Coronavirus: ‘Excess deaths’ in England and Wales revealed


Britain today announced 215 more coronavirus deaths, taking the official number of victims one step closer to the 40,000 mark.

Department of Health bosses have yet to confirm the final tally, which is expected to be higher because it takes into account deaths in all settings. The preliminary toll is calculated by adding up the updates provided by each of the home nations.

NHS England today recorded 179 more deaths in hospitals, while Wales posted 17 in all settings, followed by 11 in Scotland and eight in Northern Ireland. It means the official number of Covid-19 victims is now 39,584 – but other data shows the true toll is almost 10,000 higher.

Health chiefs yesterday announced 324 deaths – a 68 per cent drop in the space of a fortnight. And a leading statistician predicted Britain is on track to have zero Covid-19 deaths by July.

It comes as a shocking analysis of data today revealed the coronavirus pandemic has driven up rates of excess deaths in some parts of London to double what they are in a usual year.  

Official statistics show the number of Britons who died during the first five months of 2020 was massively higher than average because of the Covid-19 crisis, with 62,000 more victims than expected across the UK.   

The London borough of Brent is the worst affected part of England and Wales by this measure, with the number of deaths soaring from 447 in January-May in an average year to 925 in 2020 – an increase of 108 per cent. 

In other coronavirus news today:

  • McDonald’s will open another 497 drive-thru restaurants today and is aiming to have more than 1,000 back in business by next week. Monstrous queues have been pictured outside those that have reopened;
  • The Government is doubling down on its 14-day quarantine rule for travellers entering Britain. Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was necessary to prevent more coronavirus outbreaks and deaths;
  • West London – Ealing, Hillingdon and Hounslow – is the area of the capital where people have received the most police fines for breaking lockdown rules. 165 fines were issued there between March 27 and May 14;
  • Labour leader Keir Starmer has warned Boris Johnson to ‘get a grip’ on the coronavirus crisis and accused him of ‘winging it’;
  • UK charity the Health Foundation has warned of a ‘digital divide’ that could be caused by the NHS’s contact tracing app because elderly people, the unemployed and manual workers are less likely to download it. 

The number of excess deaths in England and Wales spiked dramatically during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. Professor Carl Heneghan, an Oxford University epidemiologist, predicted that the number of people dying would fall to average levels again by July

Separate data published yesterday showed that Birmingham has recorded the most deaths of diagnosed coronavirus patients, with 1,082 victims

Separate data published yesterday showed that Birmingham has recorded the most deaths of diagnosed coronavirus patients, with 1,082 victims

The data includes people who died of any cause between January 1 and May 22 in each of the local authorities in England and Wales. 

More than a dozen areas across the two countries actually appeared to be unaffected by the outbreak and saw the numbers of people dying fall to lower-than average levels.  

In North East Lincolnshire the death rate dropped by 8.8 per cent, while it fell by 8.2 per cent in Conwy, Wales, and by five per cent on Anglesey, off the Welsh coast.

Excess deaths are considered to be an accurate measure of the number of people killed by the pandemic because they include a broader spectrum of victims.

As well as including people who may have died with Covid-19 without ever being tested, the data also shows how many more people died because their medical treatment was postponed, for example, or who didn’t or couldn’t get to hospital when they were seriously ill.

WHICH AREAS RECORDED THE MOST EXCESS DEATHS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK? (Data January-May. Source: The Telegraph) 
PLACE NAME AVERAGE DEATHS 2020 DEATHS EXCESS DEATHS % CHANGE
Brent 445 925 480 108%
Harrow 388 775 387 100%
Newham 338 661 323 96%
Enfield 516 981 465 90%
Hertsmere 236 439 203 86%
Ealing 503 918 415 83%
Haringey 311 564 253 81%
Barnet 613 1,101 488 80%
Hackney 283 508 225 80%
Westminster 272 486 214 79%
Croydon 625 1,106 481 77%
Southwark 332 583 251 76%
Merton 318 550 232 73%
Hammersmith 236 409 173 73%
Waltham Forest 355 614 259 73%
Mole Valley 217 374 157 72%
Lambeth 374 642 268 72%
Redbridge 455 780 325 71%
Greenwich 383 649 266 69%
Surrey Heath 202 340 138 68%

Experts are divided, however, on how accurate excess deaths are as a measure.

Oxford University’s Professor Carl Heneghan yesterday said that comparing deaths this year to an average taken from the past five years overlooked population growth.

He said the average could have been expected to be higher because there are more people, and more elderly people, in the UK than there were in 2015. 

If true, this could mean the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic was overestimated.

WEEKLY CORONAVIRUS DEATHS ARE LOWEST SINCE LOCKDOWN

The weekly coronavirus death toll in England and Wales has dropped to its lowest levels since the lockdown began in March, promising statistics today revealed. 

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed 1,983 people died across the two counties in the week ending May 22, down from 2,766 a week earlier and the lowest figure for two months.

Every week since March 27 has recorded more fatalities from the virus, showing that Britain is now en route to how it was before the unprecedented lockdown was imposed on March 23.

At the peak of the outbreak, a staggering 16,000 people in England and Wales died of the coronavirus in just two weeks in April. 

But the sobering statistics also show that there have now almost certainly been more than 50,000 people killed by Covid-19 across the UK this year.  

The coronavirus was listed as a contributing factor on the death certificates of at least 47,871 people by May 22, cementing Britain’s position as one of the worst-hit countries in the world.

Meanwhile, the University of Cambridge’s Professor David Spiegelhalter, argued the measure is still useful.

He said: ‘Deaths this year were tracking pretty close to, but below, the five year average. There is no perfect baseline.

‘I still think [the five-year average] is useful to give an idea of trends, peaks and spikes, but it is not a precise measure.’

Professor Heneghan yesterday said he expects the number of deaths to have returned to normal by next week. 

He said: ‘If the trends continue, the deaths look like they will be back to where they should be normally by next week.

‘There’s been a continued reduction in hospital deaths, care home outbreaks are coming down so the “all deaths” by (week) 22 I’m expecting will be back to where we should be.’

Professor Heneghan said there may be no Covid-19 deaths by the end of June – which would follow Spain yesterday. Italy is still reporting between 50 and 100 deaths per day, and France around 30.

‘But it also depends on what happens next, within sporadic outbreaks,’ Professor Heneghan said.

Experts say that unless care home and hospital outbreaks cannot be stopped, deaths caused by the coronavirus will continue at low levels. 

Data published in The Telegraph showed that the top five worst affected areas were Brent, Harrow, Newham, Enfield and Hertsmere, which all had total death increases of more than 86 per cent.

These were followed by Ealing (83 per cent), Haringey (81 per cent), Barnet (80 per cent), Hackney (80 per cent) and Westminster (79 per cent).

Others in the 20 worst-affected areas, most of which were in London, were Croydon, Southwark, Merton, Hammersmith & Fulham, Waltham Forest, Mole Valley (Surrey), Lambeth, Redbridge, Greenwich and Surrey Heath. 

At the other end of the scale, some more rural areas of the country saw the number of people dying drop from its usual level.

This may have been because those areas were relatively untouched by the coronavirus but the lockdown had other health benefits – reducing the transmission of flu, for example, which kills older people, or fewer car crashes.

Or it may simply have been because fewer people were dying anyway and the rate wasn’t increased by the virus as it was in other areas of the country.

The list of areas where the coronavirus appears to have had the least impact on the number of people dying is topped by North East Lincolnshire, where fatalities dropped by 8.8 per cent, and Conwy in Wales, where they fell by 8.2 per cent.

The number of people dying also dropped in Anglesey (-5 per cent), Hastings (-4.9 per cent), Torridge (-4.6 per cent), Mendip (-2.4 per cent) and Rother (-1.5 per cent).

Other areas recording slightly lower than usual numbers of deaths in January to May were Gwynedd, Isle of Wight, Ceredigion, Mid Devon, North Devon and East Devon. 

IN WHICH AREAS HAVE DEATHS BEEN LOWER THAN AVERAGE DURING THE CORONAVIRUS EPIDEMIC? (Data January-May. Source: The Telegraph) 
PLACE NAME AVERAGE DEATHS 2020 DEATHS EXCESS DEATHS % CHANGE
North East Lincolnshire 445 406 -39 -8.8%
Conwy 405 372 -33 -8.1%
Isle of Anglesey 212 201 -11 -5.2%
Hastings 260 247 -13 -5.0%
Torridge 214 204 -10 -4.7%
Mendip 297 290 -7 -2.4%
Rother 357 352 -5 -1.4%
Gwynedd 354 351 -3 -0.8%
Isle of Wight 457 454 -3 -0.7%
Ceredigion 204 203 -1 -0.5%
Mid Devon 205 204 -1 -0.5%
North Devon 300 299 -1 -0.3%
East Devon 477 476 -1 -0.2%

Piers Morgan refuses to apologise after stylist Adee Phelan turns the air blue


Piers Morgan gave his hairdresser a free pass by refusing to apologise after he launched into a furious, expletive fuelled tirade on Wednesday’s edition of Good Morning Britain.

The presenter, 55, refused to apologise after an interview with personal hairdresser Adee Phelan regarding his efforts to help NHS workers during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The big-hearted celebrity stylist, whose previous clients include David Beckham, has donated more than 94,000 boxes of hair products to frontline staff at a cost of £650,000.

Green light: Piers Morgan gave hairdresser Aee Phelan a free pass by refusing to apologise after he launched into a furious, expletive fuelled tirade on Good Morning Britain

But Phelan, 45, became increasingly irate as the discussion veered away from his charitable donations, with the hairdresser launching an extraordinary rant against the Tory leadership.

Addressing Piers and co-host Susanna Reid, he barked: ‘It’s a disgrace, what’s happened in the government mate, it’s bulls**t, and Boris Johnson and the whole lot of them down there need to start treating us with a bit of respect, a bit of honesty and a bit of dignity.’ 

Phelan also lashed out at the government while reflecting on the Black Lives Matter protests protests being carried out in London, a reaction to the senseless killing of black man George Floyd by a white police officer in the United States on May 25th.

Kind gesture: The big-hearted celebrity stylist was appearing on Wednesday's show after donated more than 94,000 boxes of hair products to frontline staff at a cost of £650,000

Kind gesture: The big-hearted celebrity stylist was appearing on Wednesday’s show after donated more than 94,000 boxes of hair products to frontline staff at a cost of £650,000

Not happy: But Phelan, 45, became increasingly irate as the discussion veered away from his charitable donations, and launched an extraordinary rant against the Tory leadership

Not happy: But Phelan, 45, became increasingly irate as the discussion veered away from his charitable donations, and launched an extraordinary rant against the Tory leadership

He raved: ‘Before you start stopping and searching white youths and black youths, they’re probably on their way to work, they’re probably on their way to college, they’re probably on their way to do a good deed. 

