Thursday, 25 February 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 24th / 25th February 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 24th / 25th February 2021.

The UK added 9,985 cases today (under 10,000 for 3 days running, for the first time since September) and now has reported a total of 4,154,562 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 740,717 tests yesterday. 

The counter says 18,691,835 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night. 700,718 have received 2 doses (that number should start to fly now, because we have reached the 3 month mark since 1st doses). 

16,059 people were in hospital on Tuesday 23rd, with 2,118 using a ventilator yesterday, 24th Feb.

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 323 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 122,070 losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 216,870 cases and 4,237 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.) 

There have now been a total of 113,316,017 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 2,513,291. Already 88,861,737 people have recovered.

Vaccine efficacy PHE and the NHS small science type icons with comments about efficacy in different age groups / populations

"We are aiming to offer a jab to all adults aged 50 or older and those who are at higher risk due to underlying health conditions by 15 April and every adult by the end of July."
Boris Johnson. UK PM.

Good news, with caution. Remember the 'Alert Levels'?
"Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the 4 UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director agree that the UK alert level should move from level 5 to level 4 in all 4 nations.
The health services across the 4 nations remain under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital. However, thanks to the efforts of the public we are now seeing numbers consistently declining, and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded.
We should be under no illusions – transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high. In time, the vaccines will have a major impact and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they receive the offer. However, for the time being it is really important that we all – vaccinated or not – remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.
We know how difficult the situation has been and remains to be for healthcare workers. We thank them for their immense effort, skill and professionalism throughout the pandemic."

250221 COVID Alert Level High 4

"NEW: Number of covid patients falling really fast in south west (halved in last fortnight). Falls in other regions over same period: London & East 42%, south east 40% , north west 35%, north east & yorks and midlands 32%"
Alastair McLellan, Editor of the HSJ, getting very excitable about that exceedingly good news.  And quite right. 

Extra surge testing has been announced for the lucky residents of Ealing, after what appears to be just a couple of cases of the South African Variant (B1351 / pesky mutation E484K). There's a note on the page for other areas which have been or are in the same position:
"Surge testing in response to the case in W7 has now been completed.
Further additional testing and sequencing is being extended in response to a small number of additional confirmed cases of the variant first identified in South Africa, which are not believed to be linked to international travel. Cases have been identified in Acton, Greenford, Southall and West Ealing."

Scientists are keeping a real-time eye on how UK/Kent variant B117 is taking hold in Denmark, and early into week 7 (based on 2 days), it looks like the variant is now causing around 57% of cases in Denmark. It was less than 4% in week 1. That on it's own isn't really the bad news.
Denmark's daily cases were going down nicely until around the beginning of February, when it plateaued, and it is now showing signs that it's going up. Devastating news for a country looking forward to relaxing restrictions. It is estimated the UK/ Kent variant B117 is between 30-70% more transmissible, and that's showing in figures across Europe and the USA.
No, I don't know why our lockdown has been working either, but in almost the whole UK, it is. We have over 80% B117. Everyone stay quiet and keep smiling, and carry on doing what you're doing...

There are rumours that Rishi Sunak is considering a repeat of last year's Darwin-award winning Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Heaven help us. While plenty of places did a fantastic job, made use of the outdoors, socially distanced, kept people in work and let the public have a nice meal out, there was a substantial flaw in the scheme overall - it spread COVID. 

Stay at home Northern Ireland images of house, hand and heart, and medical professionals

English Education Minister Nick Gibb said on the telly this morning that twice weekly COVID testing and wearing of face coverings in school will not be mandatory - i.e. you don't get to skip school for refusing.

AstraZeneca have said they can fulfil the EU's 360m dose Oxford vaccine order for April to June 2021 - half will be made within the EU, and half elsewhere (quite likely Serum Institute India). There were previously some doubts it would be possible, which would have been yet another setback for the EU, which won't receive anything like their full compliment of orders in the first 2 months of the year. Vaccine manufacturing, as Jon Van Tam said the other day, can be like beer-making. Every batch is different, and occasionally one is bad. 

