Thursday 5 March 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus Updates 3rd to 5th March

COVID-19 Coronavirus Updates 3rd March to 12.30 gmt 5th March

The global total for COVID-19 positive cases is at time of typing 96.609, loss of life is 3,308 souls.

Outside China cases 16,179 / Loss of life 295

UK cases are currently 90 (6 Scotland, 1 Wales, 3 N. Ireland, 80 England). England's updates occur at 2pm GMT.

COVID-19 Coronavirus Updates 3rd to 5th March

UK Updates:

Great news for workers and business - UK workers will receive Statutory Sick Pay from the first day off in the event of it being due to  COVID-19, rather than the 4th. This includes people self-isolating. It's still not enough to really live on, but it's got to be a huge relief to people on low incomes and with no built-in sick pay at work which would cover it.

Paying SSP, even to people self-isolating with no symptoms, is a vital part of slowing down the spread of COVID-19. It will allow people to take less risks and stay home from work without starving or losing their house. Slowing spread will always be top priority, even if we do end up with an epidemic.
While you have a manageable number of patients everyone can get full care and other departments of hospitals can run effectively. If you have thousands of people needing oxygen for the same 2 week period, they can't.

Now I've had chance to read it The UK Action Plan is full of interesting facts and data for comparison, but doesn't really say anything we weren't expecting. Some main points:

"The overall phases of our plan to respond to COVID-19 are:
Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible
Delay: slow the spread in this country, if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season
Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care
Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy."

"Action that would be considered could include population distancing strategies (such as school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large-scale gatherings) to slow the spread of the disease throughout the population, while ensuring the country’s ability to continue to run as normally as possible. The UK governments’ education departments’ planning assumptions include the possibility of having to close educational settings in order to reduce the spread of infection.
We would consider such measures in order to protect vulnerable individuals with underlying illnesses and thus at greater more at risk of becoming seriously affected by the disease. The effectiveness of these actions will need to be balanced against their impact on society."

Early this morning the UK Government announced we are already heading into delay, as containment is looking increasingly unlikely.

In a press conference today Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, explained if we do reach epidemic in the UK, which seems likely,  the peak of epidemic will probably see around 50% of cases over 3 weeks, 95% over 9 weeks.

The UK government has backtracked over their plan to give location information about cases once a week. It wasn't popular. Now it will be given with a 24 hour delay to ensure accuracy.

Other Countries:

There are some big numbers happening. Italy reported 587 new cases and 28 new deaths on Wednesday, and has a current total of 3,089 cases and 107 losses of life. Some epidemiologists are predicting there are likely to be around 50-100k cases in Italy as yet undiagnosed.

Norway has reported 72 cases, and Iceland, with it's tiny population of 364,000 people, has reported a total 34 cases.

The spokesperson of China’s National Health Commission said during a press briefing that the recovery rate of COVID19 patients in Wuhan has reached 50.2%, the rest of Hubei province is 76.8% and the rest of the provinces is 87.3%. Good luck to everyone still in hospital.

Singapore have introduced mandatory checkpoint testing of anyone entering the country who has a fever or respiratory symptoms. They currently have 112 cases.

South Africa and Palestine have both reported their first cases.

China have also been checking they don't import cases and as of Wednesday morning had stopped 6,728 inbound symptomatic passengers for testing, of which 779 were suspected cases and 75 positive cases were detected.

Keep an eye on Indonesia. It may seem like a little collection of sunny islands, but it has the 4th largest population in the world, it has lots of travel links with China, and only 04/03 has reported it's first 2 cases. They had at that point only tested 333 people - in a population of 264 million people.

Iran are temporarily releasing 54,000 prisoners with sentences shorter than 5 years, in an attempt to stop mass infection in overcrowded prisons. This has been a genuine issue in at least 3 prisons already, and from a human rights point of view this move has to be the morally correct one. Best of luck getting them all back. Iran's total continues to soar, as do losses of life. Cases 3,513 and lives lost 107.

The South Korean government have offered $9.8b to help businesses, medical support and low income families in the country badly affected by COVID-19. Italy has announced their own 3.6 billion euros ($4 billion) in emergency measures and Hong Kong have an emergency budget which includes cash handouts for residents. Total cases in South Korea now stands at 6,088 (40 lives lost) and Hong Kong's total is 105 (2 lives lost).

Australians in Sydney didn't pay attention to Hong Kong and Singapore, and decided they wanted to pay $10 for a toilet roll too. Panic buying has broken out and this causes a shortage, leading to price hikes, profiteering and an additional use for yesterday's daily papers. There was NEVER a shortage of toilet roll, they all created it themselves.  COVID-19 doesn't regulary cause tummy upsets or runny noses. How big is your backside really? Be sensible people. DON'T BE LIKE SYDNEY. (Total cases in Australia currently 52).