‘We need to stop judging – it needs to start from the top. Westminster need to get their s**t in order. They need to pull their finger out, stop lying. The message is let’s stick together, no fighting, no wars, no looting. We need to have a solidarity.’ 

He added: ‘We live in an amazing country, with amazing people. We’re doing amazing things. We need to keep doing it and shows like this need to keep showing stories like this, not reality stars complaining about they’re bored. Bulls**t!’ 

Lashing out: Phelan described Boris Johnson's government as a 'disgrace' and dismissed their efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic as 'bulls**t'

Lashing out: Phelan described Boris Johnson’s government as a ‘disgrace’ and dismissed their efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic as ‘bulls**t’ 

Tight-lipped: Morgan, an outspoken critic of Boris Johnson, promptly cut the stylist off, but refused to admonish him or offer a stock apology for his colourful language

Tight-lipped: Morgan, an outspoken critic of Boris Johnson, promptly cut the stylist off, but refused to admonish him or offer a stock apology for his colourful language

Morgan, an outspoken critic of Boris Johnson and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, promptly cut the stylist off, but refused to admonish him or offer a stock apology for his colourful language.   

‘Normally we would issue a grovelling apology,’ he told the stylist. ‘I understand your anger and passion. I’m not going to apologise for it.’  

Recalling his past experiences in Adee’s salon, he added: The language was normally pretty fruity. You have a passion for life and care for people.’ 

Susanna later ensured she apologised to any viewers offended by his ‘fruity language’ behalf before they went to a commercial break. 

Phelan was inspired to donate thousands of care packages to NHS workers after crossed paths with an exhausted frontline nurse while waiting for a taxi. 

The stylist, who admitted he was grateful to the NHS after being treated for a head injury, has since urged major brands within the hair industry to donate various products in a bid to cheer them up.  

Reaching out: Phelan was inspired to donate thousands of care packages to NHS workers after crossed paths with an exhausted frontline nurse while waiting for a taxi

Reaching out: Phelan was inspired to donate thousands of care packages to NHS workers after crossed paths with an exhausted frontline nurse while waiting for a taxi 

Sorry: Susanna later apologised for the hairdresser's fruity language as they went to a commercial break

Sorry: Susanna later apologised for the hairdresser’s fruity language as they went to a commercial break 

Report claims NHS test and trace app tracked down less than half of infected patients’ ‘contacts’


The NHS’ flagship test and trace system tracked down less than half of positive patients’ ‘contacts’ in the first three days of its launch, figures suggested last night.

A leaked report claimed that virus sufferers had provided details of 4,634 people they might have infected, of whom just 1,749 were texted or emailed.

The Department of Health pointed out that the figures were four days out of date, insisting the majority of contacts had since been alerted. But the document obtained by Channel 4 News comes amid concerns that many of those employed by the scheme have had nothing to do.

The NHS’ flagship test and trace system tracked down less than half of positive patients’ ‘contacts’ in the first three days of its launch, figures suggested last night (File image of NHS tracing app) 

Test and trace was launched by Health Secretary Matt Hancock last Thursday. He hailed it as a ‘new way of life’ that would enable the country to come out of lockdown.

Anyone with virus symptoms is urged to order a test and if the results are positive, they are asked for the mobile phone numbers or email addresses of their recent contacts.

This includes people with whom they had spent at least 15 minutes at a distance of less than two metres – in the two days before the symptoms began and five days after.

A government diagram explained how the NHS Test and Trace system works

A government diagram explained how the NHS Test and Trace system works 

These contacts are then texted or emailed and asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days.

Yesterday the Government launched a major information campaign on the scheme with TV, radio and online adverts.

And on Monday, Mr Hancock claimed the system was ‘working well’, although he repeatedly refused to provide figures for the number of people who had been traced.

But Baroness Harding, who is leading the programme, reportedly told MPs last week she did not expect the system to be properly up and running until the end of this month due to likely teething problems.

The Government is hoping to publish up-to-date figures this week, then weekly updates thereafter, once it has confidence in the data.

Department of Health officials stressed that many patients with the virus were not suitable for contact tracing because they were in hospitals or care homes.

Up to 25,000 contact tracers have been hired alongside 3,000 clinical case workers. They earn between £10 and £27 an hour, depending on their expertise.

But three contact tracers told the Mail earlier this week that they had not made a single call. Another claimed she had spent much of her time reupholstering a chair because she had so little to do.

Hancock under fire over his figures 

Matt Hancock has become embroiled in a public row with the country’s top statistician over testing figures.

Sir David Norgrove accused the Government of misleading the public with its daily testing figures, saying they are ‘still far from complete and comprehensible’.

Matt Hancock has become embroiled in a public row with the country’s top statistician over testing figures

Matt Hancock has become embroiled in a public row with the country’s top statistician over testing figures

It is the second time the UK Statistics Authority chairman has hit out at the way Covid-19 tests are being presented. Sir David said it was ‘not surprising’ the data had been ‘widely criticised and often mistrusted’. Health Secretary Mr Hancock responded by saying he would publish details of how the 200,000 tests would be counted.

The Government has hit targets to have the capacity for 200,000 tests by the end of May. But in a letter to No 10, Sir David said: ‘The aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Our approach throughout has been to increase transparency.’

On Monday it was revealed scores of the 25,000 employees hired by the Government had come forward to say they have had no positive cases allocated to them since the launch, with one even suggesting there was a fault with the system. 

Contact tracers say the system remains ‘shambolic’ and unfit for purpose as millions of pupils return to school today. Workers last week also complained they hadn’t had any training by the time it launched and had waited weeks for log-in details. 

Details of those who test positive are passed to a company called Sitel, which is running the track and trace handling across the UK.

Agents read from a prepared script when they are given the name and telephone number of a person who has been diagnosed with Covid-19. 

They ask for the details of friends and family the infected person has come into contact with during the previous two weeks. 

The tracing agent then makes contact with those on their list and informs them they have to self-isolate. 

One tracer said colleagues who were on shift were ‘sitting there all day waiting and just refreshing their screens’. He said: ‘They’ve got nothing to do.’  

One of the 3,000 clinical case workers hired by Public Health England said she had completed three four-hour shifts, at £27-an-hour, but hadn’t made any calls yet. She told The Times: ‘I have had absolutely nothing to do.’ 

The nurse said she had seen ‘zero cases’ on the system throughout three shifts and felt ‘tremendously guilty about doing the shifts and being paid and not having anything to do really’.

‘It’s very obviously not ready,’ she said. ‘Something is not working between CTAS and the test results that are coming in.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘These figures are outdated and fail to reflect the huge amount of work already under way, with thousands of people already contacted in just a matter of days and their contacts successfully traced.

‘We are working with the UK Statistics Authority to finalise the most useful information to publish on its performance and will be providing weekly updates shortly.’

Report claims NHS test and trace app tracked down less than half of infected patients’ ‘contacts’


The NHS’ flagship test and trace system tracked down less than half of positive patients’ ‘contacts’ in the first three days of its launch, figures suggested last night.

A leaked report claimed that virus sufferers had provided details of 4,634 people they might have infected, of whom just 1,749 were texted or emailed.

The Department of Health pointed out that the figures were four days out of date, insisting the majority of contacts had since been alerted. But the document obtained by Channel 4 News comes amid concerns that many of those employed by the scheme have had nothing to do.

The NHS’ flagship test and trace system tracked down less than half of positive patients’ ‘contacts’ in the first three days of its launch, figures suggested last night (File image of NHS tracing app) 

Test and trace was launched by Health Secretary Matt Hancock last Thursday. He hailed it as a ‘new way of life’ that would enable the country to come out of lockdown.

Anyone with virus symptoms is urged to order a test and if the results are positive, they are asked for the mobile phone numbers or email addresses of their recent contacts.

This includes people with whom they had spent at least 15 minutes at a distance of less than two metres – in the two days before the symptoms began and five days after.

A government diagram explained how the NHS Test and Trace system works

A government diagram explained how the NHS Test and Trace system works 

These contacts are then texted or emailed and asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days.

Yesterday the Government launched a major information campaign on the scheme with TV, radio and online adverts.

And on Monday, Mr Hancock claimed the system was ‘working well’, although he repeatedly refused to provide figures for the number of people who had been traced.

But Baroness Harding, who is leading the programme, reportedly told MPs last week she did not expect the system to be properly up and running until the end of this month due to likely teething problems.

The Government is hoping to publish up-to-date figures this week, then weekly updates thereafter, once it has confidence in the data.

Department of Health officials stressed that many patients with the virus were not suitable for contact tracing because they were in hospitals or care homes.

Up to 25,000 contact tracers have been hired alongside 3,000 clinical case workers. They earn between £10 and £27 an hour, depending on their expertise.

But three contact tracers told the Mail earlier this week that they had not made a single call. Another claimed she had spent much of her time reupholstering a chair because she had so little to do.

Hancock under fire over his figures 

Matt Hancock has become embroiled in a public row with the country’s top statistician over testing figures.

Sir David Norgrove accused the Government of misleading the public with its daily testing figures, saying they are ‘still far from complete and comprehensible’.

Matt Hancock has become embroiled in a public row with the country’s top statistician over testing figures

Matt Hancock has become embroiled in a public row with the country’s top statistician over testing figures

It is the second time the UK Statistics Authority chairman has hit out at the way Covid-19 tests are being presented. Sir David said it was ‘not surprising’ the data had been ‘widely criticised and often mistrusted’. Health Secretary Mr Hancock responded by saying he would publish details of how the 200,000 tests would be counted.

The Government has hit targets to have the capacity for 200,000 tests by the end of May. But in a letter to No 10, Sir David said: ‘The aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Our approach throughout has been to increase transparency.’

On Monday it was revealed scores of the 25,000 employees hired by the Government had come forward to say they have had no positive cases allocated to them since the launch, with one even suggesting there was a fault with the system. 

Contact tracers say the system remains ‘shambolic’ and unfit for purpose as millions of pupils return to school today. Workers last week also complained they hadn’t had any training by the time it launched and had waited weeks for log-in details. 

Details of those who test positive are passed to a company called Sitel, which is running the track and trace handling across the UK.

Agents read from a prepared script when they are given the name and telephone number of a person who has been diagnosed with Covid-19. 

They ask for the details of friends and family the infected person has come into contact with during the previous two weeks. 

The tracing agent then makes contact with those on their list and informs them they have to self-isolate. 

One tracer said colleagues who were on shift were ‘sitting there all day waiting and just refreshing their screens’. He said: ‘They’ve got nothing to do.’  

One of the 3,000 clinical case workers hired by Public Health England said she had completed three four-hour shifts, at £27-an-hour, but hadn’t made any calls yet. She told The Times: ‘I have had absolutely nothing to do.’ 

