July 2 2020
“Children are our future, we must be able to help them to achieve their dreams for the future. ” So said Gavin Williamson the Education Secretary when he presented a Government briefing together with Dr Jenny Harries the Deputy CMO.This week about 1.6 million school children are already back at school. The Education Secretary thanked the parents for supporting their children by allowing them to go to school and for trusting the education system to keep them safe.He declared it is his firm intention to get every school child back to school full time in September. He explained how his Department has been working with Heads, Local Authorities and Unions and thanked everyone for making this possible.The Government have published detailed guidance today to help with further planning. He explained that primary school classes will form a bubble and in secondary schools there will be year bubbles. Social distances will be followed as much as can be achieved. Other measures to mitigate risks involve staggering start and finish times, staggered breaks and meal times, one way routes along school corridors, teaching outside in good weather, and other schemes.They expect the examination system will be back and working normally for 2021. Attendance at school will again be considered mandatory as it has been in the UK for years unless the head accepts medical advice requiring their absence. Prosecution is very much a last result and every effort will be made to resolve conflicts amicably.Gavin Williamson promised a full balanced curriculum. He strongly denied there would be a watered down curriculum concentrating on core subjects. Ofsted inspections will be back in place enforcing the highest standards.Asked if he guarantees the absolute safety of children at school, he pointed out that no one can guarantee that but pointed out that the risks were very small indeed. Covid 19 is very rare in children and that teenagers at school are in a strictly controlled environment and are much safer there than when out with their friends in the community and their parents not knowing where they are or what they are doing.In answer to a question Dr Jenny Harries said that the problem in Leicester was a community infection problem and not due to teenagers mixing freely.Very few children currently shielding may not immediately return to their schools but once some logistic problems are solved they should also return to school. They will be informed personally by letter.Asked about special arrangements for BAME children Dr Harries assured us that not only is Covid 19 very rare in children but BAME children are not disproportionately affected, it is only the older adults with pre-existing disorders.We were reminded of the funds set aside including the £350 million for the national tutoring programme to assist with catch up. Over 200,000 laptops have now been allocated and a further 10,000 are outstanding. A few schools have not even placed orders!I am sure that our children will be safer at school than at home. They are our future, we must minimise the damage their disrupted education may cause. Let’s all help and encourage them to return. There is in place a procedure if a child develops Covid 19 involving the lockdown of that bubble for 2 weeks. It is very unlikely to need it now as only about 1 person in 2200 has Covid, that is only 0.04% of the population.It’s not over yet but little by little we can relax; it is a matter of staying alert, avoiding crowds and using common sense.At the time of writing this today’s statistics are not yet published.
July 12 2020
Well despite the lack of daily Covid 19 updates a lot has been happening. I continue to monitor things closely and it is time to bring you up to date.The figures continue to go in the right direction but do seem to have flattened out with the rate of fall becoming less. Only 2,172 people are in hospital today with covid19, with 217 being admitted to day. A total of just over 125 thousand have now now been admitted. 191 patients are currently being treated on a ventilator. There have been 85 deaths in all sectors recorded in the last 24 hours with a total of just under 45,000 total deaths .I find it very interesting that the UK plan for pandemic influenza in 2005 set some guide line figures for capacity planning. with a clinical attack rate of 25% and a case fatality rate of 0.37% the UK could expect a total number of deaths as 48,400. This is very close to what we see today. In the worst case scenario there was planning to cope with at 50% clinical attack rate, that’s 1 in 2 of the population and a 2.5% overall case fatality rate when an estimated 645,900 deaths could have occurred in the UK. It is estimated now that between 22nd June and 5th of July about 14,000 people became infected with the virus. This equates to 1 in 3,900 of the population now being infected. It means a very small chance of contracting it casually whilst out and about and if properly self distancing with face coverings where required the risk is even less. This means you no longer have to be frightened of going out a little, say to the post or the corner shop, as the risks of exposure to the virus is very small. The risks to children are very much reduced and schools will be safe if allowed there already and certainly by September.Only an estimate of 7% of UK businesses will still be completely closed next week. Many more are open daily with a reduced capacity in a Covid secure way.If you are thinking of buying or selling a house with the pause on stamp duty it might be a very good time. It is however predicted that after an initial fall house prices will rise again.If you, like me, find enjoyment in a meal out sometimes do not forget the August voucher for a half price meal up to the value of £10 each. You can use it any time in August on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. You will need to book in advance and leave contact details for track and trace purposes.With the furlough scheme set to wind down, the Government incentive to firms with a £1000 bonus for every employee they bring back to work from furlough is very welcome.The foreign holiday market in in my view still a bit risky. This virus has not gone away. Things are changing all the time. You may go off on holiday only to find a new lockdown is instigated and you have to self isolate for 2 weeks. Certainly do not try a cruise, the risk of being stuck on a ship is far too great.There will be local outbreaks now from time to time, like the one on the farm reported today. This will probably be down to living and working in close proximity. The important thing is that the outbreak is contained by rapid isolation.In case it affects you, and are over 75, you have lost your right to a free TV licence and as from August you will have to pay for one again.We must get the NHS up and running again, A and E attendance has fallen by 33% compared with this time last year. Why are people staying away? Please go back to your GP for those check ups, smears, scans, endoscopies and the like. I and many doctors are worried we will see another rise in deaths from cancers and heart disease because routine testing has been left too long. Get in quick, get referred now, and you will be seen very quickly. My colleagues are just waiting around for you to come back.Its still all good news, we must stick to the basic rules of hygiene and courtesy. We need to help one another overcome our fears and anxiety as we emerge into a new world that must always be better than the old one.
