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Duncan Selbie's Friday Message - 14 August 2020

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Dear everyone

Returning to school

As the new school term approaches, we are supporting the Department for Education’s preparations for this. PHE’s scientists have been analysing the impact of COVID-19 in schools and the evidence to date has indicated that schools are not a major driver of COVID-19 infections in the community. Our study published in the BMJ this week explains that children and young people mainly experience COVID-19 asymptomatically or as a minor illness with age remaining the biggest determinant for severe illness. Today we have also published a rapid review on transmission of COVID-19 in schools and interventions to minimise transmission, and we will continue to monitor new studies as they are published.

Parents can be reassured that PHE has provided rigorous input to the extensive guidance published by the Department for Education.

COVID-19 deep dive

Directors of Public Health and PHE local health protection teams are doing exemplary work across the country, and this week I want to recognise Muriel Scott’s leadership across Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes.

Following a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, Muriel put together an in-depth analysis that was the first of its kind. By bringing local and regional partners together she rapidly drove forward increased testing in the community, improvements in testing turnaround times at the local hospital, and a public advice campaign using trusted local voices that has reached hundreds of thousands of local residents in multiple languages.

Death data

This week we have updated the way the number of daily deaths linked to COVID-19 are counted with two new measures: the number of deaths that occur within 60 days of a first positive test; and, the number of deaths in people with COVID-19 that occur within 28 days of a first positive laboratory-confirmed test.

Professor John Newton has written an explanation of the changes here.

Congenital anomalies

This week we published the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Disease Registration Service’s (NCARDRS) latest Congenital Anomaly Statistics report and for the first time, reporting is based on national data coverage for all 10 regions, covering the whole of England. The report presents information on the prevalence of congenital anomalies in England and the timing of their diagnosis, as well as their impact on perinatal and infant mortality and the association with maternal age. You can read it here.

Sleep and health

And finally, the Government’s Prevention Green Paper recognised the significance of sleep for physical and mental health. PHE has been commissioned by Ministers to undertake an evidence review on the impact of sleep on health and what supports good sleep. It will bring together leading academic and clinical experts and people with lived experience of sleep problems to ensure the findings are as broad as possible, and it is expected to conclude in March 2021.

Best wishes



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