The nurse said she had seen ‘zero cases’ on the system throughout three shifts and felt ‘tremendously guilty about doing the shifts and being paid and not having anything to do really’.

‘It’s very obviously not ready,’ she said. ‘Something is not working between CTAS and the test results that are coming in.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘These figures are outdated and fail to reflect the huge amount of work already under way, with thousands of people already contacted in just a matter of days and their contacts successfully traced.

‘We are working with the UK Statistics Authority to finalise the most useful information to publish on its performance and will be providing weekly updates shortly.’

Bright ideas to make your eyes sparkle…A massager for puffiness and a pill to soothe screen damage


Hay fever, excess screen time, even some medications can affect our eye health.  Here, Elizabeth Hawkes, a consultant ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon at the Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Trust and the Cadogan Clinic in London, assesses a range of eye health products. We then rated them. 

A massager for puffiness, eye wash to ease hay fever itches — and a pill to soothe damage from hours on a screen

Dryness

Vizulize Hypromellose 0.3 per cent Eye Drops, 10ml, £1.35, weldricks.co.uk

Vizulize Hypromellose 0.3 per cent Eye Drops, 10ml, £1.35, weldricks.co.uk

Vizulize Hypromellose 0.3 per cent Eye Drops, 10ml, £1.35, weldricks.co.uk

CLAIM: The maker says these drops will lubricate the eye in the same way as natural tears, to ease dryness and grittiness. They can be used while wearing contact lenses.

EXPERT VERDICT: Dry eye disease is a common condition that occurs when the eyes do not make enough tears, or tears evaporate too quickly. It results in dry, sore or gritty eyes and can be caused by using a computer screen for a long time, windy weather, or certain medications or illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes.

Hypromellose, as found in this product, is a lubricant that forms a layer on the eye to stop water loss and increase the thickness of the tear film. This has been shown to prevent dryness.

These drops are free from preservatives, which can trigger eye irritation and discomfort in some people — and it is useful they can be used with contact lenses (not all drops can), which can also cause dryness. 9/10

Lagad Lacrima, 60 capsules, £13.50, eyecare-shop.co.uk

Lagad Lacrima, 60 capsules, £13.50, eyecare-shop.co.uk

Lagad Lacrima, 60 capsules, £13.50, eyecare-shop.co.uk

CLAIM: These contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids — from oily fish and flax seeds — which, the maker says, can help relieve dry eyes. Take two a day and see a benefit in one to three months.

EXPERT VERDICT: Omega-3 oils have been found in some studies to improve the quality of the protective oily substance in tears, which stops the eyes drying out. However, a review by the respected Cochrane group found that, although there was some benefit for dry eye disease, this was neither consistent nor significant.

Also, while the level of omega-3 in this product seems reasonable, there is no consensus on the optimum amount needed — and it is unclear whether enough would reach the eye’s surface where it would, in theory, be beneficial.

These capsules wouldn’t give as good results as eye drops because they’re not working directly on the surface of the eye. They may be worth trying — but only alongside drops. 5/10

Opticrom Hay Fever 2 per cent Eye Drops, 10ml, £5.29, boots.com

Opticrom Hay Fever 2 per cent Eye Drops, 10ml, £5.29, boots.com

Itchiness

Opticrom Hay Fever 2 per cent Eye Drops, 10ml, £5.29, boots.com

CLAIM: Made with sodium cromoglicate, these drops promise relief in two minutes from redness and itchiness caused by allergies such as hay fever.

EXPERT VERDICT: Itchy, red, swollen and watery eyes are a classic symptom of hay fever. Sodium cromoglicate prevents the mast cells (responsible for inflammation and allergic responses) from releasing histamine, the chemical produced during an allergic reaction which is responsible for most of the troublesome symptoms.

Despite the product’s promise of relief in two minutes, it usually takes a few days to work.

It also contains benzalkonium chloride, a preservative. If you have sensitive eyes, look for preservative-free drops instead. 5/10

Optase Tea Tree Oil Eyelid Cleansing Gel, 50ml, £14.78, amazon.co.uk

Optase Tea Tree Oil Eyelid Cleansing Gel, 50ml, £14.78, amazon.co.uk

Red and swollen

Optase Tea Tree Oil Eyelid Cleansing Gel, 50ml, £14.78, amazon.co.uk

CLAIM: This eyelid wash contains hyaluronic acid (to add moisture) and tea tree oil, which the maker says is clinically proven to repel microscopic mites that live in your eyelashes and can trigger eye problems, such as blepharitis (redness and swelling). Massage into eyelids and wash off with water, once or twice a day.

EXPERT VERDICT: It’s a good idea for everyone with eye conditions or sensitivity to use a specialist cleanser on their eyes, rather than their usual one, to avoid irritation.

One of the triggers for severe blepharitis is an overgrowth of demodex — tiny parasites that live on eyelashes and don’t usually cause harm.

There is good evidence that tea tree oil — which has antimicrobial properties — can reduce their number and improve symptoms such as redness and crusting around the eyes.

The hyaluronic acid here is also very helpful for anyone with dry eyes, as it forms an artificial layer over the eye to help repair the tear film that is damaged in dry eye conditions. 9/10

Screen damage 

 Gummy Science Digital Eye Support, 60 gummies, £17.45, bigvits.co.uk

CLAIM: These chewable, berry-flavoured supplements contain the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, which the maker says the eyes need to filter out the blue light emitted by digital devices. This light is absorbed by the retina and there are concerns it could damage the light receptors there.

EXPERT VERDICT: Lutein and zeaxanthin — found naturally in brightly coloured fruit and leafy green vegetables — are important for a healthy macula (the ‘seeing’, central part of the retina).

However, there is only evidence that people with age-related macular degeneration — the leading cause of blindness in the UK — could benefit, as these nutrients help to slow down the condition’s progression.

Exposure to blue light from electronic devices is not considered to be a major risk for macular degeneration — or any other serious eye condition.

There is therefore minimal, if any, evidence to support the use of supplements to protect against blue light ‘damage’. 1/10

The Eyecicle Eye Massager, £150, 001skincare.com

The Eyecicle Eye Massager, £150, 001skincare.com

Puffiness

The Eyecicle Eye Massager, £150, 001skincare.com

CLAIM: This glass massage wand has a ball at the end, which you roll around the eye area after chilling it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

The maker says the combination of cooling and massage boosts circulation and reduces puffiness and eye bags.

EXPERT VERDICT: There can be several reasons for eyelid swelling or puffiness, ranging from medical problems, such as a stye or an allergy or infection, to simply having had a late night.

For this reason, I would urge people to see a doctor if they develop puffy eyes, to rule out more serious causes, before using a product like this.

In theory, applying anything cold to the area will cause constriction of blood vessels and therefore reduce inflammation.

So a cooling eye mask or even applying two chilled spoons would do the same job. 4/10

Xailin Wash, 20 x 5ml vials, £9.45, eyecare-shop.co.uk

Xailin Wash, 20 x 5ml vials, £9.45, eyecare-shop.co.uk

Irritant in the eye

Xailin Wash, 20 x 5ml vials, £9.45, eyecare-shop.co.uk

CLAIM: This preservative-free solution contains sodium chloride and boric acid. It is recommended by the maker for washing out foreign bodies that irritate the eye, such as sand, midges, dust, pollen and make-up, to ease the discomfort.

The maker recommends using two to eight vials a day.

EXPERT VERDICT: Sodium chloride is just salt water, which is always the first-line response for flushing out eyes in the case of any injury or irritant.

It is better than water alone, as it is sterile, but it’s generally safer to use a commercially produced sterile product which has the correct ratio of salt to water.

The boric acid here also has antiseptic properties.

Eye washes can be useful for clearing out irritants such as dust or pollen. But this is more of an occasional-use product and handy to keep in a first aid kit at home.

For daily allergy relief, eye drops tend to be far more effective because they contain ingredients to stop an allergic reaction and to lubricate the eye to stop further irritation. 6/10 

And if you struggle with drops…

Opticare Eye Drop Dispenser, £9.50, butterflies-eyecare.co.uk

Opticare Eye Drop Dispenser, £9.50, butterflies-eyecare.co.uk

Opticare Eye Drop Dispenser, £9.50, butterflies-eyecare.co.uk

CLAIM: This helps you aim eye drops into the eye. Simply secure a bottle of drops inside this cylinder, turn it upside down and place over one eye. The tip is designed to ensure a single drop will go directly into the eye when you squeeze the side of it.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘It’s common for patients with joint problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, to struggle to use eye drops, as their grip strength is weakened, making it almost impossible to squeeze a small bottle,’ says Elizabeth Hawkes, a consultant ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon at the Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Trust and the Cadogan Clinic in London. ‘Patients will often resort to asking a relative to apply the eye drops for them, which isn’t easy.

‘This gadget is useful as it allows patients to administer their own eye drops at their own pace. Patients with sight problems or conditions that cause shaking, such as Parkinson’s, could also benefit.’ 7/10

 

Coronavirus: Remdesivir users 65% more likely to improve


Coronavirus patients in hospital may be 65 per cent more likely to see their condition improve if they are given the antiviral drug remdesivir, its manufacturer claims.

Gilead Sciences, a California-based company that developed the drug in a bid to tackle Ebola, today reported the promising results for Covid-19 patients.

After 11 days patients taking the drug showed small signs of improvement and, for reasons unclear, those were more noticeable if they had taken it for five days rather than 10. Other mixed trials, however, show it is still not a wonder drug.

But it is one that doctors have put great stock in – it last week became the first medicine to be approved for the NHS to use specifically to treat Covid-19.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the approval as the ‘biggest step forward’ so far in treatment of the disease, which has killed 39,000 Brits.

Although mixed findings in recent weeks appear encouraging on the surface, there are still a number of uncertainties around the experimental drug remdesivir.

Some experts warn the improvements seen in Covid-19 patients are only modest  when looking at the bigger picture. 

It may only work if given at a crucial early point of the disease and for a brief period, giving only a limited window for optimal treatment. 

And the support for reducing mortality is not compelling, with the largest study of 1,000 patients showing only a very marginal difference. 

Remdesivir, which was originally tested in Ebola patients, has emerged as a leading potential cure for the coronavirus pandemic

Gilead Sciences Inc, based in California revealed the findings of its phase three clinical trials today in a press release  before official publication in a medical journal

Gilead Sciences Inc, based in California revealed the findings of its phase three clinical trials today in a press release  before official publication in a medical journal

Results from Gilead's study showed that 76 per cent of patients in the five-day remdesivir trial had a clinical improvement in their condition by the 11th day of hospitalisation, compared to 66 per cent of people receiving only standard care. For patients taking the drug for 10 days the improvement rate was 70 per cent, which wasn't statistically significant. More people died in the no-remdesivir group, and around half of people taking the drug had side effects, the results showed

Results from Gilead’s study showed that 76 per cent of patients in the five-day remdesivir trial had a clinical improvement in their condition by the 11th day of hospitalisation, compared to 66 per cent of people receiving only standard care. For patients taking the drug for 10 days the improvement rate was 70 per cent, which wasn’t statistically significant. More people died in the no-remdesivir group, and around half of people taking the drug had side effects, the results showed

Gilead Sciences Inc revealed the findings of its phase three clinical trials today in a press release.

