Friday, 23 September 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update September 23rd 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update September 23rd 2022

Oops - I'm so late. I am sorry! It's another post on my phone sadly. I do have my laptop, but it's decided not to play 'hotspots' this week and there's no Internet at my Mum's house. We soldier on. 

World: 619,365,299 reported COVID cases and 6,537,109 losses of life.

"We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic - we are not there yet, but the end is in sight."
Dr Tedros, Head of The World Health Organisation - whoop!
Losses of life to COVID have dropped to their lowest levels since March 2020, and although we'll probably never be rid of COVID, we have it under a level of control. Worldwide figures are dropping nicely week on week, so fingers crossed that continues as we head into Winter for the Northern hemisphere.

UK figures are a bit iffy. Hospital admissions are up 17%, but from a fairly low level, so it's not time to worry just yet - keep an eye on it.


The new UK Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey has announced plans to fix the NHS. It seems to involve asking more of GPs and pharmacists, and doesn't even mention the fact we are short of 40,000 nurses. They don't just do bedpans Thérèse - we really need them.
In more positive news, she has announced a £500m fund to help pay for the discharge of medically fit hospital patients who need help at home. Around 13,000 of our 100,000 hospital beds have people in them who could go home - with assistance. Where the £500m is coming from is anyone's guess for now... 

Awww. Remember Margaret COVID? Margaret Ferrier is the Scottish MP who Nicola Sturgeon twice accidentally misnamed live on camera, when poorly Margaret went home by train after testing positive. She's been sentenced to 270 hours of community service to pay for her daft error.

Some longer term ONS data on the UK's 'Excess Mortality' has been released, and Adele Groyer of the COVID Actuaries has deciphered it for us.
From March 2020 to June 2022 the ONS estimates 137,447 excess deaths in England & Wales (people who died over the expected average). "However excluding deaths involving Covid, there have been 31,397 FEWER deaths than expected."
COVID takes the weakened and the elderly, meaning less people die from other causes. 

Hot on the heels of the excess mortality, putting COVID to one side - what are we dying from? Well, irregular heartbeat is claiming more people than usual - as are ischaemic heart diseases, diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer's.
It's hard to tell if this is entirely unrelated to COVID, as all of those conditions are seen in people post-COVID, but failing to access prompt medical help can also be a factor in these cases. 
If you need medical assistance - it is there for exactly that reason. Don't be slow to contact your GP or 111 if you have a problem.   

Canada is dropping COVID19 vaccine requirements for international travellers and making their COVID app optional on September 30th. Masks will remain mandatory on planes and trains. 

The World Health Organisation has removed recommendations to use antibody therapies sotrovimab and casirivimab-imdevimab to treat patients with COVID-19, as they just don't seem to be effective against Omicron variants. 
Remdesivir and other treatments are still advised and do still work, so it certainly isn't all bad news.

China is still pursuing zero COVID, and last Sunday there was a terrible bus accident on the way to a quarantine facility. 27 people died. As a result there was a massive online protest against enforced quarantine. "We're on that bus too."

Not COVID, but researchers trialling a new treatment for Motor Neurone Disease have revealed excellent results from trials lasting the last 6 years. One patient was interviewed by Sky News and told how the monthly injections had reversed his progressive muscle weakness so much that he went from needing a wheelchair, to being able to manage at home without even using sticks to walk. 
At the moment it works best on the 2% of patients with a specific (usually inherited) gene mutation, and sadly doesn't have any effect with some other patients, but it really offers hope to all sufferers, and potentially the technology could be used elsewhere, so it is a massive breakthrough.

Another breakthrough, and researchers in Shanghai have developed a mask which can detect incredibly small quantities of COVID in the air, and alert the wearer via their smartphone. Obviously in China it's a bit harder to test it "in the field", so we only have lab results so far, but it can also detect swine flu and bird flu, and can be adapted to detect any other novel repiratory viruses that may arise in the future. This could be incredibly useful in confined spaces such as meetings, transport, lifts etc.

