Thursday 31 December 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update New Year's Eve, 31st December 2020.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update New Year's Eve, 31st December 2020.

The UK added 55,892 cases today and now has reported a total of 2,488,780 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 420,492 tests yesterday. 

23,813 people were in hospital on Monday 28th (up from 20,917 a week earlier), with 1,847 using a ventilator (up from 1,529 a week earlier).. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 964 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 73,512 officially reported losses of life in all settings. Up until Friday 18th December, 82,624 people in the UK had COVID written on their death certificate. 

Rep. Of Ireland 90,157 cases and 2,226 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 83,476,768 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,819,871. Already 59,111,145 people have recovered.

Pope Francis COVID quote

On 31st December 2019, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province. Rumours and videos were already circulating, although official Western media was really disinterested, and over here we were mostly relying on Chinese or Taiwanese Journalists who were kind enough to translate. (At one point I could recognise several place names in Chinese. I have now deleted that skill.)

It is the end of a very long and hard year that we could never have seen coming or prepared for. We've all shown an ability to adapt and to cope which we wouldn't have thought possible a year ago. Allow yourself a smile, because we got this far, so we know we can get through the next few months until vaccines and antibody cocktails begin to really make their impact. 

There is some news today and some of it isn't great, as really you would have to expect. Some of it is better news. It's never all bad. 

Charlie Mackesy can you see the next step
Charlie Mackesy, UK

Let's start with the very bad. In Buckinghamshire, Essex, Woolwich and several other London areas, health and local council leaders have declared major incidents over the last couple of days. Some hospitals have had issues with Oxygen delivery reaching capacity, or surge capacity not keeping up with  the speed of the extra demand.
Essex have requested help from neighbouring areas and the Army,  There were also unconfirmed reports that in Essex ambulances were at points 'domiciliary care only' (at home). 
Other areas, including Birmingham, are also facing problems.
The Independent are reporting that Military Reserves will now be brought in to help staff the London Nightingale Hospital, which is expected to open within the next few days.
Now is not the time to run downstairs with scissors, or use power tools you don't know the name of, but if you do have an emergency, the NHS is still open for you. If life is at immediate risk, dial 999, for anything less, dial 111 to be triaged. 

Banksy NHS Superheroes Child playing with nurse doll pretending it's flying

The situation in the USA is not improved either, and Los Angeles is really in trouble. New ambulance rules mean if an EMT paramedic cannot resuscitate a heart beat, a patient will not be transported to hospital. 

Ireland has entered Tier 5 restrictions until at least 31st January. Prime Minister Micheal Martin was very grave yesterday. People must stay at home, all inessential everything is closed, gatherings and visitors are barred. The ban on air travel and passengers on ferries from Great Britain has been extended until 6th January.

Pfizer have responded to the UK decision to try and get as many people vaccinated with at least 1 dose as possible, and extend the timeframe for 2nd doses to 'within 3 months'. They say their trial did not test any metrics from 1 dose after 3 weeks, when their participants got their 2nd dose. They have urged the UK to be alert and cautious, and ensure people do get that second dose. 

Alireza Pakdel (Iranian artist) image of doctors passing patient on like a relay race
Alireza Pakdel (Iranian)

SAGE official Government advisor, and also a member of indieSAGE, Professor Susan Michie, hasn't minced her words on Twitter and LBC radio over the past 24 hours. She says Boris Johnson was wrong, schools aren't safe, and in fact they should be closed for January so that education can be made more COVID-secure. She wants to see schools using additional buildings and spreading out, better ventilation, and travel to and from school has to also be COVID-safe. 

