UK ‘worried’ about virus-linked illness in kids



British health authorities have reportedly warned doctors over an emerging number of children with a "multi-system inflammatory state" that could be linked to the coronavirus, while reassuring people any difficulties related to COVID-19 for children appeared uncommon.

The alert, posted on Twitter by the UK Paediatric Intensive Care Society and verified by a spokeswoman for the National Health Service, said there had been an increase in the number of children presenting the symptoms over the last three weeks, with some needing intensive care treatment. Abdominal pain, gastrointestinal problems and cardiac inflammation - consistent with toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki disease - are among the symptoms appearing, according to the NHS alert.

There is growing concern that a "SARS-CoV-2 related inflammatory syndrome" may be emerging in children or that there may be another "as-yet unidentified infectious pathogen," the NHS notice said. "Over the last three weeks there has been an apparent rise in the number of children of all ages presenting with a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care across London and also in other regions of the UK."


It comes as European countries took fresh steps towards charting a path out of virus lockdowns on Monday (local time) as debates rage over how quickly to ease safety measures that are suffocating ordinary and economic life.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work after his own battle with the respiratory disease, looking thinner and with his trademark blonde mane a bit longer.

The pandemic has killed over 206,000 people and infected nearly three million worldwide, according to official statistics, with the US hit the hardest.

But Europe's four worst-affected countries have all recently reported marked drops in their daily death tolls, raising hope that the peaks of their outbreaks have passed.

Italy and New York have laid out partial reopening plans while France and Spain are expected to follow suit this week.

In Switzerland, shops were already back in business Monday while primary students in Norway returned to school.

Yet Mr Johnson warned it was too early for the UK to ease off its month-long stay-at-home orders.

In his first public appearance in weeks, the 55-year-old said he could not "throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak".

More than 20,000 people have been killed by the virus in the UK, with Mr Johnson's government still facing criticism for being slow to impose safety measures at the start of the outbreak.

Elsewhere leaders and experts are divided over how to revive badly bruised economies and free citizens from confinement without unleashing new waves of infections.

Economic forecasts warn of the worst recession in a century, with oil prices plunging amid a supply glut.

In the US, where President Donald Trump did not give his daily coronavirus briefing on Sunday after complaining they were not worth the effort, states are moving at different paces to roll back confinement measures that have wiped out millions of jobs.


New York City, the epicentre of the US coronavirus outbreak, will close some streets to car traffic, expand footpaths and create temporary bike lanes to give New Yorkers more space to be able to go outside as lockdown measures continue.

The announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio comes just days after city officials and the mayor himself cautioned against a proposal to open up streets to pedestrians, saying it could not be done safely in a city as dense as New York.

Mr de Blasio announced on Monday (local time) that the city will open a minimum 64 kilometres of streets to pedestrians over the next month in an attempt to reduce crowds in parks as the weather gets warmer and the outdoors become more inviting amid the coronavirus crisis, reports the New York Post.



Mr De Blasio, speaking during a conference call with reporters, said that the goal is to eventually get to 160 kilometres of open streets as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

"We will focus first on streets in and around our parks," Mr de Blasio said, adding, "That's an obvious opportunity to open more space."

In some cases, de Blasio said, footpaths will be expanded.

The mayor's announcement ends a month-long battle with the City Council, which has been calling for Mr de Blasio to create space for socially distant walking and biking.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilwoman Carlina Rivera previously backed legislation that would require de Blasio to close or modify up to 120 kilometres of city streets to make room for pedestrians during the coronavirus crisis.

"We have reached an agreement with Speaker Johnson and the Council," de Blasio said as he made the announcement on Monday.

Mr De Blasio has previously resisted the proposal.

Meanwhile, New York's daily coronavirus death toll dropped to below 400, less than half of the deaths recorded at the height of the coronavirus crisis in the state's hospitals.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the 367 deaths from the coronavirus that he reported on Sunday were "horrific," but the number was less than half the nearly 800 deaths that occurred in a single day during the pandemic's peak in New York. It is the first time this month that the statewide daily death toll has been below 400.

He also reported that the number of hospitalisations, which still topped 1000, and the number of individuals put on a ventilator had dropped as well.





Meanwhile, British PM Boris Johnson has called coronavirus the "invisible mugger" as he said the UK was almost at the end of the first phase in its battle against the disease.

The British Prime Minister made his first public statement since going off work three weeks ago and ending up in intensive care after he came down with the deadly virus.

He warned Britain had to maintain lockdown rules to prevent a deadly second wave.


A much improved Mr Johnson, 55, had colour back in his face and his trademark shaggy locks were swinging in the breeze as he rallied the country outside Number 10 Downing Street on Monday (local time).

"If this virus were a physical assailant, an unexpected and invisible mugger - which I can tell you from personal experience, it is - then this is the moment when we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor," he said.

"And so it follows that this is the moment of opportunity, this is the moment when we can press home our advantage, it is also the moment of maximum risk.

"I know there will be many people looking at our apparent success, and beginning to wonder whether now is the time to go easy on those social distancing measures."

Mr Johnson prepared Britain for a longer term lockdown, saying he would not waste the hard work done so far to flatten the curve.

But he vowed to be transparent about how decisions were made and was also willing to bring in opposition parties after new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer landed some blows in parliament last week.


Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stood in for Mr Johnson while he was sick, but there were concerns that the government was rudderless as he did not have full control.