Although overall COVID cases are dropping, we still have to keep an eye on variants, just in case any become bothersome. There doesn't appear to be anything particularly bad making headway, but interesting variants of note include Centaurus and BF.7 - two Omicron strains which seem to be a bit quicker to spread, although neither have made much of a dint in our regular Omicron BA.5 at the moment. 

It is the weekend. I'm meant to be doing a car boot sale, so fingers crossed for some good weather, and my treat might have to wait until I go home - but I'll have earned it. I'm sure you've earned yours too, so don't forget to do something nice for yourself. Not for anyone else, just for you. Have a good weekend! 

Stay Sensible, Get Your Flu Jab, Save The NHS.



Friday, 16 September 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus (and other virus) UK and World News Update September 16th 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus (and other virus) UK and World News Update September 16th 2022

A kind of normal report today, covering the last 2 weeks' COVID news. You'll be glad to read that nothing too major or disastrous has visibly occurred on the virus front while focus is elsewhere. 

If you are in the UK then you can now book your Autumn COVID booster jab if you are:
- aged 75 and over
- immunosuppressed
- health & social care workers
Invites will be in the post. 

Autumnal leaves surround text telling you that you can get your Autumn COVID boosters when called

Remember last year when Scotland's (and Ireland's) COVID cases started going up at the beginning of September because their kids had gone back to school? And the rest if the UK followed the same pattern with a 2 week delay? Well guess what... 
Yep. The very latest ONS random sampling data shows a levelling off and then a 2 week rise in cases in Scotland, and uncertainty in N. Ireland. Cases in England and Wales were already levelling when samples were collected on 5th September. Winter is coming. 

Thursday, 15 September 2022

September 2022 #TBCSmiles 97 Months

It's been a heck of a month hasn't it? We thought 2 years of COVID was the wrong sort of adrenaline ride, then add on Brexit, stratospheric fuel prices, potential food shortages and visible climate change, and the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The nation is 'in mourning', which affects us all, but some more than others. What it definitely does for everyone, is remind us of our own loved ones.

Moment of reflection at 8pm Sunday 18th September 2022

After a period of not so great health, where age and life caught up with her, an older lady died. She had loved her homeland, her dogs, and her own garden. She also enjoyed trips around the UK and abroad, gathering mementoes to store safely on her return home. She collected stamps and coins, ceramics and expensive teddy bears. She had a lifetime of moments. She saw and learnt far more than she could ever pass on to others. There were tens of thousands of conversations, debates, and smiles at strangers. She didn't go out so much in the final months, and she made a conscious decision about how, and where, she chose to end her days. She left behind a house full of treasures, the most precious of which have little financial value, and a family for whom there will never ever be a replacement.

My Mum's casket wasn't quite so posh as the Queen's lead-lined hand-crafted oak box adorned with flags and jewels. My Mum chose cardboard. I love that. I have a hunch her stamp and coin collection wasn't quite so grand either..

Friday, 9 September 2022

The Death of Queen Elizabeth II

It feels inappropriate to post about COVID today, although I have drafted a post, so I'll keep that for when the time is right. Instead, ahead of the first official address to the nation and commonwealth from our new King Charles III, here are a few bits of more pertinent or timely information... 

The Royal Family on Twitter announcement with text and image of the Queen smiling
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born in Mayfair in 21 April 1926. She was NOT born into the role of future Queen, it only occurred because King Edward VIII abdicated when she was 6, and her Dad (his younger brother) became King. (Edward abdicated because he wanted to marry a twice divorced American lady and UK Government said he couldn't - because the King is also head of the Church of England and it would upset their members).

