The real severity of the UK’s coronavirus outbreak – BBC Newsnight

published on July 26, 2020

Sadly of those in hospital 12100 and seven people have now died another day another politician standing at this lectern with bad news to tell but today away from this room new figures published by the Office for National Statistics shed more light on just how

Abnormal these times are the pink line on this graph shows how many people die on average in each week of the year the blue line is 2020s figure but just look at what happened in the week running up to the 3rd of April and extra 6000

People died in England and Wales when it came up with this huge spike I thought that this week in terms of the total deaths not just the kurby deaths I was personally very upset I don't think I've ever been quite as moved of a shock at a

Data being portrayed before and I'm a statistician I look at data all the time of those 6080 2 extra deaths three thousand four hundred and seventy five mentioned kovat 2607 didn't one possibility is that Cova deaths are

Simply being missed the big question is why would deaths go up which are not labeled as coded and the first one I think that people would come to is that maybe these are associated with coded and at the moment

The Office for National Statistics reports that less than 10% of Cova deaths are out of hospital in care homes or at home or in hospices maybe that figure is a lot bigger but doctors have been not putting coded on the death

Certificate because the patient won't have been tested so they can't be confident but there are other troubling theories to remember this if too many people become seriously unwell at one time the NHS will be unable to handle it

One explanation raises the specter that this colossal attempt to protect the NHS could be having an unintended and detrimental impact on medical care more generally so of course as you'd expect this is Ron Daniels in normal times is

An intensive care doctor in the West Midlands and what he's noticed is a worrying trend normally in my day job as an intensive care consultant I would expect to see at least a patient a day referred to as with sepsis in the last

Few weeks I haven't had a single referral of a critically ill patient with sepsis and that's alarming where are those patients many health professionals I've spoken to are really worried that people are suffering in

Silence they're staying at home they're deteriorating they're ignoring their symptoms because they're fearful of going to hospital because they're fearful they might contract kovat 19:00 and they're fearful that might be a

Death sentence which of course is not true they may be a significant number of people not turning up at healthcare which is what we're really concerned about and seeking out because they really scared about engaging with

Healthcare right now put that all together and the size of the excess you've got a significantly concerning issue that's happening right now if we look again at the graph showing a spike in the most recent deaths the blue line

Shows that for much of this year that's what actually below the five-year average some believe that could be important too if you go back to 2017-18 there were 50,000 excess deaths in that winter alone come to this year we've had

Quite a mild winter the weather's been good we haven't had a significant influenza outbreak the vaccine seemingly work so in the last eight or nine weeks we've been trending very much under and that means a significant number of

People who are vulnerable who are elderly who are frail might be in a position now when they get hit by the conrod they're very susceptible to it there's a lot about the effects of coronavirus that we just don't know we

Still don't know the true extent of how badly care homes have been hit for example but perhaps one of the areas we know least about is how this unprecedented lockdown is affecting the general health of our nation James

Keating well if much is as yet unclear one government pronouncement was cast-iron the health secretary Matt Hancock told us that by April 30th there will be a hundred thousand tests a day that would surely inform decisions on

The lockdown we are just over two weeks away from that deadline James is here again where are they worth testing one of the interesting figures that came out of that briefing today was that yesterday

The government carried out 14900 tests now we plotted that track that from the last week and essentially the government hasn't done that much the last time a few weeks now or in the last week now you might expect considering their

Targets 100,000 for them to remain a bit more progress than this but they haven't now one senior NHS source told me today that this is all about the antibody test if they can make that work they can scale er up quickly but at the moment

That antibody test isn't accurate enough now obviously testing is key to ending this lockdown Boris Johnson said he wanted 250,000 tests last month but at the moment we're we're simply nowhere near that and I think if the government

Is going to hit this 100,000 targets in the last couple of weeks its increased the number of tests by a few thousand in the next couple of weeks it's going to have to increase it by 85,000 and that's quite a task 85,000 of which how many

Would be expected to be the test for the existing condition and the tests for the antibody in terms of the antibodies right now as far as we can see there is no answer body tests in terms of all of those figures that you've just seen they

Do not include antibody tests thank you very much indeed well we did ask for a government minister tonight but none was available I'm joined now by the former Conservative health minister Philip done and by dr Clare when I'm assistant

Professor of global health policy at the London School of Economics thank you both very much for coming Claire could we just begin on that question of testing in your assessment is the government going to be able to hit that

Promise in two weeks I just don't know how they can I think my main concern is and following the montage that we just had is that there's just that is nowhere near that number yet and we don't simply have the same infrastructure and

Laboratory capacity as some of the countries which are really leading the way in this like South Korea and Germany so I mean I hope I hope they can but I'm not hopeful they will well Philip done just coming to you and

The problem with that was so much is uncertain but it was an absolute promise by Matt Hancock what do you think the chances of delivering an 85,000 increase daily increase in two weeks time well I agree with Claire that

We start in a very different place to a number of other countries with limited laboratory capacity in this country and what what is happening the government are putting enormous efforts into generating additional testing capacity

And we've got these super labs which are capable that will be capable of conducting tens of thousands of tests a day it's just starting to come on stream so I understand that match to open at the end of last fall with an antibody

Test well this is the two types of tests a hundred thousand included all types of testing including the swab test to see if people currently have the disease and that's what will be happening initially there's there's Manchester then sorry

