Latest clinical news updates
WHO: COVID-19 is now characterised as a pandemic
In a media briefing, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death."
He said WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and they are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.
Over the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled. "There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives.
"Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of COVID-19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher."
He added that describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.
New guidance to protect school children
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidance to help protect children and schools from transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
In the event of school closures, the guidance includes recommendations to mitigate against the possible negative impacts on children’s learning and wellbeing.
Where schools remain open, and to make sure that children and their families remain protected and informed, the guidance calls for:
- Providing children with information about how to protect themselves;
- Promoting best handwashing and hygiene practices and providing hygiene supplies;
- Cleaning and disinfecting school buildings, especially water and sanitation facilities; and
- Increasing airflow and ventilation.
General practice not given adequate support to deal with COVID-19
The Royal College of General Practitioners chair has said that general practice had not been given adequate support from the government to deal with the growing outbreak, according to a news report in GP Magazine.
At a conference yesterday, Professor Marshall argued that a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 could become ‘the biggest issue the NHS has ever seen’, warning that GPs would start to feel the pressure ‘in quite a significant way’.
He believed that ministers were prioritising hospitals and NHS 111 and added that management centres within each primary care network area could be set up to care for infected patients, and called for all patients to be triaged by phone.
He predicted advice to triage all patients before appointments would be issued shortly.
NHS increases its testing capacity to 10,000 a day
The NHS with Public Health England (PHE) is undertaking a significant expansion of coronavirus testing, with enhanced labs helping the health service carry out 10,000 tests daily.
PHE has developed a highly sensitive test to detect the virus, one of the first countries in the world to do so, which has been rapidly rolled out to their regional labs across the country.
Approximately 1,500 tests are being processed every day at PHE labs with the great majority of tests being turned around within 24 hours. PHE has processed over 25,000 tests as of 10 March and has not exceeded capacity during this time.
As more people come forward to be tested, the NHS is now scaling up tests by 500%, with NHS England asking expert NHS laboratory services across the country to bring new capacity online, and other labs to begin checks, enabling 8,000 more samples to be analysed every day of the week.
Welsh GPs to receive personal protection equipment
The Welsh Government will send out packs of face masks, gloves and aprons to GP practices to help protect staff against coronavirus, it has announced.
The packs, which were prepared over the weekend, will be sent out to 640 GP surgeries this week reported Pulse Magazine.
Health minister Vaughan Gething also authorised the release of personal protection equipment from stockpiles should they be needed in future. This comes as four confirmed cases of coronavirus have emerged since last weekend in Wales, bringing the total up to six.
New coronavirus attaches to ACE2 cells
Scientists have revealed the first picture of how the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 binds with human respiratory cells in order to hijack them to produce more viruses.
Researchers led by Qiang Zhou, a research fellow at Westlake University in Hangzhou, China, have revealed how the new virus attaches to a receptor on respiratory cells called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, or ACE2.
"They have pictures all the way down at the level of the atoms that interact at the binding interface," Thomas Gallagher, a virologist at Loyola University Chicago who was not involved in the new research but studies coronavirus structure, told Live Science. That level of information is unusual at this stage of a new virus outbreak, he said.
"The virus outbreak only began to occur a couple months ago, and within that short period of time, these authors have come up with information that I think traditionally takes much longer," Gallagher said.
That's important, he said, because understanding how the virus enters cells can contribute to research on drugs or even a vaccine for the virus.
Other news round up
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a £30bn package to help the economy get through the coronavirus outbreak.
- The death toll in Italy has risen by 196 to 827 during the last 24 hours.
- British passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship are returning to the UK on a US flight.
- Health Minister Nadine Dorries became the first MP to test positive.
- Belgium reported their first coronavirus related death today, a 90-year-old patient.
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that up to 70% of the country's population - some 58 million people - could contract the coronavirus.