Ahead of school reopening in Scotland, National Clinical Director Jason Leitch has written to the parents and carers of primary and nursery children, reassuring them that younger children are “less likely to get or pass on the virus”.
That's no longer the accepted truth. Mounting evidence suggests kids are just as likely to catch COVID as adults, but far less likely to show symptoms, and their own behavior (and their tiny breath and short stature), means they don't tend to often spread it to adults other than their own family. They do pass it to their mates though.
Dr Deepti Gurdasani, epidemiologist and senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, is one of the people pointing out that times have moved on - we understand much more about asymptomatic transmission than we did even last month.

Bad news from New York. Researchers there have found increasing cases of a variant very much like the South African variant B1351- which has all the features of the UK Kent variant B117, plus that pesky antibody and vaccine resistant E484K mutation. They've called it B1526 (don't worry, there's no test, you do NOT have to remember all of these numbers), and it's scattered across the Northeast", as well as affecting several different neighborhoods of New York City.
This would be much worse news, if it didn't come the same day as the next bit of news... 

The Johnson & Johnson Single Dose Vaccine has received US FDA approval. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) find it to be even better performing than J&J's own figures. Efficacy at preventing severe COVID was 86% in the US study and 82% in South Africa - which is fab-u-lous. This is a brilliant performance against the South African B1351 variant with that pesky E484K mutation (yeeeay). This mutation keeps cropping up - it's obviously one the virus favours, so it'll keep cropping up.
Johnson & Johnson say they'll have 20m doses of their vaccine ready to supply to Americans by the end of March. Pfizer, Moderna and J&J have pledged America a total of 240m vaccine doses by the end of March, as most need 2 doses, it's enough to vaccinate around 130m people. 

250221 daily uk gov stats

Moderna are just about to start trials of a range of different 'booster shot' and vaccine options, with a specific aim to try and raise efficacy against variants with the pesky E484K mutation, including the South African variant. Ideally people who have already had a vaccine would just need a small booster on top, if at all. In the real world we know all vaccinations have some efficacy against the South African variants, we just don't yet know if it'll be enough.  

It's 2021 and the modern world, and the World Health Organisation have had to arrange insurance for those people who will inevitably not react well to immunisations they supply. Nothing you inject in your arm will turn out well 100% of the time, and sadly it is anticipated some rightful claims will be forthcoming. Billions of people in poorer countries have little chance of ever affording to get to court, but their entire family may depend on the support they used to provide.
"This is the first and only global vaccine injury compensation mechanism, and will make no-fault swift compensation available to eligible individuals in 92 low and middle income countries, without the need to resort to law courts."

Moderna have asked for permission to increase the number of doses in a vial from 10 to 15. There are problems with supply of many things necessary to vaccinate the world, including the glass vials, so it's very likely permission will be granted. Medical staff have been squeezing extra doses out of vials already, so none of the numbers are standard anything... and it is a pandemic... 

Teeny tiny San Marino has almost the worst COVID mortality rate in the world, losing 73 people already from their 35,000 person population. Understandably they have become frustrated with the delays to deliveries of vaccine supply due from Italy. Russia has stepped in, and sent them 7,500 doses of the not-yet-EU-approved Sputnik V to be going on with. Vaccinations began today. 

Gwyneth Paltrow, movie actress and purveyor of exploding 60 quid candles which she claims smell like her undercarriage, has Long COVID, and has been sharing her healing methods online. It basically involves a mix of fasting, and eating a chef-prepared plant-based, protein-based, sugar-free diet, and as she isn't actually better yet, ermmmm yeah.
Professor Stephen Powys, Head of NHS England, is a very polite person, and in response points out a lot of people lose weight with COVID, and you need to eat a healthy mix of foods to give your body the tools to recover. He's quoted by Sky News as saying:
"Like the virus, misinformation carries across borders and it mutates and it evolves."
"We need to take long COVID seriously and apply serious science. All influencers who use social media have a duty of responsibility and a duty of care around that."

