Thursday, 4 February 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 3rd / 4th February 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 3rd / 4th February 2021.

The UK added 20,634 cases today and now has reported a total of 3,892,459 positive cases of COVID-19.
We completed 801,949 tests yesterday.

10,490,487 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night.
501,957 people have received 2 doses and are fully vaccinated.

31,670 people were in hospital on Tuesday 2nd, with 3,625 using a ventilator yesterday, 3rd February.

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 915 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 110,250 losses of life in all settings.

UK Nation / Cases / Losses of life / Losses per 100,000 population
Wales 194,525 / 6,313 / 200.2
Scotland 183,418 / 7,899 / 144.6
Northern Ireland 105,637 / 2,310 / 122
England 3,408,879 / 96,102 / 170.7

Rep. Of Ireland 199,430 cases and 3,512 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.)

There have now been a total of 105,140,552 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 2,284,417. Already 76,854,309 people have recovered.

04 02 21 daily update UK Gov

For reference:
- COVID 19 - standard COVID
- UK/Kent COVID variant 'B117' - catchier, may be slightly more deadly, small resistance to vaccines/antibodies. Widespread throughout the UK and found in around 40 countries already.
- South African variant B135.1 - very much like UK variant plus mutation E484K, which gives a chunk more resistance to vaccines/antibodies
- Mutated UK/Kent COVID variant - UK variant plus E484K, so incredibly similar to the South African variant.
- Brazilian variant P1 - we still know very little in reality. Looks in a lab very much like the South African variant, with bonus potential for evil.

Fantastic news from Russia. Interim analysis of the Sputnik V vaccine phase 3 trial (involving nearly 20,000 participants) in The Lancet:
"...a two-dose regimen has an efficacy of 91.6% against symptomatic COVID19. No serious adverse events were deemed to be associated with vaccination."
"A sub-analysis of 2,000 adults >60 years suggests the Russian vaccine is similarly effective and well-tolerated in this group."
Nice one, that's really impressive - especially as Russia has not held back with vaccination until after final trial data was published. "Looks good, roll up your sleeve."

Several countries were waiting for the final Sputnik V data, and are now expected to start vaccinating this week (although some deliveries of this vaccine are also delayed), including: Algeria, Armenia, Bolivia, Bosnia, Hungary, Iran, Kazakhstan, Palestine, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Palestine have been really struggling to keep enough health workers well to function, and practically begged for vaccines. Israel refused initially, but on Monday delivered 2,000 doses of Moderna vaccine. This will be followed with another 3,000 doses.
Palestine have today also received 10,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine which I believe was a donation, and they will get 37,000 vaccine doses from the COVAX global vaccine-sharing programme.
When people are begging for a few thousand doses for their health workers, so that they can keep the healthcare they have going, it makes you appreciate just how rich the UK is. 

040221 1 in 5 uk adults vaccinated

Switzerland have not authorised the Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine. They say there's a lack of data, and will wait to find out more before reconsidering approval - which could come around the end of the month.
Several European countries have approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab only for use in people under 65, because, as I've reported before, major trial data doesn't have much to go on in older age groups.
Obviously in all trials (especially those in poorer countries), there were a smaller number of volunteers over 65, and in 1 main trial only 1 person aged over 65 actually caught COVID.

AstraZeneca and Oxford's Sarah Gilbert have confirmed to the BBC that they are working on 'next generation' COVID vaccines already, and they should be ready for use by Autumn.
According to the BBC's Fergus Walsh, Sarah Gilbert is very keen to stress that they may not be needed, but as with the first generation vaccine, it's better to gamble on going early, than to try to catch up.

