08 February 2022
Volume: 56 Issue: 5
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic update
- Emerging Legionella species data
- Air quality improvements during the first lockdown phase in Europe
- Fireworks and pyrotechnic legislation published
- Scottish Government launches consultation on future pandemic PPE supplies
- Scottish Government launches consultation on tightening rules on advertising and promoting vaping products
HPS Weekly Report
08 Feb 2022
Volume 56 No. 5
Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic update
International travel continues to be impacted due to COVID-19, and the number of variant strains which have emerged globally. Guidance on international travel is available for people living in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There are currently no countries on the international travel red list. It should be noted that the travel lists may be amended at short notice, and do not indicate which destinations are currently allowing UK travellers to enter their country, nor if the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against travel to these countries. Information relating to this can be checked on the relevant FCDO foreign travel advice country pages.
Currently, people travelling to Scotland from abroad who are fully vaccinated, or under the age of 18, do not need to take pre-departure COVID-19 tests, and are not required to self-isolate on arrival until they have received a negative result. Travellers in this group must complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) and take a PCR or lateral flow test within two days of arrival in the UK. Anyone who tests positive on their lateral flow test will need to isolate and take a free confirmatory PCR test.
Testing and quarantine rules may differ in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, therefore travellers must ensure they comply with the rules appropriate to the UK nation they arrive in and, if different, reside in.
From 4am on 11 February 2022, the rules for international travellers arriving in the UK are changing. A summary of these changes are available for travellers arriving into Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Country specific COVID-19 risk
Country pages on the fitfortravel (for the general public) and TRAVAX (for health professionals) websites include a COVID-19 country specific risk-rating, which identifies the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for UK travellers. This information is 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 identifies each country as having either:
- a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 for UK travellers, or
- a risk of exposure to COVID-19 for UK travellers
For all countries, travellers should be aware that the risk of COVID-19 may change at short notice. Countries categorised as having a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 either have a higher risk of exposure for travellers to COVID-19, or an increased risk of emerging or known variants of coronavirus. Travellers should be advised to avoid non-essential travel to high-risk countries, even if fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
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.
- The FCDO foreign travel advice country pages have up-to-date information on 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. Guidance for demonstrating COVID-19 vaccination status is available for those living in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
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 COVID-19 health considerations for travel page.
Source: TRAVAX, 1 February 2022
Emerging Legionella species data
In July 2021, the Legionella Control Association (LCA), in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Public Health England (PHE) and local authorities, held a webinar aimed at raising awareness of increasing Legionella positivity rates post lockdown. The data demonstrated that the average positive rate in the UK had increased by around 2% following the lockdowns in response to COVID-19.
To investigate if there were particular species that could have led to this increase, LCA approached the three commercial laboratories in the UK that use MALDI-ToF to confirm down to species level, and asked if they would share their data. This information has now been returned by some laboratories, with findings from over 70,000 positive result samples in a two-year period revealing:
- over 53% of the results were L.anisa
- over 32% of the positives were L. pneumophilia, both SeroGroup 1 and SeroGroup 2-15
- nearly 1% of positives were for L. rubilucens
- over 6.5% of the results did not confirm a species type
- there were over a dozen other species identified in results that accounted for less than 1% of the data set
The first line clinical diagnostic tool used to confirm Legionnaire’s disease in the UK is commonly a urinary antigen test (UAT), and this method looks predominantly for L. pneumophilia SeroGroup 1. Given the data LCA has provided so far, this could potentially mean missing over 70% of Legionella infections in patients. It should be highlighted that this data is in its infancy, and LCA state that further research needs to take place before any significant changes are considered or undertaken.
Source: LCA, January 2022
Air quality improvements during the first lockdown phase in Europe
Research led by a team of statistical health and earth observation satellite modellers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), using data from the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), has found that more than 800 deaths may have been avoided due to better air quality during the first lockdown phase in Europe. By comparing exposure to air pollution between February and July of 2020 across 47 major cities, scientists concluded that government measures to limit the spread of the virus also protected people from air pollution.
Government measures for COVID-19, such as school and workplace closure, cancelling public events, and stay-at-home requirements, had the strongest effect on reducing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels. This is linked to the reduction in road transport and local mobility, with Spanish, French and Italian cities reporting the largest decrease in NO2 during this period, of between 50% and 60%.
Although strong decreases in NO2 were observed, levels of fine particulate matter PM2.5 and PM10 were reduced more modestly since they are also produced by natural sources, such as wildfires and dust, and other emission sources like residential activities that were slightly increased during lockdown.
Source: LSHTM, 26 January 2022
Fireworks and pyrotechnic legislation published
The Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill aims to reduce the negative impact of fireworks and pyrotechnics on communities across Scotland, proposing tougher action on the sale and use of fireworks and the misuse of pyrotechnics.
The Bill follows the report of an independent Firework Review Group, which recommended tightening legislation to reduce the harm fireworks can cause. An analysis of the public consultation, published in December 2021, showed strong support for key measures in the Bill amongst those who responded.
The Bill’s proposals include:
- the introduction of a fireworks licensing system
- a new power for local authorities to designate firework control zones, where it is not permitted for the public to use fireworks
- restricting the days fireworks can be sold to, and used by, the general public
- a new offence to criminalise the supply of fireworks and pyrotechnics to under-18s to ensure adults do not purchase such products on behalf of children
- a new offence of being in possession of a pyrotechnic while at, or travelling to, certain places or events, without reasonable excuse
Scottish Government launches consultation on future pandemic PPE supplies
The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Scotland. The Scottish Government has established the PPE Futures Programme, which aims to learn from recent experience, promote innovation, and have strong, sustainable foundations for the provision of PPE in any future pandemic.
The consultation seeks views on the lessons that should be learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the proposed new strategic arrangements for pandemic PPE supply in Scotland, specifically public sector collaboration, future stockpiling arrangements, and how the private and third sector organisations can be supported in the event of a future pandemic. The Scottish Government are particularly interested in hearing the views of people who were engaged with PPE supply during the COVID-19 pandemic, either as an individual or as part of an organisation.
The consultation is open until 22 March 2022 and can be completed online.
Scottish Government launches consultation on tightening rules on advertising and promoting vaping products
The Scottish Government has launched a consultation into additional controls to limit the advertising and promotion of vaping products in Scotland. Devices, such as electronic cigarettes, have become popular over the past decade as an alternative to smoking tobacco. While current evidence shows that vapes are less harmful than smoking tobacco, they are not harm-free, and the damage they could cause to human health in the long term is unknown.
This consultation was a commitment in the 2018 tobacco control action plan, and seeks views on proposed regulations that aim to strike a balance between protecting non-smokers and making information available to smokers.
The consultation is open until 29 April 2022 and can be completed online.