Thursday 14 January 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 13th / 14th January 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 13th / 14th January 2021.

UK official data is broken today. I'll seamlessly edit it in and add it in the comments when it is published, but there have been 48,682 more positive cases in the latest 24 hour reporting period.
A "data processing issue" is to blame according to Public Health England.

Rep. Of Ireland 159,144 cases and 2,460 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 93,229,269 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 1,994,359. Already 66,549,524 people have recovered.

COVID Variant alert and list of countries now barred for arrivals to the UK travel

There are now 3 "lineages of concern" or mutated variants which we have to keep an eye on - well, really it's mostly the scientists keeping an eye on them.  

1) - The UK variant B.1.1.1 which has now been located in at least 51 countries, and is the most populous strain in the UK,  and rising fast in Denmark. This strain has 2 important mutations - N501Y spike protein mutation, and a double deletion or missing part of the code at points H69 and V70. We believe this makes it around 50-70% more transmissible and removes an attack option for most current vaccines, but shouldn't make them less effective overall.

2) - The South African variant B.1.351/ 501Y.V2 has an identical gap in it's programming to the UK variant (69/70 deletion), the spike protein N501Y and a couple of other spike mutations. One of the other mutations, E484K was shown to 'escape' natural antibodies in a single patient, so it is a bit worrying and trials are ongoing to check it isn't resistant to vaccines. Like the UK variant, it is assumed to be more transmissible, but not more personally deadly.  It has been spotted in at least 16 countries, but is far less prevalent than the UK strain at the moment.

3) - The Brazilian variant P1 (20J/501Y.V3.) was first discovered in 4 travellers returning to Japan from Brazil, and has since been found in several Brazilian cases.
"We have detected a new variant circulating in December in Manaus, Amazonas state, north Brazil, where very high attack rates have been estimated previously. The new lineage, named P.1 (descendent of B.1.1.28), contains a unique constellation of lineage defining mutations, including several mutations of known biological importance such as E484K, K417T, and N501Y."
Because it has the same N501Y spike protein mutation as the other two, the obvious worry is that it is also likely to be more transmissible.
Because it has E484K like the South African variant, it is also being watched incredibly carefully until we are sure current vaccines will do the job.
No-one seems willing to say publicly yet what they believe K417T is likely to do, but it is another spike protein of concern.
(Remember vaccines can easily be tweaked, but it takes about 6 weeks plus the time, cost and resources needed to manufacture and distribute new vaccines). 

As if by magic (or maybe the government do actually know more than we do),  Grant Shapps, UK Transport Minister has moved with uncommon speed (it took under 3 days!):
Travel from PORTUGAL to the UK will also be suspended given its strong travel links with Brazil – acting as another way to reduce the risk of importing infections. However, there is an exemption for hauliers travelling from Portugal (only), to allow transport of essential goods.
This measure does not apply to British and Irish Nationals and third country nationals with residence rights"

international travel guidance 14th jan 2021

It's likely that within days England and Scotland at least will start offering vaccinations around the clock according to demand. Whilst there may not be many care home residents who fancy a trip to the hospital at 4am, it will be useful for many NHS and social care staff, and once the majority of the working population are being mass vaccinated, it could be a blessing for night shift workers. Speed is key here. 

From Monday English schoolchildren can be given vouchers instead of meals to replace free school lunches. I think that's very wise. Some companies made up some amazing healthy meal packs, but some really did not. It doesn't look likely that current wording covers February half term, so I foresee another social media fight...

From the start of the scheme up until 12th January 2021, the English government has provided 702,226 devices (laptops and tablets) for school kids to work from home. It is a lot, but it's still actually only an average of less than 1 per class, and nowhere near the number we actually need in order to get all of our kids online and back to learning. 

The Guardian are reporting, and Matt Hancock seemed to support it yesterday, that thousands of English patients are going to be sent home or to hotels to free up hospital beds.
"Under the “home and hotel” plan, patients discharged early into a hotel will receive help from voluntary organisations such as St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross, armed forces medical personnel and any available NHS staff."

Mandatory testing before arrival to the UK was due to begin tomorrow, but has been put back to Monday as the UK government say it hadn't allowed passengers enough "time to prepare".
(Ermm... okaaay... ) 

NHS Pharmacies are great and have started offering vaccinations

The UK's SIREN study has been examining Health Workers who have had COVID, to assess their natural antibodies over time. They've just released their first findings:
- Between 18 June and 24 November, scientists detected 44 potential reinfections (2 ‘probable’ and 42 ‘possible’ reinfections - without sequencing proving 2 separate infections, scientists can't say 'definite') out of a total 6,614 participants who had tested positive for antibodies.
- This represents an 83% rate of protection from reinfection.
- Protection for most lasts for at least 5 months (the length of the trial so far - studies will carry on)
Early evidence from the next stage of the study suggests that although people may be protected personally and if they re-catch COVID they won't actually become very ill, they can still transmit high levels of virus. (There's a short window of time where their body is fighting the new invader, but neither side has yet won.)
At the moment these are just responses to natural infection,  the SIREN study will bring us data on vaccine responses later this year

From January 26th, all air passengers travelling in the USA aged 2 or above will need a negative COVID test within 72 hours of boarding the flight. This is becoming standard practise now, so I think for a long while you'll have to factor in the cost of a private test when booking. 

