Wednesday 30 December 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 30th December 2020.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 30th December 2020.

Bad news, good news today, and the inevitable UK Briefing with Bozza. It really is a tale of two halves, and they're about as opposing as you can get, so please don't forget the good bits. We WILL get there. 

The UK added 50,023 new cases today and reported another 981 people have succumbed to COVID. Yes, that includes some backlog from Christmas, but these people have still tested positive, or been lost. I am sorry to every person who has lost someone they care for, including those of you among my own friends. This will touch everyone. 

The awesome news: The AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine has received approval from the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), so vaccinations can begin as soon as they can be arranged. 

The bad news: Case numbers are high (1 in every 70 people in the UK had COVID just before Christmas), hospitalisations dangerously so. Some Londoners have received text messages urging them to call 111 unless life is in immediate danger, because the system is really stretched. Matt Hancock has announced that from midnight tonight 23 more areas of the UK will move into Tier 4 restrictions - STAY AT HOME WHEN POSSIBLE. This affects over 20m people. Some other areas will also change Tiers upwards. 

From 1 minute past midnight TONIGHT: 

Current Tier 2 moving to Tier 3:
Rutland, Liverpool City Region, Bath and North East Somerset, Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, Areas covered by Dorset Council, Wiltshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Worcestershire, Yorkshire
City of York and North Yorkshire.

Current Tier 2 moving to Tier 4:
Cumbria, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

Current Tier 3 moving to Tier 4:
EVERYONE is moving to Tier 4 except the following, who will remain in Tier 3:
North Somerset
South Gloucestershire
The Humber: East Riding of Yorkshire, Kingston upon Hull/Hull, North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire
South Yorkshire (Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotheram, Sheffield)
West Yorkshire (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield)

I know what happens with schools is really important to many of you (us). Gavin Williamson (Education Minister) has made some concessions:
- Universities are asked to reduce the number of students returning in January, and offer rapid testing as soon as they return.
- In some of the highest risk Tier 4 areas, not all Primary pupils will return to in-school teaching on 4th January.(I'll add the areas at the end.)
- Secondary years 11 and 13 and College students will return to in-person teaching from 11th January with rapid testing on their return.
- Other secondary pupils will not return until 18th January. 

UK Briefing with Boris himself. I had already written up loads of stuff about vaccines etc, so I'll slot it in. Boris started by talking about the JCVI recommendations:
The JCVI (Joint committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) have recommended that we focus on getting as many people as possible their first vaccine dose, and the second dose can be any time up until 12 weeks later. They believe due to the massive numbers of infected people in the UK right now, speed and quantity is best. Most people should have a good level of protection after the first dose (of either vaccine), but it could be very short lived, so it's really important to get your second dose within the timeframe.
The JCVI have also left the vaccination priority order the same as far as I can see. They don't feel there are real differences in effectiveness for either vaccine between age groups or other groups of people. 

Boris says "as soon as we can get vaccinations to you, we'll be getting them into people's arms".

We've seen a 40% increase in new cases, hospitalisations are up 15%, we lost nearly 1,000 people yesterday, so more areas of the UK have to move into Tier 4. We have to think very hard about schools...
"We must face the reality. The sheer pace of the spread of this new variant requires us to take tougher action in some areas."
The reopening of primary schools in specified Tier 4 areas (below) will be delayed until at least January 18th, except for vulnerable/key worker children.
Every secondary school pupil will be tested on their return to school and regularly thereafter. All university students should be offered rapid tests on their return. 

"All of these measures are in the end designed to save lives and to protect the NHS, and for that reason I must ask you to follow the rules where you live tomorrow night, and see in the new year safely at home."
"We are still in the tunnel of this pandemic, the light however is not merely visible - thanks to an extraordinary feat of British engineering, the tunnel has been shortened, or we're moving faster through it - and that gives me great confidence about the future in the Spring."
He's not the best orator Boris, but it's passable.
"Let's redouble our efforts, let's follow the rules, protect our NHS and together make 2012 a year which we... leave this tunnel... errr... behind us."

Jon Van Tam did the UK Briefing slides - Grim McGrim. He calls it 'precarious' and we haven't yet seen the impact of Christmas Day. Cases have doubled within 2 weeks. Over 70% of the English population is now under Tier 4 restrictions.
The new variant really does appear to be far more transmissible. Regular variant cases are fairly static, with the new variant alongside just growing completely out of control. 301220 UK Briefing slide New UK variant vs other people with COVID

Steve Powys seconds with his own concerns about the new variant, and the pressure London hospitals are currently under. 

