As of this morning – Wednesday May 13 – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 226,463 with 32,692 deaths.

A trial of medicines potentially able to prevent serious coronavirus symptoms in people aged over 50 is now recruiting participants from across the country.

The Platform Randomised trial of Interventions against COVID-19 in older peoPLE (PRINCIPLE) is looking at whether existing drugs can be repurposed for older patients in the community who show signs of the disease.

Led by a team of Oxford University, it also aims to slow or halt the progression of COVID-19 and prevent hospital admissions.

More than 500 GP practices across the country are recruiting people aged 50 and over with underlying health conditions, or those aged over 65 regardless of underlying health conditions, into the trial.

The first phase is designed to determine whether a seven-day course of hydroxychloroquine, a well-known drug used for acute malaria and certain types of arthritis, can reduce the severity of symptoms in vulnerable groups and help avoid hospital admission. The antibiotic azithromycin will soon be added to the trial.

Participants will be closely monitored for the first 28 days of the trial, with a health record notes review taking place for up to three months to understand the longer-term effects of the illness on their health.

Extended follow-up is being facilitated by integration of the trial with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Research and Surveillance Centre, a rapidly expanding network of over 1,100 GP practices.

'As well as recruiting patients into the PRINCIPLE trial, GP practices in the network continuously monitor and report on the prevalence of infections and diseases in the community through swab testing, including COVID-19,' the University noted a press release.

“PRINCIPLE is a hugely important community trial, particularly in areas where health systems are under pressure and prevalence of disease puts many of our older patients at increased risk from COVID-19,” noted GP Dr Rebecca Clark whose practice is involved in the trial. “That’s why it is vital that we urgently identify treatments that can help people to get better more quickly and keep them out of hospital.”

WASH YOUR HANDS:

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 two metres (six feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

STAY AT HOME:

Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home).