The Defence from Covid 19, the Last few Weeks

This is a war. The last few weeks have been our Dunkirk moment. It’s been all about retreat, protect and defend.

This week, 2 million tests rapid 10-15 min C19 diagnostic tests arrive from our suppliers in Guangzhou and Hangzhou. This week, we start to go on the offensive against C19. This week we take the battle right to the very heart of this virus. Why? Cleaning your hands and social distancing are vital to slow the spread, but mass population testing will allow us to identify who needs to be in isolation and who can be free to resume their lives, mass testing will isolate C19 and deprive it of its oxygen so it can’t survive and replicate. Whilst we have many weeks to go and possibly months, this is the start of the fight back, we move to have an aggressive stance against this invisible enemy.

We understand that at least 1.5 million of these will go to all the front line workers, our first line of defence, so that a) those already self isolating, as a precautionary measure, can get back into work where they are needed, and b) so the front line at the point of care, where someone is presenting with symptoms, we can test and see if they have C19, isolate and or put the patient on the correct care pathway for their other illness.

Follow on orders for these tests can be initiated immediately, and we hope they will be available for mass testing soon. This will tell whether you need to remain isolated, or can recommence work. Other countries we know of have already placed large orders, for example, Germany, 4 m, France 3m, Spain 5 m, Turkey 10 m, Chile 2 m and testing kits are on their way, but now behind these orders. Even Uruguay has just ordered 100,000 units, and Hungary has ordered hundreds of thousands.

It is not a choice between the health of the nation or the economy. We need to do everything in our power to get the country working again, while doing everything we can to make sure that there is sufficient capacity for sick people to be treated. A mass population testing program may well take a couple of months, but the reality is at each and every step, more and more people can get back to work and more and more businesses can re open and restart the economy. We will restart this economy and prevent it from spinning into an irrevocable death spiral which will engender more deaths and human misery for years to come.

How Does the test work? In a simple pregnancy test, urine moves over a strip of paper which detects the hormone hCG, which signifies you are pregnant. Most adults have seen this, and many women will have used one of these. Our C19 test is an Antibody Test that tests if you have antibodies in your blood. When the blood is added into the test kit, the specimen is absorbed into the device by capillary action as it mixes with the C19 antigen-dye conjugate and flows across the pre-coated membrane.When the C19 antibody level in the blood is sufficient, this produces a coloured test band that indicates a positive result. When the C19 antibody level in the blood is zero or below the target cutoff, the band does not become coloured. This indicates a negative result.

This test can work in conjunction with the much more complex and difficult to administer DNA test. Unlike the DNA test which will tell whether a person has C19 now only, or not, as the case may be, the antibody test is arguably more useful as it tells us if the person has had, either or currently has C19. Therefore, if you have a positive antibody test, you can be quarantined for 14 days, and retested using the DNA test to tell you if it is a current condition. With the antibody test we can only tell if you have Covid 19 if it is a current condition only if you present with symptoms and are 5-7 days at the earliest from the original infection, so there is a subtle difference between the two tests.

This will get our economy moving again. Some people who could have been released into the workforce might have to remain in quarantine for 14 days until the DNA test tells us that they are not a risk, but 14 days is a small price to pay compared with the catastrophe of a complete lockdown which we face now.

The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Health and his health Ministers, Lord Bethell and Nadine Dorries, have been fantastic as have the No 10 staff and especially the Cabinet Office Complex Transaction Team. We have great public servants. We can and will defeat C19 now.

This week is the game changer.

Source: Global Vision

Sweden has become an international outlier in its response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak: many schools and offices remain open, and the capital’s commuter trains are packed. ‘It is a huge experiment.

Since the UK went into lockdown on Monday evening, Sweden is the largest European country with the fewest limits on where people can go and what they can do. Schools for children up to the age of 16 remain open, many people continue to go to work and packed commuter trains and buses were reported this week in the capital, Stockholm. “Clearly, Sweden stands out at the moment,” said Carl Bildt, the former prime minister.

Swedish authorities have banned public gatherings of more than 500 people, closed universities and higher education colleges, and advised workers to stay at home if possible. Authorities on Tuesday ordered restaurants and bars only to serve people at tables rather than at the bar.

But he conceded that the 90,000 figure for the number of people who die annually in Sweden would “increase significantly” if its healthcare system became overburdened.

There have been just over 2,000 reported Covid-19 cases in Sweden and 33 deaths. That compares with more than 6,000 deaths in Italy, Europe’s worst-affected country.

“The future still looks manageable,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist who has become one of the public faces of the outbreak. He argued that schools needed to stay open to provide childcare for health workers, noting that young people appeared to have much lower infection rates.

But a significant number of Swedish health experts disagree. Mr Tegnell has faced a barrage of criticism after details of the country’s antivirus tactics leaked to Swedish TV at the weekend.