It did this before the results could be scrutinised by scientists and published in a medical journal – as it has with its other study results – to save time.

The ‘SIMPLE’ trial evaluated five-day and 10-day courses of remdesivir plus standard care, versus standard care alone. 

It was not compared against a placebo – placebos are fake drugs that are used to check that the effects of a medication are not caused by random chance or by the patient knowing that they are receiving medication.

Each group in the study included around 200 patients who were hospitalised with moderate Covid-19, meaning they were sick but not in intensive care.

Patients in the five-day remdesivir treatment group were 65 per cent more likely to have clinical improvement at day 11 compared with those in the standard care group. 

HOW HAS REMDESIVIR PERFORMED IN CLINICAL TRIALS?

1. The Adaptive Covid-19 Treatment Trial

How many people?

1,063, including 46 from the UK, over 70 hospitals globally.

What did it trial?

The placebo controlled study compared outcomes for hospitalised patients.

What did it find?

Patients given remdesivir had a recovery time that was almost a third (31 per cent) faster than those given a placebo.

Those who received remdesivir recovered four days faster (11 days) than similar patients who received placebo (14 days). 

Results also suggested a survival benefit, with a lower mortality rate of 7.1 per cent for the group receiving the drug, compared with 11.9 per cent for the placebo group. But this is not deemed a significant difference. 

Is it published? 

Yes, in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

2. Gilead Sciences’ Phase 3 SIMPLE-Severe trial

How many people? 

397 hospitalised patients

What did it trial?

The study compared a five-day course of the drug with a 10-day course treatment. It looked at rates of patients recovering to the point where they no longer needed oxygen support and medical care or were sent home from hospital. 

It was not a placebo controlled study. 

What did it find? 

The pharmaceutical company reported that almost two-thirds of patients, or 129 out of 200 patients, recovered by day 14 after a five-day course of treatment. 

The longer treatment time didn’t appear to provide any additional benefit, the company said. 

Is it published?

No. Gilead plans to publish the full data in a peer-reviewed journal in the coming weeks. A summary of the findings were published on its website. 

3. Gilead Sciences Phase 3 SIMPLE trial

How many people?

600 hospitalised patients with moderate disease, meaning they were not in ICU or on mechanical ventilation.

What did it trial?

There were three groups of 200 patients. Gilead evaluated five-day and ten-day courses of remdesivir plus standard of care, versus standard of care alone. It was not compared against a dummy drug.

What did it find?

Patients in the five-day remdesivir treatment group were 65 percent more likely to have clinical improvement at day 11 compared with those in the standard of care group.

The odds of improvement in clinical status with the 10-day treatment course of remdesivir versus standard of care were also 31 per cent higher. The statistic is favourable but does not reach statistical significance, meaning scientists can’t be certain the result is by chance.

Is it published?

Yes, it has now been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

4. The Chinese study, led by Professor Bin Cao, from China-Japan Friendship Hospital and Capital Medical University in China.

How many people?

237 hospital COVID-19 patients at ten hospitals in Hubei, China.

The study was supposed to recruit 400, but the trial was halted because not enough patients were available due to the epidemic being curbed in Wuhan.

What did it trial? 

It was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial – the golden standard – comparing recovery rates in patients either given remdesivir or a dummy drug.

What did it find?

Those on the placebo drug had similar outcomes to those given remdesivir. 

It took a shorter time for the remdesivir-treated patients to get better, 21 days compared with 23, but this is not statistically significant.

There was a one per cent difference in mortality rate between the two groups, which again, it’s not clear if this means anything important. 

Is it published?

Yes, in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet.  

Improvement was measured on a seven-point scale, where 1 was death and 7 was ‘not hospitalized’ at the end of 11 days. 

The odds of improvement in clinical status with the 10-day treatment course of remdesivir versus standard care were also 31 per cent higher.

The statistic is favourable but does not reach statistical significance, Gilead said.

Some 70 per cent of patients who received remdesivir for 10 days had improved by one point on the scale by day 11 – which is barely an improvement on the 66 per cent in the standard care group and compares to 76 per cent in the five-day treatment group.

It is not clear why those given a longer treatment course did not get better as quickly as those in the five-day group, but it is likely to raise questions.  

The only information given about whether remdesivir improved patients’ odds of surviving show there were no deaths in the five-day group, two in the 10-day group, and four among the patients who received only standard treatment. 

But this is only up to day 11 of treatment, so it’s not clear at this stage if any other deaths occurred later on. 

Scientists are sceptical about the results and say tougher trials are needed.

Professor Stephen Evans, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘We are all waiting for some good news about a therapy that works in Covid-19, but at the moment the evidence is thin and companies need to provide proper data rather than just press releases.

‘They need to share sufficient information for everyone to see what impact the drug has.’

Professor Evans explained that the drug appeared only to have made a small impact on recovery, and it was not clear whether people had died after the trial finished.

He added: ‘These improvements are not dramatic – they are not a “game changer” in the terrible jargon, but at least there is some genuine evidence of improvement. 

‘For the patients it is good news that few died, but the evidence therefore that remdesivir improves mortality in these patients is uncertain and limited.’      

Gilead’s stock is up almost 20 per cent this year due to rave reviews from scientists. But shares in the company slipped four per cent after the mixed findings were published today. 

‘These study results offer additional encouraging data for remdesivir, showing that if we can intervene earlier in the disease process with a five-day treatment course, we can significantly improve clinical outcomes for these patients,’ said Dr Francisco Marty, an infectious diseases physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.  

Dr Marty’s comments echo those of other scientists – that remdesivir appears to be effective the earlier it is given, although there is still research ongoing to confirm this. There is also limited data on whether it significantly improves the odds of dying. 

Despite this, in the UK, only a limited number patients with severe Covid-19 will get access to the drug. It will not be used to prevent the disease from worsening in its early stages. 

Dr Stephen Griffin, an associate professor in the School of Medicine, University of Leeds, said although the patients in the UK can access remdesivir, it cannot be seen as a ‘magic bullet’.

‘Rolling out remdesivir will likely mean that the most severe COVID19 patients will receive it first. Whilst this is clearly the most ethically sound approach, it also means that we ought not to expect the drug to immediately act as a magic bullet.’ 

Michael Yee, an analyst at New York based global investment banking firm Jefferies, said the improvements seen in the Gilead trial were only modest.

‘COVID-19 patients entering the hospital are likely to get the drug given there are no other major alternatives, but it is understood the drug is meant to be more helpful (and not a cure) in a moderate population, where patients are generally healthier and the mortality rate is expected to be very low,’ Yee wrote in a research note.   

The mortality rate by day 14 was 7.1 per cent in the group treated with remdesivir compared with 11.9 per cent in the placebo group. But this is not deemed a significant difference, meaning it could have been the result of chance.

More than 1,000 patients were recruited from 70 hospitals across the world for the Adaptive Covid-19 Treatment Trial. It included 46 patients from the UK. 

The results were published in the New England Medical Journal on May 22. But not before they were announced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) in the US, which is running the study, on April 29.

Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, said although the results weren’t a ‘knock out 100 per cent,’ it was an important proof of concept.

‘The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,’ he told reporters at the White House.

‘This is very optimistic, the mortality rate trended towards being better in the sense of less deaths in the REM designate group.’ 

He added that the trial was proof ‘that a drug can block this virus,’ and compared the finding to the arrival of the first antiretrovirals that worked against HIV in the 1980s, albeit with modest success at first. 

It led to an emergency use authorisation of remdesivir from the Food and Drug Administration on May 1.

However, a separate and less publicised trial of remdesivir carried out in China produced disappointing results.  

The randomised controlled placebo trial, seen as the gold standard of scientific evidence and the same as that reported by US officials, involved 237 people.

Chinese researchers launched two formal studies of remdesivir; one in severely ill patients, and another in people with milder disease, after Gilead agreed to supply remdesivir.

Those on the placebo drug had similar outcomes to those given remdesivir.

It took a shorter time for the remdesivir-treated patients to get better, 21 days compared with 23, but this is not statistically significant.

There was a one per cent difference in mortality rate between the two groups, meaning it didn’t shower a clear benefit in survival rates.

It was also noted that a larger number stopped their treatment because of adverse events while on remdesivir.

Some 66 per cent experienced side effects including constipation and anaemia – but the doctors still classed it as safe.

Professor Bin Cao, from China-Japan Friendship Hospital and Capital Medical University in China, who led the research, said it was not the outcome his team hoped for.

He said: ‘Unfortunately our trial found that, while safe and adequately tolerated, remdesivir did not provide significant benefits over placebo.’

The trial was stopped early because the researchers had difficulty recruiting people when the outbreak was curbed in Wuhan, and so the authors said the true effectiveness of remdesivir remains unclear. 

Commenting on the study, Professor Evans said: ‘The numbers in the trial are too small to draw strong conclusions.’ 

Gilead plans to submit the full data of its most recent trial in a peer-reviewed journal in the coming weeks. 

Its first set of results, of almost 400 patients, were published The New England Journal of Medicine on May 27. 

The SIMPLE trial evaluated if there was a difference in how well remdesivir worked for hospitalised patients with severe Covid-19 given over five or ten days.

The pharmaceutical company reported that almost two-thirds of patients, or 129 out of 200 patients, recovered by day 14 after a five-day course of treatment.

The longer treatment time didn’t appear to provide any additional benefit, the company said. 

But the study lacked a placebo controlled arm, making the results difficult to interpret.

Remdesivir, which previously failed as a treatment for Ebola, is designed to disable the mechanism by which certain viruses replicate. 

It was thrust into the limelight as early as January – just a month after China reported the first case of the coronavirus – when the WHO listed it as ‘the most promising candidate’ for a Covid-19 therapy.

Trials have shown the medication can fight against SARS and MERS, cousins of the new coronavirus, in the lab and on animals.

Coronavirus: Remdesivir users 65% more likely to improve


Coronavirus patients in hospital may be 65 per cent more likely to see their condition improve if they are given the antiviral drug remdesivir, its manufacturer claims.

Gilead Sciences, a California-based company that developed the drug in a bid to tackle Ebola, today reported the promising results for Covid-19 patients.

