Tuesday, 15 December 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 14th / 15th December 2020.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 14th / 15th December 2020.

The UK added 18,450 cases today and now has reported a total of 1,888,116 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 275,772 tests yesterday. 

17,329 people were in hospital on Sunday 13th (up from 14,807 a week earlier), with 1,288 using a ventilator yesterday, 14th December (slightly up on 1,271 the same time last week). 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 506 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 64,908 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Up until Friday 4th December, 76,287 people had COVID written as a cause on their death certificate. 

Country / Cases / Losses of life by death certificate:
England 1,618,678 / 65,061
Northern Ireland 59,121 / 1,480
Scotland 107,749 / 5,868
Wales 102,568 / 3,878

Rep. Of Ireland 76,776 (+327) cases and 2,134 (+8) losses of life.

There have now been a total of 73,526,544 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,634,963. Already 51,599,044 people have recovered.

Vaccines are properly tested and regulated UK Government

Michael Gove held a phone call with the 3 leaders of the devolved nations this afternoon to discuss Christmas. Announcement imminent...
(And yet the kids are in school, the shops are open and tonight you can go to the pantomime if you're lucky enough to live in London or anywhere else in Tier 1 or 2. Head, desk, head, desk.)

In an incredibly rare move the Health Service Journal and the British Medical Journal have come together to practically beg the UK Government to scrap the plans for the Christmas COVID relaxation. The professionals don't want it.
They point out that we didn't get the same result as the first lockdown. They estimate that by New Year we will have as many patients in hospital with COVID as we did at the peak of the first wave, and it'll barely have begun.
"Ministers are meeting on 16 December to review current restrictions for England. When they devised the current plans to allow household mixing over Christmas they had assumed the covid-19 demand on the NHS would be decreasing. But it is not; it is rising, and the emergence of a new strain of the virus has introduced further potential jeopardy.
Of particular concern is the effect on staff, many of whom have already worked through the hardest nine months of their professional lives. Levels of burnout and sickness absence are likely to exceed those already experienced."

The UK Department for Education have announced:
"From January all staff in secondary schools and colleges will be eligible for weekly rapid tests as part of an initial rollout.
Students will be eligible for daily testing for seven days if they are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive. Under current guidelines, up to a whole school bubble has to self-isolate if one student or staff member tests positive. From January, those in the same bubble do not need to self-isolate if they agree to be tested once a day. This will improve attendance and ensure young people can benefit from face-to-face teaching as much as possible."
Wow. Complete shame we haven't got much random testing going on right now though... (Someone somewhere REALLY doesn't want to close schools - they must have money on it?)

Know the symptoms UK NHS

The Netherlands are twitching at the thought of the next few weeks too. They are imposing the toughest Christmas restrictions so far. From Monday night 14th December until 19th January all inessential shopping, hospitality and leisure is closed. From Wednesday schools will work from home and daycare is essential workers only. There will be a nationwide curfew from 11pm until 5am every night. Citizens have also been advised against inessential travel until the end of March 2021.
On the positive side, they can have 2 visitors a day. (Choose wisely, for heavens sake don't have 2 different visitors every day.)

Germany have already announced they will close all inessential retail, schools and child care from Wednesday until January 10th. 

The Czech Republic have also imposed restrictions. Restaurants, hotels and indoor sports venues will close from Friday (they only reopened 2 weeks ago). Public gatherings will be limited to six people, and there's a nationwide curfew from 11pm-5am. Schools are closing early for Christmas. 

France have restrictions too. There is an 8pm curfew except on Christmas Day, and  bars, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and museums are closed until at least January.

Spain have barred travel between regions from December 23rd - January 6th. They are under a curfew, which will be moved to 1.30am on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, and the current 'Rule of 6' will be relaxed to 10. 

Denmark close all inessential hospitality, leisure and sport, as well as schools and other education today. There is a 10 person limit to private gatherings until January. 

vaccines help you create antibodies against disease

The US CDC Director Robert Redfield approved the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine on Monday morning our time (Sunday night to the USA), and immunisation began almost immediately Monday morning their time (Monday afternoon to the UK). First to be immunised were health care professionals. Older people in care homes are next.

Apparently the US vaccination priority list has Trump and his entourage near the top, which you would expect, but he's turned it down because he feels other people should get priority - also he seems to constantly care about some 1950's vision of 'looking hard', and he's just had COVID, so he has immunity anyway. 

The HSJ have looked at UK hospital admissions:
"...every English NHS region has seen a rise in the running weekly total of covid admissions for at least the three consecutive days to 9 December (latest data available), except the Midlands which experienced a rise for two days and then fall on the ninth. The national weekly total has risen for seven consecutive days to 9 December."
....And newly updated figures show a huge upward surge in many UK areas over the last 4 days. It's not pretty. It supports the government taking rapid action yesterday. 

Before they can start administering the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, Europe are waiting on the okay from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (part of the EMA - European Medicines Agency):
"Following receipt yesterday evening of additional data requested by the CHMP from the company and pending the outcome of its evaluation, an exceptional meeting of the CHMP has now been scheduled for 21 December to conclude if possible.”
Just in time for Christmas....  

