after 2008. It will take much less time to repeat that on this occasion. However, after QE (which cancels the debt that deficits notionally create because the government buys its own debt back when it does QE, and it cannot owe itself money) the increase in real debt may be quite modest in my prediction. QE funding, or variations on it, will run almost in parallel with the deficit in my expectation, as it did for much of the period from 2009 to 2014. As a result the supposed 'cost' to taxpayers will be minimal."

  • Australian government will pay half to integrate private hospitals into Covid-19 response Guardian March 31 report on deal between Austrialian government and private hospital sector: “On Saturday, the private sector warned that hundreds of staff would need to be stood down and hospitals closed following elective surgery cancellations to prioritise Covid-19 preparedness.
    “The plans follow a meeting on Monday between the private health sector and the federal, state and territory governments to discuss how private hospitals and staff will be supported following elective surgery cancellations and until the sector is needed to assist with the coronavirus response, as well as how the sector will be used as the pandemic worsens to prevent the public sector from becoming overwhelmed.
    “The Australian public needs to have confidence that deferred activities, such as non-urgent elective surgery, will be able to be resumed and accelerated at the appropriate time,” Hunt’s letter to private health providers, published on the ASX on Tuesday by Ramsay Health, said.
    “… Hunt wrote that the agreement was only to ensure the viability of the sector, and its purpose was not to generate profit or to assist with loan or debt repayment. The viability guarantee would be conditional on the hospitals agreeing to open their books to show government funding was only being used for operational costs.”

  • Federal government gets private hospital resources for COVID-19 fight in exchange for funding support March 31 report from The Conversation on Australian government bail-out for 657 private hospitals:
    "Private hospitals will be on the frontline in the coronavirus battle, under an arrangement with the federal government that makes available the sector’s more than 30,000 beds and 105,000 workforce, including more than 57,000 nursing staff.
    "The government will offer agreements to Australia’s 657 private and not-for-profit hospitals “to ensure their viability, in return for maintenance and capacity” during the COVID-19 crisis.
    "The agreement makes available more resources to meet the virus crisis, preserves the private hospital workforce, and is designed to allow a speedy resumption of non-urgent elective surgery and other normal activity when the crisis has passed.
    "The states will complete “private hospital COVID-19 partnership agreements”, with the Commonwealth paying half the cost.
    “In an unprecedented move, private hospitals, including both overnight and day hospitals, will integrate with state and territory health systems in the COVID-19 response,” the government said in a Tuesday statement.
    "These hospitals “will be required to make infrastructure, essential equipment (including ventilators), supplies (including personal protective equipment), workforce and additional resources fully available to the state and territory hospital system or the Australian government”.
    "…Last week the government announced a ban on non-urgent elective surgery. While this freed up beds and staff, it would also strip private hospitals of core income and threaten the collapse of some hospitals without government action."

  • Public Health England to look again at PPE guidance Shocking March 27 statement from PHE's Medical Director announcing that, in the midst of the pandemic, PHE is to revise the guidance on personal protection equipment in a "rapid piece of work" -- while staff put their lives on the line

  • Coronavirus: Jeremy Hunt's officials blocked call for medics to have eye protection 3 years ago March 27 report from the i: "NHS staff should have received certain protective equipment three years ago in the event of an influenza pandemic, but stockpiling it was considered too expensive by the Department of Health.
    "Officials working for then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt rejected medical advice that eye protection should be provided to all healthcare professionals who have close contact with pandemic influenza patients. The advice was watered down after an “economic assessment” found a medical recommendation about providing visors or safety glasses would “substantially increase” the costs of stockpiling."

  • Councils told to house all rough sleepers in England by weekend Guardian March 27 report: “Councils have been given 48 hours to find emergency accommodation for all rough sleepers in England following an unprecedented, but unfunded, request from the government that all homeless people should be housed by Sunday.
    “Council officials welcomed the urgency of the request but expressed concern about the difficulty of the task, given the already acute accommodation shortages. These shortages worsened this week after a parallel government instruction to hotels to close. The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils would need extra funding if they were to meet the deadline.
    “These are unusual times, so I’m asking for an unusual effort,” an email from Louise Casey, who was appointed last week to lead the government’s response to Covid-19 and rough sleeping, read.”

  • UK ministers under fire over ventilator delays FT March 27 report on the saga of government failure to secure necessary numbers of ventilators and refusing to join in a collective EU purchasing consortium: "The European Commission rejected UK claims that an “initial communication problem” with Brussels meant that Britain missed out on participating in the EU joint procurement of ventilators, insisting that the UK was fully briefed on the plans."

  • A Tory MP Makes £100,000 A Year From A Company That Is Selling Private Coronavirus Tests For £120 Each Buzzfeed report March 25: "Owen Paterson, the Conservative MP and former Cabinet minister, is a paid adviser to a company that is selling coronavirus tests online to British consumers and private clinics.
    "According to the register of MPs’ financial interests, Paterson has been a consultant to Randox Laboratories since August 2015. The MP for North Shropshire has regularly declared that he expects to receive £8,333 a month from the company, from April 2017 until further notice. The register was last updated on March 16 this year.
    "Randox has been selling a rapid "COVID-19 home testing kit" for £120. The company, which is registered in Crumlin, Northern Ireland, said on its website that it "has developed a revolutionary test for Coronavirus (COVID-19), the new strain of coronavirus. The only test in the world that can identify the lethal strain and differentiate between other non-lethal variants with the same symptoms."

  • Coronavirus: Boris Johnson accused of risking lives by refusing to join EU scheme to buy key equipment Independent report March 25: "“European countries have banded together collectively to procure bulk orders of ventilators and personal protective equipment, with the first phase now having secured “offers of considerable scale on shortest notice”.
    “The UK was invited to take part in the scheme, which is leveraging the 500 million-person single market’s huge buying power to secure faster and cheaper orders with less admin at a time of extreme global demand.
    “But UK officials confirmed on Wednesday that Britain would not be taking part in the scheme, after previously having said the government would decide which way to go.”

  • LEWISHAM HOSPITAL CLEANERS STILL NOT PAID IN FULL DESPITE CORONAVIRUS FEARS March 24 article: "Lewisham Hospital’s cleaners walked out on Thursday, 12th March after an outsourced cleaning contractor repeatedly failed to pay them. A week later, the GMB Trade Union reported that the cleaners still haven’t been paid and the private company ISS blames administrative errors for the crisis."

  • Welsh doctor designs ventilator that could save the lives of thousands of coronavirus patients ITN March 24 report: "The implement, called a Covid Emergency Ventilator, has been given the go-ahead by the Welsh Government.
    "It is hoped that a hundred of them can be manufactured in just one day, something that could potentially save a huge number of lives.
    "The machine helps patients to breathe and also cleans a room of viral particles, ensuring that patients are only supplied with purified air."

  • A Moscow must have... Excellent March 25 blog from Roy Lilley on the need to extend testing:
    "When you were doing your desk-top, war-gaming, the first thing they teach you is; admit your problems. If it's not right, admit it, fix it, move on. The second thing you learn is; look after your key workers.
    "Not testing will impact key health-workers the most.
    "It doesn't matter how many weddings the government tells us to cancel or how far apart we stand, if we don't test NHS staff they will be super-spreaders when we don't know it and sit at home, when we don't want it.

  • Wilfried Zaha offers free accommodation to NHS staff fighting coronavirus crisis Mirror reports "Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha is playing his part to help ease the strain on the NHS amid the growing coronavirus crisis - by offering free accommodation to health workers.
    "Zaha has called on NHS staff to reach out to the company he co-owns, ZoProperties, as doctors and medical workers continue to battle against the deadly disease which has wreaked havoc all over the globe.
    "The property firm, which Zaha co-owns with Obi Williams, has around 50 apartments which range from one-bed to three-bed in locations around London."

  • Doctors threaten to quit NHS over shortage of protective kit March 24 Guardian report: “A massive NHS recruitment drive to help contain the coronavirus pandemic risks being undermined by the prospect of doctors quitting over fears of inadequate protective equipment, groups representing frontline staff say.
    “… as the crisis reaches what is expected to be its most dangerous period, doctors’ and nurses’ groups say their members are being expected to take unacceptable risks.
    “Dr Rinesh Parmar, chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, which represents grassroots medics, told the Guardian: “The longer this epidemic goes on for, if doctors feel that there is a widespread lack of personal protective equipment [PPE], then some doctors may feel they have no choice but to give up the profession they love, because they feel so abandoned by not being given the PPE that the World Health Organization recommends.”

  • 'Confused, dangerous, flippant': rest of world pans PM's handling of coronavirus March 24 Guardian report notes that even while his poll ratings have been rising at home Johnson's role has not impressed other governments:
    "“The international verdict on Boris Johnson and his zigzag handling of the pandemic has been damning, with responses ranging from bafflement and disbelief to anger.
    “Many consider the prime minister’s initial laissez-faire approach to the crisis, followed by contradictory signals about his government’s strategy, as an inexplicable bout of British exceptionalism.
    “Boris Johnson had gone out publicly and essentially asked Britons ... to accept death,” said the Greek newspaper Ethnos. It declared him “more dangerous than coronavirus”.
    “On Sunday, Singapore’s national development minister, Lawrence Wong, said the UK and Switzerland had “abandoned any measure to contain or restrain the virus”.
    “The New York Times accused Johnson of sowing confusion. “He has seemed like a leader acting under duress ... playing catch-up to a private sector that had already acted on its own.”

  • NHS staff fighting coronavirus pandemic still forced to pay hospital parking charges March 24 ITN report: "Staff fighting the coronavirus pandemic at several Birmingham hospitals are still having to pay hospital parking charges.
    "Staff working at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB), Heartlands hospital, Good Hope and Solihull hospitals are still paying a daily charge, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
    "Les Young, an advance nurse practitioner who works in primary care, says that some staff are having to fork out between £100 and £150 a month just to have a place to park during work."

  • Keep Ireland's Health System in Public Ownership after COVID-19 Petition in response to Irish government taking control of private hospital sector:
    "In the face of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic Ireland's health system became single-tiered overnight.
    "We call on the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to keep the newly attainted 2,000 hospital beds, 9 labs and countless healthcare professionals in public ownership, for the common good."

  • Private hospitals will be made public for duration of coronavirus pandemic March 24 report from The Journal (Ireland):
    "PRIVATE HOSPITALS WILL act as part of the public health system for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has announced.
    "Some 2,000 beds, nine laboratories and thousands of staff have been drafted into the public system, Leo Varadkar said at a press conference today.
    "Speaking at the same press conference, Health Minister Simon Harris said “there can be no room for public versus private” when responding to the Covid-19 crisis.
    “We must of course have equality of treatment, patients with this virus will be treated for free, and they’ll be treated as part of a single, national hospital service.
    “For the duration of this crisis the State will take control of all private hospital facilities and manage all of the resources for the common benefit of all of our people. There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic,” Harris said."

  • Exclusive: Staff in ‘near revolt’ over protective gear crisis HSJ March 24 report: "Lack of staff testing, workforce shortages and running out of personal protective equipment are the three biggest concerns for trusts fighting the coronavirus outbreak, according to an HSJ chief executive survey conducted over the last 36 hours.
    "Thirteen of the 34 trust chief executives who responded to the snap survey, who were from trusts across England, also warned they would run out of intensive care capacity by next week as the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise.
    "The survey also revealed some trusts were already being forced to dilute safe staffing ratios and ration facilities. One chief warned: “We are preserving ventilation capacity by ensuring that only those who may survive are considered.”

  • Britain had a head start on Covid-19, but our leaders squandered it Guardian March 23 Comment is Free article by Prof Devi Sridhar, chair of global health at the University of Edinburgh, notes:
    "In the UK we have had nine weeks to listen, learn and prepare. We have had nine weeks to run outbreak simulations, set up supply chains to ensure sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, and bring about the availability of rapid, cheap tests. We have had nine weeks to establish algorithms to support contact tracing, and start mass awareness campaigns not only about hand-washing, but about the risks that the virus would pose to social and economic activity if not taken seriously by all. Countries such as Senegal were doing this in January.…
    "We had a choice early on in the UK’s trajectory to go down the South Korean path of mass testing, isolating carriers of the virus (50% of whom are asymptomatic), tracing all contacts to ensure they isolate as well, and at the same time taking soft measures to delay the spread. Instead, we watched and waited, and whether it was academic navel-gazing, political infighting, a sense of British exceptionalism, or a deliberate choice to minimise economic disruption over saving lives, we have ended up in a position where we are now closer to the Italy scenario than anticipated, and are faced with taking more and more drastic measures."

