Daily Coronavirus Update – 31st March 2020

March 31, 2020 Charles Cummins

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Daily Coronavirus Update – 31st March 2020

10 Downing Street press conference – first new ventilators delivered next week, stats show ‘green shoots’ but no room for complacency, PPE distribution problems being addressed

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove MP has addressed a virtual press conference in 10 Downing Street, in which he:

  • Announced the Government has increased its supply of ventilators but needs more and is buying new equipment, including from consortia led by Ford, Airbus, McLaren, GKN Aerospace, Rolls-Royce and Dyson. Stated that the first of these new ventilators will be delivered to the NHS next week.
  • Confirmed that the Government is also increasing the capacity to supply oxygen to patients earlier in the onset of the disease to slow its impact and help them fight it. A team led by UCL and Mercedes Benz will provide 10,000 new Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices to support new patients.
  • Thanked the military for its support through helicopter facilities across the UK to move equipment and personnel wherever they are needed.
  • Argued that an increase in coronavirus testing is being hampered by a global shortage of necessary chemicals required in the tests.

NHS England National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis also addressed the press conference in which he:

  • Provided an update on the dramatically reduced use of motor vehicles and public transport since social distancing measures were brought in.
  • Argued that hospitalisations are increasing but stressed the hope that as the number of new infections drop over the next few weeks, the number of hospitalisations and deaths should slow as well
  • Repeated that there are ‘green shoots’ but argued that ‘this is going to take time and it is important we all stick with it’.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries also addressed the press conference in which she:

  • Apologised for stating that the distribution issue of PPE to the NHS frontline had been solved, explaining that she quickly discovered after saying this in the past few days that there had been a distribution problem.

See online here


Chancellor waives duties and VAT on vital medical imports

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP has announced vital medical equipment including ventilators, coronavirus testing kits and protective clothing arriving from outside the EU will not be subject to customs duty or import VAT. The move has been announced in an attempt to reduce red tape to ensure frontline health workers get vital equipment quickly and similarly to remove barriers to those who want to donate supplies to the NHS.

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MHRA seeks confirmation that all early phase clinical trials have undergone risk assessments

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency (MHRA) reported that it has written to all accredited units who are conducting early phase clinical trials to seek confirmation that all trials have undergone a risk assessment in relation to coronavirus, for the protection of staff and participants. These trials should have undergone risk assessments in relation to COVID-19 along with the introduction of social distancing and other measures.

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New lifesaving breathing aid receives MHRA approval

An adapted breathing-aid developed by UCL, UCLH and Mercedes Formula One has received approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. The adapted Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device (CAPD) provides breathing support which should help keep patients out of intensive care.

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Children on free schools meals to receive £15 weekly supermarket vouchers

The Department for Education has announced that children eligible for free school meals will benefit from a national voucher scheme allowing them to continue to access meals whilst they stay at home. Schools can now provide every eligible child with a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus.

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Home Office to invest £7m each year to make non-emergency 101 calls free

The Home Office has announced non-emergency 101 calls to the police will be free from tomorrow onwards through a £7m fund to pay for the service. The 101 number receives 30 million calls each year and should be used when an emergency response is not required, for example if your car has been stolen, if your property has been damaged, if you suspect drug use or dealing in your neighbourhood, to give the police information about crime in your area or to speak to the police about a general enquiry.

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Government publishes new guidelines for safe funeral services

With certain precautions adhered to, the Government today confirmed that funerals should continue to take place. To help reduce the risk of spreading the infection, funeral directors and faith leaders are advised to restrict the number of mourners who attend funerals, to maintain a safe distance of at least 2 metres between individuals. Only members of the deceased person’s household or close family members should attend funerals. In addition, the guidance also states that since there is a small but real risk of transmission from the body of a deceased person, mourners are strongly advised not to take part in any rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body of a person who has died from or with symptoms of COVID-19.

