Friday 15 January 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 15th January 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 15th January 2021.

Yesterday the UK abacus was broken, and they didn't release any numbers until very late. In the end the UK added 48,682 cases and another 1,248 people were reported as losing their lives. 

The UK added 55,761 cases today and now has reported a total of 3,316,019 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 695,148 tests yesterday. 

37,282 people were in hospital on Wednesday 13th (up from 31,624 a week earlier). There were 3,672 people using a ventilator yesterday, 14th January (up from 2,929 a week earlier).  

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 1,280 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days. We now very sadly have a total of 87,295 officially reported losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 166,548 (+3,491) cases and 2,536 (+48) losses of life. 

There have now been a total of 93,861,080 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 has passed a very sad milestone and is over 2 million people. COVID has taken 2,009,441 lives. Already 67,029,564 people have recovered.

UK quarantine in place for arrivals

There was some terror and excitement today because Professor Wendy Barclay, a UK Government advisor, mentioned the UK had already seen cases of the Brazilian variant. She later clarified that there are 2 distinct Brazilian lineages of virus, but it's only the new one which is a variant of concern, and we haven't yet found any cases in the UK.
It certainly woke everyone up. 

The UK is in a bit of a disastrous place regarding the whole COVID thing right now, hopefully it will never look any worse than this. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson hosted a UK briefing which was always going to be grim watching. He was accompanied by Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance - the new triumvirate of the UK COVID response. 

Boris starts by talking positively about the vaccines - and says we may know people who have received a vaccine, but complacency can be fatal. This is not the time for the slightest relaxation. PLEASE STAY HOME. He reminds us we can pass the disease by touch, so WASH YOUR HANDS.

On Tuesday alone we had 4,134 new admissions to hospital. There are now over 37,000 patients in hospital. Despite best efforts we are having to cancel some urgent operations.

Boris says the risk of the new variants means we have to take extra steps. We have already announced the ban on travellers from certain countries, and now we are announcing that ALL travel corridors will be suspended from 4am on Monday 18th January for the whole UK. Arrivals to the UK MUST:
- Have a negative test taken within 72 hours of travel and fill in a Passenger Locator Form. These may be checked on arrival.
- You must quarantine for 10 days or take another test on day 5 which proves negative. You cannot leave the house for ANY reason (other than danger to life we'd assume).
This is ooooooh, 12 months later than the prime time to bring it in.

He returns to talking about happy vaccinations:
We've now vaccinated over 3.2m people across the UK - 2.8m in England, 225,000 in Scotland, 126,00 in Wales, 115,00 in Northern Ireland.
Yesterday alone we vaccinated around a quarter of a million people - far more than any other country in Europe (it's true. We're pretty good at this - but don't forget those 2nd doses!).
"With almost 45% of our over 80's now vaccinated, and over 40% of care home residents, we are steadily protecting those most at risk."
He pays tribute to some of the best performing areas of the UK, including Cumbria - well done to everyone involved. 

150121 People succumbed UK briefing

Chris Whitty with the slides. He shows the case numbers are still ridiculously high (1 in 50 people currently has COVID), but we are seeing some levelling off everywhere.
He thanks everyone for staying at home, and says it is positive news - we weren't sure if it would work with the new variant.
Hospital admissions and people in hospital are both still rising day on day.
The number of people who die each day is still rising, and will continue to do so for another week or so.
We have massively exceeded the peak of the first wave, but THE NHS IS STILL TREATING EVERYONE. Chest pain? Confused? In agony? Dysentery? Ring 111 for triage and a second opinion, 999 for an immediate life-threatening medical emergency. Literally MILLIONS of people have been to hospital in the last year and not caught COVID. 

Public asked about new variants being 'vaccine-busting' (Boris' phrase). So far we don't believe any are, but there is a chance at any time.
The UK are actually world-beating at Genomics, and we are tracking our virus ancestry and evolution better than just about anyone else (only New Zealand can look at every single case). We have the best chance of spotting, catching and (hopefully) isolating new variants - if we can behave swiftly.
Chris and Pat both talk about this, and stress the importance of initiatives like COVAX, because we will need EVERYONE we can immunised worldwide, and case numbers Low McLow in order to protect ourselves from mutations in the future. (Not their actual words.)
Boris and Chris talk about slowly coming out of lockdown, with a gentle relaxation of restrictions, so that we don't have another disaster / repeat of last time.
Chris mentions people who aren't dying from COVID, but are still (rightly) in hospital because of it. It isn't only incredibly ill patients who are placing pressure on the NHS, and this has to be taken into account.
Chris says we expect the peak of infections to begin around now, and in a few areas it is doing (London / SW). Peak of hospital admissions will be around a week later, and highest rate of losses of life will follow around 1-2 weeks after that.
Pat reminds us this is not a natural peak, it is artificially suppressed by the lockdown. Without restrictions, it would keep going. 

number of vaccinations carried out so far in the UK

I forgot to mention Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday tightened some of the restrictions in Scotland regarding retail - Click and collect will be limited to essential services only, and customers cannot enter takeaway premises. 

