Covid-19 Daily Bulletin
18 August 2020
A series of daily updates for CHO members regarding relevant updates pertaining to Coronavirus from home and abroad.
- Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock is this morning set to confirm that Public Health England will be replaced with a new public health body called the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP). Hancock will give a speech at the Policy Exchange think tank in London at 11.30 a.m. on “the future of public health” setting out the details of the big (mid-pandemic) reorganization.
- Baroness Dido Harding, who runs NHS Test and Trace in England, is to be the interim chief of the NIHP. The agency will merge some of Public Health England’s (PHE) pandemic response work with the coronavirus test and trace system. Lady Harding will run the new institute until a permanent appointment is made.
- World leaders including three former U.K. prime ministers have jointly called on governments to protect education spending in the wake of the pandemic or risk a “COVID generation” of permanently disadvantaged people. In a letter addressed to G20 leaders, governments and international financial institutions, the 275 leaders — including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Major — cite a UNESCO warning that 30m children may not return to school after lockdowns are lifted around the globe.
- Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says he is “incredibly sorry for the distress” caused to thousands of pupils after a U-turn in how A-levels and GCSEs are graded. But the education secretary repeatedly refused to say if he intends to resign over the crisis. “My focus is making sure youngsters get the grades that they deserve,” he told BBC Breakfast.
- It comes as universities prepare to deal with a surge in enquiries from students who were rejected last week. Ministers in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have all decided to revert to teacher assessed grades rather than an algorithm designed to moderate them, leading to an increase in pupils meeting entry level requirements
- In Scotland three primary school pupils have tested positive for Covid-19, two pupils in Perth and Kinross and one in Renfrewshire. All are now self-isolating at home. Dr Emily Stevenson, from NHS Tayside’s Health Protection team said: “These two positive cases in Perth & Kinross schools are experiencing mild symptoms. Their confidentiality must be respected and no further details can be released about individual cases.”
- Six new “hot labs” with rapid testing equipment will be created in Welsh hospitals as part of a drive to improve coronavirus test processing times. Three regional laboratories will also become 24/7 operations, with the Welsh Government spending up to £32m, including on extra staff.
- Police have not fined anyone in Northern Ireland for failing to wear a face covering. It became compulsory to wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces on Monday 10 August. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) previously said the primary responsibility for enforcing the wearing of face coverings would lie with shop owners, but this has led to confusion over enforcement.
- South Korea has warned that it is on the brink of a new coronavirus crisis and could introduce stricter controls after a resurgence in cases, including hundreds linked to a church in Seoul. The country reported 246 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, raising its total to 15,761, including 305 deaths, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention [KCDC]. Having brought the initial outbreak under control in April through its “trace, test and treat” approach, South Korea has added almost 1,000 cases over the past five days.
- Donald Trump has called out New Zealand for its recent Covid-19 outbreak, saying the places the world hailed as a success story is now facing a “big surge” in cases, saying: “The places they were using to hold up now they’re having a big surge … they were holding up names of countries and now they’re saying ‘whoops!.'” New Zealand’s government has described the outbreak as contained and manageable, and has chosen not to place the country or even Auckland in full, level 4 lockdown. The outbreak is currently limited to a single cluster of related cases, which as of Tuesday numbered 69.
- The Labour Party is calling for the government to provide urgent clarity on outstanding questions following the government’s U-turn on A-Level and GCSE results on young people and universities. Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green has written to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, to call on him to address the concerns of young people and their families on university places, set out what will happen to those who have already accepted an offer in clearing or at an insurance choice after they received a moderated grade lower than their centre-assessed grade, why BTEC students were excluded from the policy change and how universities will be supported following the government’s decision to scrap student number caps.