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Coronavirus – Public Health Updates


Update from The Mental Health Foundation – 01 April 2020

Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current Coronavirus (COVID-19), can be scary and can affect our mental health. While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to support and manage our wellbeing during such times. Read their guidance here.


Update from Public Health England (27/03/20)

Ensuring that frontline clinicians are safe is crucially important and the PPE guidance, jointly developed with the NHS and the devolved administrations, is kept under constant review and there will be a further communication on this shortly.

There are around 1.5 million people who face the highest risk from coronavirus. These are extremely vulnerable people due to their very specific and serious health conditions and are the people we need to support and protect the most. We cannot stress enough the importance of shielding as a strategy to protect the extremely vulnerable during this unprecedented outbreak, with the most important measure being to stay at home at all times for at least 12 weeks and strictly reduce the number of individual contacts whenever possible.

NHS England is writing to every person in this category to provide information about how to access care and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, working with local government, has set out several new services to support them, including a helpline and a new Local Support System that will make sure that those who are self-isolating at home and without a support network of friends and family receive what they need. You can access PHE’s guidance on shielding here.

It is phenomenal that more than 640,000 people have already signed up to volunteer to support the NHS, playing a crucial role in delivering food and medicines, driving patients to appointments, and phoning people to check they are alright during their time at home.

Staff survey

And finally, the Government has this week published the results of the 2019 Civil Service People Survey including for PHE. There is much to be encouraged by these with our highest response rate so far at 81% and a further overall improvement in the staff engagement index, which is the benchmark for whether colleagues feel we are getting most things right. But there are of course themes for improvement and areas of our organisation that need more attention and we shall definitely focus on these. The whole organisation response to COVID-19 speaks to the strength and breadth of our contribution and I am immensely proud of this and our people. The importance of respect, decency and kindness, looking after and out for each other could not be clearer and this matters very much to me.


Update from Public Health England (13/03/20)

Critical in our response to the COVID-19 outbreak is not only what we do, but when we do it. Taking the right combination of steps at the right time based on scientific evidence is important for many reasons, most notably in ensuring that they have as positive an impact as possible and are sustainable.

The most significant development this week was the Prime Minister’s decision to move into the delay phase, and with this we are advising anyone with a new continuous cough or a high temperature to stay at home and not leave for 7 days from the onset of these symptoms. This very important action will help protect others in the community while they are infectious. To ensure that you can all make a difference, plan ahead and ask your employer, friends and family to help you get the things you need. You can find out everything you need to know about staying at home in our guidance for people with confirmed or possible COVID-19 infection.

We also launched on Tuesday the COVID-19 tracking dashboard, which shows reported cases of coronavirus in the UK, new cases confirmed each day, cases by upper tier local authority in England and the number of UK deaths due to coronavirus. Recovery numbers will be included from next week. The dashboard has had 2 million clicks so far, which is further evidence that this is the number one concern for the country. It will continue to be developed, and feedback would be appreciated.

A laptop screen showing Coronavirus tracking in the UK


Update from Public Health England 14/02/20:

This week, we have seen the novel coronavirus outbreak continue to escalate and the World Health Organisation has officially named the disease COVID-19. Five further patients in England tested positive for the infection this week, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to nine. Two of these five were healthcare workers, resulting in PHE asking a number of other healthcare colleagues to take precautionary and preventative action and self-isolate. I would like to thank the NHS in Sussex in particular this week for their professionalism in the way they responded to these cases locally.

Public Health England Logo

PHE now has a very extensive and complex contact tracing operation underway with health protection teams around the country diligently talking to people that might have been in close contact with carriers of the virus to assess their risk, provide advice and ultimately prevent further spread. You can read an explanation about our approach to contact tracing in this blog.

On Thursday, the first cohort of people repatriated from China left the Arrowe Park Hospital facility in Wirral, where they have been in supported isolation since returning to the UK. Colleagues from PHE, NHS England, Wirral Council and indeed the surrounding community in the Wirral have done a superb job at supporting people in these difficult circumstances. This sincere message of thanks says it all.


Update from Public Health England 13/02/20:

The novel coronavirus outbreak continues to evolve and yesterday we had our third confirmed case. On Friday last week, a Foreign Office-chartered aircraft carrying 83 British nationals arrived in the UK from Wuhan and this week a further 11 people returned. They are currently spending 14 days in supported quarantine, which is one of the many precautionary measures being actioned to protect the UK and has involved a herculean effort by national government, the NHS, the emergency services and PHE. We have also launched a UK-wide public information campaign with advice on how people can protect themselves and their families from the infection.

Critical work is also being carried out in our specialist laboratories and this week, PHE sequenced the viral genome from the first two positive cases in the UK and made it available to the scientific community. Our findings suggest that the virus has not evolved in the last month. The government has pledged £20 million to support the international Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus, with the aim of advancing 2019-nCoV vaccine candidates into clinical testing as quickly as possible. This funding will also support a better epidemiological and clinical understanding of the virus. PHE will be contributing to this with the full panoply of our talent, capabilities and knowledge.

The Secretary of State, Matt Hancock MP, announced this funding on his visit to our Porton Down campus, where he saw unique UK scientific capability to work with the novel coronavirus and test potential vaccines when they become available, as well as state of the art new laboratories that produce a world-leading treatment for childhood leukaemia.

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