Friday, 2 September 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update Friday 2nd September 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update Friday 2nd September 2022

UK COVID Statistics: 
England (to 31st August) ~
Total cases: 19,833,314 (last 7 days +24,674. Obviously this figure is affected by how many people can actually access testing)
Losses of life: 164,624 (last 7 days +419)
Scotland ~ 
Total cases (to 31st August): 2,091,313 (last 7 days +3,612 - again, influenced by how many people can access testing)
Losses of life (to 28th August): 15,592 (last 7 days +41)
Wales (to 28th August) ~
Total cases is a little cleverer. Wales use the ONS estimate, as well as telling us how many people actually test positive. ONS estimate +2,067. PCR test +9, Lateral Flow tests +53.
Losses of life data is not so clever, clear, or up-to-date. 
Northern Ireland ~ 
Don't really seem to be bothering collecting any data nowadays, they just use the ONS random sampling estimate (see below). 

Rep. Of Ireland as of Wednesday 31st August: 1,656,956 cases (+75 ) and 7,839 (+19) losses of life.

World: 609,026,757 reported cases and 6,499,352 losses of life.

Students get your jabs before you go to uni - image of young adult woman with travel coffee and a smile

The UK's COVID Alert Level has been downgraded to Level 2 - "COVID-19 is in general circulation, but direct healthcare pressures and transmission are declining or stable".
Bet that's a relief eh. Nah, I'm joking. Did anyone even remember the COVID Alert Levels existed? Has anyone told the NHS that pressures are declining or stable? 

Friday, 26 August 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update August 26th 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update August 26th 2022

Today's news is probably the shortest ever, mainly because I've had a tummy bug and lost a couple of days, and then I've been so busy since then that I thought today was Thursday. Happens to everyone... probably. Maybe.

The BBC seem to have finally caught up with the fact that mortality in England over the past 10 weeks is about 12% higher than we would expect.
It's tricky to pinpoint exactly why this is, as direct losses of life to COVID are only accounting for about 4% of those people. Aside from some extra losses of life because of the extreme heat, COVID is probably indirectly responsible for a large proportion of the remaining extra people who have died recently. Going to your GP later on in an illness, missing regular scans and check ups, and being weakened by catching COVID are all culprits, as well as an overwhelmed and shattered NHS.
As a reminder - if you are ill, GET HELP OR ADVICE. They might be really busy, but it's still what they are there for. Don't ignore a niggle. 
COVID testing in the UK is about to change. From 31st August regular asymptomatic testing will be paused in all remaining settings, including hospitals and care homes.
Testing for individuals with symptoms in these settings, including health and social care staff, will continue.
Immunocompromised patients in hospitals and people being admitted into care homes and hospices will also continue to be tested.

Rishi Sunak has been interviewed in The Spectator. He says scientists were given too much influence and power at the beginning of COVID, and dissenting opinions were deleted from official minutes. 
Clearly deleting anything is very wrong - we should have seen the full story. It's only my opinion, but I disagree with the first bit. I actually think we should have moved more swiftly in line with the scientists, then we wouldn't have lost so many people, and we wouldn't have had to lock down for so long, or for as many times. You only have to look at nations which were very quick to act, to see that if scientists had really had their way, we'd have had to endure far less restrictions and lockdowns over all. That's an inescapable truth. There are many, many lessons to be learned from this pandemic, and only when we look back from 10 years into the future will we be able to assess exactly who got it right.
Rishi is a billionaire Chancellor and obviously finance is his main concern. Even so, I'm not entirely convinced he's taking into account just how expensive and debilitating Long COVID and bereavement are going to be for the UK going forward. 

The latest UK HSA (Health Security Agency) Monkeypox report has some positive news. New cases are beginning to drop. The picture isn't quite as rosy in London as elsewhere, but overall we have a negative trajectory, with an estimated halving time of 24 days. 
Targetting vaccines for those people most at risk (men who sleep with other men and are not in stable monogamous relationships) really has made a huge difference, and there is "no robust evidence of sustained transmission" outside those groups.  
Fast access to vaccination and information may just save the day. Let's hope so. 

