Latest developments

Daily briefing 

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock was joined today by Professor John Newton (Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England and lead on the UK’s testing programme).

If there is one message that people need to come away with today, it is that anybody with symptoms of COVID-19 can get a test.4,484,340 tests have been carried out in the UK, including 128,437 tests carried out yesterday.

Testing capacity stands at a higher level at 206,444 and this shows there is more capacity for extra tests, and it is important people come forward.

276,332 people have tested positive, an increase of 1,570 since yesterday (figures are always lower on weekends and only include those who actually test positive).

There were 479 estimated admissions with COVID-19 on 30 May, down from 595 on 23 May.

Nine per cent of mechanical ventilator beds were occupied with COVID-19 patients on 31 May, down from 12 per cent on 24 May (606 people on mechanical ventilators). 7,541 are currently in hospital with COVID-19 – down from 8,830 this time last week.

39,045 of those tested positive for COVID-19 have now died across all settings, an increase of 111 since yesterday (lowest figure since lockdown began on 23 March).

The public needs to take its responsibilities seriously.

The government has given the economy an "unprecedented" amount of support through the furlough scheme, but the economy is going to have to change.

The government understands how significant it is to ask people to shield, but it believes it can allow those shielding out once a day due to infection rates going down.

When asked why contact tracers have had little to do, the Health Secretary answered that “we have more capacity than we need” due to the rate of infection coming down.

The number of contacts that each person has is a bit lower than the government was expecting.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre is being “formulated”.

The government is prepared to reintroduce measures - whether nationally or locally - if necessary.

Taking local action to deal with local flare-ups is an incredibly important part of the "tool kit" to try and prevent a resurgence – this could involve shutting local A&Es, for example.

Local public health officials will be working closely with ministers, Public Health England, and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to decide on what measures could be needed.

The shielding advice change was not rushed through.

Prof John Newton, on NHS Track and Trace, stated that it is important that a system is built for whatever comes in the future in order to tackle different regional outbreaks.

Not all new cases need to go into the contact trace service – ie in an existing, known care home outbreak.Stated that NHS Track and Trace data will be released, but emphasised the need for accuracy.

Government updates guidance for those shielding

The government has updated its guidance for people who are shielding. The revised guidance takes into account that COVID-19 disease levels are substantially lower now than when shielding was first introduced.

The government states that people who are shielding remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions, but may now leave their home if they wish, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing. If someone who is shielding chooses to spend time outdoors, this can be with members of their own household. If they live alone, they can spend time outdoors with one person from another household. Ideally, this should be the same person each time. If someone who is shielding does go out, they should take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping two metres apart.

The government has assured that this guidance will be kept under regular review.  

ADPH raises concerns on easing lockdown restrictions

The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) has published a blog outlining its concerns about the government’s lifting of further lockdown restrictions, which it argues is happening too quickly. The blog says the UK is at a critical moment, with scientists and public health experts speaking out about the recent national policy announcements, “which project a degree of confidence that many – including ADPH members – do not think is supported by the science”.

Labour sets out plan to get test and trace working locally

Labour has come up with a three-point plan for getting test and trace to work in local areas after council leaders said they feared it was launched before it is ready to control local outbreaks. The plan includes making sure councils have necessary powers in enforcing lockdowns; introducing a COVID-19 test guarantee – ie that no one will have to wait more than 24 hours to receive a test and then no more than 24 hours for the results; and delivering a working app so that councils can contact everyone at risk.

SAGE publishes further evidence papers

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has published further evidence supporting the government response to coronavirus. This includes SAGE meeting minutes and a further 16 supporting minutes.

UK hospitals to trial five new drugs in search for COVID-19 treatment

Five new drugs will be trialled in 30 hospitals across the UK as part of a bid to find a treatment for COVID-19, the Guardian reports. The news comes days after World Health Organization trials of hydroxychloroquine were halted. British scientists want to sign up hundreds of patients for trials of medicines they hope will prevent people needing intensive care or ventilators.

NHS Race and Health Observatory

The NHS Confederation and NHS England have announced the creation of a new centre to investigate the impact of race and ethnicity on people’s health. The NHS Race and Health Observatory, hosted by the NHS Confederation, will identify and tackle the specific health challenges facing people from BME backgrounds.

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