Tuesday 16 February 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 15th / 16th February 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 15th / 16th February 2021.

The UK added 10,625 cases today and now has reported a total of 4,058,468 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 457,144 tests yesterday.

The counter says 15,576,107 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night. 546,165 people are fully vaccinated.

21,001 people were in hospital on Sunday 14th (down from 26,723 a week earlier), with 2,805 using a ventilator yesterday, 15th February (down from 3,230 a week earlier). 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 799 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 118,195 losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 211,113 (+711) cases and 3,980 (+32) losses of life.

There have now been a total of 109,865,149 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 2,423,838. Already 84,451,577 people have recovered.

UK Government Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine fact sheet now WHO approved

"The previous shielding guidance extended until 21 February. It will now be extended until 31 March."
This is the final line of the release about changes to the English shielded category, and I know it will be a kick in the shin for a lot of you. Remember shielding is there to keep you safe until we can all come out. The last leg is always the longest and the hardest to run.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has apologised for “any confusion” and confirmed that only Asthmatics who are receiving oral medication or have previously been admitted to hospital will be moved to priority group 6. He said on the telly last night that it was everyone on an inhaler, which is wrong - and he will have confused a lot of people.
Initially asthmatics were instantly designated higher risk, because we believed we were dealing with a lung complaint. As time has gone on, we've realised COVID is far more an "attack any organ seemingly at random" complaint, and actually asthmatic people have fared far better than was anticipated. For almost everyone, your major risk factor, by a huge measure, is your age.
Asthma Australia did a very comprehensive study looking at tons of worldwide data on Asthma and COVID, and found that overall, for some as yet unknown reason, asthmatics are less likely to get a severe form of COVID, especially men. However if an asthmatic person does develop severe COVID, they have a higher chance of being more poorly and in hospital longer. Dexamethasone and Tocilizumab are both useful drugs in these cases, and both are given to appropriate patients in the UK. 

Talking of risk - there has been a mahoosive overhaul of the English Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Shielding Criteria. An extra 1.7m people have been added to the list today - meaning you will get a letter advising you to STAY AT HOME, and you'll be entitled to medicine delivery,  priority shopping slots and statutory sick pay from work. You ARE still allowed to leave your home for exercise during lockdown.
The new criteria take into account comorbidities which have been proven to put you more at risk over the past year, and it will move over 800,000 people straight into vaccine priority groups.
The people added to the list are those who score highly in a risk assessment programme called QCovid. It does look at things like GP visits, hospital admissions and repeat prescriptions, but it also considers factors such as weight and ethnic group, and also uses Radiotherapy and Cancer data.
Sadly the page is down right now, so I can't tell you much more just yet (but we know it will include asthmatics who use oral medicines or have been recently hospitalised with their Asthma). At a guess it will consider more carefully people who have more than 1 comorbidity against them.
The devolved nations (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) will be given the data and the freedom to make priority decisions themselves. 

Bold text on blank background, explaining that you must still follow the rules after vaccination

The UK government has today announced the appointment of Sir Kevan Collins as the Education Recovery Commissioner, "to oversee a comprehensive programme of catch-up aimed at young people who have lost out on learning due to the pandemic."
"The reopening of schools is a national priority. The Prime Minister recognises that school closures have had a huge impact on children’s learning and has pledged to work with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure pupils have the chance to make up their learning over the course of this Parliament."
There is an additional £300m for extra tuition, plus talk of Summer schools and other 'catch-up' programmes.
I have to say that a lot of kids won't want to do extra work. A lot of kids will take a while to settle back into schoolwork wearing full clothing and sitting at a table, let alone for a staggering 6 whole hours a day without a movie break. It will have to be taken gently, or it'll hit brick walls and fail the pupils who will need it the most.
Sir Kevan is at least a teacher of 30 years, and a former Director of Children’s Services. Hopefully he actually understands children. .

