Friday, 19 February 2021

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

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

The UK added 12,027 cases today and now has reported a total of 4,095,269 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 560,400 tests yesterday. 

The counter says 16,875,536 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night. 589,591 people have had both doses (fully vaccinated). 

19,392 people were in hospital on 17th Feb (down from 24,352 a week earlier), with 2,535 using a ventilator yesterday, 18th February (down from 3,036 a week earlier). 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 533 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 119,920 losses of life in all settings.

The ONS record deaths of people who had COVID listed as a cause. Up until Friday 5th February this included 129,498 people.

Rep. Of Ireland 212,647 cases and 4,082 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 111,040,682 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 2,457,011. Already 85,941,244 people have recovered.

190221 indieSAGE experience in Israel

All of the UK TV networks have come together to present a new video, and it's a star-studded tear-jerker. Lots of well-known people from different ethnic backgrounds and UK communities bust all of the most copy-pasted myths, and then prove just how human they are by telling us which of their loved ones have been vaccinated. An informative and poignant 3 minutes which actually does make you feel proud of what we've been through and how far we've come over the past year, but so very sad that it ever happened. You can find it by searching #takethevaccine  

Northern Ireland have extended their lockdown until April 1st. This happened yesterday,  but I failed to copy it across,  so apologies to anyone in NI.
Primary school pupils in year groups P1 to P3 return in person on March 8.
Secondary pupils in exam years 12 to 14 return in person on March 22.
"Click and collect" shopping rules will also relax a little, to allow more items to be sold.
The situation will be reviewed on March 18th.

I also lost a couple of other things I wrote for yesterday, including the US vaccination stuff. I rewrote quickly and cleverly used the total US population instead of 'doses'. Doh. The US has vaccinated really well, but not quite 330m doses, or 'exactly 1 per person' -  they've actually administered around 58m at this point. 

190221 indieSAGE outbreaks in care homes by week

Data coming in from Israel today is fab-u-lous (but remember not yet peer-reviewed/checked over). Among 7,000 health workers who had a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, cases of COVID with symptoms dropped by 85%. Marvellous news.
There's more. The researchers also found a 75% reduction in asymptomatic COVID - the sneaky symptom-free spreading which does so much harm.
We can do this.
"Overall, there were 170 SARS-CoV-2 infections among HCWs in the period between Dec 19, 2020, and Jan 24, 2021, of which 99 (58%) HCWs reported symptoms and were designated as COVID-19 cases. Of the 170 HCWs who became infected, 89 (52%) were unvaccinated, 78 (46%) tested positive after the first dose, and three (2%) tested positive after the second dose. Among the 125 infections that could be traced, 87 (70%) were community acquired and there were no nosocomial (hospital-acquired) clusters."
Israel have original wild COVID and the UK/Kent B117 variant, the same as we do in the UK, Denmark, USA and a good handful more countries, so it's especially useful and welcome news. Bear in mind that these are working people, so I'm guessing few are going to be very elderly, and they are probably mostly fit and well, but we couldn't really have hoped for results as good as this. 

The Good Law Project and MPs Debbie Abrahams (Labour), Caroline Lucas (Green Party) and Layla Moran (Lib Dem) today won a legal action against the Department for Health and Social Care, and Matt Hancock, over a "wholesale failure" to disclose the details of contracts hastily arranged during the pandemic. They have a duty to tell us where the money went within 30 days, but haven't always published everything in a timely fashion, and sometimes when it is published, it's a bit "*gulp* really?", but that's a court case for a different day...

190221 indieSAGE vaccination by age UK

Today's indieSAGE was thinking ahead to the 'UK Roadmap' which we are anticipating from Boris on Monday. We all want to avoid repeats, we want this to be the end of it, and indieSAGE have published their own recommendations on their website.

UK wide the rate of infections is still going down across all regions, but it's slowing, especially in Scotland. We still have very high levels of COVID, so we are far from being able to settle for a levelling off, so we need to watch carefully and ensure those numbers keep dropping. 
In England case rates and hospital admissions are falling slowest in the North West and North East

England and Scotland have less people in hospital than during the April 2020 peak, but Wales and Northern Ireland have a way to go. It's hopeful they'll also be below by next week.

The World Health Organisation say you should aim for no more than 5% of tests returning positive. Although all nations are heading there, we're still around 6-8%, so we are probably missing testing quite a lot of asymptomatic cases.

Some random local authority areas are seeing a slight rise in cases and % of positive tests. This is also reflected in the REACT random study.

