Wednesday 23 December 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 23rd December 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 23rd December 2020.

The UK added 39,237 cases today. 

20,917 people were in hospital on Monday 21st, with 1,529 using a ventilator yesterday, 22nd December. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 744 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, bringing the total to 69,051 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

There have now been a total of 78,692,150 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,730,347. Already 55,354,162 people have recovered.

Very bad news today as some more of the UK will move to Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day. Also special instructions for visitors to/from South Africa. 

Making a Christmas bubble UK Tiers

The lorry driver thing has come to an agreement - yeeeay. Last night France agreed to let limited traffic through, including long distance hauliers:
"Planes, boats and Eurostar trains will resume service as of tomorrow morning. French nationals, people living in France and those with a legitimate reason will have to be carrying a negative test" - French Minister Delegate for Transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari.
He had a big thank you too, for Grant Shapps, the UK Transport Minister. He must have done something right. Well done Grant.
The Army arrived to help with testing this morning, but the bad news is that it's going to take days to clear the backlog completely - everything would have been fully booked. Get those people tested!! Get them home for Christmas... 

Bizarrely some papers are reporting this as "Macron caves in after being ordered to open the border"... errr. Wow. Not exactly, no. The European Commission has now said no country should impose a blanket ban on the UK, but France had never shown any wish to keep it closed, they were just rightfully getting some back up on what the heck to do. 

Lorry drivers need a negative PCR swab test or a LAMP / lateral flow test result which is effective in spotting the new UK Strain. With some tests 1 of the 3 areas currently looked for is missing in the new UK variant, so you'll get more false negatives.
That's a perfect example of sod's law.

Some other countries have followed suit, and will also permit arrivals from the UK with a negative test and legitimate reason, including Belgium and The Netherlands. 

Tier 4 Lockdown Restrictions December 2020 UK Gov Stay At Home

There was a UK briefing today with Matt Hancock, UK Health Minister, Dr Jenny Harries (Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England) and Dr Susan Hopkins (Medical Advisor to the Covid-19 response). It isn't good news.
Matt started by mentioning the new variant which is spreading at a faster pace. We need to move quickly and there will be Tier changes. 
"I know that these actions have consequences, I know how hard it is."
Cases have risen by 57% in a week.
Average daily hospital admissions are at 1,909 a day - highest since mid April
18,943 people are in hospital right now - almost as many as at the peak
In the last 24 hours we've reported 691 deaths - just before Christmas. He expresses his condolences to the families and loved ones of those lost.
"It is absolutely vital that we act. We simply cannot have the kind of Christmas that we all yearn for."
"It's important that we all minimise our social contact as much as is possible this Christmas, that will help protect ourselves, our loved ones and the whole country." 

The 3 Tiered system worked to control the old variant, and is working in areas in the North, but it is not working to control the new variant. Places near to current Tier 4 are showing sharp rises and the outlook is grim.
"It is therefore necessary to put more areas into Tier 4." Even though case rates may not be as high as the worst areas currently, "the direction is clear, and in many cases quite stark" the infection's doubling time is short. "It is better to act sooner."

From 1 minute past midnight on Boxing Day:
- Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, those parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4, Waverley in Surrey, and Hampshire, including Portsmouth and Southampton, but with the exception of The New Forest, will all be escalated to Tier 4.
- Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including North Somerset Council area, Swindon, the Isle Of Wight, The New Forest and Northamptonshire, plus Cheshire and Warrington will be escalated to Tier 3.
- Cornwall and Herefordshire will be escalated to Tier 2 

Tier 3 VERY HIGH ALERT UK Government tiers Dec 2020

Matt says how sorry he is, and moves swiftly to exciting news about another new strain. (It's not 'new' to us thank heavens - I told you about it already.) This is the South African strain N501Y.V2. It's remarkably similar to the UK variant, and we have detected 2 cases here in the UK. (Remember we have the best genome {virus family tree} testing in the world - we track over 50 of every 1,000 cases. We SHOULD spot everything first.)
Matt thanks the South African government for being as open as we have been. The South African variant has additional mutations that could make it more of a problem. Therefore swift action needs to be taken.
- We will be quarantining all cases and known contacts.
- We are placing immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa.
- Anyone in the UK who has been in South Africa in the last fortnight, and anyone who is a contact of anyone who has been in South Africa during the last fortnight, MUST QUARANTINE IMMEDIATELY.
This is a strict quarantine (isolation) - you must restrict contact with ANY OTHER PEOPLE. You must not go out, you must not have visitors. The Law will be changed to give this legal power. It is temporary, and hopefully not for long. 

