We had been hopeful that the Prime Minister’s address on Sunday would have clarified the current national situation though it seems it may have created more questions than it answered. The positive news is evidence from the Office of National Statistics that overall deaths, and deaths within care homes, are now in decline.
The ONS data, which highlights excess mortality compared to the five-year average, is likely to give us the best approximation to actual deaths from Covid19. As of May 1, that figure was in the region of 50K in the UK as a whole.
There was a change in governmental slogan this week – “we can all help control the virus if we all stay alert”. This means you must:
- Stay at home as much as is possible
- Work from home if you can
- Limit contact with other people
- Keep your distance from others if you do go out
- Wash your hands regularly
In practical terms, we would encourage you to continue in the same fashion as previously, when the ‘stay at home’ message applied. Limiting contact with others is still likely to be the key determinant in the likelihood of contracting Covid-19 and we would exercise caution until we see that the new measures have not increased the R number and subsequently the infection rate. In Germany and South Korea, both of which managed the initial outbreak differently to the UK, there has been evidence of spikes of infection as lockdown measures have eased. We will continue to monitor this.
Update on COVID-19 Testing
We’ve explored the difficulty with testing in previous updates, and many of those concerns still unfortunately exist. The bigger picture has changed in recent weeks, with more widespread testing becoming available in community settings as the government tries to implement a ‘test and trace’ policy.
Throat and/or nasal swabs for diagnosing acute illness are now being rolled out nationally by PHE and the NHS. The results from these tests are responsible for the data on infection cases we see on a daily basis. Although these are only thought to be 70% accurate they will, for now at least, be critical in driving Public Health data.
Home Finger Prick antibody test kits that give results in 20 minutes are still not suitably accurate. Despite a prolonged period of assessment, there remains no official consensus on overall reliability of these tests.
Laboratory antibody tests, whilst reliable from a scientific and testing perspective, the implication and interpretation of the results remains unclear. We are conducting these tests alongside other routine blood tests, and also as a standalone sampling kit which is then posted to the laboratory for analysis. 0
Today, the government has announced it has ‘approved’ an antibody test manufactured by Roche, although it has yet to confirm whether it will procure these tests. These are no different from our currently CE approved laboratory tests that have very close to 100% accuracy and are NOT the finger prick tests as reported by some media sources.
The science is quickly evolving, and we will continue to source only approved and highly accurate laboratory and testing services.
It is vitally important to remember that there is currently no evidence to suggest that patients who have antibodies following Covid-19 infection are protected from a second infection. Also, people with mild or asymptomatic infection may produce a very limited antibody response that does not show up in testing.
Updated information from the government can be found at GOV.UK.
Dr Simon Gillson – Medical Director
Dr Karl Braine – Medical Director