Monday 30 November 2020

England Coronavirus Briefing 30th November 2020

 Today's English Coronavirus briefing was with Matt Hancock the Health Secretary,  General Sir Gordon Messenger, the Head of Operations for the Community Testing Programme, and Professor Stephen Powis, Medical Director of NHS England. 

Today the Government published the data behind their decisions regarding COVID and the lockdown. It's been requested often, as sometimes numbers they've quoted haven't quite matched anything anyone is aware of. There hasn't been a huge amount of controversy instantly, so I can't see that there's anything striking there. It's not obvious yet anyway... 

Tomorrow night the national restrictions in England come to an end, to be replaced by the tier system, subject to agreement by Parliament tomorrow afternoon. 

Local UK COVID Tiers from 2nd December UK Briefing 261120

Sunday 29 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News weekend update 28th / 29th November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News weekend update 28th / 29th November 2020.

The UK added 12,155 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,617,327 positive cases of COVID-19. 

15,712 people were in hospital on Thursday 26th, with 1,417 using a ventilator on Friday 27th November. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 215 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 58,245 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 71,942 cases and 2,050 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 62,882,389 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,463,107. Already 43,431,307 people have recovered.

Cristmas bubble UK Gov small illustrated snow globe with house inside, and test

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed that since the Welsh 'Firebreak lockdown', cases have risen far more quickly than was expected, and more measures are necessary to bring the reproductive number back under one and stop cases rising exponentially. At the moment the R rate is 1.4, meaning each infected person is passing it to an average of 1.4 more. Cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues will close ahead of Christmas, and pubs, bars and restaurants will face extra restrictions from Friday 4th December. Final decisions are yet to be made, an announcement will be along early next week. 

There isn't any conclusive evidence that Vitamin D helps you fight COVID, but it was long ago proven to be essential for a healthy immune system. The UK Government will be offering supplements to millions of people, including all care home residents, and those people extremely vulnerable to COVID. 
Most of our Vitamin D comes from sunlight, so if you have darker skin, low levels of sunlight in your area, or you've spent little time outside, you are more likely to be deficient. It you've been recommended to take supplements, do it. 

Hospitals in England have been told to prepare for vaccine rollout from as early as December 7th. This came as official approval has been requested from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for the USA's Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine (which has an effectiveness of over 94%). As soon as the MHRA give the green light, it's on. 
Despite what the Government previously said, it is expected NHS Staff will be first on the list, followed by care home residents and staff. Everyone needs 2 jabs, 2 weeks apart, and will only be fully protected around 2 weeks after the second dose. 

"We’re buying a further 2 million doses of Moderna's vaccine to help the whole UK in our fight against coronavirus. 
We've now secured 357 million vaccine doses & are ready to deploy a vaccine if approved by MHRA."
Matt Hancock, UK Health Secretary. 

Friday 27 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 27th November 2020.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 27th November 2020.

The UK added 16,022 cases today (DOWN from 20,252 a week earlier) and now has reported a total of 1,589,301 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 383,521 tests yesterday. 

16,064 people were in hospital on Wednesday 25th (DOWN from 16,444 a week earlier), with 1,456 using a ventilator yesterday, 27th November (UP from 1,426 a week earlier).  

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 521 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 57,551 officially reported losses of life in all settings. (Up until Friday 13th November, 66,713 people had COVID written on their death certificate). 

Rep. Of Ireland 71,494 cases and 2,036 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 61,631,826 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,443,856. Already 42,617,154 people have recovered.

The Rebel Bear (Glasgow) drawing of a nurse in a mask with her hands making a heart
The Rebel Bear (Glasgow)

There are big UK headlines today about "some areas could come out of Tier 3 before Christmas" and "PM refuses to rule out harshening of restrictions before Christmas" yada yada. It's a pandemic. We can guess what's going to happen next, but we can't know. That's the hardest bit for all of us. Any politician making promises is a fool who will struggle to back down if they need to, and that could be very costly.

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Thursday 26 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 25th / 26th November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 25th / 26th November 2020.

The UK added 17,555 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,574,562 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 356,026 tests yesterday. 

16,341 people were in hospital on Tuesday 24th, with 1,480 using a ventilator yesterday, Wednesday 25th November. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 498 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 57,031 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 71,187 cases and 2,003 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 61,120,943 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,433,826. Already 42,291,588 people have recovered.

Local UK COVID Tiers from 2nd December depicted as a 3 coloured map UK Briefing 261120

England Briefing today with Boris, UK Prime Minister, Prof Chris Whitty, UK Staring Contest Winner 2020, and Sir Patrick Vallance, inventor of the flouncy bit round your bedsheet. 
"We now have reason to hope that by Spring, community testing and vaccinations will combine to end this era of restrictions, but to get there we need to navigate a hard Winter."
If we loosen off now, we risk losing control of the virus and wasting all of our hard work. Italy has a nightly curfew, Germany and France have measures in place until next year too. We aren't on our own. 
Boris then went through some of the information on the new Tier System for England. He says the measures are tough, and he's "sorry about that". 
He admits the previous Tiers couldn't help areas lower infections. They weren't tough enough. 
Liverpool shows what can be achieved with mass testing. Together with the national restrictions, cases have dropped by 2/3. Liverpool City and Warrington on December 2nd are now moving to Tier 2. 
Tier 3 areas will be offered mass testing to try and drive down infection rates rapidly. At least 1 in 3 people with COVID has no visible symptoms whatsoever, only by mass testing (and contact testing, we could try that Boris) can we find them. 
'It may be possible, with negative tests, for people to be released from some local restrictions' (Hmmmm. No further details on that one yet.)
The allocation of Tiers will be reviewed every 14 days, starting on 16th December.
The estimated no. of positives from ONS infection survey shows a clear curve and it's heading downwards. (Whoot!) Except in Scotland - where it's going up! (What the heck Scotland?) Hospitalisations are levelling off. Sadly losses of life will take around 2 more weeks to show an impact. 
Patrick with the slides explains and shows how old Tier 1 restrictions did nothing, old Tier 2 slowed infections really slightly, but they were still going up fast. The overall effect of the national restrictions does seem to have 'turned a corner' where cases are concerned. 
Chris has an animated slide, which sounds great, but it's risky pausing it at the right moment live on Telly. It shows rates of COVID cases are going down almost universally in England (except Kent really. Kent is having a bad time right now). Chris warns that going into Winter, "almost certainly places that go into Tier 1 will rise", which is not the best outcome to aim for. I know it keeps things open, but sheesh guys. (Jacinda would never stand for this sort of talk.)
Only the Isle of Wight. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are Tier 1 (sorry about your future move to Tier 2). I'll add a link below to the gov page with all English Local Authority Tiers, but I'm guessing by now you know your own.
If cases are high or rising, you'll be more likely to be in Tier 3. 
The aim says Chris is to "keep the R below 1". He's clearly bricking it about Winter. 
Press asked why when the 'lockdown' ends, many areas will change over to restrictions that are harder than before lockdown. Boris, Chris and Pat all made it clear that we have to be hard through December, or Winter (and Christmas) will break us. We are used to Summer with this virus - Winter is a bit of an unknown, and don't forget flu will still exist. We can see across Europe that it's looking harder to bring case rates down already.
Chris and Pat talked about being sensible over Christmas - open the windows, go outside in you can, take a walk, wash your hands etc. Chris actually said "If you want people to be alive to be hugged again." Blunt, but it is something you really have to take seriously. 
For some people this Christmas it will always be worth the risk, but for the vast majority, it may not. I know if my partner's parents turned up, I'd post them a warmed mince pie out through the letterbox and talk to them through the window, and that would be their limit. We'll have them round to stay next year. 

