Wednesday 9 September 2020

COVID English Press Conference EXTRA update 9th September 2020.

 COVID English Press Conference EXTRA update 9th September 2020. 

Scientists Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, and that man Boris held an English press conference today. It was clear it was going to be bad news. Luckily it didn't really turn out to be 'new' news, as we had it all leaked last night.
Chris stressed that it was important to lay down the background, so that what was coming was said "in context".
Numbers are up "going up much more rapidly over the last few days". He stressed that in some age groups, the rise is much more sharp (ski slope sharp). This is mainly in the bands containing young people aged 10-30.
Chris stresses - This is a real phenomenon, not just due to increased testing.

Rates of increase in school-aged children have been very low, it is those over 17 where it's happening - the worst group by far is 17-21 year olds. (You young folk, tsk...).

He compared the UK's graph with France, Spain and Belgium. (Their increases are also reportedly driven by young people thinking they're bombproof.) They are a little ahead of us with this wave, and we can see how it is likely to pan out if we let this carry on, and in barely moments it'll start to reach more vulnerable populations. We can't just let that happen. 

090920 UK Cases

Chris had several graphs and animated charts explaining the position in the UK and how it has changed, and showing how new cases have been spreading, and how that has sped up. 

Over to Boris, winner of the Crap Podium Decoration of the day. He reminds us that if you have symptoms, book a test. If you don't have symptoms, please don't book a test unless a medical professional asks you to, save them for people who need them. He also went over washing hands, staying apart and wearing face coverings.
'If we are to beat the virus then everyone at all times should minimise interactions.' 

In England from Monday we are introducing a 6 person LAW. You cannot socialise or gather in any group larger than 6. This will apply in any setting indoor or out, and you risk dispersal or a £100 fine, or even arrest, if you don't comply.
There are exemptions:
- Single adult households can maintain their bubbles with the other household.
- People with more than 6 in a single household
- COVID-secure venues (e.g, Churches - with their own specific venue guidelines and limits on occupancy).
- Education
- Workplaces
- Organised sport
- Weddings and Funerals
(A full list of exemptions is expected sometime very soon, so no word about drama club or Brownies, or anything that may be regarded as 'leisure' or 'extra-curricular' or 'educational' just yet.)

In addition:
- Premises and venues where people meet legally will be required to collect the details of any users, and pass them on if Test and Trace require.
- We are going to employ COVID Marshalls to remind people to socially distance in towns and cities and busy places. (I can't decide whether that'll go well, or badly.)
- We will restrict the opening of premises on a local level where necessary (such as it happening in Bolton where all hospitality has to be take out only).
- Schools and colleges will only be closed again as a last resort.
- We are increasing testing to meet demand, and hope to bring it to a level whereby we can use it to assess whether someone doesn't have COVID, and is safe to meet with others. He called this a 'Moon shot' - you aren't kidding!! 

Patrick Vallance was next with Vaccine Updates. We have around 200 vaccine candidates worldwide, 8 of which are in large scale human trials. Many are showing the correct immune response against the virus, and importantly this is in people of all ages. The UK's Vaccines Task Force has arrangements on options for 6 different vaccines in 4 different classes. Manufacturing capability in the UK is being expanded.
He mentioned the Oxford Vaccine. This is further ahead than any other trial, but was paused last night because of an 'unwanted side effect' with 1 patient. He stresses THIS IS NOT UNUSUAL. This is exactly why these trials happen. (The patient is apparently expected to make a full recovery, they didn't die or anything. A serious event can be anything from hospitalisation onwards). 

The UK still has the biggest therapeutics study in the world - the RECOVERY Trial - with over 12,000 people already enrolled. This showed that Hydroxychloroquine doesn't work in hospitalised patients, nor did a combination of HIV drugs. Dexamethasone however saves around 25% of patients requiring oxygen. Lots of other therapeutics are being trialled, including manufactured antibodies, various steroids and COVID-specific anti-virals. 

Rates in schools are currently very low, but it's early days. If the rates rise massively then we will look at measures and see what needs to be changed - remember that we are ALL new at this. 

Press asked why the public should listen, when Boris has spent the last few weeks telling everyone to get out there? It is a mixed message. He'd have probably been better telling us what figures they want to aim for, and what they don't want to go above, so that the public understand what's happening and why. Coaxing us to go out and then asking us to stay in is too much of a flip-flop when you can't see the magic line you've crossed. 

Boris went off on one about his 'Moon shot' vision. It's a bit Trumpesque. Clearly he dreams of a day everyone does a quick COVID test in the morning on their little handheld gadget, and then can skip off to work, safe in the knowledge they aren't shedding virus... or at least weren't at 6.45am that morning. I'm guessing getting COVID once wasn't fun for him, and his tired, still-recovering lungs don't fancy it again. I don't blame him. 

Chris dragged us back to Earth, and reminded us that we're a bit shit at testing just now because it's all gone pear-shaped and is overwhelmed - however we still are in a far, far better place than we were back in March. We are hoping to increase testing to the mythical 500,000 a day that we were previously going to increase it to, and then we didn't. 

We are warned that new restrictions are likely to be in place for some weeks. (If you have a large cardboard box and some sawdust, go for a snooze and we'll see you in March.) 

New Wnglish ruling meeting no more than 6 people at once

The AstraZeneca Oxford Vaccine Candidate Trial has been put on hold because a UK patient who has been given the vaccine has had an adverse event. This is really anything from hospitalisation onwards, and the patient is expected to make a full recovery. (It was STAT News broke this story - so keep an eye on them if you want to keep up to date.) Although it's 'on hold', the investigation is already underway and the timeline for trial completion isn't expected to be affected. 

What needs to happen now is to try and find out why? Is this just random? It's common for a very tiny percentage of people to react badly to any vaccine - but no vaccine will go ahead if the risks are anything like as bad as the virus. This is 1 patient in tens of thousands. 

Is the patient taking or doing something that increased their chances of having an adverse event, in which case, what?

Does the patient have a condition, or a mineral deficiency, or a genetic predisposition, or anything which we can now identify as being a risk factor? 

The findings could tell us nothing, or they could actually tell us a lot about the vaccine, or even COVID itself.  If that is the case then it could be beneficial information for every human on the planet (and every lemming, rabbit, dog, Siberian Tiger, cat, bat etc etc).

I am incredibly glad they're expected to be okay.


  1. I am not sure what to make of yesterday's press conference. I will refrain until I hear ours today xx

    1. It was actually pretty succinct - but I bet yours will be even more so :)


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