Some numbers. Only one of them is Gwyneth Paltrow:

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

USA 28,988,973 (+14,350) 518,992 (+629)

India 11,062,591 (+16,121) 156,850 (+108)

Brazil 10,326,008 not yet reported today 250,079

Russia 4,212,100 (+11,198) 84,876 (+446)

UK 4,154,562 (+9,985) 122,070 (+323)

France 3,661,410 not yet reported today 85,321

Spain 3,180,212 (+9,568) 68,813 (+345)

Italy 2,868,435 (+19,886) 96,974 (+308)

Turkey 2,665,194 not yet reported today 28,285

Germany 2,419,303 (+3,266) 69,724 (+114)

Colombia 2,237,542 not yet reported today 59,260

Argentina 2,085,411 not yet reported today 51,650

Mexico 2,060,908 (+8,642) 182,815 (+1,006)

Poland 1,673,252 (+12,142) 43,094 (+286)

Iran 1,607,081 (+8,206) 59,830 (+94) 

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Sources:

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

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

https://twitter.com/HSJEditor/status/1364626661988261888

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/covid-19-alert-level-update-from-the-uk-chief-medical-officers-25-february-2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/24/science/johnson-johnson-covid-vaccine.html

https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/1364646453017276416

https://www.fda.gov/advisory-committees/advisory-committee-calendar/vaccines-and-related-biological-products-advisory-committee-february-26-2021-meeting-announcement#event-materials

https://www.who.int/news/item/22-02-2021-no-fault-compensation-programme-for-covid-19-vaccines-is-a-world-first

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/22/moderna-says-fda-gave-positive-feedback-on-request-to-increase-covid-vaccine-supply-in-each-vial.html

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/23/health/vaccines-doses-end-of-march/index.html

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/covid-19-alert-level-update-from-the-uk-chief-medical-officers-25-february-2021

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/539942-johnson-johnson-plans-vaccine-doses-for-20m-americans-by-end-of-march-if

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/25/health/variants-coronavirus-new-york-city/index.html

https://www.scotsman.com/health/coronavirus-in-scotland-young-childrens-return-to-school-based-on-biased-studies-says-epidemiologist-3141642

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-56072460

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52003804

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2021/02/24/moderna-begin-trial-new-covid-vaccine-address-virus-variant/6802803002/

https://news.sky.com/story/gwyneth-paltrows-long-covid-healing-methods-criticised-by-nhs-medical-director-12228255

https://www.politico.eu/article/from-russia-with-love-san-marino-starts-vaccinating-with-sputnik-jab/amp/

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-covid-19-additional-testing-to-be-deployed-in-ealing

https://t.co/HeuItiKCsG (German)

https://twitter.com/kakape/status/1364527865639936002?s=19

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/19111797.scotlands-route-map-lockdown-compares-englands/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/astrazeneca-says-it-will-deliver-all-contracted-second-quarter-vaccines-to-eu-1.4493276

https://twitter.com/elliscashmore/status/1364882972193808384

https://www.itv.com/news/2021-02-25/covid-tests-and-face-masks-not-compulsory-but-recommended-at-schools-says-education-minister

Big media are reporting on a University of Warwick study which shows 'schools are safe'. Like most data about children and transmission of COVID, you can see the cracks. It has definite questions and caveats. The study looks at 'COVID-related sick days' taken by pupils last Autumn, and admits some areas did see a significant rise, especially among secondary pupils, but claims transmission looks like it's within the community and spilling into schools, as opposed to kids within school spreading COVID. Unless you are testing the kids and the families to see who caught it first, you can't really be certain every single case didn't spread from kids with no symptoms, bringing it home from school. 

https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_research_finds_no_evidence_that_schools_are_playing_a_significant_role_in_driving_spread_of_the_covid-19_virus_in_the_community1


Table of vaccine effects/doses etc 

https://www.businessinsider.com/covid-vaccines-compared-vaccine-pfizer-oxford-moderna-astrazeneca-side-effects-2021-2


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