Matt has a good update (yeeeay).
- Community Testing is being expanded. We need to find more asymptomatic people - the 1 in 3. 116 areas have now signed up, and more are in discussions. The rapid turnaround tests are proving very effective at catching extra cases.
- We are boosting rapid testing in Care Homes. Staff will receive 2 x rapid tests a week, as well as the weekly PCR test.
- Vaccines are our hope. Science is winning. The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has submitted data to the MHRA for approval - once they sign it off, we will be ready to go. We have bazillions of doses already made.
- The Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine is being distributed at 500 locations. We have now begun vaccinations in care homes. It is an enormous logistical challenge (-70 degrees), but we've figured out how to make it work.
- The Chelsea Pensioners and other care home residents across the country will be vaccinated this afternoon. 

221220 Travel is affected check your travel now

"I sincerely hope that this is my last press conference before Christmas. And I want to just take a moment firstly to thank you, and everybody watching (reading), for all that you have done and the sacrifices you have made."
Matt thanks his whole team, "who have done so much", those who helped this country to become the first in the world to roll out a clinically approved vaccine, those who helped us build a huge capacity in COVID testing and genomic testing (a lot of these people are volunteers!) than anywhere else in the world, scientists and everybody working in the NHS and in Social Care, "for the work that they have done this year, and also for the work that's going to carry on this Winter". "And especially to colleagues who are working over Christmas."

"I know how hard 2020 has been for everybody, and after delivering some difficult news, this Christmas and the start of 2021 is going to be tough. The new variant is going to be harder because it spreads much much faster, but we mustn't give up now. We know that we can control this virus. We know we can get through it together."
Matt "I just want to go home and watch Die Hard and overload on Quavers" Hancock. 

Jenny with the data. It's no Christmas greeting.
We can see that the national restrictions brought down cases of other variants, but new variant cases just continued to rise ridiculously sharply. Now the effects of the November lockdown have just about worn off, and in most areas cases are rising again. In the North West, it's actually pretty steady, but clearly the overall situation is tenuous.

Press/Public Questions:
The Government are working with foreign nations to attempt to bring British nationals back for Christmas. Really what can they do? If a nation has barred flights to the UK, you can't make them change that overnight.
Jenny thanks teachers and says evidence doesn't suggest teachers are at any greater risk of catching COVID than others. (Hmmmm.)
Matt says he thinks they've moved swiftly against the new strain (compared to other action they've taken, I'd agree!). He reminds us we have personal responsibility NOT TO PASS ON THE DISEASE.
Susan talked about the new UK and S.A. variants. We don't yet know much about the S.A. variant, but it also looks more transmissible (it appears to have the same better ability to latch on once it enters a human).
Jenny says it's not a surprise to find mutations, we expected it, that's why we have such a fabulous (world-beating) genomics facility. So far the disease people get is no different, it's just more easy to pass from person to person, so it spreads more quickly. This puts us at increased risk of overwhelming hospitals.
Tomorrow full data on the vaccination programme will be published, and weekly thereafter.
Jenny and Susan say there is no evidence that children won't pass on the disease / or are more likely to. (That's true.) They say just because children are in school doesn't mean they're transmitting the virus. (Pffft.)

Matt ended with a "Happy Christmas". Yeah...Happy Christmas to you too Matt... 

Samaritans. Do the best you can, you ca'nt do better

UK hospitals are reporting that they're under pressure. The situation isn't good, and the new strain is probably not helping. Some scientists are suggesting the new variant isn't more catchy, this is just how exponential growth works, and it doubles with increasing regularity. I'm not buying it. Unless Kent was full of people misbehaving, the measures there should have slowed spread more similarly to the rest of the country. 

Scientists from the University of Texas have been studying convalescent therapy, testing different COVID strains in a lab, with blood from recovered patients.
The good news is that they have already tested the N501Y strain, and the common antibodies neutralised it.
This is further suggestion that current vaccines (and recovered people's own antibodies) should all still work just as well to protect against the mutated UK strain.
This isn't even written up yet, let alone peer-reviewed, but the Institute for Human Infections and Immunology are pretty trustworthy. There are separate mutations in the UK strain, but none of those seem likely to be important in relation to antibodies or vaccines.
Bloody good stuff. 