  • Coronavirus: Spanish army finds care home residents 'dead and abandoned' horrific BBC story: "Spanish soldiers helping to fight the coronavirus pandemic have found elderly patients in retirement homes abandoned and, in some cases, dead in their beds, the defence ministry has said.
    "Spanish prosecutors said an investigation had been launched.
    "The military has been brought in to help disinfect care homes in Spain, one of Europe's worst hit countries."

  • Coronavirus: Suspected outbreak in Oaklands Nursing Home, Hove Argus reports: "STAFF at a nursing home are desperately pleading for help after a suspected outbreak of coronavirus which has lasted for 11 days.
    "More than three quarters of Oaklands Nursing Home residents, all over the age of 65, are now reportedly displaying symptoms of Covid-19."

  • To fight this pandemic, we must radically re-imagine public health… Open letter from Medact invites signatures:
    "As health workers we will be fighting to protect the health and wellbeing of millions in the coming months.
    "We cannot win this fight if we fail to address the underlying social and economic issues trapping people, families and communities in cycles of poverty, poor health and despair.
    "As the people on the front line against Coronavirus, we call on all party leaders and all MPs to work together to ensure legislation is passed that protects everyone’s wellbeing now and through the duration of this crisis."

  • Hand sanitiser plant capable of producing one million bottles a month to be built in UK Independent reports "Ineos is to build a hand sanitiser plant near Middlesbrough to produce one million bottles a month within 10 days, the company has announced.
    "The factory will supply hospitals with products free of charge.
    "As well as making hand saniters for front line medical and care services across the UK and Europe, the company expects to make "pocket bottle" sizes for individual use. "

  • NHS staff making masks from snorkels amid PPE shortages Guardian April 1 report but no joke: "A consultant anaesthetist working in south-east England reported buying 60 snorkels to adapt into respirator masks. “Various other places are doing the same,” the doctor told the Guardian. “One trust has ordered 500 and teamed up with companies who are (3D) printing the adapters.”
    "Samantha Batt-Rawden, the president of Doctors Association UK, said: “It is unacceptable that ongoing shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) have led to this desperate situation. We have heard from numerous frontline NHS doctors who have been forced to improvise as they simply don’t have access to appropriate kit."

  • ‘I Do Fear for My Staff,’ a Doctor Said. He Lost His Job. New York Times April 1 report: "At least 61 doctors and nurses have died from the coronavirus in Italy so far. Already, in New York City alone, two nurses have died and more than 200 health workers are reported sick at a single major hospital.
    "These superheroes are at risk partly because we sometimes send them into battle without adequate personal protective equipment, or P.P.E. This should be a national scandal, and now hospitals are compounding the outrage by punishing staff members who speak up or simply try to keep themselves safe."

  • Muslim minority doctors first to die on front line of UK pandemic Al Jazeera report April 1: "The United Kingdom is paying tribute to the first doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic who have died after contracting COVID-19.
    "All four men - Alfa Sa'adu; Amged el-Hawrani; Adil El Tayar and Habib Zaidi - were Muslim and had ancestry in regions including Africa, Asia and the Middle East."

  • UK healthcare regulator brands resuscitation strategy unacceptable Guardian April 1 report: “Elderly care home residents have been categorised “en masse” as not requiring resuscitation, in a strategy branded unacceptable by the healthcare regulator.
    “People in care homes in Hove, East Sussex and south Wales are among those who have had “do not attempt resuscitation” (DNAR) notices applied to their care plans during the coronavirus outbreak without proper consultation with them or their families, MPs and medical unions fear.
    “Care homes in Leeds have reported that district nurses have been asking them to “revisit do not resuscitate conversations with people who said they didn’t want them” and a care worker in Wales told the Guardian that after a visit from a GP, all 20 of their residents had DNAR notices attached to their plans.
    “An NHS health board in another area of Wales has apologised this week after a GP surgery near Port Talbot recommended that patients with serious illnesses complete DNAR forms.”

  • Hospitals Tell Doctors They’ll Be Fired If They Speak Out About Lack of Gear Bloomberg March 31 report on the dysfunctional US system that some NHS managers seem to be copying: "Hospitals are threatening to fire health-care workers who publicize their working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic -- and have in some cases followed through.
    "Ming Lin, an emergency room physician in Washington state, said he was told Friday he was out of a job because he’d given an interview to a newspaper about a Facebook post detailing what he believed to be inadequate protective equipment and testing. In Chicago, a nurse was fired after emailing colleagues that she wanted to wear a more protective mask while on duty. In New York, the NYU Langone Health system has warned employees they could be terminated if they talk to the media without authorization.
    “Hospitals are muzzling nurses and other health-care workers in an attempt to preserve their image,” said Ruth Schubert, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Nurses Association. “It is outrageous.”"

  • Covid-19 crisis fighters say the US must nationalize healthcare equipment production Quartz (March 22) reports: "In New York, where over 15,000 people are infected with coronavirus and 114 have died from it, governor Andrew Cuomo has called on Donald Trump to order US factories to produce critical gear needed in the health crisis.
    "The US traditionally wins wars not so much by out-fighting its enemies as out-manufacturing them. Now, the enemy is a virus, and healthcare workers are crying out for more face masks, goggles, and protective gear; many are warning that shortages of mechanical ventilators that breathe for critically ill patients are on the horizon if not already here.
    "One tool to do this is called the Defense Production Act (pdf), a law passed at the beginning of the Korean War to help the US build needed war material. Trump signed an order authorizing use of the act’s powers on March 18, but he hasn’t actually used them yet. Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have called on the US president to get the assembly lines rolling."

  • NHS England takes over CCG powers HSJ, which is publishing its Covid-19 info free to access, reports (March 23): "NHS England is taking on extensive powers — normally held by clinical commissioning groups — to buy services from the private sector and to support the coronavirus effort as [it] “deems appropriate”.
    "In a national directive published today, the Department of Health and Social Care says the covid-19 crisis is “an emergency”, and it has legally directed NHSE to exercise key functions normally held by CCGs."

  • Basildon University Hospital NHS Dancers - March 20 2020 Lively display by staff we might expect to be knackered! Our wonderful NHS team.

  • Handbook of COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment Valuable handbook pulling together lessons of Chines fight against Covid-19. Introduction explains
    "This is an unprecedented global war, and mankind is facing the same enemy, the novel coronavirus. And the first battlefield is the hospital where our soldiers are the medical workers.
    "To ensure that this war can be won, we must first make sure that our medical staff is guaranteed sufficient resources, including experience and technologies. Also, we need to make sure that the hospital is the battleground where we eliminate the virus, not where the virus defeats us.
    "Therefore, the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have convened a group of medical experts who have just returned from the frontlines of fighting the pandemic.
    "With the support of The First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine (FAHZU), they quickly published a guidebook on the clinical experience of how to treat this new coronavirus. The treatment guide offers advice and reference against the pandemic for medical staff around the world who are about to join the war.
    "… This pandemic is a common challenge faced by mankind in the age of globalization. At this moment, sharing resources, experiences and lessons, regardless of who you are, is our only chance to win. The real remedy for this pandemic is not isolation, but cooperation.
    "This war has just begun."

  • We must protect our NHS workers from coronavirus Shadow health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth writes in the (£) Times March 18: I have been inundated by with first-hand accounts from NHS workers. Their courage, heroism and dedication are extraordinary, not least when colleagues and friends become seriously ill.
    “However, they need protection more than admiration. The coronavirus spreads rapidly and exploits ambivalence. It demands a government effort like we have never seen before.
    “On the frontline there is growing concern — indeed fury — at the inadequate protective equipment some NHS workers receive as they administer care. Getting this right should be the absolute minimum of what is expected in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet so far it is not happening.”

  • Coronavirus: Routine NHS operations cancelled in effort to free up 30,000 hospital beds Independent March 17: “In a letter to NHS bosses today NHS England said hospitals should look to cancel all non-urgent surgeries for at least three months starting from 15 April.
    “Hospitals were given discretion to begin winding down activity immediately to help train staff and begin work setting up makeshift intensive care wards.
    “Any cancer operations and patients needing emergency treatment will not be affected.”

  • Coronavirus will force hospital chiefs to make some terrible choices Polly Toynbee in the Guardian March 17, quotes an unnamed NHS hospital CEO:
    “Meanwhile, he prepares for 20% of his staff to be off sick. Hoteliers call him, eagerly offering their deserted rooms. He tells them they will be used later for convalescents, but could they now send over their cleaners, receptionists and cooks to train up for hospital jobs. He’s retraining surgeons to work under respiratory consultants. He ordered ventilators before NHS England banned it and wonders if they will be requisitioned for elsewhere when they arrive.
    “Asking staff their plans for when schools close, “grandparents” is often the answer, so he encourages nurses to share childcare. He will hire students from shut-down universities to clean the hospital from top to bottom, wiping every rail every two hours, non-stop.
    “Standing on a burning platform,” he says, “the NHS is finding out what it needn’t do.” Half his outpatients can be treated by phone and 20% of A&E admissions were needless, while centralised NHS procurement will be a lasting bonus. “There’ll be no going back.”

  • Britain must change course – and resume Covid-19 testing to protect frontline NHS staff Guardian comment March 16: “Based on the experience of other countries and in previous outbreaks, there are three clear steps we can take.
    “First, resume testing – starting with health staff and first-line responders, and eventually others around the country – to understand where exactly the virus is, how many people have been infected, and how to break chains of transmission. Health staff on Covid-19 wards need to know if they have the virus – not only so they can protect their families, but also so they don’t go on to expose others in the hospital. We need to avoid clusters of cases among vulnerable groups there, which is what occurred early in Italy’s outbreak.
    “The WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said we need to “test, test, test”. South Korea, widely seen as a success, is doing 10,000 tests a day and its foreign minister has said: “Testing is central because it leads to every detection.”

  • The UK Only Realised "In The Last Few Days" That Its Coronavirus Strategy Would "Likely Result In Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths" Buzzfeed article March 16: “The UK only realised "in the last few days" that attempts to "mitigate" the impact of the coronavirus pandemic would not work, and that it needed to shift to a strategy to "suppress" the outbreak, according to a report by a team of experts who have been advising the government.
    “The report, published by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team on Monday night, found that the strategy previously being pursued by the government — dubbed "mitigation" and involving home isolation of suspect cases and their family members but not including restrictions on wider society — would "likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over".
    “The mitigation strategy "focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread — reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection", the report said, reflecting the UK strategy that was outlined last week by Boris Johnson and the chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.
    “But the approach was found to be unworkable.
    "Our most significant conclusion is that mitigation is unlikely to be feasible without emergency surge capacity limits of the UK and US healthcare systems being exceeded many times over," perhaps by as much as eight times, the report said.”

  • Not fit for purpose': UK medics condemn Covid-19 protection Guardian March 16: “Shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) appear to be widespread across the health service and include GP practices as well as hospitals. Doctors are angry about Public Health England’s new advice issued last week which reduces the level of the PPE that staff need to wear. Medics believe the change in advice was driven by the lack of equipment rather than a change in the clinical evidence about the risks from the virus.
    “Previously, staff were told to wear full PPE, comprising an FFP3 masks (which offer high levels of respiratory protection), visors, surgical gowns and two pairs of gloves each. But the new advice recommends only a standard surgical face mask, short gloves and a plastic apron. Staff have dismissed this as “totally inadequate” protection. FFP3 masks and visors appear to be in particularly short supply.”

  • Coronavirus: France imposes lockdown as EU calls for 30-day travel ban - and Spain takes over private hospitals Guardian March 16: “In Spain, where the coronavirus toll climbed to 309 on Monday with 9,191 confirmed cases, the government announced sweeping measures allowing it to take over private healthcare providers and requisition materials such as face masks and Covid-19 tests.
    “The health minister, Salvador Illa, said private healthcare facilities would be requisitioned for coronavirus patients, and manufacturers and suppliers of healthcare equipment must notify the government within 48 hours.
    “The Spanish government declared a state of emergency on Saturday, placing the country in lockdown and ordering people to leave their homes only if they needed to buy food or medicine or go to work or hospital. The transport minister, José Luis Ábalos, said it was “obvious” the measures would be extended beyond the planned 15-day period.”