Wednesday 25 November 2020

(Ad|Review) Gift Ideas For Pre-Teens - 8-12 Year Olds

Choosing gifts when your child enters that 'in between' stage can feel like you are entering the wilderness. They don't play with toys very much, but they aren't necessarily ready for gig tickets, make up and alcohol. We've been there 7 times now, and actually there are tons of things that have been universally enjoyed here, so there must be at least a couple of other kids out there who would enjoy them too... 

A Telescope.

It doesn't matter who you are, the sky is vast and full of possibility, and the stars are hypnotic. Wishes waiting to fall. We were sent a couple of great examples this year for review, and they're incredibly different. 

Boys messing about and making each other laugh  with telescope in garden

The GeoSafari Vega 360 Telescope (Age 8+) from Learning Resources just needs the large parts screwing together and you are good to go. We spent a long time examining the moon with this, and the owl in our tree! 

GeoSafari 360 Vega Children's Telescope review for Learning Resources

Comes with different eyepieces, a guide and activity booklet. Rrp £48 in store or direct from Learning Resources.  Here's our full GeoSafari Vega 360 Telescope Review

A Paper or Card Construction Craft Kit

If you are a bit more interested in how things work, and yours is the type of child who takes things to pieces, or gets joy from making something themselves, then we also reviewed the Build Your Own Telescope Kit (age 8+). They have several different models available, including a fantastic marble run. 

Build Your Own Paper Telescope STEM toy review Age 8+

Tuesday 24 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 23 / 24 November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 23 / 24 November 2020.

The UK added 11,299 cases today (a good drop, but testing was a little low. Still looks very hopeful) and now has reported a total of 1,538,794 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 212,533 tests yesterday. 

16,158 people were in hospital on Sunday 22nd, with 1,487 using a ventilator yesterday, 23rd November. 
 
In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 608 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 55,838 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Up until Friday 13th November, 66,713 people had COVID written on their death certificate. 

Rep. Of Ireland 70,930 (+219) cases and 2,028 (+6) losses of life.

There have now been a total of 59,846,963 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,408,656. Already 41,389,630 people have recovered.

Cloth masks How to wear a non medical mask safely

Michael Gove has confirmed that the 4 UK nations have reached an agreement over Christmas, and up to 3 households will be able to come together indoors over a 5 day Christmas period 23-27 December (there is a 1 day extension either end for people travelling between the mainland UK and Northern Ireland)  

Russia had good vaccine news today from their Sputnik V vaccine study, although it doesn't seem quite as robust as some of the other vaccine data. They have released their findings with just 39 infections during the trial. (Most seem to be hoping for around 100 or more.) Bizarrely for the worldwide press conference, one of the developers was sat in the back of a car with the camera pointing up his nose. It makes Boris' cupboard press conference yesterday seem very well-organised. 
Russian figures are:
Placebo group 4,699 people/ 31 infections. 
Vaccine group 14,095 people / 8 infections. 
That actually works out at an excellent 91.4% efficacy - slightly higher than the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and slightly lower than BioNTech or Moderna, but all flipping marvellous. 
Sputnik V costs less than $10 a dose, can be stored at 2-8 degrees C in a fridge and up to 500m doses will be available for international use next year. 
(See yesterday's post for more about the other vaccines). 

Monday 23 November 2020

UK Coronavirus Briefing / Vaccine news 23rd November 2020

UK Coronavirus Briefing 23 /11 /20

We had a UK briefing today with remote Bozza-in-an-understairs cupboard, in-person Chris 'Tintin' Whitty, and in-person Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group. 

I spent ages typing up the excellent vaccine trial results ready for tomorrow, but stuff that, I've put them at the bottom. Depending on how much you know, you might want to read that bit first, or last (or just skim it, no-one will know). 

Boris started by saying how great the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine news is. We have 100m doses on order. He reminds us that even if all 3 leading vaccines are given authorisation, it'll still be months before everyone gets a jab, and it'll be Winter - virus love Winter. We can't stop restrictive measures now. We have to keep going. 
The new tiers will be tough, because we can't let this beat us after Christmas. He warns a lot of people will find ourselves under harsher restrictions than before lockdown. 
Community mass testing will expand (over 40 local authorities have signed up). We are urged to make use of it.
"This is not the time to let the virus rip for the sake of Christmas parties. Tis the season to be jolly, but it's also the season to be jolly careful, especially with elderly relatives."
"Christmas this year will be different, and we want to remain prudent through Christmas and into the new year." 
Over the next few months we'll employ tiering, testing and the rollout of vaccines to drive down the infection rate. Things should look different by Easter. 
The challenge this Winter is "to fight down any over-optimism", keep washing your hands, don't get complacent. 

