THE GMB union has slammed as both ‘scandalous and incompetent’ reports that the government sought, at the start of the Covid pandemic, to make self-isolation as hard as possible.
GMB National Officer Rachel Harrison promptly responded: ‘Lives will likely have been lost, and higher infection rates will cost the NHS and employers far more in the long run.
‘Poverty sick pay rates are causing higher infection rates in care homes and other workplaces,’ she continued. ‘We have one of the lowest Statutory Sick Pay rates in Europe – and reform is long overdue.’
She also went on to emphasise: ‘Suppressing advice on furlough eligibility during self-isolation is scandalous and incompetent.’
She continued: ‘We need to know whether Ministers approved the decision to withhold this advice. An urgent investigation should be established, with accountability to Parliament.
‘This reinforces the case for a recovery based on stronger rights and valuing workers properly.’
Meanwhile, the latest weekly Covid-19 Surveillance Report has just been produced.
- Surveillance indicators suggest that at a national level Covid-19 activity increased in week 23 of 2021.
- Case rates per 100,000 increased in all age groups, ethnic groups and regions.
- The number of acute respiratory infection incidents (suspected outbreaks) in England was 327 in week 23, compared to 287 in the previous week.
- Case rates continued highest in those aged 20 to 29, with a case rate of 195.9 per 100,000 population.
- The lowest case rates were in those aged 80 and above, with a rate of 9.6 per 100,000 population.
- Case rates per 100,000 increased across all regions.
- Case rates per 100,000 were highest in the north west, at 196.9.
- Case rates per 100,000 were lowest in the east of England, with a rate of 37.0.
- Seroprevalence data indicate that around 79.1% of the population have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 from either infection or vaccination, compared to 14.8% from infection alone.
- The hospital admission rate for Covid-19 has risen – it was 1.48 per 100,000 in week 23, compared to 1.13 per 100,000 in the previous week.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Strategic Director for Covid-19 at Public Health England said: ‘People are understandably concerned about whether you can catch Covid-19 more than once.
‘While we know that people can catch viruses more than once, these data currently suggest that the rate of Covid-19 reinfection is low.
‘However, it is important that we do not become complacent about this and it is vital to have both doses of the vaccine and to follow the guidance at all times to reduce your chance of any infection.
‘We continue to learn more each day about this virus and its variants.
‘Through continued close monitoring and research we will understand how best we can control outbreaks and the impact this virus will have on society over the coming years.’
These data show reinfections from June 2020 up until the end of May 2021 and Public Health England will continue to look at the impact of vaccines and severity of illness in reinfections.
Current evidence suggests that most reinfections will not cause symptoms.
Work is ongoing to better understand the factors that make someone more likely to catch Covid-19 again, and the impact of vaccine status.
There is currently no evidence that the Delta variant, or any other Variants of Concern, are more likely to cause reinfection than others, but we will closely monitor this.
- The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has published expert opinions on the introduction of daily contact testing trials in schools.
Experts have warned that these trials are in fact ‘unethical’.
An open letter has urged the government to suspend the trials immediately.
The open letter to Tory Education Minister Gavin Williamson states that a large group of healthcare professionals, scientists, MPs, educational bodies, parents, and caregivers call on the government to suspend these trials immediately, saying ‘the risks and potential consequences are very serious.’
They welcome the principle of conducting research to reduce school absences associated with Covid-19, and understand the appeal of a study evaluating the effectiveness of regular lateral flow testing in schools as an alternative to 10-day isolation for contacts of cases.
But they argue that these trials fail to meet several requirements in good clinical practice guidelines, such as sufficient information about how the trials are carried out, and what would happen should there be any significant safety concerns.
They outline several concerns including:
- Risks due to missed infections by lateral flow tests in schools.
- Inadequate informed consent.
- Lack of consideration and communication of possible harms.
- Additional risks to children, staff and families posed by the spread of the delta variant.
- Lack of robust mitigations (masks, ventilation, smaller bubbles, outdoor learning) in schools.
These concerns have become even greater in the light of the dominance of the delta variant and recall of the INNOVA lateral flow test following investigations by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they explain.
‘In light of the above, we ask the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to suspend these trials immediately, pending adoption of comprehensive mitigations and to allow time to prepare and provide vital clarity to students, families, teachers, the wider public and the scientific community about the scientific justification and ethical considerations for these trials,’ they write.
‘We would be very concerned about results from these trials being used as the basis for any public health policy, given the assessment of risk of increased transmission arising from these trials is inadequate.’
They add: ‘It is deeply concerning that the daily contact testing trials are being presented as a solution for educational disruption when so little has been done in the way of basic and highly effective mitigations that would help reduce educational disruption, and investment in catch-up learning to address inequities created by this.’
‘Keeping potentially infected and infectious children and staff in school may make attendance numbers look better for the short term, but the risks and potential consequences are very serious,’ they conclude.