Immunity to COVID-19: August update

New studies on COVID-19 immune response are advancing our understanding of this disease in both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases. There is increasing evidence that the differing severity of COVID-19 between individuals is a consequence of a diverse range of immune responses to the virus.
There is some evidence that antibodies can be detected in recovered patients for up to 2–3 months after symptoms. A role for the adaptive cellular immune system, especially T cells, in responding to SARS-CoV…

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COVID-19: July update on face masks and face coverings for the general public

There is some weak evidence that face masks and coverings can reduce transmission of the virus in some specific circumstances, particularly poorly ventilated and crowded indoor spaces. Policy on using face coverings differs across the UK. They are recommended across the UK in circumstances where social distancing is difficult. In Scotland they must be used on public transport and from 10 July they will be mandatory in shops. In England they are mandatory on public transport and in NHS hospitals…

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­­Proposals to increase UK recycling of plastic food packaging

Plastic packaging waste has become a key consumer concern. In the UK, over 2.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging enter the consumer market each year. Much of this is used in the food sector because plastic packaging is cheap, light to transport, hygienic, and can be used to extend the product’s shelf-life. In the UK around 46% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, mostly through local authority collections. However several issues with the current systems of plastics recycling pers…

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Outward medical tourism

Medical tourism refers to when people seek medical treatment in a different country than the one they reside. In the context of this brief it refers to UK residents seeking elective, non-emergency medical treatment abroad. This briefing outlines the nature of the global medical tourism industry, the number of UK residents seeking medical treatments abroad, the types of treatments sought and the reasons for seeking them, the countries visited, and examines the issues raised for the patients and f…

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COVID-19, children and schools

Children who have COVID-19 are much less likely to develop severe symptoms and much less likely to die from the disease than people in older age groups. There is some research indicating that children aged 13 years and under may be less susceptible to infection than adults, but the confidence in this evidence is low. There are some limited data suggesting that children from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background are at higher risk of severe disease, consistent with the evidence for adults.…

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Child and adolescent mental health during COVID-19

Charities and academics have expressed concerns that children’s mental health is disproportionately affected by the intervention measures used during the pandemic. Child and adolescent mental health may be compromised by factors such as strained family relationships, academic stress and reduced social contact with friends. Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) have been reduced during the pandemic. They are likely to be under strain to meet increased demand. The UK Government has…

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COVID-19 in children: July update

There is very good evidence that children who have COVID-19 are much less likely to develop severe symptoms and much less likely to die from the disease than people in older age groups.There is good evidence that children under 13 years old are less susceptible to developing clinical disease (this means having recognisable signs and symptoms) than adults. It is not yet clear whether this is also the case for older children. There is some research indicating that children aged 13 years and under…

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Effects of COVID-19 on the food supply system

The effect of consumers stockpiling certain goods and the slow reaction of retailers to ration them exposed the limitations of cost-efficient and streamlined supply chains to be agile and adapt to unforeseen shocks. This suggests that changes may be needed to make the supply chain more resilient. Specific problems arose from the closure of parts of the catering sector and the lack of agility in redistributing supplies from this sector to retail outlets or the food donation/charity sector. This w…

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COVID-19 Vaccines: July update on research

There are almost 150 coronavirus vaccine candidates under development. Only 19 of these are now being tested in humans. Many types of vaccines are rapidly progressing through clinical trials. Only two vaccine candidates have announced large scale Phase 3 trials, involving several thousands of people. Only one candidate has been approved for restricted human use. Measuring a reduction in COVID-19 levels is an obstacle for Phase 3 clinical trials, as they require a high infection rate among the te…

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COVID-19 therapies

This article was updated on 1 May and again on 6 July. Since its original publication on 17 April, the number of COVID-19 clinical trials has increased from 524 to 2,378. There is no cure for COVID-19. Researchers are testing existing drugs to see if they act against SARS-CoV-2 or alleviate the symptoms of the disease. New drugs are also in development, but this is at a very early stage. Results from trials on existing drugs have already been reported with some positive findings. Dexamethasone i…

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Contact tracing apps for COVID-19

Contact tracing apps could be used to control the COVID-19 outbreak. Most of them work by automatically registering another smartphone when it is too close for an extended period of time. Then if a user tests positive for Coronavirus in the future, the contact tracing app notifies these contacts. Some countries like Singapore and Australia have already adopted or rolled out their own contact tracing apps. Concerns have been raised about misuse of personal data.
Initial data suggests there has b…

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COVID-19 and social distancing: the 2 metre advice

An infected person produces respiratory droplets when talking, coughing and sneezing. These are responsible for the transmission of virus between people. Droplets can travel up to 2m, with finer aerosols containing smaller viral particles travelling even further. Numerous complex and interacting factors influence how they move and settle onto surfaces, and how infectious they are. The further away a person is, the fewer droplets they will be exposed to and so their risk of being infected with th…

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Remote sensing and machine learning

There is increasing interest in using machine learning to automatically analyse remote sensing data and increase our understanding of complex environmental systems. While there are benefits from this approach, there are also some barriers to its use. This POSTnote examines the value of these approaches, and the technical and ethical challenges for wider implementation. …

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Managing land uses for environmental benefits

Understanding the combined impacts of land use on environmental benefits could better inform decision-making and land management frameworks. This POSTnote summarises the challenges of managing landscapes on a large scale to deliver multiple environmental benefits, the evidence needed, and the policy approaches that could be used to achieve this.…

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