Sunday 22 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News weekend update 21 /22 November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News weekend update 21 /22 November 2020.

The UK added 18,662 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,512,045 positive cases of COVID-19. 

16,390 people were in hospital on Thursday 19th, with 1,421 using a ventilator on Friday 20th November. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 398 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 55,024 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Up until Friday 6th November, 63,873 people have had COVID written on their death certificate. 

Rep. Of Ireland 70,143 cases and 2,022 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 58,779,998 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,391,046. Already 40,664,880 people have recovered.

open the windows most covid cases are shared indoors

About 6 or 7 years ago, back in Spring 2020, the UK announced that AstraZeneca was working on an antibody cocktail for people who can't be vaccinated. On Saturday the UK became the first country to start phase 3, mass human trials of the 'experimental long-acting monoclonal antibody combination drug'. It's hoped this can offer up to a year's protection for many of the people who, for no fault of their own, have lowered immunity, are very ill, very vulnerable. The people we need to protect the most. The UK has ordered 1m doses. 

Bizarrely the UK removed 150 people from the losses of life yesterday, so they reported an artificially low +341. They regularly remove or add after the fact, often without explanation, and sometimes they re-add numbers removed a few days earlier. I'd say it was to give a certain effect depending on whether they want to tell us to be careful, or get out there and spend money, but it doesn't always match up. 

It seems likely there'll be a press conference tomorrow and Boris will announce a tighter 3 Tier System for when we come out of lockdown, and then we'll find out which tiers we are in on Thursday. Dates for your diary there. 

Friday 20 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 20th November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 20th November 2020.

The UK added 20,252 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,473,508 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 395,436 tests yesterday. 

16,444 people were in hospital on Wednesday 18th, with 1,426 using a ventilator yesterday, 19th November. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 511 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 54,286 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Country / Cases / Losses of life with COVID on the Death Certificate. 
England 1,267,276 / 54,873
Northern Ireland 49,085 / 1,105
Scotland 86,630 / 4,855
Wales 70,517 / 3,040

Rep. Of Ireland 69,802 (+329) cases and 2,018 (+8) losses of life.

There have now been a total of 57,644,523 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,372,340. Already 39,970,534 people have recovered.

Northern Ireland Circuit Breaker from 27th November

Travel corridor update: Bonaire / St Eustatius / Saba, Israel, Jerusalem, Namibia, Northern Mariana Islands, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Uruguay and the US Virgin Islands will be added to exempt lists (usually do not need to quarantine) for England, Northern Ireland and Wales at 4am, Saturday 21 November.

The Scottish tier changes took place at 6pm tonight. East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire and West Lothian will move Tier 4. Inessential hospitality, retail, leisure etc. will be closed. Extra restrictions on gathering also apply. Check gov dot scot for more details. 

Northern Ireland will be having a circuit-breaker lockdown from 27 November to 11th December. Inessential retail, hospitality and leisure etc will close. Extra restrictions on gatherings will apply. Check nidirect dot gov for more details. 

This week's COVID19 surveillance report from Public Health England (PHE) showed that case rates have fallen amongst 20-69 year olds, but have increased in those aged over 70. They are rising pretty rapidly in the 10-19 age group too. 

Thursday 19 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 18 /19 November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 18 /19 November 2020.

The UK added 22,195 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,453,256 positive cases of COVID-19. 

16,409 people were in hospital on Tuesday 17th, with 1,430 using a ventilator yesterday, 18th November. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 501 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 53,755 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 69,473 (+415) cases and 2,010 (+4) losses of life. 

There have now been a total of 56,915,293 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,360,685. Already 39,587,201 people have recovered.

International Mens Day Check on your mental health

I now have both of my younger children (from 2 different schools) self-isolating because classmates have had positive tests. Reportedly (admittedly by my pre-teen boy child) at least 1 child was sent home yesterday because a family member had symptoms and a positive test result. IF ANYONE IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD HAS SYMPTOMS, YOU ALL STAY HOME. IT'S THE RULES. It's also how we actually stop this thing... 

There was a UK Coronavirus Data Briefing yesterday with Prof Stephen Powis, Medical Director of NHS England, Prof Dame Angela McLean, the Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser and Dr Susan Hopkins, the Medical Advisor to the COVID-19 response. 
- Everyone seems to be behaving really sensibly - or at least they say they are. 98% of people say they wore a face covering outside the home. 
- Cases are still going up in England, it'll take a few more days before the effect of the English lockdown begins to show properly, but the increase in cases is definitely levelling off significantly or dropping everywhere except the North East, South West and South East. 
- Around 1 in every 85 people in England currently has COVID.  
- Daily UK hospital admissions are high, but levelling off in most places, rather than increasing day by day. The total number of people in hospital is still rising. 
-  The ONS reported 63,873 cumulative registered deaths from COVID-19 up to 6 November. This was 14,328 more than the 49,545 deaths within 28
days of a COVID-19 positive test (by date of death) published on the coronavirus dashboard for the same date.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 16th / 17th November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 16th / 17th November 2020.

The UK added 20,051 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,410,732 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 234,189 tests yesterday. 

15,830 people were in hospital on Sunday 15th Nov, with 1,391 using a ventilator yesterday, 16th November. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 598 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 52,745 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 68,356 cases and 1,984 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 55,677,943 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,338,087. Already 38,820,414 people have recovered.

Summary of scenarios SPIMO Advice to SAGE

"COVID19 is your challenge. Your time to lead. Invest in health. Invest in health systems. Invest in health and care workers."
HRH Princess Muna al-Hussein of Jordan, in her keynote address to the World Health Assembly last week. 

"NEW: Bad news I’m afraid. Covid hospital admissions in London and NW rising again. Had been tracking down in both regions since start of month."
Alistair McKellen, Editor HSJ.
Darn. 

There was a UK briefing yesterday, and there was quite a bit in it, so I covered that in it's own post yesterday.  

Santa Goes On Strike by Jem Vanston. Children's Rhyming Picture Story Book Review (sent for review)

I've got a Christmassy book review today,  Santa Goes On Strike, which has been sent to us from the author Jem Vanston for review. Especially suitable for reading together, this is a rhyming book based on a poem which the author wrote several years ago... 