The Azores, Chile and Madeira were removed from the travel corridors 'exempt list' at 4am Friday 15 January. You will have to quarantine on arrival from any of those countries.
Aruba, Bonaire/St Eustatius/Saba and Qatar will be removed from the exempt list at 4am Saturday 16 January.
A reminder that from 4am this morning (15th January) the UK banned arrivals (except UK or Irish nationals) from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. They also banned arrivals from Portugal, with the exclusion of hauliers.
(And Boris just announced ALL travel corridors are temporarily suspended from Monday 4am anyway.) 

Today's indieSAGE was good news / bad news - which is substantially better than the last few weeks. We are in an awful place right now, but hope is ahead (huzzah!).
Since last week new cases have come down across the UK, although they have gone back up a little in the last 3 days (hopefully a blip). The numbers are still a bit messed up since New Year. Positivity rates (% positive) are possibly a better measure right now, and they are going DOWN.
Weekly case figures by age show that the only age group where cases are rising is the over 80's. indieSAGE worry that this, coupled with a big rise in cases in care homes, may be due to limited mixing at Christmas, and reliance on lateral flow tests to assume 'safety'.
Hospitalisations in Wales, England and Northern Ireland are now around double the first wave. Daily admissions are still going up everywhere except possibly London, and it will be a few more days before the effect of the lockdown starts to reduce that. And it will go down SLOWLY, so more and more people will be hospitalised each day for a good while yet.
They explained carefully that the vaccination policy:
-  won't bring cases down in any large measure, because the people we are vaccinating are the least likely to mix.
- will have a big effect on hospital admissions, as the over 75's make up about 40% of this group.
- won't have a huge effect on ICU admissions though. Intubation and ventilation are very hard on a human, and the more elderly or frail that person is, the less likely they will be placed in ICU, as it isn't going to raise their chance of survival, and could even make it worse. (75% of ICU admissions are under 75.)
- will definitely have a huge effect on the number of people who die. 

150121 percentages hospital death cases by age

Over 35% of the UK population over 80 have now been vaccinated with at least 1 dose. Almost 1m people were vaccinated last week, and the most recent figures show we are on track to reach 2m people a week soon. Annoyingly the lowest performing areas are London and the South East, where cases are highest.

indieSAGE are not happy about the huge number of people who are still allowed to travel internationally. The exemption list is huge, and can be purely because you own a large business. They also aren't happy about internal travel too. They have written a document with suggestions for tightening up our borders (and placing prevention of importing COVID first, rather than keeping business people happy)... (and as if by magic, the UK government have done something about this today).

150121 percentages hospital death cases by age

indieSAGE also brought in young people today to discuss their experiences. A 16 year old talked about COVID cutting the bonds with his schoolmates. 5 years in a single social circle, and then... nothing. It's clear a lot of our young people are likely to feel lonely, and lack people to talk to or connect with.
Young people also feel decisions are being taken out of their control, and they're being told what they feel and want, rather than having their own say.
Stress on other people in the household also has a big knock on effect on young people within the home.  

Brazilian President Bolsonaro has famously decided not to take many  measures against COVID, and instead dismiss it as 'a little flu'. Cases and losses of life have been high, and they are now in a similar position to the Northern hemisphere, with more new cases daily than during the first wave. The situation has become dire, and the Amazonian city of Manaus (where the new Brazilian variant of concern has been found) has run out of oxygen. The Amazonas Governor Wilson Lima was about as sincere and heartbreaking as you can get during a press conference:
“I want to thank those governors who are giving us their hand in a human gesture...  All of the world looks at us when there is a problem as the Earth’s lungs. Now we are asking for help. Our people need this oxygen.”
235 patients who need oxygen, but not critical care, have been airlifted to other states.
Manaus has a population of around 2m people, but is too remote to rely on land transport during the emergency. It is reported they may also have asked neighbouring country Venezuela for help. 

Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Specialist at University College Hospital,  London, Dr Neil Stone, has also pointed out that what is happening in Manaus has a message for us all:
"Manaus is a big city in Brazil. In May, Covid ripped through the city resulting in one of the highest infection rates in the world.
If "natural herd immunity" was going to happen anywhere, it would be there.
Manaus is now in a second wave which has caused more deaths than in May."

Remember the Great Barrington Declaration? A letter signed by bajillions of "medical experts" who turned out to include herbalists, masseuse and folk with an OCN in Aromatherapy (famous for their understanding of epidemiology). It called for governments to attempt natural herd immunity and just get on with it.
Bet some of them feel stupid now. 

150121 People hospitalised UK briefing

Many many tens of thousands of people have gathered at the River Ganges in Uttarakhand, India, for the Kumbh Mela festival. Authorities are understandably worried, and requesting everyone adhere to distancing, but didn't decide to ban the event. 17 COVID testing centres have been set up at area borders and train stations, to offer PCR and lateral flow rapid testing to arrivals. The Kumbh Mela festival has a rotation of 12 years, and in 2021 runs until 27 April. 

Flu numbers are down. Don't say it too loud, but tentatively our measures against COVID have also helped prevent the usual January influx of cases. It's early days, but every single person who doesn't end up in hospital is a win. Every person who doesn't die from flu, because of COVID, means a family who have no idea how fortunate they are.
WHO say their surveillance suggests across the Northern hemisphere flu' is at 'inter-seasonal levels' - similar to levels we see in Summer.

Lateral flow tests aren't always as sensitive as other forms of testing, so levels of virus have to be quite high to be picked up. This means you should catch positive cases when they're at their most infectious, (around day 2-6, or 3-5 ish), and if you use the tests regularly then hopefully you'll prevent most of the spread, but it's not foolproof and even 2 hours later it could be a different result. Really lateral flow are good for a quick result on suspect or surprise positive cases (even asymptomatic people shed virus very much the same in those early stages), but they can't be relied on to prove you are 'safe', so that you can go and hug pensioners. 

In Germany (which is under strict lockdown until the end of the month), movement is limited to a 15-kilometre (nine-mile) radius wherever the number of new coronavirus cases is above 200 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period.

The international team of 13 scientists examining the origins of COVID19 arrived in Wuhan, China, yesterday. Except 2 didn't, because they didn't quite pass the COVID tests, so they're still in Singapore being re-tested, again. Work will begin immediately, yet remotely, while the team are isolated for the 2 week quarantine period for international travelers.

A pigeon named Joe may have broken Australian quarantine rules as he appears to be an American racing pigeon who has either flown a ridiculous distance or grabbed a lift on a ship across the ocean. Technically if he is American he is not allowed entry, but public are attempting to (save his life) discover if he really has run (flown) away from an Alabama race, or if he's just wearing a cheap ebay ring that looks the same.
I assume he heard about Australia's low COVID figures. If I could fly I'd be on the beach there already... 

Have a good weekend. It WILL get better, we can see that, but we need to keep going through this first. Step away for a bit. Do something special for YOU. Treat yourself, mark the weekend and indulge yourself. 

Wash Your Hands, Chat Through An Open Window, Save The NHS.

Some people. All born under the same stars as you:

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

USA 23,900,639 (+48,263) 398,948 (+881)

India 10,541,760 (+13,252) 152,086 (+132) 

Brazil 8,328,061 (+1,946) 207,183 (+23)

Russia 3,520,531 (+24,715) 64,495 (+555)

UK 3,316,019 (+55,761) 87,295 (+1,280)

France 2,851,670 not yet reported today 69,313

Turkey 2,373,115 (+8,314) 

Italy 2,352,423 (+16,146) 81,325 (+477)

Spain 2,211,967 not yet reported today 53,079

Germany 2,010,256 (+6,245) 45,887 (+395)

Colombia 1,849,101 not yet reported today 47,491

Argentina 1,770,715 not yet reported today 45,125

Mexico 1,588,369 (+16,468) 137,916 (+999)

Poland 1,422,320 (+7,795) 32,844 (+386)

Iran 1,318,295 (+6,485) 56,621 (+83)

South Africa 1,296,806 not yet reported today 35,852




"Australian authorities investigate the case of 'Joe the Pigeon' who could be euthanised after being deemed a biosecurity risk"

"Brazil's state of Amazonas running out of oxygen as COVID-19 cases surge"

There's a fantastic vaccine info round up on Twitter (cheers Cathy)

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