  • Italian hospital saves Covid-19 patients lives by 3D printing valves for reanimation devices March 14 story from 3D printing website: “a hospital in Brescia (near one of the hardest-hit regions for coronavirus infections) urgently needed valves (in the photo) for an intensive care device and that the supplier could not provide them in a short time. Running out of the valves would have been dramatic and some people might have lost their lives. So she asked if it would be possible to 3D print them.
    “After several phone calls to fablabs and companies in Milan and Brescia and then, fortunately, a company in the area, Isinnova, responded to this call for help through its Founder & CEO Cristian Fracassi, who brought a 3D printer directly to the hospital and, in just a few hours, redesigned and then produced the missing piece.
    “On the evening of Saturday 14th (the next day) Massimo reported that “the system works”. At the time of writing, 10 patients are accompanied in breathing by a machine that uses a 3D printed valve.”

  • I’m an epidemiologist. When I heard about Britain’s ‘herd immunity’ coronavirus plan, I thought it was satire Guardian March 15: “I research and teach the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health. My colleagues here in the US, even as they are reeling from the stumbling response of the Donald Trump administration to the crisis, assumed that reports of the UK policy were satire – an example of the wry humour for which the country is famed. But they are all too real.
    “… We talk about vaccines generating herd immunity, so why is this different? Because this is not a vaccine. This is an actual pandemic that will make a very large number of people sick, and some of them will die. Even though the mortality rate is likely quite low, a small fraction of a very large number is still a large number. And the mortality rate will climb when the NHS is overwhelmed.”

  • The UK’s Covid-19 strategy dangerously leaves too many questions unanswered Guardian March 15 epidemic specialist and Professor of Global Health expresses concern over British government policy:
    “The public health response to a serious epidemic is laid out simply and clearly by the World Health Organization (WHO). Test intensively, trace contacts, quarantine and maintain social distancing.
    “When Covid-19 got out of control in Wuhan, after three weeks of public health inaction, the Chinese authorities mounted a proper campaign to control the virus.
    “They listened to the WHO. They tested extensively, setting up mobile testing centres, and getting the test result time down from four days to four hours. They cut the time from onset of symptoms to lab result from 12 to three days. They identified family clusters (the virus spreads mainly through extended close contact so family members are most at risk) and arranged isolation centres for contacts.
    “Above all, they mobilised communities. They didn’t leave it all to messages and nudge behavioural methods.”

  • Coronavirus: Local councils scramble to prepare care homes for large-scale outbreak Independent March 14: “Local councils are rushing to prepare nursing homes and care services for a large-scale coronavirus outbreak as the government launched a taskforce to coordinate the nationwide response.
    In new guidance published on Friday, ministers instructed councils to draw up plans for how they will support the most vulnerable and high-risk people, and contact all providers in their areas to draw up plans for “mutual aid” under which care homes could help each other in the event of serious infections.
    The government’s focus on social care follows criticism over a lack of information or planning, with experts warning that the care sector is extremely vulnerable to the outbreak.”

  • The Guardian view on the UK’s Covid-19 response: confused and hesitant Guardian Opinion column March 15: “Boris Johnson’s decision to go it alone, in global policy terms, over the UK’s Covid-19 outbreak is being challenged every day – and there is a sense of foreboding that the government is coming up short with its answers.
    “Unlike our nearest neighbours, ministers said there would be no imminent ban on mass events because such a prohibition would do no good. On Friday night it was announced that there would be such a proscription.
    “The government then had to make a U-turn this weekend over its message that the UK is pursuing a policy of “herd immunity”. It was troubling – and reflects badly on ministers – that an epidemiological outcome of mass infection was confused with the dubious policy aim of building resistance in the population.”

  • An anguished cry from the NHS front line: coronavirus is about to explode among medical staff Telegraph feature March 15: “Like many other Telegraph journalists, I have received a number of emails from well-informed doctors and medical staff working at the front of the NHS. They are in despair.
    “They are alarmed by the failure of the Government to take more drastic action to fight Covid-19. They are stunned that this country seems to have opted for capitulation at a time when best practice leaders in East Asia - and I don’t mean China - have managed to contain the virus through use of technology, and to do so without massive economic and social disruption.
    “These medics are not reflexive ideological enemies of the Tories or blow-hard Twitterati. They are Telegraph readers who fear that a terrible mistake is being made and that the country is heading for a catastrophe - using that loaded term correctly - unless policy is changed immediately....”

  • Brexit threatens UK’s ability to respond to a future pandemic Guardian article by Prof Martin McKee and colleagues March 14:
    “The coronavirus pandemic could not have come at a worse time for the UK and its citizens. Just as UK government ministers are digging in for the really difficult part of Brexit, the negotiations on future relationships with the EU and the rest of the world, a new virus comes out of China that reminds us of just why international co-operation is so important.
    “The obvious response, one might think, would be to do everything to safeguard those areas where the UK does collaborate, so as to reduce the threat of infectious disease. Instead, the UK has decided to isolate itself from European systems that have been built up over the past decade, many as a result of problems exposed by the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
    “The UK’s decision to leave the European Medicines Agency (EMA), an arm of the European Commission, has been discussed at length. The EMA is responsible for overseeing clinical trials for new vaccines and medicines for pandemics, and deciding on marketing authorisations for them that apply across the EU.”

  • Coronavirus: Some scientists say UK virus strategy is 'risking lives' BBC report March 14: “More than 200 scientists have written to the government urging them to introduce tougher measures to tackle the spread of Covid-19.
    “In an open letter, the 229 specialists in disciplines ranging from mathematics to genetics - though no leading experts in the science of the spread of diseases - say the UK's current approach will put the NHS under additional stress and "risk many more lives than necessary".
    “The signatories also criticised comments made by Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, about managing the spread of the infection to make the population immune.
    “The Department of Health said Sir Patrick's comments had been misinterpreted.
    “The scientists - all from UK universities - also questioned the government's view that people would become fed up with restrictions if they were imposed too soon.”

  • ‘We are making difficult choices’: Italian doctor tells of struggle against coronavirus Independent March 14: "A doctor in Italy has told The Independent how medics there are being forced to ration care to patients in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak with elderly patients being denied care based on their age and whether they have other conditions.
    "Consultant anaesthetist and intensive care specialist Maria, who works at the Sant’Orsola-Malpighi Hospital in Bologna, described the relentless influx of coronavirus patients with medics working round the clock and being forced to make difficult decisions.
    "She warned UK hospitals to plan now for the influx in patients stressing some of those who became sick and needed care were young and healthy."

  • Chinese medical workers who have been fighting the #coronavirus celebrate the closing of the last temporary hospital in Wuhan. Great to see smiling faces emerge from behind the masks.

  • Herd immunity: will the UK's coronavirus strategy work? Guardian (March 13) highlighting the fortunately now-discarded policy that appears to have originated from Dominic Cummings, and pointing out the danger: “But allowing the population to build up immunity in this way – rather than through widespread testing, tracking down the contacts of every case and isolating them, as many other countries in Asia and Europe have chosen to do – could increase the risk to the most vulnerable: older people with underlying health problems.
    “To reach herd immunity, about 60% of the population would need to get ill and become immune, according to Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser. Though it could need as much as 70% or more.
    “Even scientists who understand the strategy are anxious. “I do worry that making plans that assume such a large proportion of the population will become infected (and hopefully recovered and immune) may not be the very best that we can do,” said Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.”

  • WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the Mission briefing on COVID-19 - 12 March 2020 12 March statement from WHO:
    “As you know, yesterday I said that that the global COVID-19 outbreak can now be described as a pandemic. This is not a decision we took lightly.
    We have made this assessment for two main reasons: first, because of the speed and scale of transmission. Almost 125,000 cases have now been reported to WHO, from 118 countries and territories. In the past two weeks, the number of cases reported outside China has increased almost 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has almost tripled.
    The second reason is that despite our frequent warnings, we are deeply concerned that some countries are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it.
    Let me be clear: describing this as a pandemic does not mean that countries should give up. The idea that countries should shift from containment to mitigation is wrong and dangerous.
    On the contrary, we have to double down.
    This is a controllable pandemic. Countries that decide to give up on fundamental public health measures may end up with a larger problem, and a heavier burden on the health system that requires more severe measures to control.”

  • I'm an NHS doctor treating coronavirus – you have no idea how bad things could get Independent March 12: "Without wanting to sound alarmist, the numbers are inescapable.
    "One week ago, we had 40 confirmed cases in the UK. We took no specific general measures other than to contain and trace the contact patients had had with others. Yesterday, we had over ten times that number of cases, and still apart from screening intensive care patients, our testing criteria have barely changed. We still aren’t testing community cases that clinically look like coronavirus if they haven’t travelled or had contact with confirmed cases. Hospital cases are only beginning to be tested this week, and only at the discretion of clinicians.
    "Until now, a suspected case was not allowed to be tested unless they had an obvious link to certain countries or infected patients. I’ve seen at least three people with severe disease who weren’t allowed to be tested, and heard of dozens more. This long-overdue policy change will soon be reflected – possibly as soon as the next 24-48 hours – in a big spike in case numbers."

  • Health expert brands UK's coronavirus response 'pathetic' Guardian March 12: "Prof John Ashton, a former regional director of public health for north-west England, lambasted a lack of preparation and openness from the government and contrasted Britain’s response to that of Hong Kong.
    “Right at the beginning of February, they [Hong Kong] adopted a total approach to this, which is what we should have done five weeks ago ourselves. They took a decision to work to three principles – of responding promptly, staying alert, working in an open and transparent manner,” he told the Guardian.
    “Our lot haven’t been working openly and transparently. They’ve been doing it in a (non) smoke-filled room and just dribbling out stuff. The chief medical officer only appeared in public after about two weeks. Then they have had a succession of people bobbing up and disappearing. Public Health England’s been almost invisible.
    “Boris Johnson should have convened Cobra himself over a month ago and had regular meetings with the chief medical officer with the evidence. The thing should have been fronted up nationally by one person who could be regarded as the trusted voice and who could have been interrogated regularly. That’s not happened.”

  • Coronavirus: NHS bosses warn hospitals over intensive care demand surge March 12 Independent: "NHS hospitals have been told to expect a “several-fold” increase in demand for intensive care beds during a serious coronavirus outbreak.
    "Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s incident director for the coronavirus outbreak, told a secret briefing of chief nurses from across the NHS that they needed to prepare now for the unprecedented demand which could overwhelm existing critical care services.
    "Sources who were in the briefing told The Independent Prof Willett warned the demand was likely to be not just double but “several fold” the existing 4,000 intensive care beds in the NHS.
    "Prof Willett said the NHS will also be holding large-scale simulations next week for an expected coronavirus surge in an effort to “stress test the system” ahead of rising cases of infection.
    "If the predictions are right the NHS will likely be forced to cancel large numbers of operations and re-deploy nurses and doctors."

  • Coronavirus: Unqualified nursing students to be drafted in to help hospitals amid UK outbreak, NHS boss reveals Independent March 11: "Nursing students are to be drafted in by the NHS to help out on hospital wards during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, the head of NHS England has said.
    "Speaking at a conference of nursing leaders in Birmingham, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said third year unqualified nursing students would be asked to help care for patients.
    "The Independent understands work is on-going now with the Nursing and Midwifery Council on how the 18,000 students could be temporarily registered with the watchdog to allow them to work on wards and this could form part of the government’s emergency legislation.
    "Any students will be invited to work in the NHS, it will not be mandatory, and students who do will be paid for their contribution."

  • Coronavirus in Italy : a report from the frontline Public Reading Rooms publish a translation by an Italian epidemiologist Silvia Stringhini of a report of the situation facing health care workers in Italy at the moment. The report is by Dr. Daniele Macchini who is working on the Intensive Care Unit at Bergamo hospital. Both Silvia and Daniele are keen to stress the seriousness of the situation the Italian health care system is facing and for everyone, whether in Italy or elsewhere, to wake up to the threat that Corinavirus poses. Corinavirus is not flu.

  • Coronavirus: Warning over lack of social care plans for UK epidemic Independent March 10: "There is no evidence of detailed plans to help nursing homes and care workers to cope in the event of a serious coronavirus outbreak, industry leaders have told The Independent.
    "In a stark warning Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, a charity which represents care providers, said he feared widespread deaths were inevitable if the virus sweeps the country and he hit out at what he said was the government’s ignorance of social care and its importance.
    "Experts from the Nuffield Trust think tank have also warned the social care sector is particularly vulnerable to the virus with many frail and elderly patients dependent on care workers who could be forced to stay at home in large numbers."

