Prof Carl Heneghan

The data is clear – Covid is receding

The data is clear – Covid is receding
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The coronavirus data from across the capital – which shows that the numbers are coming down – is highly reassuring. 

On 15 May, there were just 56 people with newly diagnosed cases of Covid. And at least six London trusts are reporting no deaths in hospitals in the last 48 hours. Across the country, about 30 per cent of all trusts have had no deaths in the last 48 hours. The deaths are coming down. And actually, if you look at information like 111 calls and 999 calls, you're seeing a trend here that's showing coronavirus is disappearing at a rate that's speeding up, which is highly reassuring. 

On the threat of a second wave of infections, there are probably three points that need to be made. The first is to say numbers are now low enough for contact tracing to work. 

The second point we should be talking about is the second wave that austerity might well lead to. Austerity kills people. It also has an impact on people not engaging with healthcare, with non-Covid – healthcare is more than Covid right now. And that's the second wave that those in London like Sadiq Khan and other politicians should be working on.

Then the third point is nursing homes. There needs to be a clear strategy to make sure that the 60 per cent of homes that have not had infections do not get infections because they're the most vulnerable, most frail and most likely to succumb to this virus.

On the lockdown, one of the things you have to be is flexible. If you become very rigid in your responses, you can end up with this 'just in case' response. I would have a phased response where I'd be saying, 'look, let's open up businesses. Let 25 per cent of people go back to work, keep looking at the data, see what's happening.' 

As we've increased the traffic, increased the number of people going around London, what we've seen is the data continue to trend down. That should be highly reassuring. You need to have a flexible approach and you need to be very clear with the public about what you're saying at any one time. 

One of the things you need is to get people back into businesses to create a plan so that employees that are going to come back later are very clear about what's happening. Being flexible now means we should see more opening up going forward.

This is an edited transcript of Professor Carl Heneghan's comments on the Today programme this morning

Written byProf Carl Heneghan

Carl Heneghan is professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford and director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine

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