UK COVID-19 Update: Cases 'Rising Exponentially', Mandatory NHS Jabs Divide Opinion in Medscape UK Poll

UK COVID-19 Update: Cases 'Rising Exponentially', Mandatory NHS Jabs Divide Opinion in Medscape UK Poll

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

COVID-19 cases in England are doubling every 11 days, according to Imperial College’s ongoing REACT study on around 110,000 home swab tests taken between 20 May and 7 June.

The R number is estimated to be 1.44.

Most infections are seen in children and young adults, but they are also rising in older people, the researchers reported in a preprint.

Vaccination has been weakening the link between infections, hospitalisations, and deaths since February but the trend has been reversing for hospitalisations since late April.

Director of the REACT programme, Professor Paul Elliott, said: "We found strong evidence for exponential growth in infection from late May to early June in the REACT-1 study, with a doubling time of 11 days on average for England.

"These data coincide with the Delta variant becoming dominant and show the importance of continuing to monitor infection rates and variants of concern in the community."

Commenting via the Science Media Centre, Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, and University of Oxford, said: "The case for increasing the coverage of the double vaccinated as rapidly as possible is clear. I am confident that when and if we reach 85 % coverage of double vaccination of the population capable of onward spread, then the UK will indeed be able to live with the virus.

"It is troubling to see that Britons identifying as having Black and Asian ethnicity appear to more likely to be infected. This is a persistent disparity that has not been solved.  As the report notes, those from the most deprived section of society, are more likely to be infected.  I strongly support efforts to reach out to those communities to enable them to be vaccinated."

Mandatory NHS Jabs Divide Opinion in Medscape UK Poll

Yesterday ministers confirmed plans to consult on extending mandatory care staff jabs to the NHS in England.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, commented: "Mandatory vaccination for NHS staff is an incredibly complex issue that raises many ethical, legal and practical questions. Therefore, it is only right that any Government proposals are put out to a proper consultation, during which time staff and representatives are given an opportunity to contribute."

The issue is dividing opinion. Yesterday we launched a rapid reader poll asking: 'Do you support mandatory vaccination for NHS staff?'

Today, at the time of writing, there have been 1636 responses, with 58% saying 'yes', and 42% 'no'.

The PITCH study of 78 healthcare workers, by the universities of Oxford, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle, and Birmingham found prior infection may not protect against SARS-CoV-2 virus variants of concern (VOCs).

"Previous infection may not give ongoing protection against VOC months later, and people with asymptomatic infection had lower responses at all time points across many of the immune parameters we measured," The authors wrote in a preprint.

"Maintenance of immune memory over time is critically required for the effective neutralisation of VOC that is most likely to confer sterilising immunity, whilst other immune mechanisms including non-neutralising antibodies and T cells may account for the protection against severe disease, including for VOC."

Professor Eleanor Barnes from University of Oxford said: "Gaining a detailed understanding of the immune response after COVID-19 infection is critical in allowing us to reduce reinfection, tackle variants and to helping us to design future vaccination strategies."

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data show the risk of COVID-19 infection after receiving a vaccine was greatest in the first 21 days after the jab.

ONS said: "Characteristics linked to an increased risk of positivity post vaccination include individuals aged under 40 years, individuals working in patient-facing healthcare roles and in care homes, larger household size and greater deprivation; there was a trend towards lower positivity rates post-vaccination in rural areas.

"Ongoing monitoring of [COVID-19] infection after vaccination is essential." 

International research involving Imperial College and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found corticosteroids may be an effective treatment for children who develop multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), also known as paediatric inflammatory multi-system syndrome temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection (PIMS-TS), after COVID-19 infection.

Lead author, Professor Michael Levin, said: "Our finding, that treatments with immunoglobulin, steroids or a combination of both agents all result in more rapid resolution of inflammation (and have similar rates of progression to organ failure or recovery from critical illness), will be of great value to paediatricians worldwide in their treatment of children with this new disorder."

Commenting via the Science Media Centre, Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "This study is not randomised and only provides weak evidence. It is certainly a study compatible with some benefit but it is certainly possible there is no benefit to corticosteroids and it is also compatible with harm."

An open letter to England's education secretary calls for the suspension of daily contact testing trials using lateral flow tests in schools.

Signatories to the letter, published in The BMJ , include healthcare professionals and scientists.

Concerns include test accuracy and missing Delta variant cases.

"The risks and potential consequences are very serious," they write.

UCL's ongoing COVID-19 Social Study found 21% of people are currently worried about catching COVID-19, and 18% are worried about becoming seriously ill.

Lead author, Dr Elise Paul, said: "Our report shows that as cases, hospitalisations, and deaths are relatively low, people have become less worried about catching and falling seriously ill from COVID-19. Interestingly, the groups who are less worried about the disease include those such as key workers, who are often the least able to take action to limit social contact."

An Audit Scotland report found centrally held PPE stocks ran "very low" at some points during April 2020 as stock was rapidly distributed to NHS boards across the country.

It also found:

  • PPE prices doubled in 2020 and having stock at 2019 prices would have saved £37.4 million in the first 5 months of the pandemic

  • The Scottish Government did not fully implement recommendations from pandemic preparedness exercises and could have done more to ensure access to PPE, and training in how to use it

Auditor General, Stephen Boyle, said: "The challenge now will be in developing a longer-term approach to PPE supply and distribution that includes both business as usual needs as well as preparing for future pandemics."

Four men who broadcast COVID hoax messages earlier this year from the corridors of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, and the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, have been banned from every hospital in the country, unless they have a valid medical reason.

Inspector Lee Page, from West Mercia Police, said: "The behaviour of these people disrupted the running of the hospitals, tied up valuable resources, and caused alarm and distress to patients and staff, some of whom made official complaints to police," the Birmingham Mail reported.

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