We are ready to vaccinate UK NHS

Famous People With COVID:
Sharon Osborne - reality TV star and long-suffering rock/pop star wife/mother.
Ashanti - R&B singer-songwriter

Lost Their Fight:
Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), age 52. He tested positive for COVID-19 just 4 weeks ago and was being treated in South Africa.

Yesterday's news about a mutation which may be partly responsible for the rising cases in London and South East England has all of the scientists talking.
Human DNA contains 23 pairs of chromosomes - the building blocks for people. Very rarely a child is born with an extra chromosome (e.g. Down Syndrome), or a chromosome missing (e.g. Turner Syndrome), or just part of a chromosome missing. Depending on where it is, it can have a massive effect on someone's life, or very little at all.
Virus are pretty much the same. There have been around 1,000 COVID mutations logged so far, some of which have seen a small section of the virus building blocks deleted. A particular double-deletion seems to have occurred independently at least 3 distinct times already - including, (according to Professor of Molecular Evolution at the University of Edinburgh, Andrew Rambaut), the spike Y453F mutation in the Danish mink (which jumped into humans), a widespread lineage with the spike N439K (which we've known about for a couple of months) and most recently the lineage in the UK with N501Y.
The worry is that this deletion is one of the areas that antibodies target. It's like having a key to get in, but the door has disappeared. There's a potential that some antibodies people have built up, and some of the vaccines, may be less effective. Vaccine manufacturers were aware this could happen, it's ALWAYS been expected we'd see mutations, it would have been insanity to assume every replication of the virus would always be perfectly identical. Current vaccines, including the Oxford vaccine, target more than one area on purpose to help protect against future failure.
There's no reason to assume any of the vaccines won't work on the majority of people if you get the N501Y strain, but it needs keeping a close eye on. If more doors start to disappear, we will need to start collecting new keys. In the same way we need a new flu vaccine roughly each year, you don't have to start from scratch, you just tweak what you already have. 

There is a possibility that the UK's N501Y strain has other properties that make it different, it has a 'spike mutation' which could genuinely make it a little more 'catchy' or 'robust'. Research is ongoing as this is incredibly hard to assess. There's some theory there, (in a lab it binds more strongly to the cells it infects), and some studies find more virus in the breath of people with this strain, but there's no solid proof in the real world yet.
The population in Kent and the South West UK have been under the same restrictions as the rest of England, but it's just not working quite as effectively to bring down cases. This population wasn't heavily immunised or infected/recovered, so any antibody resistance can't really be blamed. It does seem very plausible N501Y is more easily transmitted. 

If you know more than me and I get anything wrong - for goodness sake tell me! Be nice though, I've had a hard year. 

The World Health Organisation have commented on the 'new UK strain'.
"So far, we don't have any evidence that this variant behaves differently. But we will continue to evaluate & inform you of any changes."
Maria Van Kerkhove. So there you go. 

There have been about 1,000 mutations already, scientists are all over this. Most do nothing important on their own. Once populations start to get heavily vaccinated, the virus will have no choice but to adapt to survive, and then we'll see more exciting/scary mutations  - although the reduction in world travel and quarantines for arrivals will hopefully play a big part in preventing them spreading rapidly around the planet.  

Rule of 6 Keep to 6

A bloke has been jailed for 4 weeks on the Isle Of Man for illegally entering the island by jet ski. Jet skis aren't really designed for open water and it took him 5 hours to get there from Scotland. He wanted to see his girlfriend and had been refused a permit twice. That is some commitment. He's got to be a keeper, surely?
(All together now "And I would jet-ski 15 miles...")

Medics from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Virginia have drawn attention to the fact they've had 4 young COVID patients develop acute appendicitis. It could just be fluke, but it stands out as unusual. They want paediatric teams to be aware because COVID can cause tummy problems, so it may be overlooked. 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has agreed in principle to a 'Trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia, as long as both countries keep control of COVID (New Zealand hasn't had a locally transmitted case in 24 days). It could open up early next year. 

The UK have changed their blood donation criteria. Now men who are in a long term relationship with other men can donate blood. Bit of a throwback from the 1980's that one I think, and well overdue. It also applies to donations of convalescent plasma. 

Demand for underground bunkers has gone up massively. People are also buying prepping equipment and supplies in abundance. UK Prepping Shop told Sky their sales have gone up by 487% in the last three months.
Back in January we joked that preppers had better bunker down, and since then I've often wondered just how many people have spent the last few months hidden away from the world. What if they lived in New Zealand? Will they be disappointed if they step outside and everyone's just going about their business? 

We know cats, dogs, rabbits, lemmings, lemurs, lions and a host of other household pets can catch COVID. Scientists in Texas have looked at just how often humans have passed it on to their companions. They checked 39 households and found that 10 had infected their pets. 8 out of 17 cats (just under half), and 9 out of 59 dogs (about 1 in every 6) tested positive. 
"The majority (82.4%) of infected pets were asymptomatic."
It's not yet peer-reviewed, but I think we can see enough to know why your cat is grumpy if your household catches COVID, and don't do that kissing thing. In fact don't do that anyway, but especially if you have COVID.