Not content with giving COVID-19 as a free gift to visitors, Italy have exported a minibus full. 15 Italian tourists and their driver have tested positive on holiday in India. India aren't impressed, their total cases are now 30.

A former passenger on another Princess cruise has died from COVID-19. The ship is currently moored off California, USA and helicopters are dropping off test kits for all 2500 remaining passengers and crew before they are allowed to leave. More than 30 people on board report symptoms.

The Italian government has ordered the closure of all schools and universities nationwide until 15 March, and all major sporting events, including Serie A football, will be played behind closed doors until 3 April.

Iran has closed all schools and universities until 20th March.

North Korea has worried a lot of people for a while, and is becoming more worrying as time goes on. They still maintain officially that they are virus-free. They have banned foreign tourists, have strict quarantines and have closed the 900 mile long border with China, but they have a very weak medical infrastructure. Even the US state department has said it would “support and encourage” international efforts to help.

At least 7 government officials and 23 of Iran's parliament have tested positive for COVID-19, and an adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has died from the virus.

The US test results are coming in thick and fast now and California, LA County, Pasadena and Long Beach have all announced a health 'state of emergency'. Total cases is currently 160 and loss of life is 11.

Whole World News:

The WHO have estimated how much PPE (personal protective equipment) the world is going to need, and it is desperately short. We need manufacturing to increase supply by 40% now to keep up with demand. Medical workers need to feel safe to do their job, so hoarding, bulk buying for later sale and profiteering are endangering lives.
The price increases are literally and morally criminal. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began:
"Surgical masks have seen a sixfold increase, N95 respirators have trebled and gowns have doubled. Supplies can take months to deliver and market manipulation is widespread, with stocks frequently sold to the highest bidder.“

The World Bank has announced an initial package of up to $12b "on a fast track basis".
"The Bank Group support will prioritize the poorest countries and those at high risk with low capacity.“
It's what it's for, although I don't think anyone wanted to see it activate.

The WHO have announced the current global mortality rate is 3.4%, which has been obvious for some time. Popular opinion is that this figure will be considerably lower when we are able to accurately count the true number of infected, and recovered.

MGM, Universal and Bond producers, have decided that "after careful consideration" and a good lashing of common sense, the release of the unfortunately named latest James Bond movie NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November 2020.

As COVID-19 passes from person to person, everyone makes tiny tiny changes to it. Lots of the genomic data of individual cases is being shared online by scientists, and Seattle scientist Trevor Bedford and team (using some travel history and a bit of hypothesis) think they can trace back cases from Lombardy, Italy, as well as cases from Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Brazil and Mexico to one root - a Bavarian who caught COVID-19 from a visiting Chinese work colleague.

National Geographic have published a lovely report detailing how Coronavirus can affect the body. Hopefully Trump will read it and realise it isn't flu. (Link below in sources).

The WHO's press conferences have been making clear the differences between COVID-19 and flu (Just in case Trump was watching and listening), but numbers are again good. China has reported the lowest new daily cases in about 5 weeks, and we are not yet seeing massive community spread worldwide.

Japan is still determined they will host the Olympics.

These are initial findings from a single study which hasn't been properly reviewed yet, but could turn out to be a really important update:
Coronaviruses mutate slightly with every person they pass through. Most of those mutations are teeny tiny, but there's always a rare chance of a big change, and from initial findings, Scientists in China have discovered 2 strains of SARS-CoV-2 which are causing COVID-19.
'L type' (around 70% of cases)
'S type' (around 30% of cases)
"..the S type was found to be the ancestral version. Whereas the L type was more prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan, the frequency of the L type decreased after early January 2020. Human intervention may have placed more severe selective pressure on the L type, which might be more aggressive and spread more quickly. On the other hand, the S type, which is evolutionarily older and less aggressive, might have increased in relative frequency due to relatively weaker selective pressure. "
This does seem plausible, as the speed of outbreaks and number of deaths in places like Wuhan, Italy and Iran is rapid compared to the initial waves we see elsewhere. Bad news is, far more research is needed and we don't yet know for sure if you can catch them both. If you can, it could help explain people who get better and then test positive again a distinct time later. While that sounds bad, it's much better than finding out you could just catch the same COVID-19 again after a few days or weeks. (source below).

While I try to keep these posts light, I never forget that every one of those numbers represents a person. Someone who has a family, and likes going out for a drink with their friends. People. 

Sources: I check everything with sources I have always found reliable and intend never to bring you false information, but I'm not magic. If you ever spot an error, or I do, I apologise. Anything unconfirmed, preliminary or speculative is always clearly such.

BBC Guide to talking to kids about Coronavirus.

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