Friday 22 January 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 22nd January 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 22nd January 2021.

The UK added 40,261 cases today and now has reported a total of 3,583,907 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 665,330 tests yesterday. 

The counter says 5,383,103 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night, with 466,796 fully vaccinated. 

38,562 people were in hospital on Wednesday 20th, (78% higher than the first peak in April) with 3,960 using a ventilator yesterday, 21st January. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 1,401 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 95,981 losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 184,279 (+2,357) cases and 2,870 (+52) losses of life. 

There have now been a total of 98,409,112 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 2,107,517. Already 70,706,296 people have recovered.

vaccinations take time to take effect

“One of the new things in this administration is that if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. Just say you don’t know the answer.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the USA's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (Welcome back.)

We do have some good news. Today's ONS data does suggest that for the first time in ages, the UK's overall R rate is below 1. It's assumed to be between 0.8-1.0. 

Right. We also have some bad news. There's little we can do about it and I can't sugar coat it, but paradoxically it may eventually lead to less overall losses of life in the UK at least. An investigative study by UK Government advisory group NERVTAG (New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group), has found that the UK variant does seem to be more lethal than the original COVID.
It appears to be around 1.3 fold more dangerous - so if 10 people would have succumbed to plain old COVID, 13 would succumb to the UK variant.
This is possibly also the case with the South African variant, and the Brazilian variant - which share some genetic mutations with the UK variant, despite developing completely separately.
This news will cause some worldwide concern - in the countries which do have UK variant (much of Europe, USA) and the countries which don't. It is seeming increasingly likely that travel between areas WITH COVID and areas WITHOUT COVID will get more and more difficult and restrictive, but possibly so will travel between areas with and without new variants. 

There was a UK briefing with Boris today to give us the bad news about the UK variant being more deadly. He reassures us that ALL of the evidence suggests that both vaccines being used in the UK (Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca) will still be efficient against the UK variant (this TRUE - there's nothing to suggest they won't work as well, or still perfectly adequately).
400,000 people were vaccinated in the last 24 hours.
1 in 10 UK adults have now already received their first dose.
71% of over 80's have received a first dose.
2/3 of care home residents have received a first dose.
In devolved administrations the number of people vaccinated with at least 1 dose is:
Scotland - 358,000
Wales - 212,000
Northern Ireland - 151,000

220121 UK Briefing deaths UK

Boris looks shattered. He thanks everyone who has come forward for a jab. Please book your appointment as soon as your letter arrives. We ARE still on track to complete phase 1 and vaccinate our most vulnerable by mid-February.

Chris with the slides. 1 in 55 people have COVID. There are signs of improvement, but from a very high level down to a very high level. Hospital admissions are at an 'extraordinarily high level'. Chris isn't in the mood for varying his language, he's very tense.
Losses of life has been steadily increasing, and the last 7 days we have lost over 1,000 people a day. This is likely to INCREASE over the next week or so before it begins to go down. (We currently have the worst 7 day mortality rate in the world per 100,000 population.)

Patrick talked about the new variants.
There are 3 major variants - UK, Brazil and South Africa.
- We know the UK variant transmits more easily - we believe between 30-70% but it's hard to actually be more accurate.
- It doesn't have a difference in age distribution
- When we look at data from hospitals, the outcomes for the original and new variant look the same, however, when data is looked at in terms of people who test positive, more with the new variant end up in hospital, and therefore more do not survive.
For an average man in his 60's, for every 1,000 infected, around 10 would lose their life. With the new variant, it seems around 13-14 would succumb.
He reiterates that all of the vaccine data looks good, and the manufacturers are confident their vaccines will still work.
Patrick mentions the other variants - they do have a chance of escaping the vaccines, they are a greater risk. 

Public asked about the extended time gap between vaccines. Chris says everyone will get both doses, but we are trying to preserve life by offering twice as many people some protection. (It's a gamble, and even if the vaccines are short-lived, should still pay off in terms of immediate loss of life.) There will be the majority of protection after the first vaccination, the second is a top up (and helps it last much longer).
Public also asked about hugging people now they've been vaccinated. Chris and Pat answer. Vaccination doesn't stop you catching COVID, it just gives your body the recipe to knock out some antibodies on the quick and defeat it. (They used different words.) We still don't know if you'll still be able to pass it on during that time.
Yes, you'll be able to hug, but before that happens we need to protect you, we need to protect the person you want to hug, and we need to bring local case numbers right down so we protect you both. 

