Thursday 18 February 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 17th / 18th February 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 17th / 18th February 2021

The UK added 12,057 cases today and now has reported a total of 4,083,242 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 578,844 tests yesterday. 

The counter says 16,423,082 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night. 573,724 people are fully vaccinated (2 doses). 

20,156 people were in hospital on Tuesday 16th Feb, with 2,614 using a ventilator yesterday, 17th Feb. 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 454 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 119,387 official losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 211,751 cases and 4,036 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 110,665,124 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 2,445,927. Already 85,538,983 people have recovered.

UK Vaccination programme 1 to 9 where will you be jabbed
Northern Ireland only! 

The UK government is leading the call for a worldwide ceasefire, to enable vaccinations to take place safely. It is in the world's best interest, as well as those countries involved.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today made the request official at the UN Security Council meeting. 

Today in the UK £18.5m was announced to fund 4 research studies which hope to identify the causes and potential treatments for Long COVID, and the effects on both physical AND mental health.
"Approximately 1 in 10 people with COVID-19 continue to experience symptoms beyond 12 weeks."

"Long COVID can present with clusters of symptoms that are often overlapping and/or fluctuating. A systematic review has highlighted 55 different long-term effects but common symptoms of long COVID include breathlessness, headaches, cough, fatigue and cognitive impairment or ‘brain fog’. There is also emerging evidence that some people experience organ damage."
You don't even have to be sick enough to need hospital to find yourself suffering with Long COVID, and it will have a massive effect going forward. We still have no real idea how many people, of all ages, will have some permanent health changes.

'Recombination', where 2 viral strains have been combined together, is common with coronavirus, so people were surprised when we hadn't yet seen it occur by the end of last year. It allows for sudden and rapid mutations, as the replicating virus accidentally picks up parts of 2 different strains and copies them into 1 new strain. New Scientist are reporting that a case has been found in California, which combines the Californian variant B1429 (more resistant to antibodies) and our very own UK/Kent Variant B117 (more transmissible and more deadly). At this moment it's not been checked (peer-reviewed), and this is a single case, so it truly could just be 'a single case'. Fingers crossed.

The first COVID Human Challenge Study will take place in the UK. As the name hints, a Human Challenge Study involves a healthy and fit person being purposefully exposed to COVID, and then watched 24 hours a day to examine what happens.
The initial study will expose 90 healthy 18-30 year olds to regular wild original COVID, and we really should be able to learn a lot. Thanks in advance to anyone who volunteers for this one. 

This month's UK REACT random sample study shows that COVID has dropped MASSIVELY since the previous period (6 to 22 Jan). Over 85,400 volunteers were tested in England between 4 and 13 February 2021:
"Initial findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI show infections fell by more than two-thirds from the last REACT report, with 1 in 196 people infected."
- national prevalence (testing positive) fell by two thirds from 1.57% to 0.51% (51 per 10,000 infected) 
- a halving time of 15 days and an R number of 0.72
- prevalence fell in all areas. Highest were North West (1.38% to 0.91%) and North East (1.22% to 0.82%). London (2.83% to 0.54), West Midlands (1.66% to 0.33%), East of England (1.78% to 0.54%), South East (1.61% to 0.30%), East Midlands (1.16% to 0.51%). Smaller fall in Yorkshire and the Humber (0.80% to 0.61%)
- prevalence fell across all age groups. 0.93% to 0.30% among the over-65s. Highest prevalence is among 18 to 24-year-olds at 0.89% and those aged 5 to 12 at 0.86% (possibly due to these being the only substantial group of children in school?)
- large household size, living in a deprived neighbourhood, and areas with higher numbers of Asian ethnicity individuals were associated with increased prevalence
- healthcare and care home workers were more likely to test positive compared to other workers

Scotland has extended testing to all close contacts of people who test positive

Scotland has extended testing to all close contacts of people who test positive. 

The World Health Organisation are getting quite strident about their attempt to vaccinate health care workers worldwide as a priority within the first 100 days of 2021. It is morally and humanely right. No-one should be risking their life to treat others if we can do anything to prevent it.

Israel and the UAE have begun vaccinating general population, and it does look likely the UK will move on to general population fairly soon. The WHO doesn't want to fall out with the UK, they love us. We have given more money to COVAX than just about any other country, and we have given the recipe for the Oxford vaccine free of charge to the world. Boris and Matt Hancock have referred to these points in press briefings - I think the general consensus in parliament may be that we've done our share.
This could put WHO in a tricky position. Vaccines have now been distributed to over 70 countries worldwide, but that leaves about 130, several of whom have substantial numbers of COVID patients. 