Santa Goes On Strike Rhyming Picture Book Review by Jem Vanston

Santa is beginning to get demoralised. He's fed up of delivering shiny new devices and modern toys that'll just be played with for 10 minutes and thrown into a corner. He is sad that we don't seem to realise our loved ones are the most important thing about Christmas, not all of the presents. (I think this year we'll all appreciate that one!) 

Santa decides he doesn't want to do it, and goes to bed. I think most adults at least know what it's like to just want to go to bed and forget about the world. Who can blame him really? Christmas can be hard work, especially for Santa. 

Monday 16 November 2020

UK COVID Briefing 16/11/20

UK COVID Briefing 16/11/20

Matt Hancock, the face of the UK COVID response led today's briefing in Boris' absence. Alongside were Prof Jon Van-Tam-Halen, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Dr Susan Hopkins, Medical Advisor to COVID-19 response

Boris is self-isolating because of close contact with someone who later tested positive (MP Lee Anderson). I'm not convinced we'll spot a difference, and nor is it very special, a hell of a lot of people are self-isolating. He is however kind of special in that he's already had COVID and recovered. Astoundingly, that's already over 6 months ago (how time flies), and we really aren't sure how much immunity he'll have left. Where your health is concerned, it's pretty much always best to err on the side of caution. 

Average cases are now at 25,329 per day (22,443 last week).
14,529 people are in hospital (13,025 last week).
On average we are currently losing an average of 413 people a day.

Care home testing pilot has started

Matt talks about Long COVID and the fact that it can affect anyone. Hundreds of thousands of people are already affected, with fatigue, muscle pain, neurological problems etc
Long COVID clinics are open already, and we're building more - there will be 40 in place by the end of the month. 
He apologises for missed or different events - e.g.Diwali. Thank you for following the guidelines and staying at home. 
We have the  "largest COVID testing capacity in Europe" and we are creating 2 new megalabs. They will add another 600,000 tests a day to our capacity, so testing in spring should be really slick. The megalabs will create 4000 jobs and form a permanent diagnostics industry. They'll be there in case of future pandemics, and can also help with other diagnostic care - e.g Cancer. 
From this weekend, Royal Mail will open some post boxes on Sundays to speed up testing.
Over the last week, 3m NHS staff have been tested, and a pilot has started for testing care home visitors. 
83 authorities have signed up for Lateral Flow rapid tests. 

Sunday 15 November 2020

75 Months.... #TBCSmiles November 2020

It's been a funny month. In England we were told about lockdown on Halloween, and locked down on Firework Night. Ireland, Wales and Scotland had moved before us, so the whole UK were not quite doing it as we usually do. It worked though. 

We had a Halloween sweet hunt, and an online zoom pumpkin carving challenge with our big uni kids, and we'll never forget those moments. They wouldn't have happened without COVID. Yes it stops us from doing what we expected, but it doesn't have to stop us from 'doing'. We can still make memories, have fun, and create smiles. 

Collage of 4 images of pumpkins and smiling faces from a Zoom meeting

A huge thank you to everyone who shared their smiles with us on Instagram this month. Anyone is welcome to join in, just use the hashtag #tbcsmiles on any smile. Some of them are very hard won, and every one precious. 

It's lovely to see lots of adults, people carrying on with their lives. We also have lots of children with old and new traditions, and a socially-distanced mix of the two. We can all do this.... 

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News weekend update 14/15 November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News weekend update 14/15 November 2020.

The UK added 24,962 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,344,356 positive cases of COVID-19.

14,915 people were in hospital on Thursday 12th, with 1,355 using a ventilator on Friday 13th November. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 168 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 51,934 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 67,526 cases and 1,978 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 54,611,015 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,322,317. Already 38,052,515 people have recovered.

Just the flu? - get a jab

There was trouble in the USA last night. Trump supporters organised a 'Million MAGA March' in Washington DC, an area where Donald Trump only got 5.5% of the vote, and Biden got 92.9%. It was never going to end well, and it didn't.
Donald Trump has has well and truly returned to Twitter, and his messages were not helpful. He referred to counter-protesters as "Human Radical Left Garbage". At least 3 people were stabbed. Sadly I do not think this event is over. 

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News that he is hoping to work with the Government on an emergency ban on anti-vaccine posts on UK Social Media. He referred to "poison, garbage (and) conspiracy theories" which will affect public trust.
I try to bring you up to date information on what is happening out there, I've read more about vaccines than I ever thought possible, and I'm also a live human being person with loved ones - I have a vested interest in safe, effective vaccines. 
No-one did bow to Trump's request to bring anything out early, and the Oxford and BioNTech vaccine candidate studies are not cutting corners on numbers of participants or time actually studied. I'm looking forward to getting the next lot of safety information on the BioNTech candidate hopefully this week - then we'll know more. Most of the other candidates seem perfectly sound, but aren't as advanced, so we don't have the same useful data yet. COVID is a new virus, but virus aren't new. Coronavirus aren't new. Coronavirus vaccines aren't even new. The vaccine manufacturers didn't have to start from step 1, and we aren't trying out something that's had to be created from scratch. There was never any real worry a vaccine would be dangerous, there was far more worry that it wouldn't work, or would only work for a short period of time. 

Saturday 14 November 2020

Micro Machines Collectible Vehicles (great for stockings) Age 4+. Sent by Jazwares Toys for review

We have had LOADS of Micro Machines over the years, and they've been played with and added to by all of our children. They're back with new releases for Christmas 2020, and we've been sent a selection for review... 

Collage of 3 different Micro Machines play sets with cars and text title

Micro Machines are cute, collectible, mini vehicles which are really detailed and have excellent quality wheels and axles, so they go fast! They're absolutely perfect for creating miniature worlds, and I can vouch for longevity - they're really robust. 

Underside of Micro machines, showing chassis, wheels, axles

Friday 13 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update Friday 13th November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update Friday 13th November 2020.

The UK added 27,301 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,317,496 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 379,995 tests yesterday. 

14,714 people were in hospital on Wednesday 11th, with 1,275 using a ventilator yesterday, 12th November.
 
In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 376 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 51,304 officially reported losses of life in all settings. 

Rep. Of Ireland 66,632 cases and 1,965 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 53,492,275 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,304,963. Already 37,392,847 people have recovered.