Press asked about mortality rates, and whether the number of people who die will increase with the new variant? Chris and Patrick said we are in lockdown and we are seeing cases drop, so we continue to see cases drop, and losses of life will still follow, but unfortunately we have another week or longer before we'll begin to see that.
Boris says he believes we have the right package of measures to stop the new variant and he doesn't want to impose any more, but it's too early to even think of unlocking. We don't want to simply rebound.

Patrick says 44 people in the UK (up to 71 with suspected cases) have been identified with the South African variant. The important thing is to identify, contact trace and contain. The current lockdown will have a really helpful effect. There is no danger that the South African or Brazilian variants would 'take over' like the UK variant did, because they don't have any additional transmission advantage over it. That said, it is important we restrict any more cases coming into the UK.
He says we don't believe the new variants cause more viral load, or make more virus in the body, they seem more transmissible because they latch on to your cells better.

Boris says we'll make another major assessment on 15th Feb when the next data is all available, but they are also assessing daily.

Chris warns us that in some populations, especially in people aged 20-30, rates of COVID are incredibly high and not dropping, and if they were to take off again, it would be from a very high level. "It is high, very high, and very precarious." "The NHS is absolutely at the top of what it can manage. If that happened again we would be in really deep trouble." 

Press asked about closing borders to foreign travellers because of new variants, and Matt Hancock's video earlier today which said the South African strain could be 50% more resistant to vaccines. Patrick reminds us that taking a result from a laboratory will only give us an estimate, it won't replicate real world results. The South African and Brazilian variants have potential to be less affected by vaccination, but we don't know. Cause for concern.

Boris says we won't be relaxing restrictions until we reach the point we won't just end up in another lockdown afterwards, and the first thing we'll reopen will be schools.

Patrick says he believes COVID will be around forever, but it will be controlled, and vaccines, anti-viral drugs and other treatments and measures will keep it under control. (Even Bubonic Plague has an occasional outbreak.)
Boris says if extended support is necessary then we will continue to support livelihoods. Stay Home, Protect The NHS, Save Lives. 

220121 UK Briefing hospital admissions chart

There was a spectacular breach of COVID regulations broken up by the police in London last night. 400 people were enjoying a wedding in a school in Stamford Hill. They had even covered over windows so they couldn't be seen from outside.
If I said to you I was going to take 400 of your nearest and dearest and cram them in one room - infect 3 of them and let them loose, then see if 3-5 of them die, you'd be mortified. But that is what this amounts to.
This is the kind of event which is playing Russian Roulette with those you care most about - and from next week it would have cost the participants up to 1/3 of a million English pounds in fines. A quick Google of "COVID wedding infected" should be enough to deter anyone - the Maine 62 guest wedding which killed at least 7 people is particularly sad. 
As for the school? They're horrified. Renting of the property is under a private firm, and the school Principal actually caught COVID and died back in April. 

Today's indieSAGE was a mixed bag of 'we think it's hopeful, but it's too early to say for definite'. 
CASES - Yes, new cases and positivity rates (% testing positive) have been declining, but they are levelling off in some regions (and it's still far too high a rate to level off). ONS data out today paints an even more cautious picture, their random testing suggests new cases are dropping, but more slowly than positive tests suggest.
New ADMISSIONS to hospital are levelling off nationally, with very broad local variation.
LOSSES OF LIFE are showing signs of slowing. We have lost substantially more people during this broad second wave than we did in the first wave - which is demoralising as it wasn't a surprise. We knew it was coming, yet it happened...
Rate of 1st VACCINATION is good, and increasing across all 4 nations at a nice pace.
They looked at what makes this lockdown different to the first one in Spring 2020, and how much more relaxed it is, despite us having the new, more transmissible, UK variant.
We're driving about 1/4 more, shopping about 1/3 more, and therefore probably also mixing more.
This lockdown we have around 5x as many children attending school in-person, and data suggests that last week there were around 125 reports of school outbreaks - there were around 250 a week during December with all kids in school. Schools clearly do add to community spread, so less kids in means it's safer all round. 

