Diabetes coronavirus warning: WHO urges ‘at risk’ diabetics to follow ‘necessary’ steps

The latest figures from NHS England have revealed that a quarter of people who died with coronavirus in hospitals in England had diabetes. People with diabetes are not at the moment classed as being extremely vulnerably by the Government, however the World Health Organisation has now confirmed that they are “at risk” during the pandemic. Dr David Nabarro, the WHO’s special envoy on Covid-19, spoke to the BBC’s Today show about how best to protect individuals with the disease.

He told BBC Radio 4: “Each Government makes its own choice about how they categorise individuals.

“But I’m very clear that people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease are at risk.

“It’s not so much that I want them to be shielded, it’s just that I want them to be given the necessary advice and encouragement to be able to keep their distance from other people.

“Wherever possible, if they are forced to be close together, we must do everything possible to avoid them being exposed to infection.”

Dr Nabarro continued: “We look after them, that’s the key point.

“Caring for those who are vulnerable is something all of us in society have to do now.”

Government advice recognises that people with diabetes can be more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with coronavirus.

However it does not automatically place people with diabetes in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ or shielding group.

National charity Diabetes UK has agreed with this approach.

They state: “While it is true that some people with diabetes may become seriously ill with coronavirus and need to be hospitalised, the available evidence does not show that all people with diabetes are at a significantly increased risk solely because of their diabetes.

“There may be some people with diabetes who need to shield based on other conditions, for example those with cystic fibrosis-related diabetes. But under current guidance, most people with diabetes do not need to do this. If you haven’t had a message from the NHS yet, then you’re not being told to shield and you should follow the stay at home rules.”

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New data also shows a regional breakdown in infection rate with the R, or reproduction number of the virus.

When asked how countries should use this information, Dr Nabarro said: “The R number tells us how many people are being infected by a person who has the disease.

“If movements are restricted through physical distancing and lockdowns, you expect the R number to drop.

“But that doesn’t mean the behaviour of the virus has suddenly changed.

“All it means is that we’ve made it harder to propagate.”

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