Tuesday 26 January 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 25th / 26th January 2021.

 COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 25th / 26th January 2021.

We have some incredibly sad milestones today.
The UK has now officially lost over 100,000 people to COVID (that's likely to be around 117,000 in reality due to reporting lags).
The world has lost over 2 million people to COVID (2,157,652)
Over 100 million cases have been reported (100,551,052)

UK Cases: 3,689,746 (+20,089)
Losses of life 100,162 (+1,631)
Hospitalisations 37,561 (on 24th Jan)
Using a ventilator 4,032 (on 25th Jan)
Single dose of a vaccine: 6,853,327
Fully vaccinated: 472,446

Rep. Of Ireland 188,923 cases and 2,977 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

260121 losses of life UK Briefing

"It’s hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic. The years of life lost."
Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister.

Today's ONS (Office for National Statistics) figures up to 15th January 2021 are indeed grim statistic:
"Of all deaths registered in Week 2 (8-15 Jan), 40.2% mentioned COVID-19; this is the highest proportion of deaths involving COVID-19 that has been recorded during the pandemic."
From the beginning of 2020 onwards:
"Using the most up-to-date data we have available, the number of deaths up to 15 January 2021 was 649,889, which is 84,809 more than the five-year average. Of the deaths registered by 15 January 2021, 94,971 mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate."

Surprise UK briefing with Boris, Chris and Simon Stevens of NHS England today, and respectfully it is because of the UK's huge loss of life.
Boris started by talking about the 100,000 people who have died, and offered condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one. (I think this has touched almost everyone I know now. I know it has touched many of you.)
When this is over, we will come together as a nation to remember everyone lost, and to thank everyone for their efforts, volunteering, acts of kindness, personal sacrifice.
Chris has slides. Case ARE going down, but quite slowly. Don't get too excited, but we can breathe a little. New variant (first discovered in the UK) be damned, THE LOCKDOWN IS HAVING AN EFFECT. Patience. Levels are starting incredibly high, we need to watch that drop for a while yet.
The number of people in hospital has flattened, but Chris says in some areas it "is still not convincingly reducing".
Deaths have plateaued at an horrific high rate. Chris is visibly disturbed. The rolling 7 day average is 1,242 a day. The rate may stay at plateau for a while, and then will only begin to start coming down slowly over the next 2-3 weeks.
Simon reminds us NHS staff are also parents, children, people. They've experienced something pretty terrifying. Over 250,000 people have been hospitalised with COVID.
"This is not a year that anybody is going to want to remember, but nor, is it a year that, across the health service, any of us will ever forget."

Press asked what went so wrong? We forecast a hopeful 20,000 losses of life, and we've surpassed that by 5 times. Boris was incredibly mature:
"I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost, and as Prime Minister I take full responsibility for everything that the government has done. What I can tell you is that we truly did everything we could and continue to do everything that we can to minimise loss of life, and minimise suffering, in what has been a very, very difficult stage... a very difficult crisis for our country. And we will continue to do that, just as every government who is affected by this crisis around the world is continuing to do the same."

260121 hospitalisations UK Briefing

Chris says he won't make forward projections in terms of numbers, but we need to be realistic we are going to lose a lot more people in the short term, but we need to do our bit to avoid it in the long term.
Simon says we are seeing continuing improvements in treatments "crudely the in-hospital death rate has fallen from about 1/3rd to about 1/5th".
"Looking out, I think we can see a world in which Coronavirus may be more treatable, but for right now it's a combination of reducing infections and getting vaccinations done."

Press asked about the mortality rate and the evidence around 1 dose of vaccine. Boris is super demoralised, he actually looks quite broken. He repeated the "death toll is horrific". Chris took over to talk about vaccines - and 'balance of risk' to maximise preservation of life.
Next press said again about loss of life, Boris again apologised. "I am deeply sorry for every life lost." Chris takes over again, says government had to balance everything, with so many unknowns. Someone has to make a call, someone has to make a decision. 2 weeks ago we weren't confident the measures would stop the new variant (this is true), so seeing cases move down is a huge relief.
Press continued to mention the 100,000 people who have died. Boris did pick himself up a bit, and get more hopeful, discussing things we are good at - treatments, genomics (virus family trees), testing and vaccination - but never lost sight of the death toll.
Press asked about the EU and some complaints about possible vaccine limiting to the UK. PPE has also been mentioned. Boris says he never wants to see any limits on PPE, medicines or vaccines.