Disparities and predictors of COVID

Today's indieSAGE word of the day was "uncertain". 
UK cases are going down, but the trajectory isn't clear, it's a bit all over the place. It's hard to say whether the firebreak in Wales or the restrictions in Scotland will have had the desired effect, because cases haven't yet dropped dramatically, and areas which had a very low infection rate are creeping up. Areas with high infection rates definitely seem to have benefitted. 
UK hospitalisations have been going up steadily for such a long time, that we are now at around 2/3 of our peak levels, and some hospitals are beginning to approach capacity. Hospitalisations in England, and deaths in all of the UK, are still rising. 
They looked into the huge number of positive cases reported yesterday. They were almost all England, and tested on Monday 9th or Tuesday 10th. It takes around 5 days to show any symptoms on average, and a couple of extra days to get the test and results. You can see where this is going, can't you? We actually locked down in England on 5th November, but it was announced on 31st October. It could well be due to people's pre-lockdown socialising - or the return to school after half term? If it was socialising, phew, it's done. If it was schools, it will carry on. 
Cases in all age groups are going up on a steady slope, fastest in the over 80 age group. There's nothing to suggest schools are an issue. Places which had Tier 3 or greater restrictions do seem to have benefitted overall, but it was a very slow improvement and not consistent. Some places responded better than others.
The next 2 weeks will be crucial. We all want Christmas to be safe. For everyone. 
Public Health England (PHE) data shows that economically, the most deprived people are still the most likely to test positive for COVID, and ethnically, BAME people are most likely to test positive for COVID. People who live in multiple occupancy accommodation are most likely to test positive for COVID.
indieSAGE have published a report on the inequalities arising from COVID, and their recommendations to address this. It's likely that some of the poorest or lowest paid people will also be those who have now lost their jobs, may lose their home, get into debt, suffer long term mental health problems etc. They won't have access to private health care or counselling. The pandemic isn't a leveller, it's increasing the inequality. 

5 Second Rule Spintensity Game Review And Giveaway (Age 12+) Sent for review.

Today's game review is the brand new 5 Second Rule Spintensity, and we've been sent a copy to review by Interplay. Suitable for 2 or more players aged around 12+, this is a fast-paced word game, and the electronic version is definitely even more pressured and frantic... 

5 Second Rule Spintensity Game box front with large text

The game is packaged in quite a small box, and it has a plastic insert to protect the spinner, but the smaller size means there's no wasted space and any plastic isn't single-use. You'll need 3 x AAA batteries and a small crosshead screwdriver, but then you can play straight away. 

Spintensity 5 Second Rule game box contents

The aim of the game is simple. Like all of the 5 Second Rule games (which you can also use with Spintensity), you have to name 3 things in a given category within the 5 second time limit. Categories are incredibly varied, you never know what it is going to be - or how hard you'll find it. 

Thursday 12 November 2020

(Ad|Review) Moonpig Gift Delivery - Christmas Across The Miles

Christmas is all a bit of an unknown at the moment, we are unlikely to be able to do all of those things we usually do. Any of us might have loved ones who we won't see in person, and Moonpig are ideal for our seasonal messages. They really don't just deliver cards and flowers, they sell a HUGE range of gifts, and they've sent me a selection to review, plus a voucher to do some shopping of my own... 

I've got 4 grown up children now at University, and the nearest relatives are 80 miles away, so online gifts delivered to their door are ideal for us. Moonpig wrap everything individually in really quite attractive, yet totally recyclable card. You get to open all of your presents, just the same as you would ordinarily. 

Two parcels Moonpig easy open cardboard packaging

The cardboard packaging has tear off strips, so it's easy to open, and any packing aside from card is also biodegradable. I love the message "Delivery for someone very special." Having these parcels to open DOES make me feel very special.  Who doesn't love presents through the post? And it's my birthday this week.... as chance would have it... 

Opened Moonpig packaging recyclable cardboard

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 11th /12th November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 11th /12th November 2020.

The UK added 33,470 cases today (no, it's not a typo) and now has reported a total of 1,290,195 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 377,608 tests yesterday. 

14,030 people were in hospital on Tuesday 10th, with 1,268 using a ventilator yesterday, 11th November. 

The official report for loss of life within 28 days of a test has not been updated yet today. Up until Friday 30th October, 61,648 people had COVID as a cause of death on their death certificate. 

Rep. Of Ireland 66,247 cases and 1,965 losses of life (not yet reported today). 

There have now been a total of 52,827,392 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,294,755. Already 36,871,346 people have recovered.

WHO New normal COVID is waiting for complacency. image of woman and child, with comedy COVID virus hiding behind a hedge

Northern Ireland’s current circuit-break regulations were due to expire at midnight on Friday – 24 hours later than was officially announced  (there's a booboo and a half), but they have this afternoon decided to extend them for one more week, until Friday 20th November. 

Bahrain, Cambodia, Chile, Iceland, Laos, Qatar, UAE and Turks and Caicos Islands will be added to the Travel Corridors list at 4am on 14 November. (No quarantine if you return after 4am Saturday). 
Greece, except the islands of Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes and Zakynthos will be removed from the list at 4am 14 November (if you return from Greece after 4am Saturday, you will need to quarantine). 

I've covered 2 UK press conferences today and there's loads of useful information, so I've moved a couple of the other news stories to tomorrow's bulletin. It's a bit UK-centric, however there's loads of data there that's useful to anyone. 

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Hedgeways Strategy Tile Game Giveaway (With Sprout & Gherkin) Age 7-99+

Hedgeways is a wooden strategy game which we were sent to review earlier this Autumn by Sprout & Gherkin. Designed for 2 players (although we have played a version with more), and recommended for anyone aged around 7-99+, it's fun to play, and a beautiful game which comes in the most amazing wooden box... 

Hedgeways strategy game for 2 players of any age. Sent for review.

Hedgeways is from the same people who make another gorgeous wooden tile game, Sproutword, and it's just as clever. There is no plastic packaging, in fact no plastic at all, and the box itself is part of the joy - created mainly from a single piece of wood, carefully cut to bend over and clip shut. That'll impress the Grandads... 

