Ian Sinclair and Rupert Read’s regular update on how Britain came to have one of the highest COVID-19 per capita death rates in the world.
Timeline 18-24 April
18 April 2020
Data collated by Care England, the country’s largest representative body for care homes, suggests the number of care home residents who have died of suspected coronavirus may have reached 7,500 (Telegraph).
Dr Alison Pittard, the dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, the professional body for intensive care practitioners, “said her faculty had been warning for years about a shortage of intensive care capacity and intensive care nurses in hospitals. Normally each intensive care patient would have one intensive care nurse in attendance all the time, she said. Now there was one nurse to six patients, although other staff had been redeployed to intensive care units to plug the gaps and the new system was working because of heroic efforts”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock urges NHS staff not to overuse Personal Protective Equipment: “We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource it is. Everyone should use the equipment they clinically need, in line with the guidelines: no more and no less”
“There is no question that we were insufficiently prepared,” Paul Nurse, Nobel laureate and head of the Francis Crick Institute, tells the Guardian about the government’s response to the outbreak. “We had been warned a few years ago when reports made it clear that the UK was not ready to combat a major flu pandemic and we did not take up that warning. As a result, we were caught out.”
19 April 2020
Speaking at the daily government press conference the deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries says the UK “Has been an international exemplar in preparedness. So the fact that there is a pandemic stockpile is considered a very high-quality mark of a prepared country in international terms”
Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, tweets in response: “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”
SOURCE: (Richard Horton)
“Data on patients with confirmed Covid-19 from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre suggested ethnic minorities were overrepresented compared with the general population”, the Guardian reports. “Figures released on Friday showed that of 4,873 patients with Covid-19 in critical care, 1,681 were from the BAME community, accounting for 34.5% of cases”
Deepti Gurdasani from the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary, and Hisham Ziauddeen at the University of Cambridge, publish a paper highlighting how the government’s decision to stop mass testing and contact tracing on 12 March was based on erroneous modelling assumptions about the speed of receiving test results.
20 April 2020
“Figures verified by Nursing Notes, a website representing nursing professionals, and shared with Byline Times reveal that 100 frontline health, care and related staff have now lost their lives during the pandemic. The list includes 19 medical professionals (such as doctors), 49 nursing and midwife staff, nine allied health professionals, nine social care staff, 13 ancillary staff and a student nurse volunteer”
SOURCE: (Byline Times)
“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’”, the Independent reports. “Acceptable tweets included praising staff for their hard work, volunteering to move departments, working over the weekend and keeping people safe”
“Senior intensive care consultants in London have told this programme they regard the original model of Nightingale [hospital] as unsafe because it ‘grossly underestimates the complexity of the disease’. They warn it could drain away resources from other hospitals at what is a most critical time”, the BBC World Tonight programme reveals.
21 April 2020
Dozens of patients with Covid-19 have been turned away from the NHS Nightingale hospital in London because it has too few nurses to treat them”, the Guardian reveals. “The hospital has been unable to admit about 50 people with the disease and needing ‘life or death’ care since its first patient arrived at the site, in the ExCeL exhibition centre, in London’s Docklands, on 7 April. Thirty of these people were rejected because of a lack of staff”
New figures published by the Office for National Statistics shows 13,121 of deaths in England and Wales up to 10 April involved COVID-19 – 41% more than the government’s official figure of 9,288 by 10 April.
SOURCE: (Office for National Statistics)
22 April 2020
Financial Times analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics suggests the coronavirus pandemic has already caused as many as 41,000 deaths in the UK – more than double the official figure of 17,337 released by the government, which only counts people who died in hospital and who tested positive for coronavirus
SOURCE: (Financial Times)
Writing in the Guardian, Devi Sridhar, professor public health at the University of Edinburgh, argues some “countries chose to treat” the coronavirus outbreak “like a bad flu strain that would be unstoppable and spread across the population until some kind of immunity was reached.” In the UK this was “the assumption until quite recently”, she notes
“Some of the scientists advising the UK government on its handling of the coronavirus pandemic fear they will be used by ministers as ‘human shields’ at a future public inquiry, and they have privately discussed how to protect themselves from any attempted blame game, BuzzFeed News reports. “Members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), and other experts who advise them, have become nervous about senior ministers, including first secretary Dominic Raab and chancellor Rishi Sunak, deflecting criticism this week by saying they had been ‘guided by the scientific and medical advice’.”
24 April 2020
“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 [SAGE] advising the government on the coronavirus pandemic”, the Guardian reveals. Former Chief Scientific Advisor Sir David King notes political advisers were never on the equivalent committees of SAGE when he chaired them