That pesky E484K mutation has now been found in 32 UK cases of Kent Variant B117, and and that exact variant of B117+E484K been found in 10 other countries too, including Denmark, the US and Australia, so it now has it's own name - B1525 Variant (I believe this is what we have also been referring to as the Bristol Variant).
E484K is the pain-in-the-behind mutation which crops up regularly. It isn't stopped as effectively by first generation vaccination or antibodies, and we really want to avoid it. COVID seems very determined to create it wherever possible. 

Surge testing is happening in all UK areas where any variant with pesky E484K is spotted, but according to Prof Jonathan Stoye from the Francis Crick Institute, speaking in The Guardian, people may not be coming forward for testing, possibly because they cannot afford financially to test positive. This is something indieSAGE AND official SAGE have mentioned repeatedly since the start. We have to ensure positive people and contacts isolate - and we need to make that easy and free for them to do. 

Remember right now vaccines and antibodies definitely aren't useless - they work. You can see the beginnings of that in the UK's daily figures, and the data coming in from Israel.
The variant we are all still most concerned by, and the one with least available information, is the Brazilian variant, snappily titled P1.
P1 has all the features of South African B1351 or Bristol Variant B1525 (B117 more catchy/deadly plus E484K some vaccine/antibody escape) but it's also carrying a concealed weapon. We don't yet know what it's other mutations actually do, but they have potential to be even more pesky. 

Nicola Sturgeon has given an update on Scottish schools reopening to more pupils:
"The majority of primary and secondary school pupils will continue with remote learning until at least mid-March while children in early learning and childcare (ELC) and primaries 1 to 3 will return full-time to classrooms from Monday 22 February.
Strictly limited numbers of S4 - S6 pupils who require to complete practical work in order to achieve an SQA certificate will also return from Monday. Pupils currently in classrooms – primarily the children of key workers and those considered vulnerable – will retain their places.
All teaching staff will have twice-weekly testing, and all secondary pupils "will be required to observe two metre physical distancing while in school and on school transport in the period immediately after the return. This is in addition to existing measures including the use of face coverings."
THAT is going to be hard work, even with just a few in.
The next update is expected on March 2nd. 

Most Scottish dental students will have to complete an extra year. Because of limits on anything spinny which might cause aerosols, it's simply been impossible for them to have enough clinical time with patients.
Scottish students in Scotland don't pay a fee for uni courses, they'll all be given a bursary equal to student loan, and discussions are also underway regarding accommodation.
I have my own 21 year old English dental student, so this news is big in our house. No word yet on any English course extensions, or whether non-Scottish students in Scotland will have to pay for their extra year. 

The curfew in The Netherlands has been ruled illegal and must be lifted with immediate effect. The group "Virus Truth" took the government to court about the definition of "very urgent and exceptional circumstances", and this lunchtime won the case.
The nighttime curfew is the first imposed on the Dutch people since the German occupation in WWII, and feelings about it run very high.
The next move is up to their government, but it's possible they could just go through correct legal channels and impose another curfew anyway. 

UK Government We'll get through this TOGETHER bold text over Union flag

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have used mathematical modelling to predict the difference in R (reproduction) Rate if the UK reopened schools to all primary, secondary or ALL pupils.
This isn't yet peer-reviewed, so other scientists are already commenting that some of the data is from when they still believed children transmitted COVID less than we now know they do, so actually it could be higher than these estimates (booo). They used 4 different 'profiles' or sets of data to predict (including the ONS data) and also used a range of different starting points (R at 0.7 or 0.8 etc).
"We estimated that reopening all schools would increase R by between 20% to 90% whereas reopening primary or secondary schools alone would increase R by 10% to 40%, depending on the infectiousness/susceptibility profile we used."
If this is correct than with the R rate at 0.8 for example, as it is today, "reopening all schools would increase R to between 1.0 and 1.5 and reopening either primary or secondary schools would increase R to between 0.9 and 1.2."
It has to stay below 1, or cases start going up. 