Hedgeways game tiles strewn on table

Players take it in turns to place 1,2 or 3 tiles on the table. Tiles have to match in colour where they touch. Players earn a point for every 'field' they enclose completely. It's pick up and play at it's finest. There are no complicated rules and anyone can win - although you definitely get better as you play! 

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Glow Art Drawing Board (age 3+) Review And UK Giveaway (sent for review).

The Glow Art neon light up drawing board from Glow Art Kids is a fantastic tool to encourage creativity, artistry and even writing skills. It's a completely different way to create some brilliant images that are nothing like drawing on paper or card, and it's completely portable and lightweight. 

We've been sent the Glow Art Drawing Board for review, and Glow Art Kids are also giving away one to my readers as an early Christmas present... 

Glow Art Drawing Board in box

The board is packaged in card, and plastic protective bag and film, which is very easy to open. Not exactly Earth-friendly, but pretty justifiable, as you don't want a scratched screen before you start. You'll need 3 x AA batteries and a tiny crosshead screwdriver, and then you're ready to go. Pretty Christmas morning-friendly. 

Glow Art Kids light up LED Drawing Board in opened box

This is the original light up drawing board that Glow Art first started using 7 years ago for demonstrations in Hamleys. Unlike other kid's drawing boards, it's transparent and double-sided, so you can use it to trace, and you can draw on both sides. That opens up a lot of possibilities. 

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 9th / 10th November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 9th / 10th November 2020.

The UK added 20,412 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,233,775 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 234,078 tests yesterday. 

13,617 people were in hospital on Sunday 8th, with 1,268 using a ventilator yesterday, 9th November. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 532 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 49,770 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 65,889 (+230) cases and 1,963 (+15) losses of life.

There have now been a total of 51,598,200 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,275,122. Already 36,290,226 people have recovered.

A mask is not a political statement, it's an IQ test

"It's time to end the politicisation of basic public health steps, like mask-wearing and social distancing. We have to come together to heal the soul of this country, so we can affectively address this crisis. As one country, where hard-working Americans have each other's backs.... For the foreseeable future, a mask remains the most potent weapon against the virus."
Joe 'sounds promising' Biden, US President-elect. A mask is not, nor should it ever be, a political statement. 

We had a UK Briefing with Bozza yesterday, which I covered separately, so I won't repeat what was said, but the Pfizer Vaccine seems over 90% effective - which is excellent news. It's also the same type of vaccine as many of the other candidates coming up to their trial results, so things are looking really hopeful. 

Monday 9 November 2020

UK Press Conference (regarding Pfizer / BioNTech Vaccine News) 9th November 2020

Boris held a surprise press conference today - and it' because there's good vaccine news!
He says we are all asking the same question. "Does the progress towards a vaccine, that's been announced today. mean that we are at the beginning of the end of our troubles?" 

He did not directly answer his own question. At least he's consistent. 

Today's news is that the Pfizer / BioNTech (USA / Germany) vaccine candidate seems to be 90% effective against the virus. These are INTERIM results, the full safety data needs to released and it has to be peer-reviewed, but it's a brilliant result. 

Boris assures us we have our fingers in this pie. 

"If and when this vaccine is approved, we, in this country, will be ready to start using it." We ordered 40m doses already - enough for 20m people.. 

This is a vaccine that needs 2 doses, and must be stored at -70 degrees. 

We have ordered over 300m doses from 5 other vaccine candidates as well. 

A UK-wide NHS-led programme of vaccination will begin as soon as all safety checks have completed - you can't rush that.

Then he waffled off in a terribly upper class thing about the toot of the horn coming over the hill. Which just made me think of the poor foxes. 

091120 Joe Biden's statement on COVID

We are currently in a bad way. We are losing around 300 people a day. The number of people in hospital has risen from 10,000 2 weeks ago, to nearly 13,000 on 5th November. We are heading towards levels of the previous peak. 

The vaccine may be 'on the way', but we can't get complacent, or sit back. It's a way off yet. (We can't just let people die while we wait.)

The Box - Game And Puzzle Compendium Giveaway - from Around The Box (age 3-99+)

Christmas is coming, and what could be better than a giveaway! Last month we were sent a copy of The Box (and standalone game Penguin Party) from 'Around The Box' for review, and they've kindly offered The Box for one of my readers as an early Christmas present...

The Box  rectangular small box shown on fluffy background with text title

So, what's in The Box? This is a fantastic modern game and puzzle compendium, which has been really carefully put together. It offers masses of activities to keep you occupied, all in a very small and easily portable box with a magnetic fastener. The contents are suitable for anyone 3+, almost entirely wooden, and can even be washed. It could last a lifetime. 

Open Box from the top, showing all of the contents within. Mostly wooden

The Box has lots of scope for you to play alone, but it really takes on a whole new dimension when you play together. There are no complicated rules, nothing requires a lot of gameplay talk, so The Box encourages chatter - and laughter. We've had loads of fun playing with this, as hopefully you can clearly see in my full Around The Box review. 

Sunday 8 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Weekend Update 7th / 8th November 2020

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Weekend Update 7th / 8th November 2020.

The UK added 20,572 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,192,013 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 344,045 tests yesterday. 

12,949 people were in hospital on Thursday 5th November, with 1,185 using a ventilator on Friday 6th November. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 156 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 49,044 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 64,855 cases and 1,945 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 50,521,740 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,259,506. Already 35,678,893 people have recovered.

Face covrings should cover your nose

“You chose hope, decency, science, and truth."
Madam Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. First female, first Indian-American and first African-American person to be in this position. And hope for all American children. You really can reach for the stars, whoever you are. 

The US election is over - almost. Some votes are still counting. Some states will have a re-count, and Donald Trump will continue to throw lawsuits for a while, but Joe Biden has basically won it, and the scientific world has let out a collective sigh of relief. 

Disadvantaged children in the UK WILL continue to get free lunches through the next few school holidays, in part after a petition by Marcus Rushford gained over 1m signatures. It's a big package announced this weekend:
"The Covid Winter Grant Scheme is a new £170m Coronavirus scheme to support children and families this winter.
The money will reach the hardest hit during the pandemic, helping families put food on the table, heat homes and pay bills."
"This is part of a long-term plan to help tackle health, hunger and education.
The Holiday Activities and Food programme, which has provided healthy food and engaging activities to disadvantaged children since 2018, will also be extended across England next year."
"Healthy Start scheme payments are also set to increase from £3.10 to £4.25 from next April."
UK Department of Work & Pensions. 
(Good stuff. Thank you.)