  • NHS staff exposed to coronavirus 'not given protective clothing or sanitiser' March 10 GMB statement: "GMB members working in the NHS say they are being exposed to coronavirus patients but that they have not yet been provided with advice, training, protective clothing or hand sanitisers by NHS trusts.
    "Non-emergency patient transport drivers working for HATS group - covering Croydon NHS, St George’s NHS and Kingston NHS - report they were asked to drive a vehicle potentially contaminated with COVID-19.
    "Their concerns over the infection risk were dismissed by management as ‘fake news’, the workers say.
    "Meanwhile a hospital ancillary worker, at Epsom and St Helier trust, is now being tested for COVID-19 after unwittingly moving an infected patient. He was not told that the patient tested positive for the virus."

  • Government fails to detail how retired doctors plan will work for coronavirus Guardian March 10: "The government is under pressure to spell out how it will use retired doctors to help tackle the coronavirus after ministers failed to provide any detail about how the scheme would work.
    "Questions are being asked about the widely reported NHS initiative, which was included in the government’s coronavirus action plan that Boris Johnson launched last week.
    "But the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) did not flesh out any of the detail about how it would resolve the complexities of launching the scheme when quizzed by an ex-health minister.
    "The Conservative MP Dr Dan Poulter last week tabled a parliamentary question to Matt Hancock, the health secretary, asking “what steps the government is taking to ensure that retired medical staff will be (a) re-registered and (b) re-certified to practise in the event that they are required to work as a result of Covid-19”.
    "But in a reply published on Monday, the DHSC said only that it “has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”

  • Would you have to pay for a coronavirus test? It depends CNN March 7: "As coronavirus cases multiply across the nation, many Americans who aren't feeling too well are worried about how much they'll have to pay to get checked out.
    "The answer isn't simple -- it depends on what insurance they have, where they seek care and what tests the doctor orders. This uncertainty may deter some folks from seeing a doctor, which could increase the disease's spread.
    "While there's been no charge for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tests in public health labs, commercial labs and hospitals are developing their own screenings, which are expected to carry a fee.
    "Vice President Mike Pence further muddied the waters this week when he said the administration was designating the test as an essential health benefit.
    "That means, by definition, it's covered in the private health insurance of every American, as well as covered by Medicare and Medicaid," he said."

  • Coronavirus: Doctors warn UK hospitals running out of protective equipment for staff Independent March 9 : "UK hospitals are beginning to run out of vital equipment needed to protect nurses and doctors from catching coronavirus from infected patients, medics have warned.
    "NHS staff have said they are unable to get hold of some face masks and other specialist personal protective equipment (PPE) which is needed to prevent them falling ill. Some hospitals are weeks away from running out of equipment, multiple sources have said.
    "In response to the concerns on Sunday, the Department of Health and Social Care said it would now release the UK’s stockpile of equipment set aside for when the country faces a pandemic disease. Coronavirus has not yet been classified as a pandemic.
    "Doctors have been told to limit their use of face masks during procedures and surgeries to try and maintain supplies while NHS England said it would be shipping PPE to GPs this week amid concerns they lack enough equipment."

  • Concerns over lack of strategy to protect rough sleepers from coronavirus Guardian March 6: "The homeless charity Crisis, together with the Liberal Democrats, are asking for immediate guidance on how to help rough sleepers who are likely to have pre-existing health conditions that make them vulnerable to the illness.
    "Advice is also needed on how the self-isolation protocol could work for people who live on the streets and how they can regularly wash their hands, they suggest.
    "Matthew Downie, director of policy and external affairs for Crisis, said: “People sleeping rough are particularly vulnerable because they are more likely to have a range of existing health conditions and face specific challenges in that they may be unable to regularly wash their hands, nor can they self-isolate if they feel unwell.
    “This guidance must set out what measures government is taking to ensure rough sleepers get appropriate health checks, what accommodation will be provided so that people can self-isolate and advice for the public on how best they can support people who are homeless during the coronavirus outbreak.”

  • Coronavirus: Supermarkets cast doubt on minister's food supply claim BBC March 6: "Supermarkets have cast doubts on an assurance from the health secretary that food supplies would not be disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.
    "On Thursday, Matt Hancock said: "We are working with the supermarkets to make sure that, if people are self-isolating, then we will be able to get the food and supplies that they need."
    "But supermarket sources said they had not discussed getting food to homes.
    "One executive said he was "baffled" by the suggestions.
    "An executive told BBC business editor Simon Jack: "Matt Hancock has totally made up what he said about working with supermarkets. We haven't heard anything from government directly."

  • Nurses Battling Coronavirus Beg for Protective Gear and Better Planning NYT March 5: "Nurses in Washington State and California said they have had to beg for N95 masks, which are thicker than surgical masks and block out much smaller particles, and have faced ridicule from colleagues when expressing concerns about catching the highly contagious virus. Some have complained about being pulled out of quarantine early to treat patients because of staff shortages.
    “If nurses aren’t safe, then really our community isn’t safe,” said Jenny Managhebi, a clinical nurse at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center, where 24 nurses were asked to self-quarantine after a patient tested positive for the virus. “If I’m not safe at the bedside, when I come home to my husband and my children, then they’re not safe.”
    "Concerns from nurses in Washington State and California echo those of nurses nationwide. National Nurses United, a union that represents about 150,000 nurses across the country, announced on Thursday the sobering results of an online survey it recently conducted.
    "Of the 6,500 nurses who participated, 29 percent said their hospitals had a plan in place to isolate potential coronavirus patients, and 44 percent said they had received guidance from their employers about how to handle the virus.
    "Sixty-three percent had access to N95 face masks, and a quarter of the respondents had access to an even more protective mask recommended by the union, known as a PAPR, or a powered air purifying respirator."

  • Half of UK coronavirus cases likely to occur over three weeks – and NHS does not have enough beds to cope Telegraph March 5: "Half of coronavirus cases in the UK are likely to occur over just three weeks and the NHS does not have enough beds to cope with them, the chief medical officer has warned.
    "Professor Chris Whitty said there was a "slim to zero" chance of avoiding a global pandemic which could see "huge pressure" on the NHS, making it impossible for everyone who needs a bed to get one.
    "The chief medical officer said Britain had now largely shifted from the containment to the "delay" phase of its strategy.
    "The Government's realistic worst case scenario suggests that 80 per cent of people could get coronavirus, with between 15 and 20 per cent of those cases needing hospital care. "

  • Care workers could be redeployed to UK coronavirus hotspots Guardian March 4: "Care workers could be redeployed to look after elderly people in coronavirus hotspots across the UK as officials investigate whether criminal records checks need to be loosened to fill vacancies left by sick carers.
    "Whitehall officials have started talks with nursing homes and home care operators about how to pool workers in preparation for large numbers of care visitors and care home workers going off sick or self-isolating.
    The Department of Health and Social Care has asked providers whether the system of obligatory background checks for workers who have close physical contact with vulnerable people is a barrier to implementing the emergency plan, care industry sources said."

  • As a doctor, I'm telling Boris Johnson – a Little Britain response to coronavirus will be deadly Independent article by KONP co chair Dr John Puntis, March 3: “In 1831, the first “Asiatic cholera” pandemic reached the UK via the port of Sunderland. Although the terrible nature of the disease was evident to local doctors, vested interests delayed the notification of authorities in London because of concern about negative effects on business. Of course, more people died, and the port was quarantined.

    "The UK appears woefully unprepared for coronavirus. The NHS is already in bad shape, with the worst ever A&E waiting times, over 95% bed occupancy, 100,000 staff vacancies and the prospect that a no-deal Brexit will majorly disrupt the supply of medicines. With the worst-case scenario suggesting up to 50 million infections and up to 250,000 deaths in the UK alone, there can be little doubt that both health and social care services will be severely challenged by even a modest intensification of the outbreak.
    "More worryingly still, it appears the UK government is allowing petty infighting to hamper its preparations for a pandemic. It is staggering to hear that, as the virus continues its rapid spread, Downing Street and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) are locked in a row about Brexit – specifically, the UK’s continued access to the EU Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) for communicable diseases. The DHSC, it is reported, wish to remain in the EWRS, the prime minister decidedly does not. "

  • Union calls for ‘compulsory’ virus sick pay for social care workers March 3 NT: Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, has written to the secretary of state for work and pensions asking for emergency action to protect staff.
    In a letter addressed to Thérèse Coffey, Mr Prentis said this issue was particularly relevant for social care workers, who provide essential services to the elderly, sick and most vulnerable members of society.
    Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has issued guidance to UK employers, stating that staff who have been advised to self-isolate by their GP or manager should be entitled to take the time period as sick leave.
    However, those on so-called zero-hour contracts do not have access to sick leave or statutory sick pay.

  • Why The Death Rate From Coronavirus Is Plunging In China NPR March 3: Those early severe cases made COVID-19 look like a much bigger killer. It was only after officials in China stepped up surveillance that they started uncovering many more mild cases (people with symptoms such as fever and dry cough but limited or no pneumonia).
    All of this may also help explain why over time the death rate for COVID-19 has steadily dropped.
    According to the China CDC study, among patients whose symptoms started between Jan. 1 and Jan. 10 the death rate was 15.6%. But it was just 0.8% among those who didn't get sick until Feb. 1 to Feb. 11.
    That pattern of progressively dropping death rates is one we're likely to see in other countries.

  • Why self-quarantine from coronavirus is a privilege only for the rich Independent March 3: While Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) must be paid by employers to their sick employees, not everyone qualifies. Workers must have earned on average at least £118 per week (before tax) in the past 8 weeks before their sick leave to qualify.
    With minimum wage for people aged 18 to 21 at just £6.15, a university student would have had to work on average 19 hours per week, for the last 8 weeks, to qualify.
    A young mum in her early twenties earning minimum wage at £7.70, would have had to have worked 15 hours per week, and a cafe worker in their mid twenties or above waiting tables as a side hustle – 14 hours on average.
    For those working in the gig economy, the situation is similarly bleak. In gig economy jobs, such as food delivery, pay is given per task.
    So if you’re too sick to do the gigs, there won't be any pay for you.

  • Waive Fees for Coronavirus Tests and Treatment, Health Experts Urge officials are increasingly worried that medical bills will discourage the poor and uninsured from getting medical care.
    The federal government is also considering paying for care for those affected, possibly based on funds available through federal disaster relief programs. There are “initial conversations,” Dr. Robert Kadlec, a senior official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told Congress on Wednesday.
    In addition to the nation’s 27.5 million uninsured, some lawmakers are concerned that the tens of millions who are underinsured — Americans with high deductibles or limited insurance — may also be at risk of unexpected expenses as more and more people are exposed to the virus.

  • Majority of retired NHS staff don't want to return to tackle Covid-19 crisis March 4: Scores of retired NHS doctors and nurses have told the Guardian that they are against returning to work to help tackle coronavirus, with many saying it would threaten their physical and mental health. The government confirmed contingency plans on Tuesday to call back to work NHS “leavers and retirees” to help relieve pressure on an NHS workforce that is expected to be overwhelmed by the virus.
    But a majority of 120 former NHS employees who responded to a Guardian callout were resistant, and in some cases hostile, to the idea. Many respondents said unprompted they did not want to a return to a working environment where they suffered stress, bullying, burnout and even breakdowns.

  • Tory Health Secretary refuses to deny benefit claimants could be sanctioned if they catch Coronavirus Evolve March 3: Hancock [said] it was the government’s “intention” not to sanction benefit claimants who self-isolate – but refused to make any firm commitment that it would not happen.
    The Tory Health Secretary also added that he was speaking to the DWP Secretary “frequently” about the issue.
    Alison Thewliss, an SNP MP, probed Hancock further asking:
    “Could I ask very specifically around the advice to DWP decision-makers. What advice specifically has been circulated within the DWP, and could all elected members get a copy of it just in case any of our constituents find that that advice has not been followed through?”
    Hancock responded by saying he would take the issue up with the DWP Secretary.