Joacim Rocklov, an epidemiologist at Umea University, said the Swedish authorities were taking huge risks with public health when so much remained unknown about coronavirus.

“I do not see why Sweden would be so different from other countries. It is a huge experiment,” he told the Financial Times. “We have no idea — it could work out. But it could also go crazily in the wrong direction.”

Swedish authorities have said they are not explicitly pursuing a strategy of “herd immunity”, where a large segment of the population contracts the virus in order for society to build up immunity. The UK’s chief scientific adviser had previously suggested that Britain adopt such an approach before the government backtracked.

Sweden is instead seeking to slow the spread of infections and ensure that its health system does not become overwhelmed. Mr Bildt said the situation on the streets of Stockholm had changed “dramatically” in recent weeks despite the absence of legal restrictions, with far fewer people going outside.

But Mr Rocklov said it was not yet known how long immunity to Covid-19 would last. “There is a big risk that Sweden would have to go into quarantine when the health system goes into crisis,” he added.

Sweden’s relaxed approach contrasts with its Nordic neighbours. Denmark, Norway and Finland have closed schools, sealed their borders and imposed other restrictions.

Stefan Lofven, Sweden’s centre-left prime minister, has called on everyone to play a part in stopping the virus from spreading by, for instance, not visiting elderly relatives and working from home. He used a televised address to the nation on Sunday to warn that more restrictive measures might come as he conceded the next few months would be difficult.

“There are a few crucial moments in life when you have to make sacrifices, not only for your own sake but also in order to take responsibility for the people around you, for your fellow human beings, and for our country. That moment is now. That day is here. And that duty belongs to everyone,” he said.

Sweden’s strategy has also been criticised for a different reason, with some arguing that even the lighter measures could cause huge damage to the economy. Kerstin Hessius, a prominent fund manager, is one of those arguing that the country may be swapping one disaster for an even worse one.

Source: FT

The National Crime Agency today warned that organised crime groups may try to exploit the coronavirus outbreak to target the UK.

Despite the unprecedented situation with the pandemic, the NCA is continuing to protect the public and leading the UK’s fight to cut serious and organised crime throughout this difficult time.

Steve Rodhouse, NCA Director General (operations), said:

“Our mission in leading the fight against serious and organized crime has never been more important, and our work continues.

“We recognise that the Covid-19 outbreak may provide opportunities for criminals, and we are monitoring intelligence and crime trends to ensure that we, and the whole law enforcement system, can react as needed.”

NCA intelligence assessments have identified a number of issues that criminals are already looking to exploit.

Cyber-crime investigators have seen instances of coronavirus-themed malicious apps and websites, as well as email phishing attacks aimed at stealing personal and financial information.

The NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit is advising people to be extra vigilant when seeking out online information relating to the pandemic and to ensure they are following online safety advice which can be found on the National Cyber Security Centre website.

The City of London Police have issued an alert regarding fraudsters using the outbreak to facilitate fraud and cyber-crime. Reported cases include criminals posing as health officials in an attempt to get victims to disclose personal information.

There have also been cases of criminal networks exploiting demand for certain coronavirus-related products. One such incident saw a consignment of suspected fake Covid-19 test kits sent from the UK seized by US border officials in Los Angeles. A man was arrested in Sussex by City of London Police attempting to send 60 more fake treatment kits to France, the US, and other parts of the UK, and has since been charged.

The NCA is continuing its work to protect children from abuse and exploitation online. A man from Darlington was sentenced on Monday for making more than 45,000 abuse images as a result of an NCA investigation.

As schools close, the agency is increasing its work with partners to bolster child safeguarding and online safety education. There is a risk of increased offending as people spend more time online and indoors, and the NCA is appealing to parents and carers to visit the Thinkuknow educational website for advice about keeping children and young people safe.

While travel restrictions are impacting the levels of traffic passing through the UK border, only this week a seizure of half-a-tonne of cocaine was made by Border Force at Dover, leading NCA officers to charge a man with attempted importation. A man from Blackpool was also charged by the NCA after the recovery of firearms and ammunition at the Channel ports.

And criminal groups involved in people smuggling have continued to try and evade border controls using small boats, with NCA intelligence suggesting that some OCGs are even telling migrants the UK is safer than the continent in a bid to drive up demand.

Mr Rodhouse, added: “Like all organisations we are having to make some adjustments to how we operate in light of the outbreak, but we are an operational law enforcement organisation responding to a national security threat.

“The NCA is providing services that directly keep the public safe and also allow others across law enforcement to do the same, and these will be maintained throughout the pandemic.

“We are also working closely with law enforcement partners both in the UK and abroad – many of whom a similarly affected – to ensure that our ability to cooperate is maintained, and that we continue to work together to protect the public.

“And I would ask the public to remain vigilant during this difficult time and report anything they think might be suspicious.”