Scotland don't care who you're mates with, the Marquis Of Bute has just been charged after driving up from London with 6 mates, and breaking COVID movement restrictions. The Scottish border is currently closed to all but essential traffic.(Saw yourselves off and push away, it's the only way.)

Talking of which, Nicola Sturgeon has been caught without a mask in a public place. She was attending a funeral wake and photographed having a physically distanced chat. Legally she was only allowed to remove her mask when seated and eating. She is said to be absolutely furious with herself, and has apologised emphatically.
I walked into the shop the other day with my mask in my hand, then realised and ran back out. I think we are all human, imperfect, and while it's a faux pas, it's not a belligerent decision break the rules. I'll forgive her - but she better not do it again. 

Samaritans frontline worker support

Health Canada have approved the Moderna vaccine, 168,000 doses are expected to be delivered before the end of the year. 

When the world seems like it has all gone to the dogs, but you can still have some positive news, you need to remember the positive stuff. It reminds us that we can do this...  

We have a very important message from Dr Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organisation, in light of the recent flight bans affecting the UK and other nations:
"I can tell you that Santa Claus is immune to this virus.
We had a brief chat with him and he is doing very well. Mrs Claus is doing well and they're very busy right now.
And we have heard from a number of leaders across the world, who have told us that they have relaxed the quarantine measures for Santa to enter the airspace. So he will be able to travel in and out of the airspace, and be able to deliver presents to children.
But I think it is very important that all children of the world understand that physical distancing by Santa Claus, and also of the children themselves, must be strictly enforced.
So it is really important that the children of the world still listen to their Mums and Dads and their guardians, and make sure that they go to bed early on Christmas Eve.
But Santa will be able to travel around the world to deliver presents."
(Yeah, I cried too.)

If you cannot legally mix with another household on Christmas Day, I am genuinely incredibly sorry - please get yourself on Zoom! If you can legally mix, and choose to, remember you will always have a risk:
- Spread out.
- Don't share food.
- Wash your hands regularly, and always before eating/drinking/preparing food.
- Avoid games where you pass items
- Pick up your own separate pile of presents from under the tree
- Wear masks if you can bear it, particularly if someone is especially vulnerable, or any of you aren't comfortable without
- Respect other people's fears
- Make some amazing memories that you can smile about later.
- Focus on all that you have.
- Open a window...

I intend to have my Christmas dinner tomorrow night, so I won't do an update (but if I do then you know it's not great). It's not going to be quite what we were expecting for anyone. We always have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. It fills everyone's tummy and they go to bed early, and then I don't care if they eat a whole selection box for breakfast on Christmas Day, and I don't spend half Christmas Day cooking. (We raised 7 kids, we learnt a lot.) When they get older and have a partner, in ordinary years, they don't ever have to eat 2 Christmas dinners on one day. (Trust me, it really works!). 

Please have the very best, and safest, Christmas that you can. Different doesn't have to mean bad, it doesn't even mean worse. It can also be unique, special, one-in-a-million. We can all do this. . 

Some people. They're shown as numbers because I don't know all of their names:

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

USA 18,720,649 (+36,021) 331,387 (+563)

India 10,111,256 (+11,948) 146,562 (+86)

Brazil 7,343,216 (+23,196) 188,681 (+396) 

Russia 2,933,753 (+27,250) 52,461 (+549)

France 2,490,946 not yet reported today 61,702

UK 2,149,551 (+39,237) 69,051 (+744)

Turkey 2,082,610 (+19,650) 18,861 (+259)

Italy 1,991,278 (+14,522) 70,395 (+553)

Spain 1,838,654 not yet reported today 49,520

Germany 1,563,367 (+6,756) 28,397 (+156)

Mexico 1,338,426 (+12,511) 119,495 (+897) 

Poland 1,226,883 (+12,361) 26,255 (+472)




You are NEVER on your own. If you need someone to talk to, #Joinin on Twitter. If you want somewhere to be, DoIt.Org. If you are struggling, The Samaritans are there 24 hours a day. I can do this, so can you. Together. 

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