The UK Government today discussed Long COVID. It's thought to affect around 300,000 people in the UK already, with more each day, and many people still unable to function normally after 6 months or more. Symptoms vary depending on where the COVID affected the individual and left it's mark, but include things like tiredness, lethargy, muscle pain, depression, sleeping problems, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, shortness of breath, gastro-intestinal problems etc etc. It's a huge list.
A study from China found that 76% of the patients who had needed hospital care were still reporting at least 1 symptom 6 months later. 

Today saw the launch of UK high street community pharmacies offering vaccinations. They are available at 7 sites today, and hundreds more will come online within the next few weeks. Independent pharmacies, Boots and Superdrug stores are among the venues where you'll be able to get your jab. 

Just in time it seems too - The Guardian are reporting that over the weekend elderly people in Coventry were offered appointments to get their vaccinations in Manchester, 100 miles away. Because during a pandemic you really want an 85 year old getting the bus for 6 hours there and back.
Give me strength... 

Vaccine prioritisation order in the UK

An 11-day 24 hour lockdown begins today in Lebanon, where they are reported to have run out of hospital beds. Citizens have to request permission to leave the house, and even supermarkets are delivery only. The 6.8m population (1/10th the size of the UK) has so far reported 237,132 (+5,196) cases and 1,781 (+41) losses of life. 

HSBC bank are following the supermarkets by stressing a strong view on face-coverings. They must be worn if you visit a branch in-person, and if you refuse, or don't observe social distancing, you won't be served and if you persist your account may be closed. 

If the UK press insist on pushing the government on how far we can reasonably travel, they'll be left with little option other than to impose a mandatory limit. There's your warning. 

Ontario in Canada on Tuesday declared a second state of emergency and issued a stay-at-home order beginning today (Jan 14th) for 28 days. Modelling predicted that within 6 weeks the losses of life would double to around 100 a day without any extra restrictions. 

Promising Treatment News! A long while back I mentioned Southampton Uni had developed a spray that had potential to prevent severe disease in a large percentage of patients, and today it began mass human trials.
In the small 100 person trial, patients were up to 80% less likely to become seriously ill, require ventilation or succumb.
The drug, containing Interferon Beta, is administered via a nebuliser. The hospital patient inhales it deeply into their lungs, where it should stimulate immune response. Fingers and toes crossed. 

Mongoose, lemmings, cats and dogs, and now great apes have COVID. Despite stringent measures, an asymptomatic keeper from San Diego Zoo has given the gorillas COVID. It's not known exactly how many have it so far, but they live close together, so it's likely they'll all be exposed. 3 have a cough and sound congested, but none are currently very ill. Interestingly, the gorillas usually have an annual flu jab, so it's very possible they will at some point get the COVID vaccine. 

140121 test and trace all time stats

All through this pandemic we've been reminded to GO TO THE DOCTOR if you are unwell. Don't die at home because you are scared of catching COVID, or think the NHS is too busy. Papers this week are reporting the fact that in the UK, around 40,000 people above the expected amount have died at home this past year. Fear or complacency may have been responsible for a lot of those deaths. Even when hospitals are battling to cope with COVID patients, they have many more non-COVID patients in other wards. Those patients need to be there - you might need to be there.
If you are worried or your family are worried, contact your GP.
If you are struggling, ring 111 for a second opinion.
If you have a genuine medical emergency and someone's life is at risk, dial 999.
Don't sit at home and die in your chair when it's not yet your time. 

Some people. All made from the same stars as you:

Countries / Cases / Losses of life since 00.00 GMT (In larger countries some states /provinces have yet to report today):

USA 23,658,011 (+41,496) 394,906 (+973)

India 10,526,577 (+13,746) 151,924 (+159)

Brazil 8,270,655 (+13,196) 206,188 (+179)

Russia 3,495,816 (+24,763) 63,940 (+570) 

UK 3,211,576 not yet reported today 84,767

France 2,830,442 not yet reported today 69,031

Turkey 2,364,801 (+8,962) 23,495 (+170) 

Italy 2,336,279 (+17,246) 80,848 (+522)

Spain 2,211,967 (+35,878) 53,079 (+201)

Germany 1,996,321 (+15,267) 45,078 (+674) 

Poland 1,414,362 (+9,436) 32,456 (+381)

Iran 1,311,810 (+6,471) 56,538 (+81)

Ukraine 1,138,764 (+7,925) 20,376 (+162)

Netherlands 895,687 (+6,466) 12,774 (+89)

Czechia 866,522 (+10,854) 13,856 (+82)

Canada 686,786 (+5,458) 17,508 (+125) 





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