‘Dangerous & Unethical Experiment’, Infections ‘Quadrupled’, Travel Changes

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

‘Dangerous & Unethical Experiment’

Plans to remove England’s lockdown restrictions from 19 July are a “dangerous and unethical experiment”, according to more than 100 doctors and scientists who’ve signed a letter in The Lancet urging the Government to reconsider.

Exponential growth of the virus “will likely continue until millions more are infected, leaving hundreds of thousands with long-term illness and disability”, the letter warns.

Signatories include the BMA’s Dr Chaand Nagpaul and Medscape’s editor-in-chief, Dr Eric Topol. He said in a statement: “The abrupt rise in UK Delta variant cases will not only engender more long COVID, but has also already resulted in more severe illness, with hospitalizations and deaths. Taking more time to further improve vaccination rates should help reduce the toll of this superspreader strain.”

Infections ‘Quadrupled’

Latest PCR test preprint data from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI’s REACT-1 study show infections in England have quadrupled since May/June.

One 1 in 170 people were infected and there’s a recent doubling time of 6 days.

“Our results indicate that England is now experiencing a substantial third wave of infections, reinforcing other data streams which have been showing a similar signal,” the authors wrote.

Prevalence has increased from 0.06% to 0.24% in fully vaccinated 65s and over, but overall vaccinations are reducing prevalence, which was 0.35% in fully vaccinated under 65s compared with 1.15% among those who had received no vaccine.

Imperial’s Professor Paul Elliott said: “In spite of the successful rollout of the vaccination programme, we are still seeing rapid growth in infections, especially among younger people.

“However, it is encouraging to see lower infection prevalence in people who have had both doses of a vaccine.”

Infection risk for men was around 30% higher than for women. That could be partly due to the Euros, said report co-author Prof Steven Riley: “It could be that watching football is resulting in men having more social activity than usual.”

UK daily reported positive cases passed 30,000 yesterday for the first time since February.

The global COVID-19 death toll has now passed four million, according to Johns Hopkins University tracking.

Cancelled Ops

NHS COVID-19 pressures are leading to cancelled operations at some hospitals.

Dr Phil Wood, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust chief medical officer, said: “Drawing on experience from previous waves of the pandemic, we are enacting plans to help us treat increased numbers of COVID admissions while still providing care to those patients waiting for scheduled operations.”

Non-urgent elective operations have been postponed at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin, Moray as they went to code black status due to both rising COVID-19 cases and staff absences because of self-isolation.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Many of our organisations are running far too hot and are much busier than they have historically been at this time of year. Our staff are also exhausted after a gruelling 18 months, yet a huge demand for healthcare has left the NHS buckling under the strain of running a winter-like service in summer.”

Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said: “Trust leaders are worried that the public narrative is focusing on COVID-19 admissions in isolation rather than the full picture of the pressures their trusts are currently facing.”

Emergency Departments & Backlogs

NHS England released monthly performance data.

There were record A&E attendances in June, up 53% on the same month last year.

Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, commented: “We have a serious problem in urgent and emergency care. We are deeply concerned. We are facing record breaking figures in the high summer. We can only begin to imagine what this winter may bring.”

The number of people waiting more than 52 weeks to start treatment was 336,733 in May, slightly lower than the previous month.

It also published analysis showing that 7 cancer patients started treatment for every one COVID-19 patient being admitted to hospital in April and May.

GP data showed a rise in patient satisfaction for the first time in 5 years, with more than 4 in every 5 patients reporting a good experience with their practice.

Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Despite the huge disruption we have seen to care caused by the pandemic and the more than 405,000 COVID patients in our hospitals over the last 15 months, it is reassuring to see in today’s figures significant reductions in waits for routine operations, and for the first time this year, a reduction in the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment.”

Travel Changes

From 19 July, children and fully vaccinated UK residents won’t have to self-isolate when they return to England from amber list countries abroad.

However, they’ll still have to take pre-departure tests, and a PCR test on their second day back.

England’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons that amber list countries could still move to the red list.

Prioritising Imaging

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) is urging the Government to prioritise improvements in NHS imaging services as part of the pandemic recovery.

The message comes after PHSO reported on recurrent failings in imaging reporting and follow-up.

Ombudsman Rob Behrens, said in a statement: “X-ray and scan results are key to diagnosis and treatment for many people. Yet the failings outlined in this report show that without a concerted effort to improve imaging, patient safety continues to be at risk.

“Now, as the NHS recovers from the devastating impact of the pandemic, we have a vital opportunity to learn from the failings and embed system-wide changes to improve imaging in the health service.”

‘Misguided’ Mandatory Care Home Staff Jabs

Mandatory vaccination of care home staff in England from October is “unnecessary, disproportionate, and misguided,” according to experts writing in The BMJ.

Kent University Law Professor Lydia Hayes and Newcastle University Professor of Public Health Allyson Pollock say vaccination “is not a panacea for safety” and “will not remedy the serious shortcomings of the care sector in England”.

They point out that by 20 June without the new law, 72% of care workers and over 90% of care home residents were fully vaccinated.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

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