  • As Coronavirus Hits U.K., Health Workers Fear Getting Sick, and Going Broke NYT March 3: Every workday, Al-Hakim arrives at one of London’s largest public hospitals for a shift as a cleaner, earning little more than minimum wage even though his latest job includes disinfecting rooms reserved for suspected coronavirus patients.
    He isn’t certain what he fears most: being exposed to the coronavirus himself, or having to be quarantined for 14 days, as he is one of thousands of private contractors, many of whom receive little sick pay. But he knows what he would do if he did contract the virus — report to work anyway, because he cannot afford to lose even a day’s pay.
    “That’s going to be maybe suicide,” said Al-Hakim, who like several other health workers asked not to be identified by their full names, for fear of losing their jobs. “Let’s say I’m sick for one month now — how am I going to pay my rent? The bills are there — how am I going to cope?”

  • Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University Mapping the global spread of the virus.

  • COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK Data from World Odometers

  • How does the new coronavirus compare with the flu? Live Science report March 19: “So far, the new coronavirus has led to more than 220,000 illnesses and more than 9,300 deaths worldwide. But that's nothing compared with the flu, also called influenza.
    “In the U.S. alone, the flu has caused an estimated 36 million illnesses, 370,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    “That said, scientists have studied seasonal flu for decades. So, despite the danger of it, we know a lot about flu viruses and what to expect each season. In contrast, very little is known about the new coronavirus and the disease it causes, dubbed COVID-19, because it's so new. This means COVID-19 is something of a wild card in terms of how far it will spread and how many deaths it will cause.”

  • COVID: What is the price tag of this war? March 19 Healthcare Business International gives a private sector take on the growing financial impact of measures to contain the spread of the virus, concluding:
    “the average Italian patient to die of Covid is 81 and male. That is six months older than average Italian male life expectancy in 2019.
    “It may well be too late, but we should be questioning the urge to double national debt and run national deficits equal to those of world war two to combat a disease that shortens lives in this way. For the very old to lose 3-4 years of life is sad. But in my personal experience, many over-80s would not regard it as a tragedy and I’ve known several who would have welcomed an earlier death. Combatting Covid like this will have not just a high economic cost but also shorten life expectancy – often for much younger people.”

  • Coronavirus: Wuhan doctors celebrate closure of last temporary hospital after dramatic fall in cases in China March 15 story from Independent with great video: “Hospital staff in the Chinese city where the coronavirus originated removed their masks ceremoniously as the country’s last emergency hospital, built to handle the crisis, was closed.
    “In a video that has been viewed millions of times online, workers remove their masks one by one as the camera passes them, to mark the moment.
    China built 14 new hospitals, including two in Wuhan, early last month in just weeks to provide thousands of beds for the sick as the virus spread rapidly.”

  • Local officials alarmed by dearth of ventilators, hospital beds POLITICO.com (March 14) again reveals parallels between US and UK: “Local officials from around the country are worried about the readiness of the U.S. public health system, citing a sharply limited number of ventilators to help some of the sickest coronavirus patients and an inadequate supply of critical care beds in a hospital industry that has gone through years of cutbacks in inpatient beds.
    “As they prepare for an expected influx of patients, local public health officials painted a picture of a system with only a limited “surge” capacity, and stressed the importance of social distancing as a crucial way to keep the numbers of patients at a level the system can handle.
    "It's about our supply of ventilators, our supply of beds, and of course we have to worry about our health care workers and the general stress on our health care system," said Dr. Amy Acton, the head of the Ohio Department of Health.”

  • COVID-19 and Medicare for All Web resources set up on March 14 by Physicians for a National Health Program in the US, to combine continued pressure for a single-payer health system with useful information.
    It notes that “The recent spread of the COVID-19 virus present enormous challenges to our fragmented health care system. Today, nearly one in three Americans — or some 100 million individuals — do not have adequate insurance coverage, which can deter them from seeking testing and timely care.
    “As health professionals, this makes contending with a viral respiratory epidemic all that more difficult, exacerbating spread of the outbreak and potentially harming everybody’s health.”

  • 'Unlike anything seen in peacetime': NHS prepares for surge in Covid-19 cases Guardian report on March 13: “Hospitals are trebling the size of their intensive care units and preparing to replace A&E doctors with other specialists as the NHS braces itself for a surge in patients whose life is at risk from the coronavirus.
    “Millions of patients will have their care delayed as hospitals cancel non-urgent operations, including some surgery for people with heart and lung conditions.
    “Hernia repairs, cataract removals and hip and knee replacements will be among the many procedures affected. Around 700,000 people a month in England have a planned procedure. Single rooms freed up will be used as isolation facilities for Covid-19 cases.
    “One senior official told the Guardian that hospital trusts across England were moving rapidly to “a footing unlike anything ever seen in peacetime, for something that will be far harder to deal with, and will go on much longer, than even a bad winter crisis”.”

  • Italy’s coronavirus crisis could be America’s March 13 Vox article: “Three weeks ago, Italy barely had a coronavirus problem. Back then, when there were just three confirmed cases, shops and cafes were open, tourists flowed in and out of the country’s magnificent holiday destinations, and quarantines were relegated to history: 14th-century Venice during the Black Death.
    “Now, Italy has the highest number of reported Covid-19 cases and deaths outside China: more than 15,000 and 1,000, respectively, as of March 13. Those figures are greater than that of two other coronavirus hot zones — Iran and South Korea. And they’re why the focus of the Covid-19 pandemic has now shifted to Europe.
    “… Cases in Italy escalated fast and the coronavirus overwhelmed the country’s health system, particularly in the north. More than 80 percent of the hospital beds in Lombardy, the hardest-hit province, are being occupied by coronavirus patients, according to Bloomberg. Intensive care units are overloaded while elective surgeries have been cancelled in the process to free up beds. Stories abound on social media about doctors struggling to meet their patients’ needs.”

  • COVID-19 and Italy: what next? Interesting Lancet feature March 13 notes the scale of the problem: “Given that so far the percentage of patients requiring ARDS treatment is close to 10% for patients who are actively infected, at least in Lombardy, we can assume that we will need approximately 4000 beds in intensive care units during the worst period of infection, which is expected to occur in about 4 weeks from March 11.
    “This is challenging for Italy, as there are now just over 5200 intensive care beds in total. The aim now is to increase this number to safely meet urgent future needs. According to our prediction, we have only a few weeks to achieve this goal in terms of procuring personnel, technical equipment, and materials.
    “These considerations might also apply to other European countries that could have similar numbers of patients infected and similar needs regarding intensive care admissions.
    “Since 1978, Italy has had the privilege of having a national health system (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale), which was reshaped from 1992–93. Its principles and organisation derive from the British National Health Service model…”

  • Coronavirus and the collapse of global public health “Financial Times feature March 12: “In the never ending war between humans and microbes, the smaller of those two combatants is perpetually probing for the weakest link.
    “That could be a wet market in Wuhan where a virus jumps from a bat or a pangolin into people. It could be the gig economy in the US, where infected people might be too financially stretched to self-isolate and forgo two weeks’ pay.
    “Or it could be a health system in an impoverished country, say in Africa, where testing is inadequate, doctors and nurses in short supply and hospitals at breaking point.
    “In the unfolding coronavirus drama, Africa has been the dog that doesn’t bark, or in this case perhaps the bat that doesn’t squeak. There have been relatively few reported cases. Egypt, where dozens of Nile cruise passengers are in quarantine, is the worst affected.
    “About 10 other countries have confirmed cases. But that only makes just over 100 cases, mostly in north Africa, in a continent of 1.2bn people. Italy, with 60m people, has more than 12,000 cases. If the numbers are to be believed, Africa has been remarkably lucky. So far."

  • Exclusive: NHS prepares to cancel elective ops in readiness for covid-19 surge HSJ reported March 12: “Senior sources told HSJ NHS England had asked trusts to risk stratify elective patients in readiness for having to suspend non-emergency work to free up capacity.
    “HSJ understands trusts have been told to firm up their plans for how they would incrementally reduce and potentially suspend non-emergency operations, while also protecting “life saving” procedures such as cancer treatment.
    “An announcement is expected soon, with patients affected given at least 48 hours notice. It has not been decided how long it might last for, as the duration of any surge in cases and acute demand is unknown. But HSJ has been told it could stretch out for several months, with three or four months discussed, which would potentially mean tens of or even hundreds of thousands of cancelled operations.”

  • Trump speech sets off new alarms among public health experts POLITICO.com reports March 12: “President Donald Trump’s Wednesday night Oval Office address failed to offer any fresh vision for fighting a disease that’s spread undetected for weeks within the U.S., sparking a full-blown panic within the public health community and jolting health care industries confronting the worsening coronavirus pandemic.
    “The speech only seemed to confirm fears that that have festered among health experts for weeks, as the administration struggled to roll out coronavirus testing and coordinate with frontline providers — all as Trump and some of his top aides had repeatedly downplayed the risk to the American public.
    “Fundamentally, he’s still missing the point, and he’s missing the point in several important ways,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and former Obama-era foreign aid official. “Every day we’re getting the strategy wrong will extend the severity and size of the outbreak in this country by multiple days.”
    “Health insurers following Trump’s speech worked to clear up confusion about what they could cover, and worried lawmakers on Thursday pressed administration officials on whether hospitals were ready for an expected wave of sick patients.”

  • Governments must act to stop the coronavirus – but we can't return to business as usual Open Democracy comment on environmental lessons from virus March 12:
    “The pandemic is also causing a headache for global capital: trillions of dollars have been wiped off global stock markets, as fears a global recession grow. The IMF recently predicted that a recession half as severe as the global financial crisis would leave $19tn of corporate debt – nearly 40% of all corporate debt in major economies – at risk of default. This could trigger a potentially destabilising cycle of events in the global banking system – a system that is still on life support from the global financial crisis.
    “… A few weeks ago, NASA published striking satellite images showing how the fall in economic activity in China following the coronavirus outbreak dramatically reduced air pollution in the country. Based on this data, a group of US academics have estimated that this fall in air pollution may save over 50,000 lives – a figure that dwarfs the 3,100 lives that have been lost to the coronavirus in China. This suggests that the coronavirus may have saved more lives than the disease has taken in China.
    "If this sounds farfetched, consider that Chinese air pollution is estimated to cause around 1.6 million premature deaths each year. This isn’t just a problem for China. Most of the goods produced in Chinese factories are exported and consumed in Europe and North America.
    “In recent decades, rich countries have effectively outsourced their pollution – along with its human and environmental cost – to China and other countries. Whether we realise it or not, we tolerate these deaths as a price worth paying to get cheaper goods.
    “Air pollution is not the only indicator that has improved since the outbreak. Carbon emissions in China have also fallen by a quarter, mainly thanks to declining industrial production and energy demand. If this trend continues elsewhere, analysts say it is possible this will lead to the first fall in global emissions since the 2008-09 financial crisis.
    “None of this means that pandemics are in some way desirable, or that we shouldn't act. …
    “But once the outbreak subsides, attention will inevitably turn to how the global economy can be rebooted. Before we rush to reinstate ‘business as usual’, we should pause to consider the impact this might have on human and environmental health.”

  • Cleaners in coronavirus-hit London hospital walk out after private contractor fails to pay wages GMB March 12 press release: “Cleaning, portering and catering staff at Lewisham Hospital - where Coronavirus cases have been treated - have walked out after private contractor ISS failed to pay the wages of the hospital workers.
    “Furious workers stormed off the job during a row with the outsourcing company. Now ISS risks leaving wards uncleaned and meals not being served if they can’t settle the low paid workers’ wages.”

  • Care for Critically Ill Patients with COVID-19 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) advice, March 11: “Reducing the risk of nosocomial [hospital origin] outbreak amplification through transmission of virus to other patients and health care workers is of critical importance.
    “Maintaining appropriate distancing of at least 2 m between patients with suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, consideration of use of medical masks for symptomatic patients, and, ideally, admission of patients with suspected disease to private rooms are important considerations.
    “ Ensuring hospital staff are well trained in standard, contact, and droplet infection prevention and control precautions, including the use of relevant personal protective equipment, is an imperative. Clinicians involved with aerosol-generating procedures such as endotracheal intubation and diagnostic testing using bronchoscopy should additionally use airborne precautions, including N95 respirators or equivalent face masks and face shields or goggles for eye protection.”