We have yet another study showing that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will neutralise the UK/Kent variant B117, and the South African variant to a lesser extent. This study is in New England Journal Of Medicine, and found efficacy was reduced by around 2/3 with the SA variant B1351. That should still have a real world effect, because there is a lot of redundancy built in. Depending which countries media you read, it's either "all good" or "a massive disaster". I'd say it confirms what we knew and is annoying and a tadge disappointing, but not a tragedy for most countries - we do need to get those boosters for that pesky E484K mutation made sharpish though. 

Official data from Hubei, China shows around 36,000 more cremations took place in 2020 than in 2019. The official Chinese mainland death toll from COVID stands now at 4,636 cases for the entire country - a figure that has been questioned heavily since last Spring. Last June an estimate of 36,000 deaths was suggested by scientists studying case ratios, sales of urns and 24 hour cremation capacity, it seems that estimate may have been fairly accurate.
We know all countries misunderstood COVID at first, especially China, and a huge amount of people have died at home (or just without a test) worldwide. ALL countries misreported and misdiagnosed. Some more than others. 

It was a very sad milestone yesterday for the USA, as they passed half a million losses of life to COVID. However.... cases there are tumbling. They are 1/4 of what they were 6 weeks ago. It'll be impossible to put a finger on exactly what the difference might be, but it might have something to do with the fact they actually have a CDC and a COVID Task Force that are speaking up, advising the population and setting an example. Vaccination has started apace, and they've already administered 58m doses. Fingers crossed over there. 

Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine fact sheet UK Government WHO approved

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in Australia. They have already approved the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and will begin vaccinations on Monday 22nd Feb. 

Zimbabwe received their first vaccine doses - China has donated 200,000 doses of their Sinopharm vaccine. Zimbabwe has also purchased 600,000 doses themselves, due for arrival next month.
China has also donated vaccines to several other countries, including Cambodia, Equatorial Guinea and Brunei. They also supply purchased vaccines, including to UAE, which has vaccinated over 50% of the population. Worldwide there is a bit of mistrust, and Russia are in the same boat - which is what happens when you start mass immunisation as soon as the safety data looks good, BEFORE your trial ends and BEFORE you know if it even works. Thankfully all seems well and both the Chinese Sinopharm and Russian Sputnik V vaccines ARE effective against COVID... there have been some incredibly lucky results with some of these vaccines, eh Boris... 

There's a fantastic article about Bhutan in the Atlantic.
They have a tiny Buddhist population who are generally very poor financially, and right at the start their King stated that even one death was a family member lost. A year ago they had 1 ICU Doctor, commitment and a huge amount of compassion. They closed borders, retrained health workers, amassed thousands of volunteers, contact traced like you wouldn't believe, isolated any known contacts and quarantined any COVID + people for 3 weeks in tourist quality hotels - with food, medicines and mental health support provided for anyone isolating.
Sadly they have just lost their first citizen to COVID, and sad as that is, I hope it doesn't knock their confidence, because they have done the best they can with what they have, and it is an amazing job. They have so far outperformed Vietnam, Senegal and New Zealand. The West should watch and learn. It doesn't have to be expensive to be clever.

Some numbers. All born on the same rock, but mostly in a different space, as you:

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

USA 28,462,331 (+8,805) 502,790 (+246)

India 10,962,086 (+12,540) 156,121 (+83)

Brazil 9,979,276 not yet reported today 242,178

Russia 4,125,598 (+13,447) 81,926 (+480)

UK 4,083,242 (+12,057) 119,387 (+454)

France 3,536,648 (+22,501) 83,393 (+271) 

Spain 3,121,687 (+14,515) 66,704 (+388)

Italy 2,765,412 (+13,762) 94,887 (+347)

Turkey 2,616,600 (+7,241) 27,821 (+83)

Germany 2,367,811 (+5,427) 67,292 (+218)

Colombia 2,207,701 not yet reported today 58,134

Argentina 2,039,124 not yet reported today 50,616

Mexico 2,013,563 (+8,988) 177,061 (+1,075)

Poland 1,614,446 (+9,073) 41,582 (+273)

Iran 1,550,142 (+8,066) 59,264 (+80) 





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