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Where does Coronavirus leave the fight against climate change? COP26 delayed until 2021

Thu, 2020-04-02 20:52

COP 26, the global climate summit in Glasgow, has been postponed. The two-week summit had been intended to build on the historic accord brokered in Paris in 2015.

But many campaigners have welcomed the postponement, saying it buys time for real climate action after the pandemic – and maybe after the US election too.

Categories: Media

Welsh health minister pledges to double the number of hospital beds

Thu, 2020-04-02 20:45

In Wales the number of hospital beds will effectively be doubled, the health minister said today. Six thousand of them will be in field hospitals in converted leisure centres and stadiums.

So far, 117 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 have died in Wales. Channel 4 News spoke to some those at the heart of the NHS response in Swansea, Llanelli and Neath.

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We thank you: UK erupts to clap our carers once again

Thu, 2020-04-02 20:37

All over the country people have been getting ready to clap their appreciation for carers.

Channel 4 News spoke to Dr Raphael Olaiya who works in Acute and Emergency Medicine at the Lewisham and Greenwich Hospitals Trust and Junior Doctor Tom Gardiner, who works in elderly care, and is a member of the executive committee of the left-wing Fabian Society.

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The race to trace: Has the UK abandoned coronavirus contact tracing?

Thu, 2020-04-02 20:37

“Contact tracing is the most important thing you could be doing right now,” says an expert helping to lead Ireland’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

But it is not something that is being routinely done across the UK – although early last month the Scottish government published a note saying that contact tracing was “highly effective”.

Days later that strategy was dropped.

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PPE shortage: Frontline GP say charities and schools are supplying protective equipment

Thu, 2020-04-02 20:32

Those front line staff being applauded are continuing to put themselves at risk across the country.

But it’s not just medics in hospitals as an increasing number of people are being treated by GPs in their own homes.

One team in Stockport say they’ve been relying on charities and schools to supply their Personal Protective Equipment.

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EU response restricted because some countries won’t ‘let the EU do what she could be doing’ – former EU Commission president

Thu, 2020-04-02 20:17

Jose Manuel Barroso, former president of the EU Commission.

Categories: Media

Graves for coronavirus victims dug in Northern Ireland as country braces itself for epidemic

Thu, 2020-04-02 20:15

The total number of virus-related deaths in Northern Ireland jumped by six today to a total of 36.

Even though it has had only 774 people testing positive, Northern Ireland faces a surge in cases, and now politicians, health workers and communities despite their differences are uniting in their response.

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“It could last for a year, or one and a half, until we have a vaccine”: Former WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland

Thu, 2020-04-02 20:00

Former Director of the World Health Organisation and former Norwegian Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Categories: Media

Coronavirus: How are global leaders tackling the pandemic?

Thu, 2020-04-02 19:56

Before the coronavirus outbreak the Europe Union looked like a place where the leaders were united.

Now it seems the pandemic is causing division. The head of the EU commission today said member states handling the crisis in their own way could be ‘harmful’.

Ursula von der Leyen’s words come as the outbreak worsens in the USA, which might in previous times have been expected to take a lead in coordinating a global response.

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New York hospitals under intense pressure as coronavirus epidemic grows in USA

Thu, 2020-04-02 19:45

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in the United States has doubled in a week.

More than 10 million people are out of work because of the pandemic. As the country is pushed to its limit, stories from New York, the epicentre of the outbreak, illustrate the devastation.

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Business reeling as extent of job losses become clear

Thu, 2020-04-02 19:38

There were more signs today of the very large numbers of workers who will be  temporarily laid off with their pay subsidised by the Government.

British Airways and Nissan have both announced today that they are furloughing tens of thousands of workers on 80% salaries.

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WHO official says UK government ‘uncertainty’ about virus has ‘slightly hampered’ response

Thu, 2020-04-02 19:37

The World Health Organization’s special envoy for the response to Covid 2019, Dr David Nabarro.

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How NHS staff across the country are coping with the coronavirus

Thu, 2020-04-02 19:36

Channel 4 News has been speaking to NHS workers on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19.

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Government pledges to carry out 100,000 tests a day by April after criticism over coronavirus testing

Thu, 2020-04-02 19:34

One hundred thousand tests by the end of this month – that’s the commitment the Health Secretary Matt Hancock made today after intense criticism that there wasn’t enough testing to get a grip on the pandemic.

Categories: Media

FactCheck: how reliable are the UK’s coronavirus tests?

Thu, 2020-04-02 17:10

The government continues to face criticism over the rate of testing for coronavirus in the UK.

On 18 March, the Department of Health announced it planned to increase capacity to 25,000 a day by the middle of this month. On Tuesday, the government said it wouldn’t meet this deadline, and now expects to reach the target at the end of April.

As FactCheck reported this week, there’s also been confusion from ministers over how many tests are currently happening.

And amid all this, there’s a further question that experts have raised in recent days: how reliable are the results from the current coronavirus tests? We’re going to look at what we know, and what we’ve yet to discover.