A new paper has just been published looking at monkeypox transmission among the first 255 cases in Italy.
They found the average incubation time (between catching it and showing any symptoms) was 9.1 days.
A long incubation makes it much harder to work out exactly where you caught it and who from.

And there is more monkeypox study news on the way, because the UK's NIHR (National Institute for Health and Care Research) have announced they'll be running a trial for a therapeutic treatment for monkeypox.
These are the people responsible for the incredibly successful RECOVERY trial for COVID treatments, which discovered how useful Dexamethasone is, and how pointless Ivermectin was, and ultimately saved tens (or hundreds) of thousands of lives.
Currently there is no special treatment that speeds up recovery from monkeypox, so this trial will be a massive bonus for the thousands of people who currently catch monkeypox in countries where it is endemic (found in wild animals).
Tecovirimat (also known as TPOXX®) was originally developed to treat patients with Smallpox. It "prevents the virus from leaving infected cells, stopping its spread within the body" and was licensed earlier this year by the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), based on promising initial study results in animals and "evidence of safety in healthy human volunteers".
It is being used to treat hospitalised patients with severe complications of monkeypox.
Nice of us to bother now that richer nations are affected by a disease that's affected some of our poorest people for the last few decades. 
Vaccine manufacturer Moderna is taking Pfizer and BioNTech to court to sue for patent infringement. They say that they developed the mRNA technique a few years ago.
"We believe that Pfizer and BioNTech unlawfully copied Moderna’s inventions, and they have continued to use them without permission.”
Goldarnit. This is the kind of argument which makes people distrustful of vaccine manufacturers and their immense profits. 
No doubt more will follow on this story...

COVID cases in the UK are continuing on their own downward trajectory - as we would expect with Summer, warm weather, outdoor play, high vaccination rates and very little testing. Hospitalisations are also creeping downwards - which is always a good thing.

I'm calling this bulletin over, because I'm already late and my poor sister has had to drive for 2 hours with me sat in the passenger seat silently tapping away, so that's it for this week.

It is the Bank Holiday weekend! Whoot! I get to see hopefully ALL of my kids - a rare do which we didn't even manage at Christmas or Easter for the past couple of years. I hope you have a chance to take a break and see your loved ones, and if you are working - thank you. Please give yourself a treat, you have earned it, you deserve something nice. 

Wear Sunscreen, Smile Often, Save The NHS. 


Friday, 19 August 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update August 19th 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update August 19th 2022

UK COVID Statistics:
In the 7 days until 12th August 744 COVID-related deaths were reported. This 189 less than the week before (-20.3%). 
In the 7 days to 15th August, 6,005 people were admitted to hospital with COVID. 
In the 7 days to 14th August 66 COVID-related deaths were reported. 
In the 7 days to 14th August, 448 people were admitted to hospital with COVID.
Northern Ireland:
In the 7 days to 12th August 16 COVID-related deaths were reported. 
In the 7 days to 12th August, 60 people were admitted to hospital with COVID.
In the 7 days to 13th August 17 COVID-related deaths were reported. 
In the 7 days to 12th August, 278 people were admitted to hospital with COVID.

Rep. Of Ireland: 1,653,576 cases and 7,742 losses of life reported in total as of yesterday.

World: 599,293,153 reported cases and 6,467,625 losses of life.

Who gets an Autumn booster UK 2022

The UK has become the first country to approve Moderna's new "bivalent" Omicron-specific COVID vaccine as a booster jab. Bivalent refers to the number '2', and it targets boring old COVID, as well as specifically targeting Omicron variants (by having especially shaped attachment points). Omicron variants now account for almost all cases on the globe, including most of those with the more disturbing collections of mutations. 
In tests people given the new vaccine were found to increase their protection against Omicron by 8 times, and protection against older strains of COVID was actually very slightly higher too. This is exactly what you would hope from a tweaked and upgraded vaccine. 
At the moment the UK MHRA have approved the jab as a booster for adults over age 18. 