Jon Van Tam talks about the vaccines - positive news.
Transportation and storage of the Oxford vaccine is easy peasy. Fridge for 6 months.
He says that non-scientists studying results and picking out odd cases isn't helpful. One of the 2 people who caught COVID after having the Oxford vaccine showed symptoms 2 days later, and the other 10 days later - so one definitely caught COVID before they were even vaccinated, and the other had only just been vaccinated, so it hadn't had time to take effect. 

Steve reminds us the Nightingales are all there should we need them, not necessarily for COVID patients, but as with Manchester, useful for step-down patients, or in other areas, used for diagnostics. It all relieves pressure on the hospital itself. The London Nightingale is being readied.
Steve didn't discuss staffing, but to be honest, if they said now "this is life or death, who can help tonight?" they'd staff the Nightingales with volunteers. It's far from ideal, but if it saved lives, and it was the best we had, we'd all take it. 

The Oxford vaccine should start delivery by next Monday. "We will have tens of millions of doses by March."

Press asked if parents with children in Tier 4 areas will be penalised if they don't send them to school next week? Boris blustered, but mostly just said how good schools are for most children. 

301220 UK Briefing slide people testing positive with COVID

IndieSAGE today called for an urgent immediate national lockdown. They aren't mincing their words at all. Sir David King opened by saying:
'News of the Oxford vaccine is welcome but it's not a magic bullet. We are in a serious situation and we require proper action from the government now, today'
It looks like he got his wish - at least in most part.
The UK has around 3,000 more people in hospital due to COVID than we did during the first peak, and we were already locked down with schools closed at that point. Right now, our situation is only going to get worse.
London Hospital Consultants told us about the situation in their hospitals. It's not good. I just want to give them a hug. They're clearly exasperated. 

The impact of Christmas on official figures will only really begin to show over the next few days. Around 1/3 of people who caught COVID on Christmas Day will begin to show symptoms by tomorrow night, then they might not book a test for a couple of days, and then we need to allow for the processing. It could be around 7th January before we get a truer picture of how Christmas affects cases in the UK. It's such a huge unknown, with horrific worst case scenarios. It is causing some scientists sleepless nights. Small consolation is that up until now we have never come anywhere close to worst case scenarios. 

There was a UK Data Briefing this morning to talk about the Oxford vaccine. I didn't watch it, it's the holidays. Luckily I have the slides, so I can blag it.
Dr June Raine, the CEO of MHRA, Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of Commission on Human Medicine Expert Working Group and Prof Wei Shen Lim, Chair of the JCVI led the briefing.
They found the AstraZeneca vaccine effective and safe across all population groups, and recommend we concentrate first on giving every vulnerable person at least 1 dose of either vaccine.
They reminded people that trials were not cut short, the reason this has happened so quickly is because they didn't have to spend months in meetings begging for funding, and had a blank cheque to just start the next 2 rounds of trials as soon as the first one showed safety. (Or something like that going by the pictures.) 

301220 jv#cvi advice for dosing intervals vaccines

The US has reported their first known cases of the UK variant. 

The Chinese Sinopharm Vaccine Phase 3 Trials show it to be 79% effective. While that may not be as high as Pfizer's 90%, it's still plenty for safe herd immunity. Nice one. They haven't released all of the final data, so we don't know the size of the study group, however mass vaccinations have already begun. 

Final UK data shows the Oxford / AstraZeneca Vaccine to be around 80% effective across the whole population (possibly more so with younger people). Bloody good stuff. 

The next 3 weeks are mostly written, but what happens after that is not. The English government are behaving more seriously now, the vaccines are rolling out, and always remember that for the vast majority of people, COVID is just a rough couple of days. We knew this was coming, we ride it out, we look after those we love the best we can, and look ahead to a far more normal Summer. 

A hug for everyone who needs one, especially those of you with the hardest jobs, those in health and social care. Thank you. Stay well. 

Health Workers Stress

The English Tier 4 areas where Primary Schools will not reopen for in-person teaching (except for vulnerable / SEN / Key worker children) until January 18th at the earliest: 

Barking and Dagenham / Barnet / Bexley / Brent / Bromley / Croydon / Ealing / Enfield / Hammersmith and Fulham / Havering / Hillingdon / Hounslow / Kensington and Chelsea / Merton / Newham / Richmond-Upon-Thames / Southwark / Sutton / Tower Hamlets / Waltham Forest / Wandsworth / Westminster / Brentwood / Epping Forest / Castle Point / Basildon / Rochford / Harlow / Chelmsford / Braintree / Maldon / Southend on Sea / Thurrock / Dartford / Gravesham / Sevenoaks / Medway / Ashford / Maidstone / Tonbridge and Malling / Tunbridge Wells / Swale / Hastings / Rother / Milton Keynes / Watford / Broxbourne / Hertsmere / Three Rivers




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