The effect of lockdown has amplified the differences between rich and poor. The poorer you are, the more likely to have to go out to work, the more likely to be unable to afford to isolate, the more cramped your housing etc. It increases cases in poorer areas quite starkly.

With around 25% of English primary school children in school, the age groups currently most likely to test positive are primary children and young adults. We need to watch that carefully when we try to reopen schools to all pupils.
The UK has vaccinated almost 1 in 4 of it's population, at a rate of almost 3m a week:
England 24.5%
Northern Ireland 22.6%
Wales 26.1%
Scotland 24.8%
Vaccination also shows a distinct bias between more affluent and poorer areas. The UK average is 93% of those over age 80 vaccinated, but in East London for example, by 7th Feb (when we were vaccinating all 4 top priority groups) only 73% of over 80's had been vaccinated.

At the current pace, allowing for second doses within 3 months of the first, the UK could fully vaccinate every single adult by mid September. If we could raise the 3m doses a week up to 5m, then we could vaccinate everyone with their 2 doses before the end of July. This is a realistic target - and a very positive one. 

190221 indieSAGE confirmed cases by date UK

indieSAGE's advice for easing restrictions is A Sustainable Suppression Strategy, which brings down cases and keeps them there. It's an 'Anti-Lockdown' policy. Lockdowns are only what you would need if the Sustainable Suppression goes wrong. This has to work long term.

"If you only talk about the measures that you are going to lift, without talking about the ways in which you are going to keep infections low, then all that will happen, as happened in July, and after the circuit breaker in the Autumn, is that infections will go up again, and you will yoyo in and out of lockdown. And that's the worst of all worlds."

We need to hear not only what Boris is going to lift, but also what he's going to do. 
1. Vaccines are only part of the strategy, but need to be universal - including children.
2. Testing is vital, and tracing contacts just as important.
3. All of the testing and tracing is a waste of time if those people don't self-isolate. They need help to do this - financial and otherwise
4. We need a standard to ensure public spaces are safe. Hygiene/ventilation etc. They want a 'Gold Standard' in the same way we have Hygiene Certificates for example.
5. We need to make a trade off between opening nationally and internationally. See Australia for example. People are free to behave normally, but in return they clearly can't just jet off around the world and back home willy-nilly.

They say we need clear data-based criteria. DATA NOT DATES. Dates just lead to disappointment and moving too early/late. We need to move slowly, reopening schools in stages, and only once cases are below 100 cases per 100k population in all areas.
"If you try and do everything at the same time, you end up with nothing."

Once an area has less than 10 cases per 100k then full reopening is possible, with effective contact tracing and chasing back all cases to catch all contacts. 

190221 indieSAGE positivity rates by date UK

The Guardian are reporting on an annual survey of English uni students by 'Save The Student' website, which has found around 2/5 have spent less than 3 months on campus - spending over £1billion on accommodation they haven't been able to use. I have one of my own uni students here - he has paid over £1k per term for accommodation where he's spent about 4 weeks in total since last March. 

Boris has pledged to give away the UK's surplus vaccines to poorer nations. (Possibly in another move to placate the world ahead of UK rollout of vaccines to general population?)
We've ordered 407m doses in total, some of which won't be ready until next year, and we've had the side-eye warning glare about stockpiling from a lot of places, including the World Health Organisation. This announcement indicates that the UK really doesn't foresee any issue with supply. 

It seems very likely that, in the UK and a lot of other places, it would be very difficult to legally compel anyone to be vaccinated, or refuse them service/employment/entry etc. if they hadn't had a jab. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi and Boris have both said "Domestic Vaccine Passports" would not be a good idea, but somewhat confusingly Nadhim says business have to make their own decisions. Some employers who work closely with the public (plumbers, care homes etc) have already said they intend for all staff to be vaccinated. 

US Senator of the Week:
As if COVID wasn't enough, if you haven't seen any US news you might not know about the disaster in Texas. They’ve had record-breaking weather, including a lot of snow, which in turn has led to problems with electricity supply and demand. Their power grid isn't designed for snow and ice, and is not coping. They are separate from the rest of the USA (which has 2 big grids), so they can't share electricity from anywhere else. They've been suffering power outages for the last week, and their Senator Ted Cruz responded by getting on a plane and flying to Cancun for a jolly. Public feeling was 'very high', and he flew back within 24 hours, claiming he only went to escort his children. He had earlier said he had planned to stay for the weekend. Just changing your story doesn't make it 'didn't happen'. 