After 11 days patients taking the drug showed small signs of improvement and, for reasons unclear, those were more noticeable if they had taken it for five days rather than 10. Other mixed trials, however, show it is still not a wonder drug.

But it is one that doctors have put great stock in – it last week became the first medicine to be approved for the NHS to use specifically to treat Covid-19.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the approval as the ‘biggest step forward’ so far in treatment of the disease, which has killed 39,000 Brits.

Although mixed findings in recent weeks appear encouraging on the surface, there are still a number of uncertainties around the experimental drug remdesivir.

Some experts warn the improvements seen in Covid-19 patients are only modest  when looking at the bigger picture. 

It may only work if given at a crucial early point of the disease and for a brief period, giving only a limited window for optimal treatment. 

And the support for reducing mortality is not compelling, with the largest study of 1,000 patients showing only a very marginal difference. 

Remdesivir, which was originally tested in Ebola patients, has emerged as a leading potential cure for the coronavirus pandemic

Gilead Sciences Inc, based in California revealed the findings of its phase three clinical trials today in a press release  before official publication in a medical journal

Gilead Sciences Inc, based in California revealed the findings of its phase three clinical trials today in a press release  before official publication in a medical journal

Results from Gilead's study showed that 76 per cent of patients in the five-day remdesivir trial had a clinical improvement in their condition by the 11th day of hospitalisation, compared to 66 per cent of people receiving only standard care. For patients taking the drug for 10 days the improvement rate was 70 per cent, which wasn't statistically significant. More people died in the no-remdesivir group, and around half of people taking the drug had side effects, the results showed

Results from Gilead’s study showed that 76 per cent of patients in the five-day remdesivir trial had a clinical improvement in their condition by the 11th day of hospitalisation, compared to 66 per cent of people receiving only standard care. For patients taking the drug for 10 days the improvement rate was 70 per cent, which wasn’t statistically significant. More people died in the no-remdesivir group, and around half of people taking the drug had side effects, the results showed

Gilead Sciences Inc revealed the findings of its phase three clinical trials today in a press release.

It did this before the results could be scrutinised by scientists and published in a medical journal – as it has with its other study results – to save time.

The ‘SIMPLE’ trial evaluated five-day and 10-day courses of remdesivir plus standard care, versus standard care alone. 

It was not compared against a placebo – placebos are fake drugs that are used to check that the effects of a medication are not caused by random chance or by the patient knowing that they are receiving medication.

Each group in the study included around 200 patients who were hospitalised with moderate Covid-19, meaning they were sick but not in intensive care.

Patients in the five-day remdesivir treatment group were 65 per cent more likely to have clinical improvement at day 11 compared with those in the standard care group. 

HOW HAS REMDESIVIR PERFORMED IN CLINICAL TRIALS?

1. The Adaptive Covid-19 Treatment Trial

How many people?

1,063, including 46 from the UK, over 70 hospitals globally.

What did it trial?

The placebo controlled study compared outcomes for hospitalised patients.

What did it find?

Patients given remdesivir had a recovery time that was almost a third (31 per cent) faster than those given a placebo.

Those who received remdesivir recovered four days faster (11 days) than similar patients who received placebo (14 days). 

Results also suggested a survival benefit, with a lower mortality rate of 7.1 per cent for the group receiving the drug, compared with 11.9 per cent for the placebo group. But this is not deemed a significant difference. 

Is it published? 

Yes, in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

2. Gilead Sciences’ Phase 3 SIMPLE-Severe trial

How many people? 

397 hospitalised patients

What did it trial?

The study compared a five-day course of the drug with a 10-day course treatment. It looked at rates of patients recovering to the point where they no longer needed oxygen support and medical care or were sent home from hospital. 

It was not a placebo controlled study. 

What did it find? 

The pharmaceutical company reported that almost two-thirds of patients, or 129 out of 200 patients, recovered by day 14 after a five-day course of treatment. 

The longer treatment time didn’t appear to provide any additional benefit, the company said. 

Is it published?

No. Gilead plans to publish the full data in a peer-reviewed journal in the coming weeks. A summary of the findings were published on its website. 

3. Gilead Sciences Phase 3 SIMPLE trial

How many people?

600 hospitalised patients with moderate disease, meaning they were not in ICU or on mechanical ventilation.

What did it trial?

There were three groups of 200 patients. Gilead evaluated five-day and ten-day courses of remdesivir plus standard of care, versus standard of care alone. It was not compared against a dummy drug.

What did it find?

Patients in the five-day remdesivir treatment group were 65 percent more likely to have clinical improvement at day 11 compared with those in the standard of care group.

The odds of improvement in clinical status with the 10-day treatment course of remdesivir versus standard of care were also 31 per cent higher. The statistic is favourable but does not reach statistical significance, meaning scientists can’t be certain the result is by chance.

Is it published?

Yes, it has now been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

4. The Chinese study, led by Professor Bin Cao, from China-Japan Friendship Hospital and Capital Medical University in China.

How many people?

237 hospital COVID-19 patients at ten hospitals in Hubei, China.

The study was supposed to recruit 400, but the trial was halted because not enough patients were available due to the epidemic being curbed in Wuhan.

What did it trial? 

It was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial – the golden standard – comparing recovery rates in patients either given remdesivir or a dummy drug.

What did it find?

Those on the placebo drug had similar outcomes to those given remdesivir. 

It took a shorter time for the remdesivir-treated patients to get better, 21 days compared with 23, but this is not statistically significant.

There was a one per cent difference in mortality rate between the two groups, which again, it’s not clear if this means anything important. 

Is it published?

Yes, in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet.  

Improvement was measured on a seven-point scale, where 1 was death and 7 was ‘not hospitalized’ at the end of 11 days. 

The odds of improvement in clinical status with the 10-day treatment course of remdesivir versus standard care were also 31 per cent higher.

The statistic is favourable but does not reach statistical significance, Gilead said.

Some 70 per cent of patients who received remdesivir for 10 days had improved by one point on the scale by day 11 – which is barely an improvement on the 66 per cent in the standard care group and compares to 76 per cent in the five-day treatment group.

It is not clear why those given a longer treatment course did not get better as quickly as those in the five-day group, but it is likely to raise questions.  

The only information given about whether remdesivir improved patients’ odds of surviving show there were no deaths in the five-day group, two in the 10-day group, and four among the patients who received only standard treatment. 

But this is only up to day 11 of treatment, so it’s not clear at this stage if any other deaths occurred later on. 

Scientists are sceptical about the results and say tougher trials are needed.

Professor Stephen Evans, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘We are all waiting for some good news about a therapy that works in Covid-19, but at the moment the evidence is thin and companies need to provide proper data rather than just press releases.

‘They need to share sufficient information for everyone to see what impact the drug has.’

Professor Evans explained that the drug appeared only to have made a small impact on recovery, and it was not clear whether people had died after the trial finished.

He added: ‘These improvements are not dramatic – they are not a “game changer” in the terrible jargon, but at least there is some genuine evidence of improvement. 

‘For the patients it is good news that few died, but the evidence therefore that remdesivir improves mortality in these patients is uncertain and limited.’      

Gilead’s stock is up almost 20 per cent this year due to rave reviews from scientists. But shares in the company slipped four per cent after the mixed findings were published today. 

‘These study results offer additional encouraging data for remdesivir, showing that if we can intervene earlier in the disease process with a five-day treatment course, we can significantly improve clinical outcomes for these patients,’ said Dr Francisco Marty, an infectious diseases physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.  

Dr Marty’s comments echo those of other scientists – that remdesivir appears to be effective the earlier it is given, although there is still research ongoing to confirm this. There is also limited data on whether it significantly improves the odds of dying. 

Despite this, in the UK, only a limited number patients with severe Covid-19 will get access to the drug. It will not be used to prevent the disease from worsening in its early stages. 

Dr Stephen Griffin, an associate professor in the School of Medicine, University of Leeds, said although the patients in the UK can access remdesivir, it cannot be seen as a ‘magic bullet’.

‘Rolling out remdesivir will likely mean that the most severe COVID19 patients will receive it first. Whilst this is clearly the most ethically sound approach, it also means that we ought not to expect the drug to immediately act as a magic bullet.’ 

Michael Yee, an analyst at New York based global investment banking firm Jefferies, said the improvements seen in the Gilead trial were only modest.

‘COVID-19 patients entering the hospital are likely to get the drug given there are no other major alternatives, but it is understood the drug is meant to be more helpful (and not a cure) in a moderate population, where patients are generally healthier and the mortality rate is expected to be very low,’ Yee wrote in a research note.   

The mortality rate by day 14 was 7.1 per cent in the group treated with remdesivir compared with 11.9 per cent in the placebo group. But this is not deemed a significant difference, meaning it could have been the result of chance.

More than 1,000 patients were recruited from 70 hospitals across the world for the Adaptive Covid-19 Treatment Trial. It included 46 patients from the UK. 

The results were published in the New England Medical Journal on May 22. But not before they were announced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) in the US, which is running the study, on April 29.

Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, said although the results weren’t a ‘knock out 100 per cent,’ it was an important proof of concept.

‘The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,’ he told reporters at the White House.

‘This is very optimistic, the mortality rate trended towards being better in the sense of less deaths in the REM designate group.’ 

He added that the trial was proof ‘that a drug can block this virus,’ and compared the finding to the arrival of the first antiretrovirals that worked against HIV in the 1980s, albeit with modest success at first. 

It led to an emergency use authorisation of remdesivir from the Food and Drug Administration on May 1.

However, a separate and less publicised trial of remdesivir carried out in China produced disappointing results.  

The randomised controlled placebo trial, seen as the gold standard of scientific evidence and the same as that reported by US officials, involved 237 people.

Chinese researchers launched two formal studies of remdesivir; one in severely ill patients, and another in people with milder disease, after Gilead agreed to supply remdesivir.

Those on the placebo drug had similar outcomes to those given remdesivir.

It took a shorter time for the remdesivir-treated patients to get better, 21 days compared with 23, but this is not statistically significant.

There was a one per cent difference in mortality rate between the two groups, meaning it didn’t shower a clear benefit in survival rates.

It was also noted that a larger number stopped their treatment because of adverse events while on remdesivir.

Some 66 per cent experienced side effects including constipation and anaemia – but the doctors still classed it as safe.

Professor Bin Cao, from China-Japan Friendship Hospital and Capital Medical University in China, who led the research, said it was not the outcome his team hoped for.

He said: ‘Unfortunately our trial found that, while safe and adequately tolerated, remdesivir did not provide significant benefits over placebo.’

The trial was stopped early because the researchers had difficulty recruiting people when the outbreak was curbed in Wuhan, and so the authors said the true effectiveness of remdesivir remains unclear. 

Commenting on the study, Professor Evans said: ‘The numbers in the trial are too small to draw strong conclusions.’ 

