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End to all Covid rules, lower cancer risk for vegetarians, virtual wards and link between hot days a

End of legal need to self isolate in England

All remaining legal Covid restrictions have been removed in England, nearly two years after the first rules were introduced. This means people are no longer legally required to self-isolate if they test positive for Covid – although they are still advised to do so. The changes are part of the prime minister’s Living with Covid plan, to “transition back to normality”.

The first Covid regulations were introduced in March 2020, and have ranged from stay at home orders, to bans on travel, to the closures of schools, shops, and restaurants. The end of restrictions also means an end to self-isolation support payments – which were available to those on low incomes – and the end of routine contact tracing. Although curbs are ending in England, free testing will continue until 1 April – both PCR tests for people with symptoms and lateral flow tests for those without.

While there will no longer be a legal requirement to self-isolate, NHS England bosses have written to healthcare staff to say if they test positive, they should not attend work until they have had two negative lateral flow tests taken 24 hours apart, and at least five days after the initial positive result.

Read the full story in BBC News.

Vegetarians have 14% lower cancer risk than meat-eaters, study finds

Vegetarians have a 14% lower chance of developing cancer than carnivores, according to a large study that links meat-eating to a heightened risk of the disease. The results confirm WCRF’s longstanding advice that people should limit their intake of red and processed meat and eat more wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and pulses, she added.

A team of researchers from Oxford University analysed data on more than 470,000 Britons and found that pescatarians had a 10% reduced risk. Compared with people who eat meat regularly – defined as more than five times a week – those who consumed small amounts had a 2% lower risk of developing cancer, the study found.

“In this large British cohort, being a low meat-eater, fish-eater or vegetarian was associated with a lower risk of all cancer sites when compared to regular meat-eaters,” the analysis found. However, the authors, led by Cody Watling from Oxford’s population health cancer epidemiology unit, made clear that their findings did not conclusively prove regular meat-eating increased the risk of cancer. Smoking and body fat could also help explain the differences found, they said.

Read the full story in The Guardian.

NHS to treat 25,000 hospital patients at home in ‘virtual wards’

The NHS plans to treat up to 25,000 hospital patients at home in “virtual wards” to help clear the backlog caused by the pandemic, the “living with Covid” plan has revealed. Patients will be offered acute clinical care at home, including remote monitoring and treatment, as an alternative to hospital stays.

Consultants or GPs will review patients daily via digital platforms and phone calls. In some cases, patients will be provided with a wearable device to continuously monitor and report their vital signs. The NHS has set a national target of 40 to 50 virtual beds per 100,000 population, which equates to about 25,000 beds across England, according to the “living with Covid” plan published this week. The “virtual” beds will not only be for Covid patients, but also for those with respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and those living with frailty.

NHS England operational planning guidance said “Given the significant pressure on acute beds, we must now aim for their full implementation as rapidly as possible… We are therefore asking systems to develop detailed plans to maximise the rollout of virtual wards to deliver care for patients who would otherwise have to be treated in hospital, by enabling earlier supported discharge and providing alternatives to admission.”

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

Hot summer temperatures drive up the number of people suffering mental health emergencies, the most comprehensive study to date has found. The analysis of medical records from millions of US citizens showed an average 8% rise in the rate of emergency hospital visits on days when the temperature was in the top 5% of those recorded across the decade-long study.

The effect was seen for almost all mental health conditions, including stress, mood and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, self-harm, and substance use disorders. The frequency of extreme temperatures is being driven up by the climate crisis, and the researchers said their work could help mental health services predict and prepare for times of greater need.

Prof Gregory Wellenius, at the Boston University school of public health in the US and senior author of the research said: ““People are familiar with the risks of extreme heat in terms of dehydration, heatstroke, etc… What’s really novel is that this study establishes at an unprecedented scale that days of extreme heat can also impact people’s mental health in a substantial way. And this isn’t just for a niche, vulnerable population. This is in every age bracket we looked at, for both men and women, and in every region of the country. Everybody is at risk.”

Read the full story in the The Guardian.

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