Limits of the current tests

Dr James Gill, a locum GP and Honorary Clinical Lecturer at Warwick Medical School, explains: “Currently there are two tests in use, a PCR [polymerase chain reaction] lab test looking directly for the virus, and the newer antibody test which is looking for evidence that the body has been exposed and reacted to the virus”.

The people who show up in the government’s official figures for coronavirus testing have had the PCR laboratory test.

Anthony Woodcock, who’s a Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Manchester, describes this type of test as the “gold standard” – but he and Dr Gill both point out some of the problems that come with it.

For one thing, PCR tests are labour-intensive and take some time to complete – which, as Professor Woodcock says, can leave patients “sat on wards without a firm position on their infectivity for 24 hours”.

And it’s not just waiting for the results. Both point to the issue of “false negatives” – where the test says a patient has not got coronavirus when in fact they have.

Professor Woodcock and Dr Gill both estimate that the rate of false negatives could be around 30 per cent.

Professor Woodcock suggests that these could be caused by “low levels of the virus in the early stages of the disease” or “especially poor technique in sampling or conducting the test”.

He describes the dangers of these “many” false negatives: “potentially infectious patients could be nursed in COVID negative areas, or sent home thinking they are non-infectious”.

Dr Gill says that as the UK’s lab testing rates expand, there will be more automation in the process, which should in theory reduce the chance of errors and incorrect results.

Patients are being tested more than once

Some patients are receiving more than one coronavirus test in the course of a single day.

We can see this in figures tweeted out by Public Health England earlier in the week that show some 8,278 tests were carried out on one particular day on just 4,908 individuals.

The latest stats show 10,657 tests were carried out yesterday on 7,771 patients.

We don’t know exactly why each of these patients would have had the number of tests they did.

But as Professor Woodcock points out, if the current tests can only detect the presence of the virus 70 per cent of the time, “we have a lot of patients waiting for a repeat virus testing/diagnosis”.

In other words, it’s possible that some of those repeat tests are happening to confirm what doctors believe to be a case of coronavirus that just hasn’t been picked up by the first or second tests.

A spokesperson for Public Health England told FactCheck: “‘It would be unfair to say that the test is not very reliable, there will be numerous reasons patients in inpatient settings will need to be retested throughout their patient journey.”

What about other types of test?

Professor Woodcock says the current process of PCR testing will “continue to be needed”, but that in the next two to four weeks, we could move towards “point of care” testing. This could see patients getting results at their bedsides within 15 minutes, rather than waiting hours or days for central labs to report back.

For that to work, PCR machines would probably need to be moved into hospital emergency departments, he says – “however, local PCR machines are not yet widely available”.

Colin Butter, Associate Professor of Bioveterinary Science at the University of Lincoln says the PCR test was the “correct first step” in terms of the world’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, but that “a much better and faster test would be one that detects a viral protein”.

This, he says, involves making a “monoclonal antibody against the relevant protein” – a process that he estimates would take about two or three months. Once developed, you would not need any specialist machinery and the results could be available within 15 minutes.

So far we’ve looked at tests that try to establish whether a patient currently has the virus. There is another category of test – sometimes called an “antibody” or a “serology” test – which can reveal if the person being tested has ever had coronavirus.

Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh, explains that these tests “use viral proteins as ‘glue’ to trap the antibodies present in serum”.

Professor Woodcock says that among the range of antibody tests, “the ‘stick’ test will be invaluable” to help with fast diagnosis, and to allow healthcare staff to return to work if they can confirm they’ve already had the virus.

The UK government has ordered millions of these tests – though there’s some uncertainty around exactly when they could be rolled out.

Categories: Media

The latest Covid-19 science developments

Thu, 2020-04-02 15:25

Each week, Channel 4 News will provide a summary of key research papers, studies or developments from the world of COVID-19 science.

Nature paper looking at nine patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms (published 01/04/2020)

A study published in the journal Nature was the first major research looking at patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms.

It found that in a total of nine mild-symptom cases, there was a high amount of viral replication in the nose and throat during the first seven days of infection, before the virus passed into the blood.

Rosalind Smyth, Director and Professor of Child Health at UCL Great Ormond St Institute of Child Health, who is not an author of the study, commented: “This helps to explain why the virus is so infectious; it can be transmitted by droplets from the upper respiratory tract, before people may be aware that they have an infection. The high replication in the upper respiratory tract may also explain the profound loss of taste and smell people have been reporting, even in those with few other symptoms.”

A link to the study can be found here.


Nature papers on SARS-CoV-2 structure (published 30/03/2020)

This week two papers were published in the journal Nature which characterised in detail the structure of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes the disease COVID-19.

The papers, one from China and the other from the US, reveal a spike-like protein structure on the outside of the virus, the specific properties of which make it very good at binding to human receptors. This structure is thought to account for why COVID-19 is so much more infectious than SARS, which it is otherwise structurally similar to. It is simply better at clinging on to human cells.

Understanding the structure of the virus and the mechanism of its binding is important for understanding how human antibodies neutralise the virus in an immunity response, and also how to develop drugs which mimic these actions and treat the disease.

