COVID 19 Healthcare Challenge - Our February summary & myth-busting scientific insights

8th March 2021 by Anne Sakoane

We continue our COVID-19 healthcare challenge blog series with our new end-of-month update on the roadmap out of UK lockdown, vaccines and variants, obesity during COVID-19 more – with myth-busting scientific insights.

Spring lockdown lift

Today, 8th March 2021, is a significant day in the UK lockdown journey. It marks the start of a series of restriction lifting that forms the roadmap out of lockdown. What is happening and when:

Step 1 – 8th March: face-to-face education in schools and colleges; people allowed to leave home for exercise with household or bubbles. 29th Mar: outdoor gatherings allowed for groups of 6; outdoor sports such as tennis and basketball reopened; “stay at home” rule ends but advice to still work from home if possible.

Step 2 – not before 12 April: non-essential retail such as hairdressers, libraries, zoos, cinemas reopen; indoor gyms and outdoor hospitality reopen; funerals continue with up to 30 mourners; 15 attendees allowed at weddings and other commemorative events.

Step 3 – not before 17 May: “rule of 6” changed to indoor only; gatherings of 30 allowed outdoors; high-risk businesses reopen including indoor hospitality; 1,000 or half capacity outdoor venue attendees open for sports and larger performances; review of social distancing, potentially to cut down from 2m to 1m.

Step 4 – not before 21 June: all remaining premises reopen including nighclubs; all limits removed on weddings and other life events; likely removal of venue restriction requirements; potential removal of hotel quarantine for long distance travellers.

All the steps are subject to the results of a scientific analysis of four requirements:

·        The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.

·        Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.

·        Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

·        Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

The medDigital team will report on the science behind the steps and how successful they have been; stay tuned to our blog!

Vaccines roll-out

medDigital are launching a dedicated vaccines series. We will report on the scientific aspects of inoculations themselves, roll out, efficacy and more. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up-to-date!

In our previous COVID-19 healthcare challenge summary, we touched on the importance of global coordination to achieve near-global immunisation. Since then, we have seen the WHO, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations unveiled the COVAX initiative, which aims to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are equitably distributed around the world.

The Lancet Respiratory Medicine has since published an article about the Challenges in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, which further discusses both what has been achieved and what needs to be improved in the global vaccination effort thus far.

Clearly, it is important that countries work employ immunisation strategies with consideration of the implications on their success if other countries cannot also vaccinate their populations. Until then, reliance on lockdowns to contain the spread continues…

Update on the new variants

Having introduced the three new coronavirus variants of concern in our previous COVID-19 summary, we went to publication in January 2021 with only the Kent and South African variants having been detected from in UK communities.

Since then, six cases of the P1 variant, first identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus, have been found – three in Scotland and three in England. What do we know about the new variants? Why are scientists and epidemiologists concerned? It was predictable that, as with all RNA viruses, SARS-CoV-2 would mutate given its prevalence and rate of spread across the world.

So far, it seems that the spread of the Brazilian variants in the UK is being tracked with enough virulence that the spread is not as overwhelming as that of the Kent variant. Vigilance is key, and we will continue to report on the new variants that emerge and especially on any new evidence of the efficacy of the approved vaccines against them in our vaccines series!

Has COVID-19 made us more prone to obesity, really?

The BMJ has published an article on the link between obesity and COVID-19 – not just the evidence that clearly identifies obesity as a risk factor for severe disease and death, but the evidence that COVID-19 has potentially made the obesity epidemic worse.

After decades of slow progress on obesity, the article hopes the pandemic is the “wake up call” for authorities to tackle the obesity burden.

The Department of Health and Social Care in the UK notes that “obesity puts pressure on our health service”. With restrictions all over the world allowing, for the most part, for at least some solo exercise, it is more important now than ever as many work from home with limited activity during the day, to do our best to stay active.

How are you keeping fit at home? Let us know in the comments below!