The fight against Coronavirus
May 19 - 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Please join us for an international discussion on the response to the coronavirus crisis, with Health Campaigns Together and Keep Our NHS Public.
Natalie Mehra – Ontario health coalition
Adam Gaffney – Physicians for a National Health Programme USA
Baba Aye – Public Services International
John Lister – Health Campaigns Together and Keep Our NHS Public
Links to important new information
- 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.
- 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.”
- Coronavirus: where we stand Statement from Keep Our NHS Public
- 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.”
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.”"
- 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.
'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.
- 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
"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.”
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