There was a big 'anti-lockdown' protest today in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens. 
I. De. Spair. 

Friday 6 November 2020

VEGAN Happy Clothing Review - 10% Discount and Giveaway. (Sent for review.)

VEGAN Happy Clothing Company UK create clothes that are stylish, suitable for people of any age, and they're ethically produced with no harm to any animal. 

They have sent me a gorgeous Vegan Chef Apron and a supersoft Aurora Pom Pom Vegan Beanie Hat for review - and they'll be giving away a Beanie and a Vegan Chef Apron to my readers, plus there's a 10% off discount code - very handy for Christmas... 

Vegan Happy Clothing collage of 3 photos showing teenage boy wearing pompom beanie hat and apron with Vegan Chef written on it

The Aurora Pom Pom Vegan Beanie has an embroidered VEGAN Happy logo on the front, and comes in 4 gorgeous colours - we've got Borealis Blue. You can see how soft the 'acrylic yarn is...it's lovely. 


COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 6th November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 6th November 2020.

The UK added 23,287 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,146,484 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 344,045 tests yesterday. 

12,999 people were in hospital on 4th November (up from 10,708 a week earlier), with 1,181 using a ventilator yesterday, 5th November (up from 975 a week earlier).  

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 355 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 48,475 officially reported losses of life in all settings. Up until Friday 23rd October 60,051 people had COVID written on their death certificate. 

Cases / Losses of life with COVID on the death certificate up until latest report date: 
England 975,504 (+130,454 last 7 days) / 51,844
Northern Ireland 41,969 (+5,029 last 7 days) / 972
Scotland 70,732 (+7,838 last 7 days) / 4,482
Wales 58,279 (+9,016 last 7 days) / 2,753

Rep. Of Ireland 64,538 (+492) cases and 1,940 (+7) losses of life.

There have now been a total of 49,381,055 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,244,630. Already 35,160,021 people have recovered.

Domestic Violence advice from the World Health Organistion - get help, don't suffer

Today's indie SAGE briefing was a lot more positive than the last few - phew! There are some clear signs that growth is slowing. Case numbers are still growing, but the trajectory has turned over slightly and is looking a lot less steep. There are likely to be several reasons:
1. We just had half term, so less kids are likely to have mixed. 
2.Local measures were having a small effect, which wasn't really visible until enough time had elapsed. 
3. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are ahead of us in their restrictions, and cases are dropping there. .
4. The University situation has stabilised. 
5. Recent announcements may have helped change people's behaviour.
Hospital admissions are also beginning to slow, with some areas even levelling off. Still rising pretty rapidly in the midlands. 
Test & Trace have managed to get over 40% of results back within 24 hours - a huge improvement! Non-complex cases reached has also risen well, but contacts reached hasn't got any better. Still, on the way there...
He estimates that only around 5-10% of all contacts of positive people are isolating - mostly because rest don't don't know they should be, or aren't in a position to isolate. 
Mortality figures are not yet showing any signs of slowing, and are expected to be pretty horrific over the 2-4 weeks. He reminds us that every number represents a person who has lost their life. 
This is indie SAGE's 6 month anniversary, and although they only ever expected to exist for about 3 months, they'll keep going "as long as it is necessary". They ask the UK Government, "what is the end strategy?"
Sir David King, ex-head of real SAGE (Government Scientific Advisory Group) had a big presentation today.  
He told us that by the end of lockdown, hopefully we will be at around 5,000 new cases per day. He wants this to be our last lockdown, and in order to do that, we need an end strategy that we know will work. Quite simply indie SAGE feel that finding, testing, isolating and supporting positive people and their contacts within 24 hours is key. The maximum number of tests isn't as important as testing everyone you need to test, and getting them to isolate. It is a basic strategy to isolate the sick animals and separate them from the healthy population. Threatening someone with a £10,000 fine for not isolating, when they can't afford to isolate and still feed their children or keep their home, is pointless. SUPPORT is key, not threats. 
He says we need shoe leather, local members of test & trace teams walking around. Local people need to understand the importance of self-isolation. "If we don't achieve a much higher percentage, we are not going to see this epidemic come to an end."

indie SAGE also had a presentation on Universities, and the evidence is really clear - in Summer we knew full well that significant amounts of 'in-person' teaching would have a really negative effect in universities. We could see what happened in America, we could see all of the modelling, even the official SAGE briefings to Government said that learning should be remote when possible. 
They also say that students were assured they'd have some freedom of movement, but they're now not supposed to move back home until the end of term, which could cause massive December price hikes, and make it impossible for some (overseas especially) to even go home. 
Their mental health isn't being looked after. 

Thursday 5 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 4th /5th November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 4th /5th November 2020.

The UK added 24,141 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,123,197 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 301,131 tests yesterday. 

12,949 people were in hospital on Tuesday 3rd, with 1,191 using a ventilator yesterday, 4th November. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 378 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 48,120 officially reported losses of life in all settings. (Up until Friday 23rd October, 60,051 people had COVID written on their death certificate.)

Rep. Of Ireland 64,046 (+563) cases and 1,933 (+3) losses of life. 

There have now been a total of 48,746,709 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,235,435. Already 34,861,756 people have recovered.

051120 NEW national restrictions in England lockdown 2

No surprises, Parliament agreed to the new nationwide English restrictions, which went into force at midnight last night. Full guidance does now seem to be in place on the Gov dot UK website (click on the Coronavirus banner near the top). If you have the Test & Trace app. you'll have received an alert earlier, and can access the Gov site through the app. directly. 