The UK's Autumn COVID booster will begin rollout on 5th September with care home residents and housebound people among the first in line. Wider rollout will begin a week later. Eligible people are basically anyone in a special jab group or aged 50 or over. You will be invited to attend when it's your turn, and you will be offered the new Moderna Omicron-specific jab.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

July AND August #TBCSmiles...

In all the time I've collected the #tbcsmiles I haven't missed a month until last month. I have already apologised, and I really was very much grieving my Mum, and dealing with her funeral and all of the other things that need to be sorted when someone dies. My head was far too full, I didn't want to have to turn on my laptop and I just wanted to be left in peace. I guess it happens to all of us at times, and I'm glad I was able to tell myself to stop, and rest. 

I've spent a lot of time sitting in the garden staring at insects, and it's allowed me to think, and wonder, and remember a time when all of those around me now weren't there, and a cheekily-grinning and innocent little girl was.

Me and my mum in 1974 She is crouched and holding my baby sister on her lap

For anyone who didn't know why I collect my smiles, it is because they are incredibly precious, but so often we let them slip by unnoticed, or forgotten. It's easy to count how many times you cried last month, but how many times did you laugh? We need to remember these times equally. They remind us we can be a success, we can make people's day a bit brighter, we can make other people laugh too. They are the reason we are here. When you strip everything back, all any of us ever really want is to be happy. Start counting the happy times, and revel in your own success with an extra grin. 

Monday, 15 August 2022

#TBCSmiles... 96 Months... 8 Years.

 8 years ago today, we woke up to find that one of our teenage children hadn't survived the night. In the early hours of the morning she had taken her own life. I wrote about it at the time, here

After 8 years we know that today isn't likely to be as hard as you might fear. It's not a reminder of Elspeth, because there is nothing forgotten, and mentally we know this date is coming, so we can brace ourselves for it. This is a day we can at least take off the mask and any illusion of pretending to be fine, even if we aren't. 

Sunflower drawn for us by a young student in Wakefield

Any day might be interrupted with a surprise memory, a badly chosen comment, a celebrity story, or a worry about someone you know, or don't. Any day can end badly just as it can end well, but each and every day is a mundane sort of grief, a new normal that you learn to live alongside. 

There are never quite enough people for dinner, or enough washing to go in the machine, and nowadays I cook mainly in silence standing alone, without Elspeth sitting at the kitchen table chatting. I usually love cooking, but sometimes I just can't bring myself to do it. 

Friday, 12 August 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other viruses UK and World News Update 12th August 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other viruses UK and World News Update 12th August 2022

World COVID Statistics: 
Cases: 593,567,442
Losses Of Life: 6,449,589

UK COVID stats regarding cases, hospitalisations and deaths are on the way down. According to the ONS random survey week ending 25th July for Wales and Northern Ireland, and 26th July for England and Scotland:
"The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to decrease in England, Wales and Scotland; and the trend remained uncertain in Northern Ireland."
- England, estimate 2,106,000, equating to 3.86% of the population, or around 1 in 25 people.
- Wales, estimate 108,800, equating to 3.58% of the population, or around 1 in 30 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 109,800, equating to 5.98% of the population, or around 1 in 17 people.
- Scotland, estimate 260,800, equating to 4.95% of the population, or around 1 in 20 people.

UK heat advice met office - take water, be sensible

A clinically extremely vulnerable chap named Nicholas Chavez has pulled out some exciting COVID stats for us. That's exciting as in startling rather than fun... we'll start with England’s COVID hospital admissions in the first week of August: 
2022: 6,842
2021: 4,738
2020: 411
And how about England’s excess deaths during the month of July (more deaths than average, via the ONS):
2022: 6,260
2021: 2,109
2020: −1,018
Well, that's going well then. Funny how well masks, distancing, being sensible and acting like we might have a disease worked, as compared to this year's "it's finished, we're done with that now. Move on"....