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Joint departmental statement published on support for disabled people

The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Justin Tomlinson MP, the Minister for Care Helen Whately MP and the Minister for Children and Families Vicky Ford MP have published a joint statement outlining how the Government plans to support disabled people, their carers, and their families during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Civil Nuclear Constabulary highlight new powers to send people to hospital or home

The Civil Nuclear Police Constabulary reported that a new health protection bill will contain new powers for the police to help manage the spread of coronavirus. The new powers give all police officers the power to direct infected people to go and immediately receive treatment or self-isolate at home. They will also support officers in dealing with those who are not complying with the social-distancing restrictions.

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UK police told to adapt approach to lockdown

Police forces throughout the UK have been issued with guidance calling on them to take a ‘consistent’ approach when enforcing the Government’s emergency measures, according to media reports. Police officers should have an ‘inquisitive, questioning mindset’ when approaching why people are outside their homes, and should not use enforcement measures if people are vulnerable and can’t safely return home. Some police forces in the UK have been criticised for the approach they’ve taken, such as using drones to film people walking in the Peak District and telling convenience stores to stop selling Easter eggs as they weren’t ‘essential goods’.

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Visas extended for NHS frontline workers

Migrant doctors, nurses and paramedics working in the NHS will have their visas extended for one year, free of charge, in new measures announced by the Home Office. The extension will apply to approximately 2,800 workers, with the extension also applying to their family members. Pre-registered overseas nurses who are required to pass their first skills test within eight months will also have their deadline extended, while restrictions on the number of hours student nurses and doctors can work have also been lifted.

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Business Secretary thanks construction industry for its ‘tireless work’ during crisis

The Business Secretary Alok Sharma MP published a letter sent to the construction industry to thank them for their ‘tireless work’ during the coronavirus pandemic. Whether building temporary hospital wards, installing complex oxygen systems or constructing the infrastructure that society needs to function, the Business Secretary praised them for ‘delivering for our nation’ during this difficult time. He highlighted the Site Operating Procedures (SOP) that the Government has developed with industry to raise health and safety standards during this time.

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Scottish Government announce support for domestic violence victims during outbreak

Grants from the Scottish Government’s £350m Communities Fund have been made to Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland to ensure that access to key support services is maintained and victims still have access to methods of reporting crimes during the crisis. The Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP said that anyone experiencing violence, including coercive and controlling behaviours, should not feel in any way inhibited by the current coronavirus outbreak to report a crime against them.

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Welsh Government outline support for rail, bus and air services

The Welsh Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates AM, has announced a series of measures aimed at supporting the rail, bus and aviation industries, all of which have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak. £40m will be invested in the rail sector to maintain operation of the skeleton service that is currently operating, £29m will be given to bus operators via grants administered by local authorities, while the Cardiff-Anglesey Public Service Obligation air service has been suspended for three months. Skates noted that he would be confirming additional details with regards to Cardiff Airport in the coming days.

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Hundreds to be welcomed back to Wales’ health and social care workforce

The Welsh Health Minister, Vaughan Gething AM confirmed that health and social care professionals will soon return to their previous careers to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, those who had left health and social care jobs within the last three years were asked to join a temporary register to fulfil a range of clinical and non-clinical roles. Around 5,000 letters were issued across a number of sectors and the Welsh Government is also exploring how best to harness the skills of students who are keen to contribute. Almost 700 doctors have been automatically re-registered by the GMC in Wales and 416 nurses and midwives have opted-in over the first week.

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Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy holds its first Engagement Forum

Economy Minister Diane Dodds MLA announced the launch of a forum is to support the Executive in its commitment to protect the safety of all workers in the workplace during the coronavirus outbreak. The Minister emphasised that the forum is taking a pragmatic approach to ensuring that all employers and workers alike focus on the health, safety and well-being of everyone in the workplace. The forum has agreed to provide collective advice on the measures required to protect the safety of key workers and essential businesses as referred to in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020.

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NI Executive receives an extra £912m to address outbreak

While publishing the Budget for the coming year, Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister Conor Murphy MLA disclosed to the Northern Ireland Assembly that the Executive has received £912 million in special funding from the UK Government to tackle the coronavirus crisis. Mr Murphy revealed that, while the Budget allows for a cut in business rates and a freeze in domestic rates, £100m of COVID-19 funding has now been allocated to fund a three month rates holiday for all businesses. The remaining £812m will be allocated in a separate process.

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