Chris says we can do things now that we couldn't do at the beginning, and we are continuing to learn. "We have a lot to learn from this pandemic."

260121 positive cases UK Briefing

The NHS will start collecting ethnicity data when people are vaccinated, purely to ensure they are reaching all communities within an area. People from BAME groups have a greater chance of serious disease and dying from COVID, and it's vital they don't miss out due to language or other communication problems.

As a reminder - the vaccines do not contain any meat or meat products. No pork, beef or gelatine, horse hooves, cochineal or eye of newt. 

Denmark are incredibly worried about the UK variant (B117). On the face of it, their current measures are okay and keeping cases fairly low, but they are attempting sequencing of as many cases as possible, and it's clear the B117 variant is taking over. While standard COVID is dropping, B117 cases are still going up slowly (doubling rate of around every 35 days) and projections made only a few days ago have already proven conservative. This is similar to what happened in the UK in November,  when B117 in London and the South East wasn't controlled by the 'lockdown lite'.

It looks likely B117 may be Denmark's main strain by the end of February. It's been projected it will be the main strain in the USA by March. To date the US CDC have discovered 293 cases in 24 different states. As yet they have not found any cases of the more worrying Brazilian and South African variants. 

The Netherlands currently have a lot of anti-curfew protests, and it's been quite violent at times, with rioting for the last 3 nights. They burned down a test centre on Sunday, and last night was described as the worst rioting for 40 years, with 151 arrests.
People are especially displeased with the curfew from 9pm until 4.30am. It's politically sensitive because it's the first since they were occupied by Germany in WWII. The Dutch Government fell apart last week because of a child benefits scandal, and EVERYONE resigned. Restrictions aren't due to be lifted until at least 10th February. Bit of a mess.
Caretaker and previous Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said 99% of the population are at home and abiding by restrictions - most areas are peaceful. General consensus online appears to back that up - every comment I've seen from Dutch people I know and those I don't, even on random searches, just expresses massive disappointment.  

German media mistakenly reported that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine was only 8% effective in people over age 65. The Health Ministry have corrected them in that the 8 referred to the number of individuals age 55-69 in the trial they were reporting on. Oops! They have attempted to retract and correct (quickly before they get sued!).

The DVLA are in trouble. Their Swansea offices have have the largest UK workplace outbreak of COVID, with 535 infections since September. They are a Government agency, so should be on top of all the newest advice and guidance, but clearly they are having issues making themselves COVID-safe.
Reports in the Guardian say staff have complained about being told to turn off the app. so it doesn't ping, being told to come back to work even when they have symptoms (that'll do it) and time off due to COVID is counted as sick leave, so go over 10 days and you get a warning.
It's like watching the beginning of Casualty. You can tell what's going to happen and you can try to guess which one is going straight to hospital. Well done to the DVLA. 

US drug manufacturer Merck has given up with their 2 vaccine candidates. They worked, but early stage research shows they just won't be as effective as other vaccines. Big shame. They could possibly now turn their manufacturing over to producing one of the other vaccines.

Excess deaths UK by place of occurrence 2020 to 15th Jan 2021

Moderna have released a press statement to say that their research shows "COVID-19 Vaccine Retains Neutralizing Activity Against Emerging Variants First Identified in the U.K. and the Republic of South Africa".
The full data hasn't yet been released, and the UK variant we weren't expecting to be an issue. For the South African variant:
"A six-fold reduction in neutralizing titers was observed with the B.1.351 variant relative to prior variants. Despite this reduction, neutralizing titer levels with B.1.351 remain above levels that are expected to be protective."
So it has a significant reduction in producing antibodies, but still it is "expected" to work okay. The South African variant really is a pain in the behind.
Much more excitingly, Moderna have announced they're launching a trial in South Africa for booster shots against the new variants, so they're already on top of it. 