You've never actually ever seen anyone look as relieved as 'face of the US COVID response', Dr Anthony Fauci. In a press conference today he made it clear that before he was ousted and replaced by a plastic surgeon, he had been gagged, and felt unable to say anything in contradiction to Trump because there would be repercussions.
“The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know. What the evidence, what the science is... and know that’s it, let the science speak.... It is somewhat of a liberating feeling.”
(It's always better when the UK's COVID task force look relieved and liberated... There have been quite a few times they've held their tongues too long...)

220121 UK Briefing estimated infection rate

Hong Kong have so far avoided heavy COVID restrictions, but now they are struggling to contain an outbreak in Kowloon, and they aren't messing about. After a staggering 61 cases (yes, you read it right), 26 of which were untraceable, they are locking down some of their citizens for the first time.
Around 150 residential buildings are affected, with an estimated 4,000-9,000 residents. Everyone living in a building which has reported a case within the last 2 weeks will have mandatory testing, and anyone wanting to leave their home will need a negative COVID test. 1,700 government workers have been assigned to aid the testing and ensure compliance.
Some countries aim for zero COVID - and they are determined to do their utmost to make that happen. 

North Korea closed their borders a year ago today and still claim they have had no cases of COVID, but WIRED have have a great article looking into all available evidence, and it seems impossible they've avoided it.
Every PCR test result and 'quarantined individual' North Korea have logged with WHO has been negative. They have repeatedly refused help from South Korea and China, stating they are okay and don't need it, but they have imposed many of the restrictions on their population that other countries have - masks, gatherings, movement restrictions, and they've had a massive public TV health campaign.
We know North Korea take a hard line against COVID - they shot a South Korean defector when he tried to land his raft last year. My favourite part of this article is that they heard about an outbreak in the Chinese city of Rason, tracked down everyone who had visited and quarantined them on an island for a month. I think even New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern would agree that's possibly taking it a bit far... 

The UK's Times newspaper has sailed a bit close to the wind in an attempt to keep their headlines sensational, and they've upset the Japanese Olympic Committee now, by claiming the Tokyo Olympics were cancelled.
Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, told Kyodo News: There is "no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July".

1 in 10 UK adults has been vaccinated

The ONS report that around 1% of people offered the COVID vaccine in the UK have declined. That's incredibly high uptake and reflects not only the fact that the people being immunised are most vulnerable, but also the fact that they are the groups who appreciate best just how lucky we are to have vaccinations. The medics and carers, and the people who were alive to see the effects of diseases such as Polio, Mumps, German Measles and Measles. 

We're under lockdown, the R is down, the vaccines are being deployed. There's not much more than we can do, but keep going. Look out for yourselves and those you love - no raves, parties or massive weddings. Have a good weekend - don't forget to treat yourself. Back Sunday... 

Physically Distance, Socially Support, Save The NHS. 

Some numbers. All were their parent's most precious gift:

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

USA 25,239,990 (+43,904) 421,118 (+833)

India 10,640,464 (+14,264) 153,218 (+151)

Brazil 8,699,814 not yet reported today 214,228

Russia 3,677,352 (+21,513) 68,412 (+580) 

UK 3,583,907 (+40,261) 95,981 (+1,401)

France 2,987,965 not yet reported today 71,998

Spain 2,603,472 (+42,885) 55,441 (+400)

Italy 2,441,854 (+13,633) 84,674 (+472)

Turkey 2,418,472 (+5,967) 24,789 (+149)

Germany 2,116,022 (+7,127) 51,534 (+383)

Colombia 1,972,345 not yet reported today 50,187

Argentina 1,843,077 not yet reported today 46,355

Mexico 1,711,283 (+22,339) 146,174 (+1,803)

Poland 1,464,448 (+6,640) 34,908 (+346) 




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