July 17 2020
This morning brought a further Ministerial briefing from our Prime Minister supported by Dame Dido Harding who leads the Track and Trace scheme.Boris Johnson has announced a raft of new measures to help Local Authorities tackle coronavirus outbreaks as part of his latest “road map”.Local Authorities in England will have new powers from Saturday, including closing specific premises, shutting outdoor spaces and cancelling events.Announcing the measures, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson acknowledged that it would be “hard going” for people affected.The PM also said that, from August 1, the Government will change its advice on working from home, to allow employers discretion over whether to ask staff to go back to work.He also announced an extra £3 billion for the NHS to help prepare for a possible second wave of coronavirus.He made it clear that we now require a new framework for controlling future outbreaks which would be dealt with at a local level very quickly. The Local Authorities will acquire new powers to close schools or colleges, to close local businesses and cancel local events. These activities will all of course be monitored by Central Government who will have the powers to intervene if the local response is deemed inadequate. Local Authorities will also have powers to control local transport systems and to control entry and leaving the area if it were necessary. The Prime Minister made reference to the swift local action that had already been used effectively to control a local outbreak in Weston-Super-Mare, Leicester, Bradford and Kirklees.The timetable for the future will remain flexible and rapidly adaptable. There will be no progress forward if there is any risk of a second wave developing.Antigen testing is still being increased and it is planned to make the daily availability of tests even higher with a turn around time of less than 24 hours. As it stands today anyone who is concerned they may have a symptom of a Covid infection can ask for a test for free under the NHS. Please be aware that you should never have to pay for this and if you find yourself being asked to pay it is a scam. Please just walk away.The Track and Trace system is now working well. Over 2 million people have now been tested under this scheme and 34,000 have tested positive, 180,000 people have been traced as contacts in a large satisfaction survey, 87% of people were satisfied with their experiences with Track and Trace. As some of you may have discovered if you visit a pub or restaurant you have to leave your contact details with the staff so you can be contacted should it be found later you have been in contact with Covid 19.The Government are getting ready for autumn and winter and you should all do the same. This year especially we need an almost 100% take up for winter flu immunisation and for the pneumonia vaccine it you fit the age category for which it is offered. You only need one of these for life. Equally important is not to forget the basics of cleaning, disinfecting and hand washing. Wear a mask properly on public transport, in confined spaces and doctors’ surgeries. Above all if you get symptoms get a test. You can also build networks of social support with family friends and neighbours. When you go shopping build up a small supply of foods for the winter just in case you need to self isolate again for 14 days.The NHS has been allocated a further £3 million to build on its winter resilience. As it gets colder the virus will become more virulent. Ventilator capacity which was at 9,000 is now 30,000. A large stockpile of PPE is ready. The retired staff who have come back to work will be retained as will the Nightingale wards with their huge surge capacity for thousands of extra beds. While the NHS is relatively quiet again please take the chance to get those screening tests done and make sure you are not missing out on testing that is vital in our screening programmes.Work is still progressing as quickly as possible to develop an effective and safe vaccine. It does not yet seem to be on the near horizon yet but once one is available it will be a game changer. Most new vaccines take at least 18 months to develop so we must not be impatient. It must be right first time.Shielding is to be paused from the end of July. I stress paused, it can come back very quickly if necessary. Indoor gyms and indoor swimming pools can open on 25th July providing they have made adaptions to make them Covid secure. Night Clubs and soft play areas must still remain closed. Live theatre can return providing the premises are adapted to enable distancing and to keep it Covid secure. On August 1st there can be some indoor concerts again if Covid secure.All schools and colleges will be open for the September term as all have found ways to make them secure. Please let your children go back to school. The risks from Covid for children is extremely small. Universities are doing well in their plans to reopen most of their buildings by the autumn term.The prime minister promised to relax the rules about meeting indoors with close family and friends as soon as possible. He suggested if all went well these rules might be relaxed in November in time for family Christmas gatherings. Lets hope so.The pessimists among us will consider these further relaxations to be too soon. The virus most certainly has not gone away. The brakes can and will be applied to any or all of these measures. All plans remain conditional. We should all hope for the best but plan for the worst. Keep your distance whenever possible, keep disinfecting and hand washing. Your best chance is to follow the rules and accept the reassurance that many activities can now be safely resumed as the prevalence of the virus in the community generally continues to fall each week. If it changes you will quickly be informed. I have not added statistics today but they are all trending in the right direction.
