As of this morning - Thursday 26th March - the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 9,529, with 465 deaths and 135 recoveries.
After the government put out a “call to arms” for new NHS volunteers to help vulnerable people to stay safe and at home, a “staggering” 405,724 people have already signed up to help, prompting NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens to praise the “overwhelming response” and thank those who will devote their time to the health service.
He went on to say “Times like this show just how generous the British people are and how much they value our health service – we are blown away by this response and the kindness of our country.
“I can’t thank those enough who have pledged to devote their time to helping others at what is a challenging and uncertain time for you and your families. The NHS is always there for you – now is your time to be there for us too.”
Thanks to the surge of help, the NHS says that it is now extending its target to recruit 750,000 people to its army of volunteers, and people can still join the trusted list of volunteers by visiting goodsamapp.org/NHS and adding their details to the NHS section.
The NHS revealed that the volunteers will undertake a number of different roles, including delivering medicines from pharmacies, driving patients to appointments, bringing them home from hospital, or making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.
The news comes as Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has announced plans to halt all new studies until at least 13th April, due to the virus. Similarly, for studies that are already under way, no new sites will be activated until April 13 at the earliest, although the company said existing sites can continue to recruit new patients when appropriate.
BMS is the latest pharma giant to join a list all moving in a similar direction, after Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Galapagos and Ampio Pharmaceuticals all announced plans to pause various trials.
The former has, however, said it is engaging with regulatory authorities around the world and has been "encouraged by their continued commitment in ongoing regulatory processes."
Gilead has also made a U-turn in regards to using its remdesivir for COVID-19, after asking the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to withdraw the orphan drug designation it granted a few days ago, citing "urgent public health needs posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The retraction means that the company, which had made the request, will waive all benefits that come with the designation, including an extra seven years of exclusivity for the medication, after it drew criticism for seeking the designation in the first place.
Gilead also noted that benefits of an orphan drug designation include waiving the need to provide a paediatric study plan prior to submitting a new drug application, "a process that can take up to 210 days to review."
The World Health Organisation (WHO) urges the public to stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, with information available through your national and local public health authority.
Wash your hands frequently:
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Maintain social distancing:
Maintain at least one metre (three feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early:
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.