Gilead plans to submit the full data of its most recent trial in a peer-reviewed journal in the coming weeks. 

Its first set of results, of almost 400 patients, were published The New England Journal of Medicine on May 27. 

The SIMPLE trial evaluated if there was a difference in how well remdesivir worked for hospitalised patients with severe Covid-19 given over five or ten days.

The pharmaceutical company reported that almost two-thirds of patients, or 129 out of 200 patients, recovered by day 14 after a five-day course of treatment.

The longer treatment time didn’t appear to provide any additional benefit, the company said. 

But the study lacked a placebo controlled arm, making the results difficult to interpret.

Remdesivir, which previously failed as a treatment for Ebola, is designed to disable the mechanism by which certain viruses replicate. 

It was thrust into the limelight as early as January – just a month after China reported the first case of the coronavirus – when the WHO listed it as ‘the most promising candidate’ for a Covid-19 therapy.

Trials have shown the medication can fight against SARS and MERS, cousins of the new coronavirus, in the lab and on animals.

Britain announces more coronavirus deaths


Health chiefs today announced 115 more coronavirus deaths across the UK, as beaches and parks were swamped with thousands of Brits taking advantage of the scorching weather on the first day of lockdown being eased.

Department of Health bosses have yet to release the official Covid-19 tally, which is often higher. The preliminary toll is calculated by adding up all of the individual updates provided by each of the home nations.  

NHS England recorded 108 more patients had died in hospitals. Wales posted five new deaths across all settings, while Scotland and Northern Ireland registered one each – taking the official number of victims to 38,604. 

The UK yesterday announced 113 more Covid-19 deaths, the lowest since lockdown began on March 23 – when 74 deaths were registered.

But officials warn that death numbers released on Sundays and Mondays are usually significantly smaller due to a delay in processing fatalities over the weekend.

In other developments to Britain’s coronavirus crisis today: 

  • Some of the 2million pupils returning to primary school were turned away because headteachers ‘weren’t ready’ for them;
  • Britons were allowed to meet their friends for socially distant fun and games for the first time since March 23, with the easing of lockdown rules; 
  • Number 10 admitted the coronavirus alert level has still not been lowered, despite lockdown rules being eased in England;
  • IKEA shoppers at one store formed a giant three hour queue as the DIY furniture giant reopened 19 furniture sites across England;
  • NHS Covid-19 contact tracers said the system is ‘obviously not ready’ and admitted they have nothing to do all day – despite being paid up to £27-an-hour;
  • The Government’s plan to allow more than 2million vulnerable people outside lacks any scientific rationale and amounts to a PR stunt, an expert warned.

It comes as up to two million pupils were due to return to primary school today. But it was revealed this morning that some were turned away because headteachers ‘weren’t ready’ for them. 

Up to 1,500 primary schools in England are estimated to be defying the Government’s controversial plan to get all reception, year 1 and year 6 children back in the classroom from June 1.

Teachers have admitted they were ‘anxious’ to work and unions demanded the date be pushed back to June 15 at the earliest, amid fears the virus is still spreading at high levels.

Parents have revealed many schools will remain closed for at least another week or more, while some have not yet set a date at all.

At least two dozen councils have refused to reopen their schools or left it up to headteachers, who are trying to find ways to ensure social distancing and have enough teachers to teach ‘bubbles’ of up to ten children. 

MailOnline revealed there was confusion at several schools across London, with some parents arriving with their children only to be informed they couldn’t come in and had to go home again.  

In other developments, ministers are desperately trying to quell a backlash over easing lockdown today despite the coronavirus alert level not having been reduced.

With beaches and parks again swamped as people take advantage of scorching weather, Business Secretary Alok Sharma was forced to deny there is a ‘dash’ to get the country back up and running.

He insisted the new contact tracing system means measures can be tightened again in specific areas if there is a flare up.  

But Downing Street was forced to admit the alert level has still not been reduced from level four to three, even though the guidance suggested easing of lockdown is not possible until it was reduced.

Tories and top scientists have voiced alarm about the consequences of the tweaks in England – which include six people from different households being able to meet up in public places or gardens.

There are concerns it will be impossible to put the ‘genie back in the bottle’ if cases increase, with one MP telling MailOnline the government had gone from ‘baby steps to giant steps’ with nothing in between. 

The Government has frantically urged Britons to act ‘sensibly’ as they enjoy a host of new freedoms, following crowded scenes across the country yesterday before the overhaul officially came into force.   

People fill up the beach at Westbay in Dorset today as they take advantage of relaxation of the lockdown rules

People fill up the beach at Westbay in Dorset today as they take advantage of relaxation of the lockdown rules

Children  in Year 1 have their own desks in the modern Harris Academy Primary School in south London. Many headteachers with older schools say they don't have the space

Children  in Year 1 have their own desks in the modern Harris Academy Primary School in south London. Many headteachers with older schools say they don’t have the space

Essex: People queuing today at the Ikea store in Lakeside, Thurrock, which has reopened as part of a wider easing of lockdown restrictions in England

Essex: People queuing today at the Ikea store in Lakeside, Thurrock, which has reopened as part of a wider easing of lockdown restrictions in England

It came as Ikea stores across Britain today were seeing giant queues form outside, with customers forming three-hour queues as lockdown restrictions were eased.

The car park at Ikea in Wembley, north London, which was until recently a coronavirus test centre, was full of cars this morning as the store opened for business for the first time since the lockdown was imposed.

Aerial photos show hundreds of customers queuing around the block in the stifling heat to get into the shops in Nottingham, Reading and Essex, as the Government urged the country to act ‘sensibly’ amid restrictions being eased.

Massive lines of people could also be seen snaking around the car parks at the Swedish furniture giant’s branches in Wednesbury, West Midlands.

Some eager shoppers had been queuing from as early as 5.30am – over four hours before the store was due to open at 10am today.

Huge traffic jams were also reported in and around the areas as people flocked to their local branch following Boris Johnson’s further easing of lockdown restrictions. 

Contact tracers say the system is ‘obviously not ready’ and admit they have nothing to do all day


Contact tracers have warned the NHS system designed to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Britain is ‘obviously not ready’ – and revealed they are being paid up to £27-an-hour to do nothing. 

Health officials warned ‘key bits’ of the programme for England were not yet up-and-running when it went live on Thursday, four days ahead of the billed start date of June 1.

Scores of the 25,000 employees hired by the Government have come forward to say they have had no positive cases allocated to them since the launch, with one even suggesting there was a fault with the system. 

Contact tracers say the system remains ‘shambolic’ and unfit for purpose as millions of pupils return to school today. Workers last week also complained they hadn’t had any training by the time it launched and had waited weeks for log-in details. 

The tracing programme aims to halt the virus and control local flare-ups by asking anyone who has been in contact with a Covid-19 positive case to self-isolate for 14 days.

But there are concerns Britons will refuse to give friends or relatives details, and one call handler revealed two of the three potentially infected contacts she rang went straight to voicemail. 

The goal is to rapidly test anyone who logs Covid-19 symptoms – but antigen testing figures have barely budged in the past few days, and many Brits have to wait days to get their swab results. Around 8,000 Brits have been diagnosed with the disease since the system was launched.

The head of the NHS Test and Trace has said test timings need to improve, and top experts say the system will only work if cases are turned around quickly – otherwise the virus will continue to spread.

The Government has failed to reveal exactly how many people have been tested for eight days now, and has yet to provide information for how many people have been traced so far.   

A government diagram explain how the NHS Test and Trace system will work

Contact tracers say the system in England is 'obviously not ready' while admitting they are being paid up to £27 per hour to do nothing. Pictured, operators in Belgium

Contact tracers say the system in England is ‘obviously not ready’ while admitting they are being paid up to £27 per hour to do nothing. Pictured, operators in Belgium

The government insisted yesterday that the system was running efficiently and had the capacity to handle 10,000 new cases per day. For comparison, statistics suggest fewer than 8,000 Brits are being struck down each day.

Boris Johnson said the programme would be ‘world beating’ but evidence suggests the contact-tracing army has been left ill-prepared and, in many cases, workers have nothing to do – at a cost to the taxpayer of £1.6million per day.  

ONE IN TEN BRITONS WILL IGNORE SELF ISOLATION RULES 

At least 10 per cent of Britons will ignore requests to self-isolate when contacted by NHS Covid tracers, a health chief has warned.

Professor Isabel Oliver helped design the Government’s tracing app to track those who are at risk of being infected. 

The Director of the Field Epidemiology Service at Public Health England told the Sunday Telegraph that though most people are willing to comply, a minority will disobey instructions. 

It is thought that lockdown fatigue will cause people to ignore advice offered to them.

‘This has been a very prolonged outbreak,’ she said. ‘Invariably we find that everyone is very willing to help, but these are exceptional circumstances, with an outbreak that has been so prolonged and had such an extensive impact on the people’s lives, so it is understanding that some people will be resistant. 

‘But having said that we are finding that lots of people are supportive and we are very grateful for that because for the programme to be successful in controlling the virus – we need that support from the nation as a whole.’

Test and trace launched in England on Thursday and Professor Oliver’s team immediately hit a wall of IT problems.

But she stressed that any delays to having tracers logged in was down to the fact that the app is run on a ‘very secure system’.  

On a public Facebook group for clinical contact tracers, several reported spending most of their shifts waiting to be assigned cases through the system, called CTAS.

It is supposed to show the patients assigned to a tracer along with unassigned cases that can be picked up. 

One tracer said he had not had any cases on Saturday, while another said two of three calls she made went straight to voicemail, The Times reports. 

One of the 3,000 clinical case workers hired by Public Health England said she had completed three four-hour shifts, at £27-an-hour, but hadn’t made any calls yet. She told The Times: ‘I have had absolutely nothing to do.’ 

The nurse said she had seen ‘zero cases’ on the system throughout three shifts and felt ‘tremendously guilty about doing the shifts and being paid and not having anything to do really’.

‘It’s very obviously not ready,’ she said. ‘Something is not working between CTAS and the test results that are coming in.’

Another contact tracer said he was still waiting for login details to access training, and said the system had been ‘chaotic’.

His job as a ‘tier three’ call handler should be to ring the contacts of positive cases and tell them to self-isolate and curb the potential spread of Covid-19.

Details of those who test positive are passed to a company called Sitel, which is running the track and trace handling across the UK.

Agents read from a prepared script when they are given the name and telephone number of a person who has been diagnosed with Covid-19. 

They ask for the details of friends and family the infected person has come into contact with during the previous two weeks. 

The tracing agent then makes contact with those on their list and informs them they have to self-isolate.

One tracer said colleagues who were on shift were ‘sitting there all day waiting and just refreshing their screens’. He said: ‘They’ve got nothing to do.’

The public have not been given much confidence so far that they will not be phoned by a scammer and told to self-isolate.