Author and Long COVID sufferer Michael Rosen has published a letter where he lists several occasions when members of the UK government and advisors talked openly about herd immunity, despite there being little chance it was even possible, not knowing if there would be any long term effects for those with COVID besides actual death, and in full understanding it would incur the loss of a substantial number of human beings.
He ends "They must never be let off the hook".
The UK has now officially lost over 100,000 people to COVID, and the ONS in mid December found: "Around 1 in 10 respondents testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for a period of 12 weeks or longer."
Mr Rosen himself spent several weeks on a ventilator. He isn't quite the man he was before, and nor are a lot of people - including plenty of you.
Thoughts of herd immunity and mixed messaging were naive, ridiculously costly, and ultimately it will also be very expensive financially. 

New Zealand's almost perfect record has a blemish - a 56 year old woman who has fairly recently travelled, but was already out of quarantine, has tested positive. This is New Zealand, so everyone she has met with, spoken to, looked at sideways or passed by in a car has no doubt already been tested and isolated, and so far they haven't found any other cases.
Average incubation period (time between exposure and developing symptoms) is 5 days. Most studies find very similar, and one of the most often quoted says "97.5% of people with COVID-19 who have symptoms will do so within 11.5 days of SARS-CoV-2 infection". A teeny tiny percentage of people seem to develop COVID more than 14 days after becoming infected, and hopefully this lady is just unfortunate enough to be among them. There are whispers about her having a new variant and it incubating longer, but 1 case in a single unique human really does prove nothing. 

ONS deaths by week to 15th Jan 2021 COVID non COVID

The World Health Organisation have updated their advice on care for COVID patients and made a few changes/highlights, including.
- They recommend the use of home Pulse Oximeters (around £20) to keep an eye on oxygen levels (COVID patients quite regularly are very low and don't have any idea), and professional follow up care to check people are actually improving.
- For hospitalised patients they recommend low dose anticoagulants for preventing the blood clots forming in blood vessels (thrombosis).
- For hospitalised patients on oxygen or non-invasive ventilation, WHO suggests positioning them on their stomachs to increase oxygen flow - awake prone positioning. (I actually thought prone positioning was commonplace already, so I'm surprised to see it.)

"Low dead space" is the phrase of the week, as the world tries to squeeze more doses from every vial of vaccine. All syringes have small areas where drops of vaccine remain after use - put them together and it can add up to millions of pounds, and more lives saved. Low dead space syringes have less wasted vaccine drops, so using them means you can get 6 doses from Pfizer (instead of 5), and 11 doses of Moderna (instead of 10). Problem is most syringe manufacturing is standard, and they're not going to keep up with demand for low dead space syringes. 

Household pets such as cats, dogs, rabbits, lemmings, mink, ferrets, marmosets, monkeys, great apes, tigers and lions can catch COVID, and a group of scientists are calling for future vaccination plans to include pets, in order to protect their owners.
Usually owners pass the disease to their own pet, but we've all seen dogs and cats saying hello to each other... 

The UK Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi was on TV this morning, where he disclosed his uncle had recently succumbed to COVID, before he could be vaccinated. 

They look like numbers, but they're all people: 

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

USA 25,883,130 (+21,533) 432,197 (+805)

India 10,689,202 (+11,492) 153,722 (+98)

Brazil 8,881,853 (+8,889) 217,806 (+94)

Russia 3,756,931 (+18,241) 70,482 (+564)

UK 3,689,746 (+20,089) 100,162 (+1,631)

France 3,057,857 not yet reported today 73,494

Spain 2,733,729 (+36,435) 56,799 (+591)

Italy 2,485,956 (+10,593) 86,422 (+541)

Turkey 2,442,350 (+7,103) 25,344 (+134)

Germany 2,159,358 (+4,702) 53,915 (+513)

Colombia 2,027,746 not yet reported today 51,747

Argentina 1,874,801 not yet reported today 47,034

Mexico 1,771,740 (+8,521) 150,273 (+659)

Poland 1,482,722 (+4,604) 35,665 (+26) 
















"Over 150 arrested in the Netherlands after a third night of COVID-19 curfew riots" https://twitter.com/i/events/1353999397323853825?s=09





Michael Rosen - letter to the Guardian
















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