There's Milton Keys is the one that came on last week matches and Glasgow coming on stream in coming days so clear if I could just talk to you about what this the promise the strategy and so forth you would have liked to have seen the

Government pursuit until now well I don't know why the government haven't been listening to the guidance coming out of the World Health Organization dr Ted Ross was very clear that it was test test test and the countries that we've

Seen getting out of this situation and the lockdown sooner than others or in fact never going into a full lockdown they followed a very simple strategy of testing isolating those who are who were infected and then and then contact

Tracing who they've been in contact with but Phillip down in a way I want clear seeing as we almost had I would hate to call a luxury but you know we had you know 10 or 12 days when we could watch other countries South Korea Taiwan and

So forth and and inform our policy from them but we didn't do that that early well I think that's not right we've been looking to develop the tests ever since we it became clear that this pandemic was going global

Some countries have undertaken different measures to us at slightly different timescales some of them are seeing a second peak so Japan has gone into a second phase of lockdown I understand I think the critical issue here as Claire

Was saying earlier is the antibody test there is I understand some laboratory testing of antibodies going on Public Health England's lab important down but there is not yet a commercially viable

Antibody test available in this country and it can correct me if I'm wrong but I'm not sure it's available in any other country and until that is available we're not going to be able to tell who's had the disease and that is going to

Have an impact on our ability to relax the restrictions well that kind of brings us to a possible exit strategy the government claims tonight a request for information on that exits strategy or possible exit strategy from a kir

Storm of the Labour leader the government claims tonight that it cannot lay out the exit strategy because the critical message is that people have to stay at home so you can't have both the exit strategy and the message people

Haven't had a distinct but I put it to you that that actually is a bit patronizing given that there's been a 90% adherence to both social distancing and to isolation so why can't we trust the public with information I think that

The public had behaved magnificently in the way they responded to the government guidance and in a particularly over this last Easter weekend with you know very unseasonable good weather people have been very responsible and by and large

Staying at home as requested I think it's very important for the government to give a clear I'm not a mixed message so until we see the curve flattening possibly the rate of hospital admissions starting to come down which will then

Lead in due course to the death rates coming down we cannot relax the measures prematurely social distancing yeah no that that that may be in fact what happens but we've had almost a month of that and what I'm saying is that people

Are very well aware of how to keep themselves safe how to keep their friends and neighbors safe and as you say really complying admirably so why not tell them about the exit strategy surely they have a right to know I think

We can we can talk about the exit strategy and start give messages about how real restrictions can be relaxed once we're in a position to know that this can start to happen in a matter of days if

You if you give too much lead-in time you're giving a mixed confused message and that will be very difficult for the public to to follow is it difficult for the public to follow clear Wenham I don't think it is difficult for the

Public to follow I think we need to give the public more credit people are intelligent people can understand that this week we're still doing social distancing and stay at home and next week things might change or the week

After or whatever the exit strategy says but I think this speaks more broadly to the the Tory government's approach over the last few years of very simple three word messages take back control for example at no stay at home is a very

Simple message and I think that's just the Tories approach to doing this rather than giving people the due credit they deserve besides this Claire this was a clear message stay at home it's working so so let's look at you know people are

Very well aware of what is happening around the world and I want just to focus on one area which could provide maybe a bit of progress which is the question of masks now we know that in Taiwan population of 26 million fewer

Than a thousand cases very few deaths right from the get-go they wore masks clear in terms of reducing transmission slowing the spread I got a simple cloth mask washed at night you know even reinforced paper would it make a

Difference if everybody adhered to that idea in conclusive evidence on this at the moment so I don't think we should be rushing to do that what I think it can do however is remind people about social distancing if you're seeing her in the

Street wearing a mask you might you know remind yourself that actually we do need to stay further apart but I'm not sure from a public health perspective its yet been demonstrated to be effective so sorry guidelines on this

Kirsty so I think Claire's right on this point it's not conclusive can I make a point on masks I think we've heard from some of the social care providers in particular about the price increases that they're seeing from commercial

Providers and I'd make a plea to the government if I may that v80 on visors and face marks and other protective equipment at this particular time should be scrapped let's just stick with that idea that actually it's about

Preparedness and actually might be for future pandemic ideas such as you put forward but the whole question of future preparedness we weren't really prepared for this there was a modeling exercise when your boss Jeremy Hunt was health

Secretary 2016 and it showed that there were shortages that we just didn't have either the ventilators or even I would say the PPE that we absolutely needed should we have moved faster was that a mistake well we've had had a pandemic

Stockpile in case of pandemics and it was that was what was one of the things that's tested in 2016 undoubtedly with the benefit of hindsight had we known that this was going to be a global pandemic which was going to be of

Unprecedented scale we would have done something differently but we've we've not had a pandemic of this order for a hundred years and to prepare on the on the off-chance you know if we we would have to do so again I'm sure we'll learn

Lessons from this but I don't think the steps that were taken following the routine testings of the NHS in coping with with pandemics affecting this country that we that we would have done things that differently clearly lots of

Things have come up about in terms of distribution and the one of the things that Matt Hancock has arranged since he's taken charge of the NHS response to this has been to introduce a whole new system of distribution mobilizing the

Military to help get kit to the 58,000 different healthcare settings including social care right around the country thank you both very much indeed

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