The World Health Organisation have given a 'Global Emergency Use' listing to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Two versions will immediately be rolled out for use under the COVAX vaccine sharing programme - one made at India's Serum Institute and the second produced by South Korea's SKBio.
Many poorer nations rely on the WHO to okay drugs for them, so this opens up affordable vaccination to an astounding number of people. It is fantastic news for the entire world.  

The UK has started the first trial of the Oxford vaccine on children. 300 volunteers aged 6-17 will be given the jab. Risks appear mainly that it just doesn't work in children (doesn't kick start the right reaction) or that it's actually more rough on you the younger you are, so they might have a rough couple of days.
Other vaccine trials using children have already begun, and some 15-18 year olds were inadvertently given the Oxford jab during trials (different countries call you an 'adult' at different ages). 

You know what, we are getting some moments like the more positive parts of the films. In every pandemic movie ever, the CDC are the guiding light and beacon of hope for the world. Now that they're allowed to speak freely, they're actually giving advice to the American people, and explaining why they're giving the advice they are doing. It's like Chris Whitty with an accent, very familiar, and remarkably refreshing, even if it isn't all good news at the moment:
"We are still at 1,500-3,500 deaths per day. The cases are more than 2 1/2 fold times what we saw over the summer... It's encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they're coming down from an extraordinarily high place."
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, US CDC director.

There's an Ebola epidemic outbreak in Guinea... darnit... There are 7 patients and already 3 have died. Ebola is substantially worse than COVID, and this is actually quite a large outbreak. WHO, IFRC, MSF, ALIMA, Guinea CDC and USAID are already in response, on the ground, testing and contact-tracing.
Although COVID measures will help protect against Ebola, no health infrastructure can cope with both simultaneously.

There's been a large outbreak of B117 Kent variant in an Ice Cream Factory in Osnabruck, Germany. It must be some impressive factory because at least 210 employees have now tested positive, and another 600 are isolating. COVID really does love a frozen foods warehouse. 

Jacinda had protestors over the weekend, after imposing a 3 day lockdown to try and wipe out New Zealand's 3-person COVID outbreak. Papers reported 'dozens', but if it was 24 then it was generous. They did however look like they were having a great time. They were dressed up, playing music and milling around outside her offices giggling. I definitely went to worse 'raves' back in the early 90's.

A Vaxi Taxi scheme has been set up in London, to help transport patients and supplies to local community centres and religious buildings for pop-up COVID vaccination clinics. We need to catch the less mobile people who have limited access to transport. All the taxis are wheelchair accessible and come with a chaperone to support vulnerable people. The Vaxi Taxi is a collaboration between the NHS and the COVID Crisis Rescue Foundation.
Useful and excellent as it is - they will have to stay on top of cleaning constantly.
For a more "outdoors" type of lift to the vaccination centre, Londoners can also have free hire of a PedalMe bike taxi to their vaccinations centre (Ride To Recovery) and sit in the trailer in luxury, with the wind blowing through your hair, as someone fitter and stronger does the hard bit...

Back Thursday unless there's a briefing tomorrow - don't eat too many pancakes!

Some numbers. All refer to real human people:

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

USA 28,330,597 (+12,894) 498,450 (+247)

India 10,931,492 (+6,181) 155,883 (+43)

Brazil 9,874,956 (+8,246) 240,009 (+114)

Russia 4,099,323 (+13,233) 80,979 (+459)

UK 4,058,468 (+10,625) 118,195 (+799)

France 3,469,539 not yet reported today 82,226

Spain 3,096,343 (+10,057) 65,979 (+530)

Italy 2,739,591 (+10,386) 94,171 (+336)

Turkey 2,602,034 (+7,906) 27,652 (+90)

Germany 2,349,673 (+2,803) 66,238 (+289)

Mexico 1,995,892 (+3,098) 174,657(+450)

Poland 1,596,673 (+5,178) 41,028 (+196)

Iran 1,534,034 (+8,011) 59,117 (+89)

South Africa 1,492,909 not yet reported today 48,094





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