When asked how members of the public can be sure a phone call is genuine, Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said it was ‘highly unlikely with all the confidentiality around the data systems that you will be contacted inappropriately by anyone’. 

Speaking at yesterday’s Downing Street briefing, she said: ‘I think it will be very obvious in the conversation you have with them that they are genuine in that regard. 

‘I think it will be very evident when somebody rings you these are professionally trained individuals and sitting over them are a group of senior clinical professionals.’  

It followed a warning from a health official that at least 10 per cent of Britons will ignore requests to self-isolate when contacted by NHS Covid-19 tracers, due to lockdown fatigue or having to keep working. 

Professor Isabel Oliver, who helped design the Government’s tracing app, told the Sunday Telegraph that though most people are willing to comply, a minority will disobey instructions.   

The government has so far refused to say exactly how many Brits have been contact traced.

Matt Hancock claimed the 200,000-a-day coronavirus testing target had been met yesterday – but the number of people who have actually been tested has not come close to that figure.

The Department of Health said only 115,725 tests had been carried out yesterday. But it has not been giving out the number for how many individuals were actually tested for eight days now. Some tests are carried out twice. 

The Health Secretary said the UK had the ‘capacity’ for 205,634 tests daily as of yesterday, describing it as ‘one of the greatest national mobilisations we have seen’. 

But the level was also only reached by including ‘capacity’ to conduct 40,000 antibody tests – which tell if someone has previously had the infection, and not if they have it currently. 

Scientists have repeatedly said the contact tracing system will only work if testing is rapid because the aim is to find and isolate contacts of a positive case before they become infectious and spread the virus to others. 

Head of NHS Test and Trace Baroness Dido Harding has said test timings have ‘got to get better and better’.

The launch in England on Thursday came as a shock to some workers who hadn’t been told what to do. Many contact tracers had no idea the system was launching that day. Others hadn’t completed basic training. 

‘People are panicking as there is no information on the websites/systems to make the calls,’ wrote one test and trace caller at 9.39am, on the day test and trace went live, in an internal chat seen by the Daily Mail. 

Others reported being sent their link for training at 8pm the night before the launch, while a manager said the instructions for what to do would ‘cascade’ down from the top on the day of the launch while admitting the process had been ‘frustrating’.

An internal chat seen by the Daily Mail says, 'People are also panicking as there is no information on the websites/systems for them to make the calls'

An internal chat seen by the Daily Mail says, ‘People are also panicking as there is no information on the websites/systems for them to make the calls’

BRITAIN ABANDONED TEST AND TRACE IN MARCH BECAUSE IT COULD ONLY HANDLE FIVE NEW CASES PER WEEK

Britain abandoned test and tracing for the coronavirus earlier in the pandemic because the system could only cope with five cases a week, it has emerged.

Official documents from the Government’s Sage advisory committee reveal that the routine testing and tracing of contacts of people with the virus was stopped because Public Health England was facing a desperate shortage of capacity.

Since the first Covid-19 cases were confirmed in York on January 31, 272,826 people in the UK have since tested positive for the virus. 

This week the Government launched the NHS England’s Test and Trace programme, with 25,000 contact tracing staff and the capacity to trace the 10,000 contacts per day.

The decision to scrap routine testing for those displaying symptoms 12 weeks ago is now being seen as a major factor for how the UK has the fifth-highest total number of infections. 

Sage documents show how, in a meeting on February 18, advisors said that Public Health England (PHE) could only manage the contacts of five Covid cases a week, hoping to possibly increase this to 50 people.

Minutes from the meeting say: ‘Currently PHE can cope with five new cases a week (requiring isolation of 800 contacts).

Some 10,000 call handlers were employed by Serco, one of which approached the Mail last week concerned that the system was catastrophically under-prepared. 

‘There’s absolutely no chance it’s ready,’ the 38-year-old whistle-blower from Manchester said. 

‘If it does happen [this week]… there will be catastrophic and continued failings from that day onwards. This is serious – it’s a pandemic, and lives are at risk. I’m genuinely worried about how we are about to be set loose on the public.’

On Thursday an ex-shop worker now paid £10-an-hour as an NHS coronavirus ‘track and tracer’ claimed she had nothing to do.

The call handler, who asked not to be named, told MailOnline she had been paid to sit and do nothing, and warned there was ‘nothing we can do’ about infected Brits who refuse to hand over the names and telephone numbers of people they came into close contact with.  

She said: ‘Everything is voluntary and if they refuse to give us the names and telephone numbers there is nothing we can do,’ said the track and trace agent.

‘We work from a script and try to persuade the person to be co-operative but if they hang up we just move on to the next person. It seems a major flaw, but there is nothing we can really do about it.’ 

One contact tracer told LBC radio on Friday it had been a ‘complete shambles’ so far, and they had not received their logon details for the site.

And before 11am, medical phone handlers reported that the system had crashed, and were greeted with the message that ‘this has been reported as a critical incident’. 

A Department of Health spokesman denied that the whole system had crashed.

‘Anyone in the country can log on and book a test if they have symptoms and we have tracers logged on to do their vital work to help stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives,’ the spokesman said.

‘As with all large scale operations of this kind, some staff did initially encounter issues logging on to their systems and these are rapidly being resolved.’

There are concerns about the fact the local aspect of the tracing system will not be ready until at least the end of June – as told to MPs by Baroness Dido Harding.

One of the contact tracers said she had not been told how to escalate cases, something she is required to do when there is a larger public health concern, such as if a Covid-19 patient has visited a care home or school.

It comes as reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils in England return to schools amid anxiety that the move has come too early. 

Several scientists have criticised major changes in the lockdown today, suggesting it is too early to lift restrictions and could cause infections to rapidly rise again. 

So what do you need to know about the NHS Test and Trace system for England? And how will it affect you and your loved ones?

Where do I get a coronavirus test? 

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms – a fever, cough or loss of smell and taste – can now apply to get tested for the infection through the NHS.

Officials offer Brits with tell-tale symptoms the chance to either test themselves at home, or to get swabbed at a drive-through centre. 

The test involves taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud.

Anyone going to get tested must drive themselves, or be taken to their local site by someone they live with to prevent unnecessarily spreading the virus.

The NHS says you can take up to three other people you live with to be tested at the same time.  

Home-tests – which involve you taking the swab yourself – are sent through the post and should arrive within 24 hours.  

Officials admit the test is best taken within five days of symptoms starting, and say that you may not get a test if you apply because of supply issues.

Essential workers, such as NHS or social care staff, apply to be tested on a different government-run website.  

How long will it be before I know if I have the coronavirus?

The aim of the scheme is to get all test results processed and returned within 24 hours but it is unlikely to hit that goal right at the start of the rollout. 

That means some people could face lengthy waits to find out if they have tested positive, potentially delaying the tracing process and allowing the virus to spread. 

Baroness Harding said of the test timings so far: ‘Yesterday, the turnaround time of our tests – we returned 84 per cent of all tests in our drive-in centres within 24 hours.

‘And 95 per cent of all tests within 48 hours. I still don’t think that’s good enough. It’s got to get better and better.’ 

Can employers ask for proof someone has been quarantined?

For the first seven days, employees do not need to offer their bosses any proof that they are sick or self-isolating.

But workers who have placed themselves in quarantine need to follow their firm’s usual sickness reporting policy, lawyers say.

Employers can seek evidence that a member of staff has been quarantined after a week off work, the government says.

Officials launched an NHS scheme that allows Brits to get an isolation note, in case they are asked for proof of absence from their employer.

Am I entitled to sick pay while I am self-isolating?

Many Brits who have no symptoms and can work from home will be expected to do so, if they are told to self-isolate.

But statutory sick pay (SSP) is available for people who are unable to carry out their job while they are self-isolating – either because they are sick or their job cannot be done at home.

The SSP – £95.85 a week – is available from the first day you are off and can be paid for up to 28 weeks. Before coronavirus, SSP was only a legal requirement on the fourth day of absence.

Many companies pay employees more than the SSP and have their own policies for how long this can be claimed for.

Workers on zero-hour contracts must prove they earn at least £120 per week before they can claim SSP. Those who earn under that threshold can access Universal Credit.

Brits who are self-employed cannot claim SSP but can apply for an Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if they are ill.

Who is a ‘close contact’?

A close contact is anyone who has been within two metres (6ft 6in) of the infected person for more than 15 minutes without protective equipment.

The government hopes the requirements of the system will focus the minds of the public on the importance of maintaining social distancing.

When the coronavirus app is up and running, the victim’s mobile phone should automatically identify anyone they have come close to.

Until that happens, patients will identify likely contacts via an online process.

What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Scotland has announced its own system will start today.

Wales’ system is set to start in early June, while Northern Ireland has its own version of the NHS Test and Trace system up and running.

Can I choose where to isolate if I have a small child?

The government is encouraging people not to follow the example of Boris Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings, who travelled to Durham during lockdown.

Officials want people to stay at home, while councils will offer support to parents who do not have relatives or friends who can help. 

A MailOnline chart explains how the new NHS Test and Trace system is expected to work

A MailOnline chart explains how the new NHS Test and Trace system is expected to work

Are there any pitfalls? If so, what are they?

Yes there are pitfalls. This scheme has been cobbled together as quickly as possible by ministers and officials working under extreme pressure.  

Experts immediately said the complexity of the programme meant there could be ‘several points of failure’ while the government’s political opponents said ministers should never have largely ditched contact tracing in the first place. 

Without the app, contact-tracking will be based on the say so of people who have tested positive. That means people will need to remember exactly where they have been and who they have been close in the days leading up to their positive test. 

If people forget or remember inaccurately who they’ve seen, the virus could spread. 

Baroness Harding told the Downing Street briefing: ‘We have 25,000 contact tracers ready to start work tomorrow – that is easily enough to trace down the contacts today when the vast majority of us are in lockdown.’

She said data from the Isle of Wight suggests people have been within two metres of fewer than five others at the moment.

How important is contact tracing to beating coronavirus?

The Royal Society believes that contact tracing reduces infection by up to 15 per cent and will miss cases, but even a marginal effect could be crucial in bringing the R infection rate below one and as close to zero as possible. 

However, world-leading experts from the prestigious scientific academy warned the scheme was ‘not a silver bullet’.

They said if compliance is low and testing times don’t come down, infection rates may only drop by 5 per cent. 

What happens if people refuse to isolate? Will they be fined? 

The government has said that it is relying on the British public to voluntarily self-isolate if they display symptoms of Covid-19.

But it has warned that it will impose penalties if people do not follow its orders. Spot checks could be made to households and fines could be issued.

It is not known how much people would be fined if caught flouting self-isolation. 

