HPS Weekly Report
18 May 2021
Volume 55 No. 20
Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic update
Travel restrictions and self-isolation (quarantine) rules continue to be enforced in order to help reduce the global spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of the UK public. Within the UK, coronavirus restrictions are gradually being lifted, with timetables having been published for their easing in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
From 17 May 2021, a cautious approach for resuming international travel has been announced for people living in Scotland, England, and Wales, but strict border control measures will remain in place. The government of Northern Ireland have yet to release information on resuming international travel.
Anyone entering Scotland from 17 May 2021 from countries on a new international travel green list will not be required to quarantine on arrival, but will have to take a PCR test for COVID-19. The green list will initially be the same as that in place for England, but will be subject to review based on Scotland’s specific needs. It should be noted that this system does not indicate which countries are currently allowing UK travellers to enter their country.
Country specific COVID-19 risk
The fitfortravel (for the general public) and TRAVAX (for health professionals) country pages have been updated to include a COVID-19 country specific risk-rating, with every country being identified as high, moderate or low risk and each rating accompanied by appropriate travel advice. This information will be listed in the ‘Alerts’ section on each country page of fitfortravel and the 'Emerging Health Risks' section of every TRAVAX country page. This risk-rating is based on a robust public health assessment of the COVID-19 risks for travellers to each country and is regularly reviewed.
Advice for travellers
Prior to booking any international travel, travellers must first check if the country they are travelling to is currently accepting UK travellers.
- Each country or territory on the FCDO foreign travel advice page provides up-to-date information on their entry rules, in response to coronavirus (COVID-19), under the ‘Entry Requirements’ section.
- Travellers should be aware that some countries or territories may require proof of COVID-19 vaccination status for entry. For those living in England, the UK government has provided guidance for demonstrating COVID-19 vaccination status. For those living in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, information on demonstrating COVID-19 vaccination status has yet to be announced.
It is advised that travellers are aware of all travel restrictions, self-isolation rules and precautions they should take, in order to reduce their risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) before, during and after travel, as detailed on the fitfortravel website.
On return to the UK, travellers should be aware that quarantine rules differ for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Prior to travel, travellers must ensure they are able to comply with the rules appropriate to the UK nation they will be arriving in and reside in, if different.
Source: TRAVAX, 13 May 2021
Anaphylaxis guidance update
The Resuscitation Council UK (RCUK) has updated their guidance for healthcare providers on the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis. All healthcare professionals administering travel vaccines are asked to familiarise themselves with the new guidance.
The key changes to the guidelines are:
- increased emphasis on the use of intramuscular adrenaline and on the importance of avoiding sudden changes in posture during treatment
- specific dose of adrenaline for children below six months of age
- new algorithms provided for both the initial treatment of anaphylaxis and the treatment of refractory anaphylaxis
- information on the appropriate use of intravenous fluids and antihistamines
- guidance on the duration of observation following anaphylaxis
The RCUK website anaphylaxis guidance section includes a link to the latest vaccination-specific anaphylaxis guidance.
Further information for health professionals is also available on the TRAVAX anaphylaxis and vaccines webpage.
Source: TRAVAX, 10 May 2021
ECDC publishes influenza virus characterisation report
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) periodically publishes influenza characterisation reports, giving an overview of circulating influenza viruses. These reports provide details on current vaccine strains, summarise the development of viruses since the last report and closely follow the main developments for the ongoing influenza season.
On 12 May 2021, the ECDC published the sixth virus characterisation period report for the 2020 to 2021 influenza season. As of week 17 of 2021, 856 influenza detections across the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region had been reported, of which 50% were type A viruses, with A(H3N2) and A(H1N1)pdm09 being approximately equally represented, and 50% were type B viruses, with 16 having been ascribed to a lineage, 13 being B/Victoria and three B/Yamagata. These figures represent a 99.5% drop in detections compared with the same period in 2020.
Source: ECDC, 12 May 2021
EFSA finds titanium dioxide (E171) no longer safe as a food additive
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has updated its safety assessment of the food additive titanium dioxide (E171), following a request by the European Commission in March 2020. Titanium dioxide is used as a food colouring, with its technological function being to make food more visually appealing, either to give colour to food that would otherwise be colourless, or to restore the original appearance of food. Additionally, titanium dioxide is often present in cosmetics, paints, and medicines.
The updated safety assessment revises the outcome of the EFSA’s previous review, published in 2016, which highlighted the need for more research to fill data gaps. The evaluation concludes that titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive, primarily as the EFSA could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after the consumption of particles of the substance.
Source: EFSA, 6 May 2021
UNEP and CCAC publishes global methane assessment
On 6 May 2021, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) published a global methane assessment, detailing the benefits and costs of mitigating methane emissions. The report estimates that cutting human-caused methane emissions by 45% this decade would avoid nearly 0.3oC of global warming by 2045, consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement’s ambition to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5oC. The UNEP and CCAC note that most human-caused methane emissions come from three sectors, fossil fuels, waste, and agriculture.
For the first time, the assessment integrates the climate and air pollution costs and benefits from methane mitigation. As methane is a key ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog, the UNEP and CCAC estimate that a 45% reduction may prevent 260,000 premature deaths, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat, and 25 million tonnes of crop losses annually.
Source: UNEP, 6 May 2021