The Ebola outbreak in Guinea seems to have been caught from a survivor of a previous outbreak, as genome sequencing shows it is related closely to cases from 2018. That is really harsh, and thank heavens we have no hint that COVID could ever be that clever.... 

Australian lawmakers demanded payments from Facebook for all of the free access to news stories shared on the platform. Facebook say they don't choose what people decide to share, so why should they pay news media? A row ensued, and now Facebook have removed some Australian access to news channels and ability to share their links. The big worry is that when you remove legitimate news channels, you leave a gap, which could very quickly be filled by misinformation and hoaxes. People will still want to discuss the news.

190221 COVID statistics

"We’re relying on Israel for data on vaccine impact.
We’re relying on India for vaccine production.
We’re relying on South Africa for data on how vaccines fare against B.1.351.
We’re relying on UK for data on experimental therapies.
We’re looking to Denmark for cases of B117.
We’re looking to Brazil for data on P.1.
We’re looking to New Zealand to show us what zero covid can look like.
We learn from each other.
And we suffer the consequences of each other’s mistakes.
The question is not whether we are all relying on each other in fighting this pandemic or not.
It’s whether we acknowledge it.
And let it guide our decisions."
Kai Kupferschmidt, German Scientist and Journalist, summing up the current world situation very nicely. We ARE ALL in this together, and we ALL need to watch, and LEARN.

I'll be back Sunday, have an excellent weekend. Remember your treat, just for you - you have more than earned it. Stay Warm, Stay Well, Save The NHS.

Some numbers. All used to believe that monsters hid in the dark corners of their room:

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

USA 28,543,751 (+20,227) 505,944 (+635) 

India 10,976,388 (+14,199) 156,237 (+114)

Brazil 10,030,626 not yet reported 243,610

Russia 4,139,031 (+13,433) 82,396 (+470)

UK 4,095,269 (+12,027) 119,920 (+533)

France 3,536,648 not yet reported 83,393

Spain 3,121,687 not yet reported 66,704

Italy 2,780,882 (+15,479) 95,235 (+348) 

Turkey 2,624,019 (+7,419) 27,903 (+82)

Germany 2,373,892 (+1,683) 67,638 (+91)

Colombia 2,212,525 not yet reported 58,334

Argentina 2,046,795 not yet reported 50,857

Mexico 2,022,662 (+9,099) 178,108 (+1,047)

Poland 1,623,218 (+8,777) 41,823 (+241)

Iran 1,558,159 (+8,017) 59,341 (+77) 

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Sources:

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/

https://www.cityam.com/british-companies-draw-up-no-jab-no-job-contracts-ahead-of-lockdown-easing/

#TakeTheVaccine TV advert: https://twitter.com/adilray/status/1362751634711998465

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-northern-ireland-lockdown-to-be-extended-until-april-after-further-six-deaths-and-342-cases-confirmed-40106038.html

https://twitter.com/lewis_goodall/status/1362777489018417152

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56125462

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/feb/17/uk-university-students-empty-accommodation

https://f7td5.app.goo.gl/PXEmNk

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00448-7/fulltext

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/uk-vaccine-surplus-to-poorer-nations_uk_602ecb97c5b6cc8bbf3a4230

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/18/politics/ted-cruz-cancun-texas-disaster-electricity-power-water/index.html

indieSAGE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvMEoMtomVc

https://twitter.com/HelenBranswell/status/1361713762827440132

Not all vaccines are the same - in fact we have at least 4 distinct types and variations within those categories. Johnson & Johnson missed the pre-show party,  but they are in the spotlight right now. Their vaccine claims 100% protection against death with ALL known variants - INCLUDING the South African Variant B.1.351 (also sometimes confusingly known as N501Y.v2 because it was so similar to the UK's first variant in Kent - B117 aka N501Y).
Like other vaccines when pitted against the South African variant, it does lose some points regarding catching COVID and becoming ill, but it'll definitely do the trick. J&J trials showed 85% efficacy against becoming seriously ill with all variants. 

https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-announces-single-shot-janssen-covid-19-vaccine-candidate-met-primary-endpoints-in-interim-analysis-of-its-phase-3-ensemble-trial

Australia Facebook news ban: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/world-australia-56116738

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/facebook-australia-news-blocked-morrison-b1804058.html


School reopening Wales / Scotland Monday 22nd Feb 2021

https://gov.wales/schools-coronavirus-guidance

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-schools-reopening/pages/school-opening-arrangements/

https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

Risk assessment for COVID UK Gov NHS:

https://digital.nhs.uk/coronavirus/risk-assessment


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