Mr Johnson also urged people to come together like they had behind 99-year-old war veteran Captain Tom Moore, who had raised $A60 million for the National Health Service by doing 100 laps around his nursing home.

Britain has had 20,795 COVID-19 deaths so far, but the real figure could be more than twice that once nursing home deaths were counted.

There were only 413 deaths announced in the latest daily figures, the lowest since March.

Businesses have been demanding an exit plan for the country's lockdown, which has cost the economy $A5 billion per day.

Mr Johnson said he understood the frustration of businesses and those who were worrying about their jobs.

"I know it is tough. And I want to get this economy moving as fast as I can, but I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life and the overwhelming of the NHS," he said.

"And I ask you to contain your impatience, because I believe we are coming now to the end of the first phase of this conflict and despite all the suffering we have so nearly succeeded."

The UK hospital system has coped with the virus, with intensive care beds increased and new Nightingale hospitals barely used. There have also been enough ventilators for patients.

However, there has been a critical shortage of protective equipment for medical staff, with complaints of poor distribution and delays on new shipments.

Families of some medics who have died of coronavirus have complained their loved ones were not given the correct protective equipment.


Meanwhile, more than two million Australians have downloaded the coronavirus tracing app within a day of its release, far exceeding expectations.

The tech community has swung behind the new contract tracing software after analysing it with privacy concerns in mind.

The COVIDSafe app is designed to help health officials identify people who have come into contact with somebody infected with the disease.

The voluntary app became available for download on Sunday evening and has the backing of doctors, nurses, businesses, bankers and travel agents. Health Minister Greg Hunt was thrilled with the uptake.

Having initially expected the figure might hit one million within five days, it got to the mark in five hours, he said.

The figure rose to two million late last night.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s app has been backed by the tech community. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s app has been backed by the tech community. Picture: AAP

"This effort will help protect ourselves, our families, our nurses and our doctors," he tweeted.

The government ultimately wants at least 40 per cent of the population on board. Software developer Matthew Robbins says the general consensus among his peers is that the app is fine.

"It's totally fine to install and it's a good public service to do so," he said.

"If the tech community is pulling it apart and critically analysing it and hopefully effectively communicating what we're seeing, I do think that people will uptake it.

"We're really being a counterbalance to what (the government) are saying."

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes urged the tech community to "turn the … angry mob mode off" and instead help the government fight misinformation.

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the commonwealth would never have access to the data collected.



"We have locked this down so completely, so thoroughly with the biosecurity rule, with legislation that is coming, the only people who can access the data are the state and territory health officials," he told reporters. "We have a compact with the Australian public: this app will only ever be used by public health officials in the purposes of contact tracing."

And Mr Hunt confirmed people concerned about privacy could use a fake name to register.

The other personal information collected is a phone number, age range, and home postcode.

However, some federal politicians still hold privacy concerns. Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce won't download the app until he receives a briefing from the responsible minister.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is also against the idea.

Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said safeguards were in place to protect personal information collected through the app, and her office would watch its implementation closely.

The health department anticipates publishing the source code within two weeks, after the Australian Cyber Security Centre gives it the OK.

Legislation making misuse of the data collected via the app a jailable offence won't be taken to federal parliament until May.

Labor has indicated it is inclined to back this.


Two terms of distance learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic means students from lower socio economic backgrounds lose more than a month of maths and reading learning, according to new research.

About 46 per cent of all Australian children are at risk of adverse effects on their educational outcomes, nutrition, physical movement, social and emotional wellbeing by being "physically disconnected" from school, University of Tasmania researchers found.

The Peter Underwood Institute team examined how learning at home during COVID-19 impacts vulnerable Australian students and concluded the home-based, online model was "especially" harming children in early years and in vulnerable groups.

After studying the impact of distance learning during the last two weeks of term one, the researchers said it was "already clear" that nationally children were experiencing "learning losses".

"This means that there will not be the expected cognitive gains for these students over the period of learning at home," the study said.

"These losses will cause a delay in … achievement in some students and result in others being lost to the education system."

Lola Pugh-Jones with siblings Finn and Ruby doing home schooling. Picture: AAP
Lola Pugh-Jones with siblings Finn and Ruby doing home schooling. Picture: AAP

Meanwhile, researchers at the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University have published a scathing assessment of Australian schools' preparedness for distance learning ahead of the coronavirus shutdown.

"Most schools across Australia were completely unprepared for the coronavirus and for moving to virtual learning," the study said.

"Unequal internet access is just the tip of the iceberg of the challenges some students face in doing their schooling online."

The study identified five key "divides" schools needed to overcome to help all children learn at home: material resources, digital and IT access, personal skills of the student, parental support and ability of the student to adjust to the new arrangement.

The researchers said about one in six Australian children lived in low income households, where parents might not have the resources, skills or experience to support at-home learning.

Low socio economic students or children with complex needs would lose about six weeks of numeracy and four weeks of reading learning if distance education continued for two terms, researchers said.

The study found low socio-economic students were less likely to have a proper desk, books, dictionaries and other resources, while in low income households 41 per cent of mothers and 44 per cent of fathers had not completed school.

Meanwhile the University of Tasmania researchers said a "targeted strategy" of physical re-engagement at school could mitigate many of the negative impacts on learning.

Students in preschool to Year 2 should be prioritised for full-time on site school attendance, while personalised engagement plans would be needed for students not physically at school with limited online capacity.

Originally published as UK 'worried' about virus-linked illness in kids

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