July 31 2020
A lot is happening very quickly around the Covid 19 pandemic so its time I offered an update to you all.For the last 10 days or so the statistics and information on the ground was suggesting that the numbers of new cases had plateaued out recently but with still too many new cases being reported each day. The death rate has also settled with an average of about 64 per day from all sources in the UK. On a few days the number of deaths fell to single figures. Until about 10 days ago we were all satisfied that good progress was being made.However it is beginning to look as though there are very slight increases in the numbers being reported and there was wide spread concern that the UK is on the brink of a surge in cases and deaths leading to the second wave that is so feared. The picture in several other countries in Europe is equally worrying, with places like Spain showing a resurgence in cases about a week before the UK. The situation in the USA and Brazil seems out of control.Here in the UK there are some clearly localised hot spots where a local outbreak is occurring. This was first seen in the city of Leicester where a local lockdown was reintroduced. This has worked well in containing the situation. The two adjoining Boroughs to Leicester have today been allowed to relax part of the extra lockdown, and in these Boroughs cafes, restaurants, bars and hairdressers can reopen with social distancing measures on Monday. They still do apply to the City of Leicester itself.Last night the government acted quickly to deal with another area of the Country where figures had begun to increase again. Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire were placed under tighter restrictions with almost immediate effect from midnight last night.In the affected areas, separate households can no longer mix inside one another’s houses even if social distancing is applied. Sadly this will be a great disappointment to all of those planning to celebrate Eid this weekend.Face masks are now mandatory for those using shops, post offices, museums , cinemas and places of Worship. Please remember to use them properly. If disposable, please bin it immediately after use. If necessary put it in a bag in the car for disposal at home. Avoid touching it at all costs. If reusable, remove it carefully and place in a bag to take home to wash. Do not reuse a used mask . Always wear a clean one. Sanitise hands regularly, and always on return home.Indoor music events previously cancelled can no longer go ahead from Monday as planned. Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks, facial parlours and other close contact services that were due to reopen are to stay closed for at least two weeks. Wedding receptions for up to 30 people have also been paused as have the trial runs at mass gathering venues with small pilot crowds to test Covid security.The very vulnerable who have been shielding are still allowed to venture out again from this weekend. This is great news and we should welcome them back, always remembering their vulnerabilities, and helping them to social distance.Scanning around the world . Spain with 1500 plus cases a day is showing clear signs of a significant resurgence that I am afraid is very likely to lead on to a full blown second wave. The government have always warned that travel restrictions would be re-imposed quickly if there were signs of problems. They could not give notice once they had seen the warning signs and were right to act decisively. It is tough for those who are caught by the need to quarantine, but they were warned. Right now, today, the situation is quite precarious and I would advise against any travel to anywhere unless essential. Nicola Sturgeon has even advised the Scots not to travel to the NE of England. It is very likely that severe travel restrictions will be imposed across the UK in the near future. Remember back in March it was a few aircraft full of tourists who scattered on return to the UK spreading it widely that caused the UK to feel the full force of this pandemic.It is more important than ever now to be alert, and think. Do I need to travel. have I got a supply of masks? Have I remembered to sanitize my hands, change shoes when coming home? Am I being neighbourly and helping out where I can? Boris Johnson said we must plan for the worst but hope for the best . He was ridiculed by some for this but he is of course correct. If despite doing our absolute best, the worst happens, we are prepared to cope with it in the best possible way. Please stay safe.