The official SAGE have published their latest advice to Government and:
"It is highly unlikely that measures with stringency and adherence in line with the measures in England in November (i.e. with schools open) would be sufficient to maintain R below 1 in the presence of the new variant."
(So basically they are NOT confident that Tier 4 will be enough to stop the new variant.)
"R would be lower with schools closed, with closure of secondary schools likely to have a greater effect than closure of primary schools. It remains difficult to distinguish where transmission between children takes place, and it is important to consider contacts made outside of schools."
(It is important! Children have parents, Grandparents, parents who go out to work, siblings who go to other schools etc..)
"It is not known whether measures with similar stringency and adherence as Spring, with both primary and secondary schools closed, would be sufficient to bring R below 1 in the presence of the new variant. The introduction of Tier 4 measures in England combined with the school holidays will be informative of the strength of measures required to control the new variant but analysis of this will not be possible until mid-January."
(That's the science - but waiting until mid-January to try and assess whether less children caught COVID when off school, when it's been Christmas, isn't really going to give you a true picture anyway. It would be 2 weeks wasted in my opinion.) 

Gruffalo 2 metres after Julia Donaldson
Julia Donaldson / Axel Scheffler (link below)

Good news! The JCVI has amended their "previous highly precautionary advice on COVID-19 vaccines for pregnancy or breastfeeding":
"Vaccination with either vaccine in pregnancy should be considered where the risk of infection is high and cannot be avoided, or where the woman has underlying conditions that place her at very high risk of serious complications of COVID-19, and the risks and benefits of vaccination should be discussed.
Those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination, and breastfeeding women may be offered vaccination with either vaccine following consideration of the woman’s clinical need for immunisation against COVID-19. The UK Chief Medical Officers agree with this advice."
(In English - these are not 'live' vaccines, and there is no belief they can in any way harm a baby through milk or pregnancy. Lactate away. There isn't loads of pregnancy data yet, and we are always cautious with pregnant ladies, so if you're pregnant it's probably best to wait, unless you are at greater risk of serious illness yourself and/or you work in a high risk profession.)
The MHRA has also updated its advice on administering the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to people with allergies:
".....anyone with a previous history of allergic reactions to the ingredients of the vaccine should not receive it, but those with any other allergies such as a food allergy can now have the vaccine."

The 24 hour United We Stream New Year Hacienda House Party, like lots of online events, is free to everyone (and raising donations for charity) - but scammers are trying to take your money. Go through official pages and don't pay for anything or donate unless you are certain it's legitimate. 

Michael Rosen Tweet noses

One year ago today, on the same day that mainland China officially informed WHO of a cluster of pneumonia cases with unknown origin, Taiwan initiated their central command and began infection prevention measures. They closed the border, mandated face masks and placed limits on customers in shops/gatherings, and introduced temperature checks etc. It was incredibly bold, but it turned out to be the genius move. Taiwan has only reported 799 cases of COVID to date, and has lost 7 people. 

Six English NHS Trusts have now lost more than 900 patients to COVID.
Birmingham - 1,612, Pennine - 1116, Liverpool - 1013, Derby(!?) - 951, Barking - 949, Barts - 919.

The English / Welsh Test & Trace don't help themselves. They've proudly published some all-time stats today:
- 16.4 million individuals tested at least once. (Okay, that's good, you are testing everyone who requests one at the moment, it's going well.)
- 4,465,261 people reached by NHS Test and Trace. (Wait, what? There are more actual numbers written there, but it's a much smaller number isn't it? You can't fool us that easily. 4.4million)
- 84% of identified close contacts who provided contact details reached. (Woohoo, that sounds pretty good. But hang on, how many provided contacts? Say last week for example? Well, it was over 98%. Brilliant. Now they really are getting somewhere - finally.)

President Rwanda you can rebuild the economy. you cannot rebuild people

"If you want people to do the right thing you have to make it easy and we've mad it hard."
Gregg Gonsalves, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Yale School of Medicine. His Opinion piece in the New York Times was titled "The Year We Were Asked To Pick: Your Economy Or Your Life". 

"I hope that people will demand reform of social care coming out of this."
Andy Burnham,  Manchester Mayor. Opinion, Daily Mirror. 

India has extended the ban on traffic from the UK until January 7th, and there will be limited international passenger travel until at least the end of January.