Prof Ian Jones, Professor of Virology at University of Reading, who was not an author of the study, commented:

“These are molecular snapshots of the virus making its first contact with the cell, opening the door to infection if you like. It’s the stage at which a vaccine would work, and the data will be useful to fine-tune the vaccines in current development. What’s a bit more sobering is that the speed at which this type of molecular analysis is done far outstrips the pace at which vaccine manufacture can take place, highlighting the urgent need for faster vaccine solutions in the future.”

Links to the studies can be found here and here.


ICNARC report on first 775 patients in critical care (published 27/03/2020)

Regular audits of COVID-19 patients admitted to  intensive care units (ICU) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are being carried out by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC).

The most recent looked at the first 775 COVID-19 patients admitted to ICU and found the following:

Mortality: Of the 775 patients, 79 patients died (10.2%), 86 patients were discharged alive from critical care (11.1%)and 609 patients were last reported as still being in critical care.

Demographics: The median age of patients was 61. Of the 775, 546 were male (70.5%), and 228 were female (29.5%).

BMI: There has been some speculation in the media that weight, or specifically Body Mass Index (BMI), is playing a key role in determining a person’s risk of developing severe COVID-19. The ICNARC report found that of the 775 patients, 26.6% had a BMI of 18.5-25 (the NHS considers this healthy), 34.4% had a BMI of 25-30 (overweight), 31.0% had a BMI of 30-40 (obese) and 6.6% were over 40 (obese). Commenting on these findings, Duncan Young, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: “The BMI distribution of the patients in ICU with COVID-19 matches the population, so it is not likely that obesity is linked to severe COVID-19 infection requiring an ICU admission.”

Previous health: 90.6% of the 775 patients were able to live without assistance in daily activities prior to admission.

A link to the report can be found here.

Categories: Media

FactCheck: UK health minister contradicts WHO on testing

Thu, 2020-04-02 13:49

“Testing is not a cure, it won’t cut the number of deaths, it won’t make people feel better or stop them catching coronavirus”

That was the claim from junior health minister Nadine Dorries last night.

The MP for Mid-Bedfordshire made headlines last month as she became the first senior British politician to test positive for the coronavirus. She has since recovered.

Her comments last night came amid an ongoing saga over the rate of coronavirus testing in the UK – which many say is too low.

But her claim that testing for coronavirus “won’t cut the number of deaths” or “stop them catching coronavirus” directly contradicts statements made by the head of the World Health Organisation – and England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty.

The claim

Ms Dorries published a string of tweets defending the government against what she describes as “media hype”.

She wrote: “Journalists and media need to be more balanced. Testing, is not a cure, it won’t cut the number of deaths, it won’t make people feel better or stop them catching #coronavirus it will only tell you if you have or have had it .There is no cure.

“Tests will allow us to know who has antibodies and is immune/non contagious, but we don’t yet know how long those anti bodies will last for. The best we can hope for is that it will allow #NHS workers to get back to work if they know they have had it and have antibodies to protect them.

“I’m already hearing from constituents who are alarmed at the situation re tests, believing media hype and that testing with a positive diagnosis = a miracle cure. There is as yet, no treatment, no cure, no vaccine and no amount of tests will alter that fact..#InThisTogether”

The analysis

It’s true that taking a coronavirus test will not itself cure or treat someone suffering from Covid-19 symptoms.

But Ms Dorries’ claim that testing “won’t cut the number of deaths … or stop them catching coronavirus” is wrong, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a statement to world leaders on 16 March, WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus “explains why coronavirus testing saves lives”.

The director-general said: “the most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission. And to do that you must test and isolate.”

He added: “We have a simple message for all countries Test, test, test. Test every suspected case”.

Asked about Dr Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ comments, England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: “Of course we completely agree with the secretary general that testing is absolutely critical”.

The response

FactCheck approached Ms Dorries about the contradiction between her comments and those of the WHO chief. She told us:

“What would cut deaths right now, today, is hand washing and self-isolating, people staying at home as confirmed by Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England on Peston last night.

“My tweets refer to where we are in the immediate future with access to the tests we have and public perception.

“Of course, once the supply chain is flowing and we have access to mass testing, we can ensure those who have antibodies can move back into the workplace and those who don’t, can isolate, reducing risk.”

Categories: Media

13-year-old boy among victims of coronavirus

Wed, 2020-04-01 21:36

A 13-year-old boy, from south London, described by his family as a “loving son” with a “heartwarming” smile, a 19-year-old chef who had moved to the UK from Italy and an NHS nurse whose relatives say he “always went beyond the call of duty” – these are some of the people who have died after testing positive for Covid-19.

Categories: Media

‘There will be an increased number of cases over the next week or maybe two weeks’ – Sir Robert Lechler

Wed, 2020-04-01 21:33

Earlier we spoke to Sir Robert Lechler, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Categories: Media

The vulnerable people who say they are not getting the food they were promised by the government

Wed, 2020-04-01 21:31

A million and a half people in England were ordered by the government to stay at home for 12 weeks and register for deliveries of food and medicines.

But many have told this programme that they have either been unable to sign up, or haven’t been able to secure sufficient food from government parcels or supermarkets.

Categories: Media