Back in March the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg held a press conference especially for children. I've thought of it often.
She told them: "It's normal to be scared, but everything will be okay."
For the vast majority of us, that still remains totally true. 

Some numbers. All people very much like you:

Countries / Cases / Losses of life (in larger countries some states /provinces have yet to report today):

USA 16,993,506 (+50,526) 309,046 (+955)

India 9,930,284 (+23,777) 144,075 (+329)

Brazil 6,934,539 (+5,130) 181,978 (+33)

Russia 2,707,945 (+26,689) 47,968 (+577)

France 2,379,915 not yet reported today 58,282

Turkey 1,898,447 (+32,102) 16,881 (+235)

UK 1,888,116 (+18,450) 64,908 (+506)

Italy 1,870,576 (+14,844) 65,857 (+846)

Spain 1,762,036 not yet reported today 48,013

Argentina 1,503,222 not yet reported today 41,041

Colombia 1,434,516 not yet reported today 39,195

Germany 1,371,198 (+14,057) 23,291 (+404)

Mexico 1,255,974 (+5,930) 114,298 (+345)

Poland 1,147,446 (+6,907) 23,309 (+349)

Iran 1,123,474 (+7,704) 52,670 (+223) 

.

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/

https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4847.full

https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/shelagh-fogarty/pm-must-scrap-christmas-covid-rules-bmj-hsj/

https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-netherlands-to-go-into-strict-lockdown-for-at-least-five-weeks-including-closing-schools-12161642

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/14/italy-likely-to-follow-germany-with-covid-christmas-lockdown

https://www.thelocal.no/20201215/covid-19-coronavirus-which-countries-in-europe-have-the-tightest-restrictions-this-christmas

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.12.08.416339v1

https://news.sky.com/story/amp/covid-19-gove-to-hold-talks-with-devolved-nations-over-relaxation-of-rules-at-christmas-12162548

https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-man-jailed-after-riding-jet-ski-from-scotland-to-isle-of-man-to-visit-partner-12162209

https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-demand-for-underground-bunkers-soars-over-fears-of-coronavirus-pandemic-12156996

https://www.hsj.co.uk/covid-hospital-admissions-begin-to-rise-again-in-the-north-as-south-explodes/7029151.article

https://www.itv.com/news/2020-12-13/covid-case-rates-rising-in-two-thirds-of-all-local-areas-in-england

https://www.itv.com/news/2020-12-13/council-asks-schools-in-london-borough-to-close-as-covid-19-rates-rise

https://www.cityam.com/sadiq-khan-urges-pm-to-shut-all-london-schools-as-cases-spiral/amp/

https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2020/12/the-netherlands-faces-lockdown-from-tonight-to-january-19/

https://twitter.com/SkyNewsBreak/status/1338510322311835650

https://twitter.com/i/events/1338451304948015105

https://news.sky.com/story/new-variant-of-coronavirus-identified-in-uk-health-secretary-says-12161416

https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/sars-cov-2-genetic-variant-may-be-more-transmissible-68201

https://twitter.com/i/events/1338302097574400001

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/coronavirus-wales-vaughan-gething-cases-19452176

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213576620303687?via%3Dihub

https://twitter.com/WHO/status/1338605542332375041

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/secondary-schools-and-colleges-to-get-weekly-coronavirus-testing

Strains: (Huge thanks to the real scientists explaining all of this to us numpties: 

the SARSCoV2 variant identified by Hancock is defined by a spike mutation at position 501 N->Y & a double-deletion at positions 69/70

https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/guides/pages/73/faqs-about-chromosome-disorders

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.21.392407v1

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/science/n439k-mutation-of-sars-cov-2-better-antibody-resistant-than-wuhan-strain-study/article33199324.ece

https://t.co/xvns7rleZI

https://twitter.com/firefoxx66/status/1338533710178775047?s=19

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.12.05.20241927v1

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.19.389916v1

https://twitter.com/GuptaR_lab/status/1337373686874198016?s=19

https://www.news-medical.net/news/20201109/Immune-evading-variants-can-emerge-in-SARS-CoV-2-researchers-warn.aspx

https://www.news-medical.net/news/20201127/N439K-mutation-of-SARS-CoV-2-may-be-more-infectious-and-antibody-resistant-than-Wuhan-strain.aspx

https://www.cogconsortium.uk/news_item/explainer-sars-cov-2-mutations-what-we-have-learned-from-new-fast-growing-lineages-and-the-spike-n439k-variant/

https://twitter.com/WHO/status/1338605542332375041

https://nextstrain.org/groups/neherlab/ncov/S.N501?c=gt-S_501,69&label=mlabel:20B/A23063T&p=grid

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsregisteredweeklyinenglandandwalesprovisional/weekending4december2020




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