Bozza did a press conference today to celebrate his second lockdown. 
He started by reminding us what a brilliant job they've done with testing, keeping businesses running, making our own PPE now... (hmmmm)
He read some figures very fast, like a headmaster reading a really big list of achievements on a Friday afternoon assembly. 
12,320 patients are currently in hospital, up from 2,602 a month earlier. 1,142 people are now using a mechanical ventilator, compared to 369 a month earlier. 492 losses of life were reported yesterday. 
In England from today, we are once again asking you to STAY AT HOME. You can only leave home for work (if you cannot work from home), education, essential activities and emergencies.
"The advice I've received does suggest that 4 weeks is enough time to make an impact."
Rishi has announced an extension to the furlough scheme (see below) until March. Help for the Self-Employed has also been raised, and cash grants for closed businesses are available. 
29,000 rough sleepers have been moved off the streets, 2/3 are now in settled accommodation. (Nice one. Finally.)
The lockdown will automatically expire at midnight on 2nd December (unless we change anything in the meantime). 
He handed over to Sir Simon Stevens, who told us about NHS England preparations for Winter. 
He says the second wave is serious. We are attempting to catch up on care that was paused with the first wave, and we can only carry on doing that if we have enough capacity, and don't fill up with COVID patients. 
Simon has a chart showing at the beginning of September we had under 500 COVID inpatients, at the beginning of October 2,000, and now we have 11,000 patients. That's the equivalent of 22 hospitals full of Coronavirus patients. These are facts, not forecasts or projections. 
It takes 7-10 days from infection to hospitalisation
15-30 days from infection to discharge or death
Action is needed today because much of the next 4 weeks is written already - it will keep going up. 
We are reminded of progress medically, and that everyone should HAVE YOUR FLU JAB, because getting flu and COVID together doubles the chance you won't survive. 
We have however halved the mortality rate of COVID for some patients (those needing Oxygen), we have hopeful treatments, and the vaccines nearing the end of development. 
He asks for our help. Protect The NHS - we are asked to help protect the ability of the NHS to do their jobs. Protect the staff. We can't fix Cancer right now, we can't heal everyone, but we CAN do something about the spread of Coronavirus. 
Si answered press questions about vaccines - we have some initial vaccines now, but there are several different types, and some won't even come through until Summer. There are multiple opportunities for something to be incredibly effective. 
Boris failed to answer press questions about the 'people who have lost their jobs, and then the furlough scheme has been expanded anyway'. 
Press asked if 'we can be sure we won't have any restrictions over December or Christmas'. Si and Boris said it really is down to us, but Boris believes people will "be able to have as normal a Christmas as possible" which is a brilliant phrase to remember, and absolutely meaningless. Simon didn't seem very confident. 
Press asked about unclear data, and Boris said they're trying to make it as clear as possible.(It's not their strong point, they're too shifty. Sometimes it's all very clear, other times it looks a little relaxed, like it's been massaged. Right now, when they want us all to stay home, it's a lot clearer.)
Boris went off on one about testing, but he explained the 3 types of COVID (have I got it?) testing, which was a good thing. (I covered them yesterday.) 
Boris ended the briefing with a bittersweet return. 
"Science is improving the whole time. We are, as a country, in a far, far better position to fight this.... Stay At Home. Protect The NHS. Save Lives."

Wednesday 4 November 2020

Around The Box Reviews - Penguin Party Family Game and The Box - compendium of wooden games and puzzles (age 3-99+) Sent for review

'The Box' is a really carefully curated compendium of games, puzzles, fidgets and things to do. It's very small, and neat, virtually plastic-free (mostly wood), and perfect for anyone with time on their hands.  Everything in it can be washed, so it's ideal for someone who is ill. And it's really a gorgeous thing... 

Around The Box was founded by husband and wife team, David and Alice. They first created The Box to give families with someone in hospital something special to do. It isn't just about the games and puzzles, they feel what’s most important is what happens around The Box. It brings people together. 

Around The Box and Penguin Party games packaged away

So what is inside The Box? 
All together the contents can be used for a really good variety of different games and puzzles. I've counted 11 already, and that doesn't include all of the extra suggestions, or "just playing penguins", which my 10 year old was doing earlier - with sound effects... Contents are packaged in single-use plastic, which usually I don't like, but as the compendium was designed to be appropriate for hospital use, in this case it's perfect. 

The BOX modern wooden games and puzzles compendium contents displayed in small arrangement on table

The games and puzzles are all very easy to pick up and play, some of them have no rules, some are much more structured.  They include things like:
T Time - create a T shape using all of the shaped wooden blocks. 
Rocket Launch - remove the rocket without touching the base
Curious Cube - turn the cube into a snake (easy), and back again (not so easy).
Measure Up - tape measure games 
Penguin Party - which is also available as a standalone game. 

Contents of Around THe BOx washable eco friendly game compendium

It's beautiful, it really is. The wood is lovely in your hands, and the whole box full is very classic and elegant. Everything is very tactile, so if you want to fidget, there's plenty here. 

Tuesday 3 November 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 2nd / 3rd November 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News update 2nd / 3rd November 2020.

The UK added 20,018 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,073,882 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 207,817 tests yesterday.

11,458 people were in hospital on Sunday 1st November, with 1,075 using a ventilator yesterday, 2nd Nov. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 397 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 47,250 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 63,048 (+298) cases and 1,922 (+5) losses of life. 

There have now been a total of 47,658,516 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,215,762. Already 34,213,154 people have recovered

Two people with face coverings, one correct, one below the nose. Face coverings should cover your nose

"This is the moment when we have got to fix contact tracing. Only to be reaching 60% of people's known contacts is not good enough. He knows that, he doesn't try to defend that.... when you have 50,000 people being infected every single day, it is a massive logistical task. But if we are honest, we still had problems when it was a tenth of that number being infected every day. And this is the moment to recognise the uncomfortable truth, that this will be better done locally, and giving it to local authorities to take the ultimate responsibility. 
And while we are making these changes to the contact tracing regime, to have only 20% of people who are contacted and asked to self-isolate actually comply suggests only one answer, which is that we as the state should pay their wages for the period that they have been asked to isolate. It is expensive, but it is less expensive than them not complying with this very important direction to isolate."
You might want to sit down. That was, astoundingly, Jeremy 'my ambition is to denationalise the NHS' Hunt, addressing Matt Hancock in parliament's COVID-19 debate yesterday. 2020, the year anything can happen, and apparently will. 

The UK's terror threat level has been raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’, in light of the horrific attacks in and around religious buildings in France and Austria this week.