‘Much better data and technology’ to aid UK in fight against new coronavirus, PM says

The number of confirmed cases in the UK went up to nearly 2,000 on Tuesday.
By Leontina Postelnicu
06:43 AM

More testing, more beds, further support for health and care staff and “much better” data and technology will be key in increasing the capacity of the NHS as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to increase in the UK, prime minister Boris Johnson said yesterday.

The PM gave an update on the government’s approach to tackling the pandemic in a second daily televised press conference following widespread criticism during the weekend over a lack of transparency and communication with the public.

On Monday, Johnson told Britons to avoid restaurants, pubs and non-essential travel and contact with others. The advice, he continued, was “particularly important” for pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and people over the age of 70.

The PM also advised households to self-isolate for 14 days if one person developed a fever or a continuous cough, and warned yesterday that the UK might have to go “further and faster” over the next couple of days to deal with the new threats.

“To beat this crisis, we will need a combination of better science, technology, medicine, data, government operations, economic support, learning from other countries and social support,” Johnson said. “As time goes on, we will learn more and more about the disease and the effects of our actions. And while we need national unity, we also need international cooperation. And although we now need to impose physical distance between ourselves, we must at the same time have closer social support for each other.”

Today, NHS England and NHS Improvement released a letter sent to providers by chief executive Sir Simon Stevens and chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard, setting out a set of actions to support staff and help the NHS free up inpatient and critical care capacity, prepare and respond to an anticipated large number of COVID-19 patients, which can be seen here.

These include considering how staff, otherwise healthy, that are at higher risk of severe illness from the new coronavirus could support the delivery of digital consultations, 111 and more.

THE LARGER PICTURE

As of the morning of 17 March, over 50,000 people had been tested in the UK, with 1,950 cases confirmed as positive. Globally, according to the World Health Organization, there were over 179,100 cases and 7,400 deaths.

The crisis has seen a number of companies work to introduce new tools that would support countries in their efforts to tackle the pandemic, and some manufacturers have introduced products for diagnosis in community settings.

However, Public Health England, an executive agency of the department of health and social care, warned against their use.

“There is little information on the accuracy of the tests, or on how a patient’s antibody response develops or changes during COVID-19 infection. It is not known whether either a positive or negative result is reliable. Currently there is no published evidence about the suitability of these tests for diagnosing COVID-19 infection in a community setting,” the agency said on Sunday.

At the same time, providers including Sheba Medical Center have turned to the use of telehealth to help care for patients while limiting the risk of potential transmission.

At Healthcare IT News and MobiHealthNews, we have been keeping tracking of the health tech world’s response.

But we also know that the current situation might take its toll on one’s mental health, and we have compiled a list of digital mental health companies’ efforts to help reduce anxiety as communities face lockdown and social distancing measures.