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UK COVID-19 Update: Hancock: ‘I Let People Down’, NHS ‘Engine’ Burnout, A&E ‘Winter in June’

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

Hancock: ‘I Let people Down’

England’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock issued a statement via the Department of Health after pictures appeared in The Sun newspaper of him breaking COVID-19 guidelines in May by embracing DHSC non-executive Director, Gina Coladangelo, who he appointed last year.

«I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances,» he said.

«I have let people down and am very sorry.

«I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter.»

Labour said Mr Hancock should be fired but Downing Street said the Prime Minister accepted the apology and «considers the matter closed».

NHS ‘Engine’ Burnout

A BMJ editorial raises concerns about staff health and wellbeing after a parliamentary report found «burnout is a widespread reality in today’s NHS».

Suzie Bailey of the King’s Fund wrote: «Improving staff health and wellbeing is therefore far from being a ‘nice to have’, it is a moral, social, and economic priority.

«The focus must be on tackling the root causes of stress, not on interventions that seek only to manage or mitigate it.»

She concluded: «As Michael West, of the King’s Fund, said in his evidence: without this investment, the NHS People Plan will remain ‘a very smart looking car’ but ‘without the engine’.»

A&E ‘Winter in June’

Three royal colleges said high numbers of young children with non-COVID-related respiratory infections are attending A&E departments, which one consultant described as «winter in June».

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), Royal College of GPs, and Royal College of Emergency Medicine said children have been exposed to RSV, bronchiolitis, paraflu, and rhinovirus as they come back into contact with other children after lockdown restrictions eased.

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RCPCH President, Dr Camilla Kingdon, said: «Many emergency departments are currently overwhelmed and there has been a particularly steep rise in the number of young children presenting. Some have seen the highest ever numbers of children in their department and waiting times can be huge.»

Dominant Delta Variant

Latest Public Health England (PHE) data show the Delta variant now accounts for approximately 95% of cases that are sequenced across the UK.

Cases are up 46% on last week and 42 cases of the Delta AY.1 sub lineage, sometimes called ‘Delta Plus’, have been recorded.

Six cases of the new Lambda Variant Under Investigation have been detected, all linked to overseas travel.

Another 514 people were admitted to hospital in England with COVID-19 in the week to 21 June. Of these, 304 were unvaccinated.

Test & Trace

It found 595 million lateral flow test kits may have gone unused with only 14% of those distributed being registered.

NAO Head, Gareth Davies, said: «Since we last reported in December, NHS Test and Trace has introduced a lot of changes, including mass testing, closer working with local authorities and initiatives to identify and contain variant forms of COVID-19. However, some pressing challenges need to be tackled if it is to achieve its objectives and deliver value for taxpayers, including understanding how many lateral flow devices are actually being used and increasing public compliance with testing and self-isolation.»

Infection Survey

1 in 440 people in England had COVID-19, with cases continuing to increase

1 in 220 people in Scotland had COVID-19

1 in 830 people in Wales had COVID-19, but the trend is «uncertain»

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1 in 720 people in Northern Ireland had COVID-19

Sarah Crofts from ONS said: «Our data today show increases in infections across Britain, most likely as a result of the Delta variant, where it now accounts for around three in every four infections. The number of infections that are compatible with the Delta variant remains low in Northern Ireland.

«Although the figures are still low compared to earlier in the year, the next few weeks will be crucial in monitoring the impact of the Delta variant on infection levels and the approaching end of restrictions.»

England’s R number is unchanged at 1.2 to 1.4, and the growth rate range is +3% to +5%.

Overseas Travel Changes

Experts have been commenting on the latest changes to overseas travel restrictions.

Malta, Madeira, the Balearic Islands, and Barbados are among destinations added to the ‘green list’.

However, there’s also a new ‘green watchlist’ for countries at risk of moving from green to amber.

Plans will be announced next month to remove the self-isolation period for amber list countries for fully vaccinated travellers.

Commenting via the Science Media Centre, Dr Peter English, retired consultant in communicable disease control, former editor of Vaccines in Practice, immediate past chair of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee, said: «I hope very much that vaccines will turn out be highly effective at preventing people from becoming infected and infecting others; but I’m very glad that politicians, not scientists, will have to make the judgement as to whether it is ‘safe enough’ to allow fully vaccinated people to return to the country from places where COVID-19 (especially variants of concern) are circulating widely, without the requirement for quarantine and/or testing on return.

«Because the risk to people who are fully vaccinated is so low, I would be comfortable for restrictions to be lifted in contexts where everybody is known to be fully vaccinated.»

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Paul Hunter, professor in medicine, UEA, said: «In my view the benefits of current travel and border restrictions, at least to Europe, are reaching their end. But if relaxing all such restrictions is felt to be a step too far then allowing people with two doses of vaccine to travel would be a compromise and would reduce the risk of importation even further.»

Vaccinated people living in Wales can access their vaccination status online from today to generate an NHS COVID Pass for urgent outbound international travel.

‘Grab a Jab’

More walk-in vaccination centres are opening for what NHS England is calling ‘grab a jab’ weekend.

Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, said: «With more than 63 million jabs already delivered by the NHS in England, we’re now in a race to the finish line.»

Oxford research published in Cell found the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNTech jabs remain broadly effective against Delta and Kappa variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

«There is no evidence of widespread escape, suggesting that the current generation of vaccines will provide protection against the B.1.617 lineage,» the authors wrote.

Latest ONS social impact survey data show positive vaccine sentiment among 16 to 29-year-olds is the highest so far at 93%, up from 89% last week.

However, 8% of adults feel life will never return to normal.

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

Send comments and news tips to uknewsdesk@medscape.net.

Cite this: Tim Locke. UK COVID-19 Update: Hancock: ‘I Let People Down’, NHS ‘Engine’ Burnout, A&E ‘Winter in June’ — Medscape — Jun 25, 2021.

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