Monday 21 December 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 21st December 2020.

 There's so much happening, so quickly, I've done an extra report today:

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 21st December 2020.

The UK added 33,364 cases today, and officially reported the loss of another 215 people (Monday figures are usually low because of weekend reporting).  

18,771 people were in hospital on Thursday 17th, with 1,364 using a ventilator on Friday 18th December. 

211220 Over half a million doses of vaccine have been given UK

Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organisation:
"The lessons I've learnt after so many Ebola outbreaks in my career are:
- Be Fast
- Have No Regrets
- You must be the first mover.
The virus will always get you if you don't move quickly. And you need to be prepared. And I say this (he's Irish), one of the great things in emergency response, and anyone who is involved with emergency response will know this:
If you need to be right before you move, you will never win.
Perfection is the enemy of the good when it comes to emergency management.
Speed trumps perfection.
And the problem in society that we have at the moment, is everyone is afraid making a mistake, everyone is afraid of the consequence of error. But the greatest error is not to move. The greatest error is to be paralysed by the fear of failure." 

Early study results suggest that the new strain of COVID affecting mainly London, Kent and the South / East of England, but which HAS been discovered in EVERY UK area across England, Wales and Scotland, is 71% more transmissible. 

211220 YouGov poll do you think the govrnment has handled the christmas situation badly

UK ports have been a bit of a mess now for the last week or 2, with huge backlogs of lorries attempting to cross the channel.
We are all buying online, it's Christmas,  and companies have attempted to stockpile for Brexit. Traffic for lorries alone was at around 16,000 a day, rather than the usual 12,000. It was a bottleneck. Now it's gone temporarily horribly wrong. 

France's decision to ban all human arrivals from the UK for at least 48 hours means that only unaccompanied freight can travel. This entails a driver in England dropping it off and a French driver picking it up on the other side. Unless you already have that system in place,  it's incredibly difficult to just pull it out of the bag - especially so close to Christmas. 

Quite wisely France, the main gateway between England and Europe, do not even want the responsibility of this by themselves, so they are awaiting a decision from the EU. Also, Emmanuel Macron, the French President, is still reportedly unwell with COVID. It's not a good time for anyone. 

There was a UK briefing today with Boris "OMG I wish I was still a journalist" Johnson, Grant Shapps the Transport Minister, and Patrick Vallance, the UK Science Chief.
Boris started by explaining that at 11pm last night France applied a ban on human beings crossing the border from the UK. He explained that medicines and most foods come over as freight, so no shortages are anticipated. He also explained that they've prepared for just such an event as this, with their Brexit contingencies.
He's been on the phone to Macron (so that's good, he can't be too poorly, and it is his birthday). An agreement shouldn't be too tricky, they just have to work out how to avoid risk of contamination - via testing or strict behaviour etc.
Over 500,000 people in the UK have received their first vaccine dose (Nice work everyone involved!).
Grant Shapps was very strident with his report: There were about 500, mainly European, lorries stuck on the motorway last night, at last count today it was 174. The main message is "please don't travel to Kent." It is under lockdown, so you shouldn't be travelling anyway. There is a contraflow in operation, so traffic can flow.
Pat explained evidence that this strain transmits more readily is growing. There is still nothing to suggest that any vaccine won't be as effective, or that it causes more severe disease or increases the mortality rate. JUST. MORE. CATCHY.
Pat explains that this strain is taking over, and if it spreads, restrictions may need to be increased in more areas. (There's your warning.) I'd add that actually it's not beyond possibility that measures in Tier 4 might have to increase (there's another warning).
All the press questions were a bit rubbish. 

211320 France closed, advice for hauliers stay away for now

Dover Ferry Terminal 10pm last night:

Operation Brock has been implemented:
"Operation Brock is a traffic management system designed to keep Kent’s roads open if there is disruption at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel. 
When Operation Brock is in force HGVs travelling to Port of Dover and Eurotunnel must use the signed routes only."

Possibly the worst aspect of this lorry driver disaster is the location of the port. This is in Kent. This is exactly where we have a big problem with the virus mutation. A lot of these drivers may not speak much English, they must be terrified. They probably all want to go home for Christmas, they're trapped in a foreign country, and they find themselves parked in the middle of pox central. Nothing is even open, it's in lockdown. It could only be worse if we now forced them to go and lick strangers in Trafalgar Square. I am so so sorry to the lot of you. 

Every hour that passes before a solution is reached, there is potential for some food shortages in a week or so's time. Food stocks right now are very high, so we're good for Christmas. Shortages are going to be incredibly temporary, and mainly affect high volume fresh goods like lettuce or satsumas. DON'T STOCKPILE - STOCKPILING CAUSES FOOD WASTE, FOOD SHORTAGES AND PRICE HIKES. Be calm, it will quickly pass. You'll get your Lollo Rosso back very quickly.  

There's a somewhat dark and dry joke here about "good job we don't have 15 people round for New Year's", but I think it's far too early. 

211220 YouGov poll do you support Tier 4 restrictions in the South and East

Northern Ireland have reduced Christmas gatherings to 1 day only between 23rd-27th December. Sorry guys. 

Extremely Clinically Vulnerable people in Tier 4 areas are being issued written advice to shield. Stay at home at all times. 

Anyone who has moved from a Tier 4 area to a lower Tier is advised that they should isolate in order to protect their family (get back in the kitchen!). 

In good news - really good news! The European Medicines Agency have recommended granting a conditional marketing authorisation for the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use across the European Union. The approval just needs to be rubber stamped by the EU’s executive branch, and they're good to go. 

India have suspended flights from the UK until 31st December. Canada and Denmark have also suspended flights from the UK. In fact over 40 countries have now banned any arrivals from the UK. 

Millions of mink in Denmark with a mutated COVID strain, which were culled and buried in a rush, will be exhumed and burnt next year to prevent pollution.
They really, really messed that up. 

The mutated form of COVID which has been discovered in South Africa shares real similarity with the UK strain, but it definitely arose independently, (as you can see for yourself on the Nexstrain website). They both share the N501Y spike. The South African strain has been named N501Y.V2.
There are genuine concerns that South Africa will struggle far more than the UK to contain the mutation. 

Saudi Arabia have temporarily suspended all international flights. They really don't want any new COVID strains.

Scientists worldwide are yet again reminding us that the UK has potentially the best genome testing in the world.  We'd only be second with COVID because New Zealand has the ability to sequence every single case they get. It's still possible that this new UK COVID strain is all over the world, we just don't know it yet. There's a brilliant tweet from reporter Charlotte Reed who has put some figures together:
"Number of Covid-19 genomic sequences per country x1000 cases:
France: 0.925
Italy: 0.422
Spain: 2.41
Germany: 0.473
UK: 55.9
This could explain why the UK may have found the new variant before other countries."
The UK - World-Beating at COVID Family Trees. 

211220 YouGov poll do you support restrictions over Christmas

As COVID passes through more people, it creates more mutations. This was always going to happen. But whatever strain you have right now, if you clamp down damned hard, it won't matter. Australia had a case with this strain. Are they in the same position as the UK? NO. It isn't all bad news for the UK. It's demoralising, but Australia reminds us we can still beat it. It's not a magic strain, it's not looking more deadly, it's not looking more severe. It's just more catchy, so we have to be harder. Get those sleeves rolled up. 

The Christmas Star, the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, will be visible tonight for the first time in about 800 years. After sunset, on the Western horizon. That's got to be worth a wish...

Proper report back tomorrow... Stay well. 




Number of Covid-19 genomic sequences per country x1000 cases:


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