  • White House turns to Big Tech to fix coronavirus blunders while classifying previous conversations March 11 article in The Register: “Faced with a growing barrage of criticism over how it has handled the outbreak of the coronavirus, the White House has turned to tech giants to help it tackle the pandemic.
    “The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy held a meeting on Wednesday with representatives from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and others in a bid to figure out how to get a handle on the problem. Michael Kratsios, CTO at the White House said the federal government was hoping that Big Tech would be able to use AI and data tools to provide useful insights as it unveils new measures for tackling the crisis.
    “Cutting-edge technology companies and major online platforms will play a critical role in this all-hands-on-deck effort,” Kratsios said in a statement.
    “At the same time, however, it emerged the White House was also ordering all deliberations over covid-19 to be considered classified, effectively restricting discussions to only those with a top secret classification.”

  • Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now March 10 article from Medium.com viewed by 40 million, and supporting a petition calling for White House action argues:
    “The coronavirus is coming to you.
    It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly.
    It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
    When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
    Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways.
    Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die.
    They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies.
    The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today.
    That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now.
    As a politician, community leader or business leader, you have the power and the responsibility to prevent this.”

  • The entire UK may come to regret Sunak’s inadequate coronavirus budget Caroline Molloy in the Open Democracy/Our NHS column on March 11 reports: “Today was the government’s big chance. A chance to show its mettle. A chance to improve our collective resilience to the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus. To protect and reassure an increasingly uneasy populace.
    “But it has missed that chance. The chequebook might have been waved around more than in recent years, but too much of the same old mean-spirited, laissez-faire thinking was still on display.
    “The government said in announcing today’s budget that it “stands ready to provide further support, should it be needed”. It is needed. Both to improve our chances of avoiding the worst consequences of the coronavirus, and to begin to address some of the searing injustices of the last decade.”

  • Hospitals gird for coronavirus surge after years of cutbacks Politico reports (March 10), with striking echoes between US and England: “Hospitals for years have faced economic pressures to cut costs and reduce in-patient treatments as the nation tried to slow down health spending. Now the hospital industry is facing a reckoning.
    “With a potential surge of coronavirus patients, there may not be enough beds, equipment and staff to handle an epidemic. Executives face tough decisions about who could have to be isolated and, in some cases, need oxygen, ventilators and protective gear that’s already in short supply.
    “There are parts of the health care system that can be and should be lean but there are public health preparedness efforts that need to be ongoing.” said Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
    “… with some projections of millions of hospital admissions in a full-blown coronavirus pandemic, the industry is forced to consider pivoting back to a hospital-centric, all-hands-on-deck approach featuring sick patients who may stay for weeks, labor intensive staffing and anything but a check in-check out mentality.”

  • Italy’s Politicians Are Making the Coronavirus Crisis Worse Foreign Policy report on March 9 concludes: “In the last few weeks, Italy became a case study in crisis mismanagement, as a medical emergency of great magnitude met a chronically unstable political environment. The results of the mix are hardly encouraging but could provide some valuable lessons. The coronavirus is an extremely serious threat, but a climate in which politicians weaponize every bit of information for political gain could worsen its effects."

  • Coronavirus sparks theft of hand sanitiser and toilet paper from GP practices “GP Online March 10 report: Bottles of hand sanitiser and handwash, as well as toilet rolls, have all gone missing from practices in recent weeks following reports of shortages and stockpiling in the national media.
    … Meanwhile, GP surgeries will this week receive an ‘initial stock’ of personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, aprons and protective masks, after GPs reported problems with getting appropriate supplies.”

  • Two thirds of GPs say their practice is not ready for coronavirus GPonline on March 10 with another report from their poll: “Of 401 GPs who responded to the poll, 67% said they did not feel their practice was adequately prepared to deal with the emerging outbreak.
    "More than half of GPs (53%) said practices had not received adequate guidance and information about COVID-19 - and just one in five (21%) said their practice had the equipment needed to manage an outbreak, including supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).
    "GPs warned that with pressure on practices already high, a surge in workload from coronavirus would leave many struggling to cope - particularly if practices were left short-staffed as individual doctors were forced to self-isolate."

  • Coronavirus, Trump and the world economy Ecologist article March 9 begins: “Donald Trump was flying back from India on Air Force One when the stock markets began to go down two weeks ago. He stayed awake, furious, the whole way. By one account, he was up for 48 hours straight before he finally spoke publicly on Wednesday.
    “He gave a speech in which he said both that the coronavirus was a Democratic ‘hoax’, and that his administration was doing a brilliant job in containing it. This reflected his dilemma. For electoral reasons, he had to talk down the threat of the virus to get the stock market back up. At the same time, he knew he would be in serious voter trouble if the virus spread.
    “The result is that Trump looks to have embraced the worst possible public stance. If and when Covid-19 really hits the United States, most people are going to blame him for not taking it seriously and doing nothing. And they are also going to blame him for the economy.”

  • NHS in talks with private sector for coronavirus help March 9 HSJ article: “The simplest option for drawing on private sector support would be to send more people to private providers for planned operations, to free up NHS capacity, as they already carry out hundreds of thousands of procedures for the NHS each year. Chief medical officer Chris Whitty indicated last week the NHS may need to “slow down or postpone anything that is postponable” to deal with the virus, which would mean cancelling planned operations.
    “Other options could include: asking private firms to take over the running of whole service lines for a period, potentially including more high-risk operations than are usually outsourced; to step in to help in places where NHS services have been hit by demand and staff shortages; or to take some non-complex coronavirus patients who need hospital beds. These might not all prove possible or useful, and the details of the talks are not known.”

  • GPs call for suspension of routine appointments during coronavirus outbreak A March 9 GPonline article reveals findings from a poll of 402 GPs: “Three quarters of GPs believe routine appointments should be suspended in the event of a widespread coronavirus outbreak - including one in five who say this should happen now.
    “GPs have also backed a string of measures to ease pressure on general practice as coronavirus spreads - with around half of GPs demanding immediate suspension of QOF, and three in five calling for suspension of online booking of appointments.
    "Suspension of CQC inspections, a freeze on appraisals, suspension of home visits and a move to telephone-only consultations are among other moves GPs say the NHS should consider during the outbreak."

  • COVID-19: Response from Doctors in Unite March 7 statement from Doctors in Unite begins:
    “The threat posed by COVID-19 demands a united national response across the UK. As well as protecting individual and public health, the burden of maintaining public resilience must be shared equally, on a pooled basis across society.
    In response to COVID-19, Doctors in Unite urges the government to:
    * Extend day-one sick pay to those on zero hours contracts, in the ‘gig-economy’ and to the self-employed.
    * Ensure that workers are not under pressure to attend work while they are unwell and may inadvertently pass on the disease, both financially and in regards to staffing.
    * Allow the NHS to requisition private health care facilities to accommodate effective COVID-19 treatment and quarantine provision if needed."

  • COVID-19: too little, too late? Lancet March 7 Editorial: “…The outbreak in northern Italy, which has seen 11 towns officially locked down and residents threatened with imprisonment if they try to leave, shocked European political leaders.
    “Their shock turned to horror as they saw Italy become the epicentre for further spread across the continent. As the window for global containment closes, health ministers are scrambling to implement appropriate measures to delay spread of the virus. But their actions have been slow and insufficient. There is now a real danger that countries have done too little, too late to contain the epidemic.
    “By striking contrast, the WHO-China joint mission report calls China's vigorous public health measures toward this new coronavirus probably the most “ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history.”

  • How will country-based mitigation measures influence the course of the COVID-19 epidemic? Detailed March 6 discussion of options by lancet Editorial notes: “So what is left at present for mitigation is voluntary plus mandated quarantine, stopping mass gatherings, closure of educational institutes or places of work where infection has been identified, and isolation of households, towns, or cities. Some of the lessons from analyses of influenza A apply for COVID-19, but there are also differences.
    “Social distancing measures reduce the value of the effective reproduction number R. With an early epidemic value of R0 of 2·5, social distancing would have to reduce transmission by about 60% or less, if the intrinsic transmission potential declines in the warm summer months in the northern hemisphere. This reduction is a big ask, but it did happen in China.
    “School closure, a major pillar of the response to pandemic influenza A,14 is unlikely to be effective given the apparent low rate of infection among children, although data are scarce.
    “Avoiding large gatherings of people will reduce the number of super-spreading events; however, if prolonged contact is required for transmission, this measure might only reduce a small proportion of transmissions.”

  • Medical students and recently retired doctors could help coronavirus response, says CMO GP Online (March 5): “Measures including suspension of CQC inspections and doubling the duration of GP sick notes from seven to 14 days are also under consideration in the event of a widespread outbreak, the CMO indicated - although the CQC has said it plans to continue inspections for now.
    “Doctors' leaders have raised concerns in recent days over government plans to bring retired doctors back into frontline care to bolster the NHS workforce as the health service tackles coronavirus - but the CMO made clear that only recently retired doctors would be considered.
    “Professor Whitty told MPs: ‘Certainly for doctors, the plan is not to take everybody who’s retired, only those who have recently - in the last two or three years - retired and are still fairly current.'"

  • No, the coronavirus is not responsible for the fall of stock prices March 5 summary from Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt
    “… The fact that the stock market crash coincides with the effects of the coronavirus epidemic on the productive economy is no accident, but to say that the coronavirus is the cause of the crisis is untrue. It is important to see where the crisis really comes from and not be fooled by explanations that put up a smokescreen over the real causes.
    “Big businesses, the rulers and the media at its service have every interest in blaming the virus for a major financial and then economic crisis. This allows them to wash their hands of it (excuse the expression).
    “The drop in stock prices was predicted long before the coronavirus appeared.
    “The rise of share prices and the price of debt securities (also known as bonds) have far outpaced the growth of output over the last ten years, with an acceleration in the last two or three years. The wealth of the richest 1% has also grown strongly as it is largely based on the growth of financial assets.
    “It must be stressed that the stock prices fall due to a willing choice (I am not talking about a conspiracy): a part of the very rich (the 1%, the big business) decides to start offloading the shares it has acquired not forgetting the fact that every financial party has an end. And, rather than suffer in the process, it prefers to take the lead.
    “These large shareholders prefer to be the first to sell in order to get the best possible rates before the share price falls very sharply.
    “… Another important point to note is that the 1% sells shares of private companies, causing the share prices of the latter to fall and the stock markets to plummet. At the same time, however, they buy public debt securities that are considered safe.”

  • TUC calls on government to tackle coronavirus with immediate #SickPayForAll TUC (March 3) flags up the fact that “Currently, nearly 2 million of the lowest-paid workers don’t earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay. According to TUC analysis this includes:
    "34% of workers on zero-hours contracts
    "1 in 10 women in work
    "More than a fifth (22%) of workers aged 16-24
    "More than a quarter (26%) of workers aged 65 and over, identified by government as one of the groups most vulnerable to the virus
    "In a letter to Matt Hancock and Thérèse Coffey, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady warns that inadequate provision of sick pay could stop people taking up public health advice, since many workers will struggle to meet basic living costs if they can’t attend work for a prolonged period. As a result, some may feel they have no choice but to go to work while ill, or against government advice.”

  • Coronavirus set to restrict chancellor’s Budget choices 2 Mar 20 article from Public Finance:
    “Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been warned he will have to reassess the plans his first Budget, in response to the economic disruption caused by the spread of the coronavirus. According to The Times, the Office for Budget Responsibility will alter its forecasts to recognise the economic strain resulting from the outbreak.
    "… A recent study from the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggests that should London go into full lockdown, the capital’s output would fall by £495m per day. Should the lockdown last a week, the economy could effectively lose £2.4bn in output, and if lockdown was imposed for a month, this could rise to £10.3bn in a worst-case scenario.

  • Coronavirus: GMB win for workers as ISS guarantees full pay during Covid-19 self isolation https://www.gmb.org.uk/news/coronavirus-gmb-win-workers-iss-guarantees-full-pay-during-covid-19-self-isolation
    March 3 Press release from GMB: which claims “a big win for 1000s of workers after private outsourcing company ISS promised full pay for all health workers self-isolating due to Coronavirus.
    “Private company ISS has been handed taxpayer funded contracts to the tune of £307 million since 2015 for services including cleaning and catering in schools and hospitals. The union has pressured NHS outsourcing companies – and the Government - to ensure all workers are given full pay from day one if forced to self-isolate.
    “Workers then won’t be faced with the devastating choice - put food on the table or come to work even if they believe they are infected with COVID-19.”