For anyone in the UK, If you are ever in a dark place, you can text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258, and a trained crisis volunteer will text you back. It's ideal If you find talking on the phone challenging, and it’s completely free 24/7. You never have to be on your own if you don't want to be. 

That time when Lord Bethell asked for a link

"As the year closes and people around the world raise a toast to mark both the passing of the year and the dawn of a new one, I raise a toast to science; may we share its results (vaccines) fairly and equitably in the year ahead and together end the COVID19 pandemic! ACTogether."
Dr Tedros, Head of the World Health Organisation 

"We have another sharp rise in cases today, which will add to NHS pressure in coming days. As predicted, the new strain seems to be speeding up transmission. Please stay at home as much as possible - including for the bells tonight - & avoid non-essential interaction with others."
Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister

HUGE congratulations to all the health and social care workers who have been recognised in the 2021 New Year Honours list. Whether you agree with Royal Honours or not, these people were nominated by those they helped. Well done to all of you - and thank you. 

Thank you too for those of you who didn't get an OBE. You made our world turn. Everyone who worked, everyone who missed out, everyone who wore a mask. Those of you who have shopped for friends, fretted over relatives, cared for the sick, and for those left behind. It's been a very hard year, but a year which has taught us all the true value of others. 

Not very Scientific image for mitigation and delay
Back when no-one knew what 'slow the curve' meant...

"My plan for beating covid19 after watching this pandemic for one year? Easy: Test like a Korean, track and trace like a Singaporean, sequence like a Brit, crush the curve like a New Zealander, vaccinate like an Israeli - and behave like a human being..."
Kai Kupferschmidt, German Scientist, Journalist and Human Being. 

Good news!!! The World Health Organisation have just approved the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine - this is the universal approval that many of the world's (mainly the poorest) countries need in order to start vaccinating. It's not the easiest to transport or deliver (-70 degrees), but it can survive in dry ice for a while. It's a big positive. 

I can't tell you how many times you lot have made me cry over the last 10 or 11 months. When you've been scared, when you've been ill, and when you have loved ones who are very ill. Thank you to everyone who has written me a message or replied to say 'thank you', or sent me a coffee (and flowers! I also had a gorgeous bunch of flowers). For every one of you who needed it, it was worth it.

2020 was more than a bit crap, and 2021 won't have the best start, but we are on Jon Van Tam's train, going through Boris' tunnel, or something else that doesn't sound so distinctly rude. One day, I promise you, it'll all be good news. 

Welcome 2021 Be good don't touch anything

From all of us here at The Brick Castle, may your 2021 be substantially better than 2020... With less banana bread, and far more hugs. Stay Home, Stay Well, Save The NHS. I've shared through this post my favourite images of 2020. See you next year... 

Some numbers. They are all human beings: 

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

USA 20,260,964 (+43,723) 351,697 (+917)

India 10,282,624 (+15,341) 148,950 (+176)

Brazil 7,635,999 (+16,029) 194,152 (+212)

Russia 3,159,297 (+27,747) 57,019 (+593)

France 2,620,425 (+19,927) 64,632 (+251)

UK 2,488,780 (+55,892) 73,512 (+964)

Turkey 2,208,652 (+14,380) 20,881 (+239)

Italy 2,107,166 (+23,477) 74,159 (+555)

Spain 1,921,115 not yet reported today 50,689

Germany 1,739,696 (+19,523) 34,033 (+547)

Colombia 1,626,461 not yet reported today 42,909

Argentina 1,613,928 not yet reported today 43,163

Mexico 1,413,935 (+12,406) 124,897 (+1,052)

Poland 1,294,878 (+13,397) 28,554 (+532)

Iran 1,225,142 (+6,390) 55,223 (+128)

Ukraine 1,055,047 (+9,699) 18,533 (+209) 




Julia Donaldson / Axel Scheffler -

Charlie Mackesy


Alireza Pakdel

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