Coronavirus: Scientists to Examine Impact of Lockdown Measures


Locked out UK

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Jeff Overs / BBC

Government science advisers will meet later to examine the impact of coronavirus control measures in the UK.

The assessment will be passed on to the government – but the ministers said the restrictions are unlikely to change.

Meanwhile, the government has confirmed that there have been virus outbreaks in more than 2,000 nursing homes in England.

The UK’s chief medical adviser said he would like “much more testing” in homes because of the “large number of vulnerable people”.

Professor Chris Whitty told the Downing Street Coronavirus daily briefing on Monday that 92 homes in the UK have reported outbreaks in one day.

The Department of Health and Welfare has subsequently confirmed that 2,099 nursing homes in England have so far faced outbreaks of the virus.

The figures prompted the charity Age UK to say that the coronavirus is “going wild” in nursing homes for the aged.

Caroline Abrahams, director of the charity, said more testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed in the nursing home sector.

She joined industry leaders from Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer Society to write a letter to Secretary of Health Matt Hancock demanding a package of care to support social care during the pandemic.

“Airbrush the elderly”

The UK Department of Health’s official balance sheet rose to 11,329 on Monday – up from 717 in one day.

But the figures have been criticized for covering only hospital patients who tested positive for the virus. Figures do not include people who have died in nursing homes, or elsewhere in the community, or who have not been tested for the virus.

“The current numbers kick the elderly out as if they don’t matter,” said Abrahams.

The Labor Party has called on the government to publish daily numbers of deaths in nursing homes to highlight the “true extent” of the spread of the virus, which causes Covid-19 disease.

The latest nursing homes to confirm that residents have died with symptoms of the virus include a house in Drumchapel, Glasgow, a house specializing in dementia in Selston, Nottinghamshire, and a house in County Durham where 13 residents died.

BBC science editor David Shukman said the Scientific Emergency Advisory Group (Sage) meeting on Tuesday will assess the different ways in which the coronavirus works in the UK.

It will review hospital admissions, approach to testing, critical care capacity and death data, the effectiveness of locking tactics, and whether the public should be advised to wear masks outdoors.

So far, the UK has advised against the use of face masks by the general public. Some fear that wearing one could give people a false sense of security, causing them to become lax with other preventive measures such as hand washing.

But the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said the guidelines are under continuous review.

The World Health Organization said there remains the case that medical masks should be reserved for healthcare workers, not the general public.

  • Will facial masks become the new standard?

Meanwhile, the government defended itself after reporting that it had missed three opportunities to buy bulk personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers treating patients with the virus.

According to the Guardian, health workers in 25 EU countries are expected to receive the first deliveries of £ 1.3 billion worth of kits in the next few days.

The document says the UK has missed three opportunities to join the program and has not taken part in discussions on future purchases.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health said he “would consider participating in future EU joint purchasing programs based on the public health requirements of the time.”

“We will continue to work with European countries and others to ensure that we can increase capacity within the NHS,” they said.

In other developments:

  • Gymnasium and recreation center bosses say urgent action is needed to protect exercise sites as unscrupulous landlords use loophole to threaten eviction for non-payment of rent during coronavirus crisis
  • Co-op CEO Steve Murrells said he would donate a fifth of his salary over the next three months to start a fund for food banks and other community causes during the pandemic
  • Retail giant Next will resume online sales on Tuesday after suspending operations for two weeks while measures have been introduced to keep warehouse staff safe. The measures include that workers will wear tabards displaying the message “stay 2 meters apart”


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