  • Trump's team shifts tone from preventing coronavirus to containing it POLITICO.com report March 3: “Top Trump administration officials are shifting their message on the coronavirus outbreak, emphasizing efforts to contain, rather than prevent, the disease.
    The tone at a Monday afternoon White House briefing with Vice President Mike Pence and members of Trump's coronavirus task force marked a notable change from earlier efforts to tamp down fear of community spread of the disease — a tacit acknowledgment of a surge in new cases over the past two days and six reported deaths. There are currently 43 confirmed cases in the U.S., including 26 involving people who had no known exposure to the virus.
    … HHS Secretary Alex Azar stressed the immediate risk to the American public remains low, but added: “The degree of risk has the potential to change quickly.”
    … FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said there could be up to 1 million tests performed this week, though experts have cautioned that is unlikely and that the CDC is still playing catch up.”

  • Coronavirus: just eight out of 1,600 doctors in poll say NHS is ready Guardian March 2 report: “More than 99% of 1,618 NHS medics questioned appear not to agree with the assurances given by Boris Johnson that the service will cope if it is hit by a surge in the number of people falling ill.
    "Doctors are worried that the NHS is already stretched and under heavy pressure, and especially that it has too few intensive care beds and that GP surgeries are struggling to meet patient demand.”

  • Coronavirus could mean one in five people off work and cancellation of non-urgent NHS care March 3 GP Online: A government action plan published on 3 March sets out a three-stage UK approach to the coronavirus outbreak, moving from containment - the current stage - through to delay, and then mitigation.
    "The document makes clear that 'in a stretching scenario, it is possible that up to one fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks'.
    "COVID-19 has the potential to 'spread extensively' through the UK population, because the lack of existing immunity and data available to date suggest 'we are all susceptible to catching this disease', the government action plan warns.
    "Actions to delay the spread of the disease could include closing schools, a shift to more working from home and restrictions on 'large-scale gatherings' if the UK moves beyond the containment phase."

  • Coronavirus cases spread as nation’s second death reported March 1 from POLITICO: “Top Trump administration officials soberly reassured the public Sunday morning that most people had little to fear from the spread of coronavirus — but warned that more cases are coming. By evening the headlines were dominated by several new confirmed cases on both coasts and reports of a second U.S. death.
    Vice President Mike Pence and HHS Secretary Alex Azar said during a series of morning show appearances that the pace of testing was ramping up after problems with the initial testing kits.
    Hours later, HHS acknowledged that it had opened an investigation into why the diagnostic tests first released by the CDC were flawed, a problem that public health experts say impeded detection of the virus.

  • BMA warns against coronavirus 'complacency' as practices flag lack of PPE equipment March 2 GPO Online: “doctors have warned that a lack of official support in helping to provide PPE, such as protective masks, is putting staff and their patients at risk of infection, with a south Cumbria doctor warning her surgery has only two masks.
    “Doctors have also called for updated training to protect against infection and avoid a potential staffing crisis if doctors are forced to self-isolate.
    BMA representative body chair Dr Helena McKeown said: 'GPs are the first line of defence in the NHS, so it’s imperative that we have access to the right protection against COVID-19 as we work to contain the infection.
    'We believe that surgeries should be being delivered supplies and equipment from the NHS - for example, suitable masks - rather than trying to source our own individually; something which can take time, leaving us and our communities at risk.”

  • Coronavirus isolation pods to be installed at every A&E unit as UK sees more confirmed cases Metro 29 Feb: “The NHS has ordered all hospitals to install isolation pods in their emergency departments to keep suspected coronavirus sufferers away from other patients. Anyone believed to have the virus will be kept in the cramped units for at least 24 hours while tests are carried out. The pop-up facilities have started appearing outside A&Es as the number of confirmed cases in the UK hits 23. Lewisham Hospital is where London’s first person confirmed to have the virus checked in two weeks ago. The woman had arrived unannounced in an Uber taxi when she fell ill after returning from China where she caught the virus.”

  • Getting treated for coronavirus could cost more than $3,000 — and it might make some everyday Americans broke Business Insider (Feb 27) highlights a shocking Miami Herald report …
    “Miami resident Osmel Martinez Azcue check[ed] himself into Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital for flu-like symptoms after arriving back in the US from a work trip to China. … As reporter Ben Conarck detailed, Azcue asked to be tested for the flu before getting a CT scan to screen for coronavirus because he has a limited insurance plan.
    “Turns out, Azcue did have the flu. He also now has a medical bill worth thousands — $3,270 to be exact. Hospital officials told Conarck that Azcue would only need to foot $1,400 of the bill, but Azcue said he has to provide his insurer with three years of medical records proving the flu didn't relate to a pre-existing condition.
    “… Americans are struggling to afford medical costs. Not everyone has insurance, and even those who do, like Azcue, might still find themselves set back by thousands from a quick hospital trip. Of those ages 18 to 65 who are uninsured, 28% had trouble paying medical bills in the past year, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That percentage drops to 18% for those with Medicare and 11% for those with private insurance.
    “And a Kaiser Family Foundation report found that 26% of US adults have put off or postponed getting health care because of their finances, with 21% reporting they've skipped a recommended medical test or treatment for the same reason.”

  • Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19 Lancet article Feb 19: "We are public health scientists who have closely followed the emergence of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and are deeply concerned about its impact on global health and wellbeing.
    "We have watched as the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China, in particular, have worked diligently and effectively to rapidly identify the pathogen behind this outbreak, put in place significant measures to reduce its impact, and share their results transparently with the global health community. This effort has been remarkable.
    "We sign this statement in solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China who continue to save lives and protect global health during the challenge of the COVID-19 outbreak. We are all in this together, with our Chinese counterparts in the forefront, against this new viral threat."

  • Trump faces ‘black swan’ threat to the economy and reelection POLITICO reported Feb 24: “Stock markets tumbled around the world. The number of coronavirus cases mushroomed in advanced nations like Italy, Japan and South Korea. And travel bans expanded as leaders confronted the nightmarish prospect of a spreading virus swallowing their nations.
    "With the possibility of a U.S. outbreak growing by the day, Trump allies and advisers have grown increasingly worried that a botched coronavirus response will hit the U.S. economy. Even Donald Trump Jr. has mused to associates he hopes the White House does not screw up the response and put the president’s best reelection message at risk, said two individuals with knowledge of his comments."

  • Trump sending coronavirus budget request to Congress POLITICO.com (Feb 24) reports “The Trump administration sent to Capitol Hill on Monday night its $2.5 billion supplemental budget request for additional money to fight the coronavirus, but House Democrats immediately labelled it as insufficient, indicating a battle ahead in Congress over the emergency aid.”

  • White House to ask Congress for emergency coronavirus funding Politico.com report feb 22: “The White House will soon ask Congress for emergency funds to fight the coronavirus outbreak, after weeks of hesitation by the administration to press for additional funding, said four individuals with knowledge of the pending request.
    "However, the amount could be significantly lower than some public health officials have argued is necessary — potentially as little as $1 billion, said two individuals, which could be rapidly exhausted by development of potential vaccines, widespread lab tests and numerous other investments.
    "A White House official told POLITICO that the pending request is still preliminary and the sum could change. A congressional aide said that lawmakers have been told to expect the request in the coming days.”

  • Problems with CDC coronavirus test delay expanded U.S. screening Politico.com reports on Feb 20: “Problems with a coronavirus test developed by the CDC have delayed the Trump administration's efforts to expand screening to state and local public health labs, more than two weeks after the FDA granted permission to distribute the CDC test nationwide.
    "Only three of the more than 100 public health labs across the country have verified the CDC test for use, according to the Association of Public Health Laboratories.”

  • Coronavirus ‘Hits All the Hot Buttons’ for How We Misjudge Risk New York Times report Feb 13: “There remains deep uncertainty about the new coronavirus' mortality rate, with the high-end estimate that it is up to 20 times that of the flu, but some estimates go as low as 0.16 percent for those affected outside of China’s overwhelmed Hubei province. About on par with the flu.”

  • CDC director: Novel coronavirus 'is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year CNN reported Feb 14: “As an outbreak of a novel coronavirus has swept through Hubei province, China, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been preparing for its worst case scenario -- a widespread outbreak of illnesses in the United States.
    "Right now we're in an aggressive containment mode," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an interview on Thursday.”

  • Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust give coronavirus update as testing continues in A&E car parks News Shopper reports Feb 17: Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust has reassured patients that all services remain open as usual after patients have been spotted being tested for the coronavirus outside the A&E hospital buildings.
    … The unnamed patient, a Chinese woman, had arrived via an Uber at University Hospital Lewisham on Sunday, February 9, after falling ill. She was later diagnosed with the coronavirus, marking the ninth patient with the virus in the UK, and the first in south London.
    Despite some being shocked at seeing suspected coronavirus carriers being tested in hospital car parks, the trust has said it is continuing to use dedicated areas assigned for testing outside A&E buildings whilst they await the installation of a purpose-built 'pod'.

  • Over 1,700 frontline medics infected with coronavirus in China, presenting new crisis for the government CNN reports (Feb 14) “Ning Zhu, a nurse in Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the heart of a deadly coronavirus outbreak, is restless.
    "Instead of helping on the frontlines, she has been under self-quarantine at home for weeks, after a chest scan on January 26 revealed that she had a suspected case of the novel Coronavirus.
    Zhu was told to wait for a nucleic acid test that would provide the final verdict, but it never came.
    "Right now, it's really a problem. Our hospital already has more than 100 people who are quarantined at home," she told CNN over the phone. An additional 30 medical workers have been confirmed to have the virus, she said.
    "If the tests are fine, we can go back to work. I actually don't have any symptoms, there's just a slight problem with my CT scan, it seems there's a bit of infection," she said.
    "Zhu estimates that of the 500 medical staff at the hospital, more than 130 may have been stricken by the virus, which has so far infected more than 60,000 globally. She declined to publicize the name of her hospital and asked to use a pseudonym as she was not authorized to speak to the media."

  • Scientists fear coronavirus spread in countries least able to contain it Nature magazine (Feb 13) reports: “Infections of the new coronavirus have now been detected in 24 countries outside China. But researchers warn that cases might be going undetected in some nations that are considered at high risk of an outbreak but are reporting fewer cases than expected, or none at all.
    "The possibility of unreported cases is particularly concerning in countries with weaker health-care systems, such as those in southeast Asia and Africa, which could quickly be overwhelmed by a local outbreak, experts say. Although no cases have yet been reported in Africa, some countries there, such as Nigeria, are at particular risk because of their strong business ties to China."

  • How bad is the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak likely to get? New Scientist reports Feb 11: “The World Health Organization has now named the new coronavirus disease: Covid-19.
    "If the virus isn’t halted, it could infect 60 per cent of the world’s population and kill one in 100 of those infected – around 50 million people – Gabriel Leung, at the University of Hong Kong, told The Guardian on 11 February.
    "But no one knows if it really will, because we don’t know whether the virus can be contained, how deadly it is and how many people have it.
    "The number of confirmed cases globally reached 42,000 on Tuesday, but the rise in cases has been slowing since 6 February. This suggests China’s decision to limit people’s movements in the most affected province, Hubei, is working and that containment may be effective.”

  • Government declares coronavirus a 'serious and imminent threat' to public health Feb 10 article in GP Online reports: “Under the new measures announced by the government, people with coronavirus can now be forcibly quarantined and could be sent into isolation if they pose a threat to public health.
    “The DHSC said that the risk to the public has not changed and remains moderate, however the measures were 'considered as an effective means of delaying or preventing further transmission of the virus'.”

  • GP practices forced to close as healthcare staff diagnosed with coronavirus GP Online 10 Feb: "Two practices covering almost 17,000 patients, which operate from the County Oak Medical Centre in Brighton, have been closed - along with their branch surgeries.
    "Calls to the Warmdene Surgery or the Carden Surgery - which share the medical centre in Carden Hill, Brighton are met with a recorded message that directs patients towards NHS 111.
    "The BBC reported that the closure came after a staff member at the practice 'tested positive for the coronavirus' - and Public Health England later revealed that of four new UK cases of the virus confirmed on 10 January, two cases 'are healthcare workers'."

  • Coronavirus whistleblower doctor dies in Wuhan hospital FT reports February 6: “A Chinese doctor who became a hero to millions for raising the alarm over the coronavirus epidemic has died, sparking an outpouring of grief and anger. After earlier reports that Li Wenliang had passed away, medical officials said he was in fact in critical condition.
    "The hospital in Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, later said in a statement on Weibo, the Twitter-like social media platform, that Li had died after he too was infected.
    "Li shot to fame after December 30 when he warned fellow medics in an online chat group that seven new pneumonia cases had been identified.”