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care told MailOnline: ‘We are confident that the public will want to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus to keep themselves, their families and communities safe and to protect the NHS. This means complying with advice to self-isolate.

‘However, if we find that people are not complying with isolation instructions, we will not hesitate to introduce tougher measures, for example making visits to check they’re at home or issuing fines if they are found outside the house.’ 

At yesterday’s press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government is ‘confident’ that when told to self-isolate, people will, adding: ‘Now of course we could also mandate that, but in the first instance we’re not going to.

‘This will be voluntary at first because we trust everyone to do the right thing.

‘But, we can quickly make it mandatory if that is what it takes. Because, if we don’t collectively make this work, then the only way forward is to keep the lockdown.’

Could people end up having to self-isolate repeatedly? 

Yes. The government has discussed imposing ‘local lockdowns’ on whole towns if there are future regional flare-ups of coronavirus cases. 

Mr Hancock said that the ability to tighten restrictions in individual regions will be part of the NHS test, track and trace system.

This could lead to local schools, businesses or workplaces being closed in areas with high prevalence of infection, according to the government’s ‘exit strategy’.

However, part of the rationale for the Test and Trace system is to allow local, small-scale action to be taken where there appears to be an outbreak. 

Will I have to self-isolate if I’ve already had a positive antibody test?

Yes, even people who have tested positive for antibodies will have to adhere to the rules.

NHS and care homes workers have been receiving the tests, which scour the blood for the infection-fighting substances, over the past week.

Thousands of private antibody tests were also being sold to Britons on online pharmacies such as Superdrug. 

Antibodies are substances produced by the immune system in response to an infection, and their presence is thought to provide some protection against the illness.

But scientists are still uncertain how long this immunity lasts, or how much protection the COVID-19 antibodies provide.

Private antibody tests are also not 100 per cent accurate, meaning there are some people who will test positive but have never actually had the disease.

This might give them false confidence that they cannot be infected and prompt them to take unnecessary risks.

Will people who have had coronavirus be exempt from self-isolating if they come into contact with a new Covid-19 sufferer?

No. Even people who have had positive tests for coronavirus will have to stay at home for 14 days if they come into close contact with a new sufferer.

The government has said that the scientific advice remains that it is uncertain if people who have had the virus are immune to it. 

What checks are in place to stop it being open to abuse, or pretending to have the disease as a joke? 

The emphasis of the entire scheme is on testing people. So people claiming to have the disease will be tested. There will be very little wriggle room. 

Although if those who test positive fail or refuse to reveal who they have been in contact with, without the app there is very little the contact tracers can do to tell if people are telling the truth.

Who is in charge of the operation where I am? 

Councils and public health officials will be tasked with cracking down on local outbreaks of Covid-19, but it is not clear who will lead those efforts.

It is also not clear today how many staff members would be available to help or if local authorities will get extra funding and powers to act appropriately. 

Why not simply keep going the way we are?    

Though the government claims that lockdown has dramatically reduced Covid-associated deaths, the national restrictions are destroying the economy.

Millions of workers have been furloughed by small businesses and big companies since tough restrictions on movement were introduced by the government.

Over half of the adult population of the UK is now being paid by the state in some capacity, whether in the public sector, on furlough, or benefits.

Business and companies have received hundreds of billions of pounds in emergency loans to date from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

But this state of affairs cannot continue forever.

Economists estimated in early April that lockdown, which began on March 23, is costing Britain around £2.4billion per day.

The Bank of England forecast that UK GDP contracted by two per cent in the first quarter, and is set to shrink by 30 per cent in the second quarter.

Bank staff believe the economy could ‘bounce’ by around 15 per cent by the end of the year, meaning the UK would be around 15 per cent poorer than before lockdown.

Faced with what the Bank called the biggest economic nosedive in 300 years, the government is trying to restart the engines of UK plc.

The PM has committed himself to bringing Britain out of lockdown safely by managing the risk to public health posed by coronavirus.

The NHS Test and Trace system is meant to help do just that. 

Mr Hancock told the press briefing: ‘Until an effective treatment or vaccine comes through how can we get back to doing more of the things that make life worth living without risking safety or putting lives at risk? NHS Test and Trace is a big part – not the only part – but a big part of the answer to that question.’ 

What is this app people are talking about? 

The NHS Trace and Test system is being launched without its NHS contact-tracing app centrepiece, prompting concerns that without the new technology the government could struggle to tackle the spread of Covid-19. 

Experts believe the app will be crucial to the success of the programme because it can identify contacts much quicker than human contact tracers. 

The smartphone app uses bluetooth to register other phones it has been near for a prolonged period of time. A date has not been set for the nationwide roll out of the app but without it contact tracing will not be as swift as it would be with it. 

Matt Hancock said it is ‘not technical problems’ which are preventing the test and trace app from being rolled out nationwide.

He said: ‘It is that one of the things we learnt about in the Isle of Wight is that rolling out the system where people are asked to isolate, even if they have no symptoms, starts better when it comes in human form from the contact tracers.’

Mr Hancock added that ‘the app is working in the Isle of Wight’, and said that when the government has ‘successfully embedded’ the new NHS Test and Trace system, ‘then that is the time to bring the app to bear’.

He continued: ‘Because the app is a compliment to this system, even without it this system would be successful, but it is a compliment because there are some contacts that you don’t know that you might have made.’

Have other countries used contact tracing?

South Korea has monitored credit card transactions, CCTV footage and mobile phone locations, while Singapore has used police investigations and detective work to piece together where people have been and who they’ve seen.

Iceland saw 40 per cent of the population download its app, though its government says manual tracing is just as important.

Austria introduced a decentralised app operated by the Red Cross, which users can manually control. It was the first to roll out this app. 

How long will the contact tracing scheme run for?

Ministers have not put a time limit on the programme, but it will likely remain in place in some form until a vaccine is developed – which might not be until 2021.

Government scientists are studying how much immunity people have against coronavirus if they’ve previously been infected.

If it turns out that they are completely immune for months then people who have already had the disease may not have to adhere to the rules. 

What class as symptoms of coronavirus? 

Anyone with a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a change in their sense of smell or taste is asked to immediately book a test.

But researchers have linked 11 other symptoms to the virus, including fatigue, chest pain and diarrhoea.

Experts have previously accused ministers of ‘missing the ball’ by only listing three official symptoms.

Five new drugs to be trialled on NHS Covid-19 patients 



Bemcentinib

Who makes it?

It’s a tablet developed by the Norwegian company BerGenBio. It’s known as an AXL kinase inhibitor.

What have studies shown?

Bemcentinib is likely to have been chosen because lab tests have shown it has potent anti-viral activity against several enveloped viruses, including Ebola and Zika virus.

Preliminary data suggest bemcentinib is potentially useful for the treatment of early SARS-CoV-2 infection.

How does it work? 

Lab studies by the University of Iowa found the pill can boost immune response and switch off AXL receptors, which when turned on, allow the virus to enter and multiply in lung cells. 

The number of AXL receptors increases when their environment is stressed, particularly when viruses start multiplying in the body. When AXL receptors are hijacked by invading viruses, the cell’s antiviral powers are switched off and it becomes defenceless to the disease.

Blocking AXL receptors also prompts a type I interferon response, alerting the body to the coronavirus and calls for more immune cells to attack it. 

What does it usually treat?

Bemcentinib was being trialled against cancers, including adult acute myeloid leukemia and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). But it is not approved as a treatment in any country. 

MEDI3506

Who makes it?

MedImmune, a subsidiary of drug giant AstraZeneca. The anti-inflammatory injection is an interleukin-33 inhibitor.

What have studies shown?

No results from Covid-19 patients have been released yet.

How does it work?

Interleukin-33 (IL-33) is a cytokine involved activating the immune system. It acts as an alarm signal to alert various types of immune cells to trauma.

An IL-33 inhibitor such as Medi3506 acts to dampen down the cytokine storm as a result of the immune system going into overdrive in response to an infection.

What does it usually treat?

It’s being tested for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dermatitis, and diabetic kidney disease.

Acalabrutinib

Who makes it?

Calquence, generic name acalabrutinib, is produced by British company AstraZeneca. It is a Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor.

What have studies shown?

Calquence was given to a small number of COVID-19 patients at the Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington. Experts observed it had ‘some clinical benefit’.

AstraZeneca, headquartered in Cambridge, said ‘clinical benefit was observed in select patients with advanced lung disease’.

How does it work?

COVID-19 can kill when it sparks an aggressive immune response that scars the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

BTK inhibitors blocks the BTK protein which triggers immune responses. The immune response can go haywire following infection which leads to a so-called cytokine storm. A cytokine storm eventually begins damaging the body itself and, if left unchecked, can be fatal.

By suppressing the exaggerated defence mechanism, it may prevent the virus from damaging the lungs.

Jose Baselga, head of oncology research and development at AstraZeneca, told Forbes: ‘The science of acalabrutinib and, I think more than that, of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase situation, is pretty strong. The mechanism is very clear.’

What does it treat?

It’s a medication used to treat a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma known as mantle cell lymphoma. It works by blocking BTK that contributes to cancer cell growth and survival.

Zilucoplan

Who makes it?

A drug injected under the skin developed by the Belgian company UCB. The treatment was developed originally by Ra Pharmaceuticals.

What have studies shown?

Nothing has been released for Covid-19 so far.

How does it work?

Zilucoplan is a synthetic molecule designed to bind and inhibit portions of the immune system called the complement system. The complement system is made up of a large group of blood proteins that are involved with the immune system but can kill cells and lead to catastrophic lung and tissue damage.

‘A lot of the damage is focused on the blood cells and the very small blood vessels in the lung,’ Dr Wilkinson said. 

By blocking the complement system, zilucoplan may be able to reduce the attack of healthy tissues in the lung, preventing worsening of Covid-19.

What has it been used for?

It has shown to improve myasthenia gravis, a skeleto-muscular disorder, in ongoing clinical trials.

Heparin

Who makes it?

Heparin is an ingredient sold in many different products, marketed as Fragmin, Monoject Prefill Advanced and Innohep.

What have studies shown?

No results have been published yet. It will be given to Covid-19 patients for the first time next month.

How does it work?

Blood clotting problems have emerged in severe and critically-ill COVID-19 patients, affecting the lungs, heart and brain. Some patients are dying from heart attacks or strokes, a complication of the virus.

It’s left doctors considering whether blood thinners should be given to certain patients during their stay and afterwards.

In a number of conditions, heparin has been shown to ‘have a dramatic effect in the lung’ when taken with a nebuliser, said Wilkinson. ‘It is a big sticky molecule which can attach to viruses and stop them from entering cells and secondly it may have an important anti-inflammatory effect,’ he said.

What has it been used for?

Heparin is a blood thinner used to treat and prevent blood clots caused by certain medical conditions. It is also used before surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots.

It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system.