  • Coronavirus: NHS orders 'assessment pods' in England hospitals BBC reports February 5: “Every hospital in England is being asked to create "priority assessment pods" for patients with suspected coronavirus, the NHS has said.
    Patients who are concerned they may have the virus are still advised to isolate themselves and call 111.
    But the contingency measure is intended to prevent any patients who do arrive at hospital from mixing with vulnerable patients.
    The secure areas are expected to be introduced by Friday.
    In China, 490 people have died and 24,300 people have been confirmed to have contracted the new virus. It has now spread to 25 nations, with two cases in the UK.”

  • How concerned should we be about coronavirus? Nursing Times blog notes:
    “As with other outbreaks such as SARS-CoV in 2003, the balance has to be struck about the scale of the response and the anxiety such a response generates.
    "Currently, the World Health Organization has not determined the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern"
    And there is of course a paradox here. In that, when the number of cases turn out not to be as many as expected, people then criticise the response and public anxiety as unnecessary, when of course it may be that it was that response and publicity that helped to control the outbreak.”

  • Coronavirus action plan: a guide to what you can expect across the UK 3 March document from Department of Health and Social Care, which claims, implausibly given other reports, that:
    “The UK government and the devolved administrations, including the health and social care systems, have planned extensively over the years for an event like this, and the UK is therefore well prepared to respond in a way that offers substantial protection to the public.”

  • Coronavirus: Order private hospitals to give beds to NHS during crisis, Labour urges government Independent, March 15, with a rather exaggerated picture of how large the private sector is in the UK: “Ministers should requisition beds from private hospitals into NHS service to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Labour and trade unions have said.
    “The GMB union has estimated that round 8,000 beds at around 570 private healthcare outlets around the UK could be drafted into the effort.
    “The EU’s centre for disease control (ECDC) said this week that there was a “high” likelihood capacity in the NHS would be exceeded in the course of fighting the virus.”

  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak Up to date health advice from the World Health Organisation

  • 6 Demands from NHS staff to help us tackle Coronavirus Sign the health workers' petition

  • Coronavirus: where we stand Statement from Keep Our NHS Public

  • Hospital ‘bed blocking’ numbers hit highest level since 2017 Guardian highlights another indicator of a system lacking capacity and very far from being "integrated": but headline uses the old-fashioned and perjorative phrase "bed blocking" when the proper terminology is delayed discharge or delayed transfers of care.
    Whatever we call it the facts are stark: "The number of “delayed days” in the NHS increased from an average of 114,000 a month in 2012 to more than 200,000 in October 2016, before extra funding and higher council taxes brought the numbers back down.
    "But the latest NHS figures show the problem is returning. December 2019 saw 148,000 delayed days across England, 15% higher than the same month a year earlier. The combined figures for the last quarter of 2019 were the highest in two years."

  • Social care is crumbling, and Johnson’s immigration plans will only make it worse Guardian's Polly Toynbee joins the dots to show the impact of the latest efforts to deter migrant workers:
    "The fourth biggest provider of home care for the frail, the Mears Group, … is abandoning its domiciliary care services.
    “…Social care is collapsing because too few people are willing to work gruelling hours in disgraceful conditions for pitiful pay.
    "The new points-based immigration system announced by the home secretary, Priti Patel, on Wednesday will see many more companies fleeing the sector for lack of staff. With 122,000 vacancies, this decade’s 25% increase in people over 65 means another 580,000 staff will be needed to care for them over the next 15 years. In London, 40% of care staff are from overseas. Median average pay as of last March is a meagre £8.10 an hour, with parts of their hours unpaid: a quarter of staff are on zero-hours contracts."

  • NHS 'took 18 months to help after suicide attempt' BBC report on gaping holes in NHS provision for serious mental illness:
    "Simon, who is from Derbyshire, said: "After one of my first hospital admissions, I received a safety plan through the post 18 months after I had been discharged.
    "When I struggle, I look for things that reinforce my negative view of myself - missing out on a safety plan on discharge reinforced that message that I am worthless.
    "There have been times when I've been given a generic plan which has little or no relevance to me. And, truthfully, if it's not personal, for me it's pretty pointless"

  • The Lowdown – the first year's issues Omnibus collection Searchable compilation of 200 pages of first 22 issues of The Lowdown since January 2019. A wealth of information -- with live hyperlinks to sources. Plus an appeal for support to keep it going another year

  • Government is sharpening its scrutiny of the NHS (£)HSJ column by former special advisor to Matt Hancock Richard Sloggett (sic) who argues:
    "The slide in the performance numbers, a larger than expected majority and the centrality of the NHS to the election victory has led to the exploration of what new powers ministers could take in setting direction to NHSE; as reported recently by The Times.
    "The current model of NHS independence clearly does not suit the Number 10 world view of directional oversight of key organisations to drive improvement.
    "Critics will argue that any moves will miss the point. They argue that direct ministerial control is not a solution to performance issues which are driven by a multitude of factors, many beyond the boundaries of the NHS. And as Dave West adeptly argues legislative change will not likely come in until April 2022 making it a medium-term lever for change at best."
    The question remains why should we expect a government that won a majority by wilfully misleading voters with inflated claims of the amount of "extra" money for the NHS after a decade of real terms freeze should suddenly decide now to put in more cash than they promised?

  • Behind the Scenes at Leicester Royal Infirmary: An NHS Worker Speaks Out Campaigners publicise the anonymous account of an NHS worker at Leicester's Royal Infirmary where a new £40m A&E has not solved the problems of lack of capacity:
    “Multiple Patients have been on the backs of ambulance for over 4 hours throughout the year with nurses leaving in droves and junior doctors saying that there is no way they are going to go into the field of emergency medicine.
    "Nurses are bullied by senior staff and managers to make unwell patients, who should be on trollies, sit on chairs in an already overcrowded waiting area. They call it 'fit to sit'.
    "Half the patients should be in Resus and no matter how much you beg the senior team you are told that it is full with red call patients on the way with no space for the red call emergency, let alone a patient in the waiting room."

  • 360 degrees of spin More brilliant spoofs from NHS Blithering that almost seem lifted from a genuine CCG.
    Director of stakeholder nurturement and realtime feedback Martin Plackard is responding to the latest NHS staff survey:
    "Great care for all
    "Overall we saw a four-fold improvement on last year after seasonally adjusting the baseline to the sector average for an organisation of comparable demographics and applying the deflator.
    "More than two-thirds of you (11%) would be happy to recommend the care provided by your organisation to a friend or member of your family. Only a tiny minority (89%) said they would be “deeply worried” or that they “wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy”."

  • Marketising the Mental Health Crisis: How the CBT Empire-Builders Colonised the NHS Powerful article by Paul Atkinson on Novaramedia ruthlessly exposes the hype and spin surrounding the IAPT talking therapies as a solution to England's growing mental health crisis.
    "Last financial year, the service had 1.6 million GP and self-referrals. IAPT claims a recovery rate of 50% of people who finish a course of treatment. Given roughly a third never start, and up to a third never finish, the average national recovery rate of all referrals is actually closer to 16%.
    "IAPT stats also reveal that people from more deprived communities fare significantly worse. A couple of years ago, in my own borough of Tower Hamlets, the recovery rate for all referrals from the Bangladeshi community (32% of the local population) was around 4%.
    "Waiting times are growing, despite IAPT’s statistical wheeze of offering a speedy initial assessment, months before any sessions begin. And according to Freedom of Information requests, a quarter of people treated by IAPT have returned to the service between two and 10 or more times.
    "Most of us might consider this evidence-based failure rather than success."

  • We need the biggest NHS rebuild since the Beatles NHS providers again banging the drum for the need for substantially higher capital investment in the NHS, but perhaps over-optimistic on what they can expect from B. Johnson and pals:
    "capital budgets, which cover spending on assets such as buildings, land and equipment and sit outside the NHS 'ringfence', haven’t been set out beyond the end of next year. We have just had a decade of under-investment in NHS capital. The system for allocating capital to the frontline is broken. The money hasn’t got through to where it’s needed most. The system often seems arbitrary and haphazard."
    Will Johnson act? We urge NHS Providers not to hold their breath waiting.

  • Private agencies paying workers less than half what they charge NHS to hire The Mirror lifts the lid on the rip-off charges for use of agency staff – and where the money goes:
    "Private nursing agencies are paying workers less than half what they charge the NHS to hire them.
    "We found one raked in £71.53 an hour for busy overnight shifts but the nurse pocketed just £34.
    "Another hospital paid the same agency £864.77 for a 12-hour day shift but the nurse got £387.
    "The agency, Thornbury Nursing, is owned offshore in the Caribbean and is controlled by a private equity fund run by a major Tory donor.
    "It is part of a string of firms specialising in health temping jobs and run by TowerBrook Capital Partners, which raked in nearly £600million in revenue last year."

  • Locked away: the national scandal you may have missed Excellent Guardian report on the shocking mistreatment of people with autism and learning disabilities:
    "In England, there are more than 2,000 people with autism and learning disabilities in what officialspeak calls “inpatient care”. We now know about them, and the awful cruelties and indignities many of them are suffering, because of the much-maligned mainstream media – and in particular, the tireless work of the campaigning journalist Ian Birrell.
    "Birrell and others have highlighted not just the injustice of the way very vulnerable people are treated by local authorities, the NHS and the private contractors now woven into our public services; …"

  • Improving the prognosis of health care in the USA Free access Lancet article by Yale Uni researchers who are the latest to show the evidence for a single payer system as the way forward in the US:
    "Taking into account both the costs of coverage expansion and the savings that would be achieved through the Medicare for All Act, we calculate that a single-payer, universal health-care system is likely to lead to a 13% savings in national health-care expenditure, equivalent to more than US$450 billion annually (based on the value of the US$ in 2017).
    "The entire system could be funded with less financial outlay than is incurred by employers and households paying for health-care premiums combined with existing government allocations. This shift to single-payer health care would provide the greatest relief to lower-income households.
    "Furthermore, we estimate that ensuring health-care access for all Americans would save more than 68 000 lives and 1·73 million life-years every year compared with the status quo."

  • I've been an NHS doctor for five years. The Home Office wants to deport me Guardian reports on more brutality and ignorance from the Home Office, now led by the relentlessly reactionary Priti Patel.
    Dr Luke Ong says "My troubles began towards the end of last year when I applied for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. I am from Singapore.
    "I was five months away from qualifying as a GP and had studied medicine at Manchester University, starting as a doctor in the NHS in 2012.
    "I booked an appointment and paid for it before my visa ran out. I thought that was fine. In reality, the application is made when you attend the appointment, by which time my visa had been invalid for 18 days. I was refused residency for that reason, and since then it’s been a battle to reverse the decision. "

  • Fears Sussex patient transport to hit 'crisis point' Brighton Argus reports on the latest of an apparently endless series of contract failures of patient transport companies as local CCGs go from one stupid decision to the next. Time to bring this service back in house!
    "A union has warned vital patient transport services are nearing “crisis point” after a contractor ran into financial trouble.
    "About 30 staff were left unpaid and without work after private ambulance firm Medi 1 went into receivership, a process similar to administration, after financial difficulties.
    "The company was contracted to run non-emergency patient transport services to hospitals across Sussex.
    "Now the GMB trade union has called on health chiefs to bring these services in-house by contracting them to the NHS-run South Central Ambulance Service.
    “Medi 1 has now become the latest in a long line of failed private contractors,” said regional organiser Gary Palmer.
    “As before staff and their families now have to endure the brunt of profit-driven business failures and need to find new work immediately while struggling without the money they are owed."

  • East Kent baby deaths: Scale of deaths at trust 'not clear-cut' BBC report of a Trust Board and chief executive in denial on the scale of the failure of their services: "The boss of an NHS trust at the centre of concerns about preventable baby deaths has claimed the scale of the failings is not clearly defined.
    "Susan Acott, chief executive of East Kent Hospitals Trust, said there had only been "six or seven" avoidable deaths at the trust since 2011.
    "However, the BBC revealed on Monday that the trust previously accepted responsibility for at least 10.
    "Ms Acott said some of the baby deaths were "not as clear-cut".

  • Huge revamp of Peterborough City Council could see services disappear to tackle financial black hole Peter