The UK will conduct trials to see what effect you get from giving 2 doses of different vaccines. Sure, we're all eager to know, but it's a completely new thing with COVID, and with mRNA vaccines, and the results could be literally anything from awesome to a complete failure.
Obviously it'll be easier, and often cheaper, to just give people whatever is available, especially in times of shortage, and there are reasons behind it aside from that.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is possibly not so hot against some of the mutations, but performs almost equally well in older people. The Oxford vaccine seems to fare a little better against some mutations, but may prove slightly less effective in older people (although clearly UK hospital admissions are dropping). Mixing Oxford and Pfizer, if it worked, could be a 'best of both worlds' potential winner.
Mixing vaccinations can also sometimes kick start different parts of the immune system, giving an overall effect greater than the sum of it's parts. That's why your kids get their childhood immunisations in the combinations they do.
Other combinations will also be tried, and Russia will be running a trial combining their Sputnik V vaccine with the Oxford / AstraZeneca. 

Fact check the COVID vaccine in the UK will always be free

Companies are also tweaking vaccines right now because of the mutations. Everyone wants to know if we need to re-do vaccinations entirely in future, or if it will cover you for everything to have 1 dose of first generation, and your second dose be a next generation tweaked vaccine? Or have a 'top-up' booster jab? The theory is all there, but it all needs to be tested in real people.  There will be a lot more trials running any minute now... 

Curevac are also proving very responsive. Their 1st generation covid19 vaccine results aren't out yet, but they have already announced work to develop next generation vaccines against the variants - and they are aiming to produce a 'multi-valent vaccine'. As the name suggests, this is a vaccine which is designed for more than one variant at once. It basically has extra attachment points to slot really neatly to different variants (as opposed to being really suitable for 1, and passable against others).
Their vaccines are mRNA, like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, but can be stored in a standard fridge - making them very user-friendly. They plan to be made in most countries worldwide by GlaxoSmithKline. 

Scientists are watching Denmark really carefully. They have substantially less COVID than the UK, so are attempting to sequence as many cases as possible, to follow the B117 UK variant. They have watched original COVID cases drop during restrictions, but the B117 variant is still growing.
Over the last 10 weeks original COVID has passed the peak, going from around 7,500 cases a week up to 25,000 and then back down to under 5,000. The B117 UK variant has gone from a handful of cases a week, very steadily, up to around 600 cases a week.
This is despite having in place very similar restrictions currently to the UK. Considering how much B117 we have, it makes what's happening in the UK right now seem really incredibly fortunate - our cases ARE going down. We ARE doing enough. You ARE a hero in your own lounge. 

Results from the UK Biobank antibody study are fascinating:
- They suggest that 8.8% of the UK population had been infected by December 2020. (That's actually quite low, and shows how dangerous it would be to just let COVID run through the whole population.)
- Infection levels vary dramatically, with London, West Midlands and the North West highest. Wales, Scotland and the South West lowest.
- COVID19 antibodies remain detectable for at least 3 months in 99% of people
- COVID19 antibodies remain detectable for at least 6 months in 88% of people. (The length of the trial so far. We need to wait to find out how much longer than this they'll last.)
- Black participants were most likely to have antibodies (implying previous infection) at 16.3%, with White (8.5%) and Chinese (7.5%) ethnicities least likely. 

Matt Hancock had an exciting interview on LBC radio yesterday.
He said that people living in the mutation areas shouldn't even go shopping 'if they have food in the house'.
Then he said that the film 'Contagion' had inspired him to buy 100m doses of the Oxford vaccine rather than 30m, because everyone would want them and it would be a pretty ferocious scramble.
Good to know he takes his advice from experts like Matt Damon. 

Headline in the Telegraph and Mail today says Rishi Sunak, the brains behind 'Eat Out To Help Out', is complaining that 'scientists are moving the goalposts on lockdown'. As Brian Cox and about a million other people have pointed out, he's mispronounced "nature" there. The scientists just debate and discuss the facts, the virus takes its own path.
According to the article (which doesn't actually have any quotes from Rishi himself and could simply have been made up by the papers):
"Sources close to the Chancellor revealed he is worried that talk has strayed from protecting the NHS to instead keeping infections down and becoming 'Covid-free'."
How awful that would be... eh... 

Margaret Ferrier, aka Margaret COVID, the Scottish MP who travelled to London and back by train with COVID, has been released on bail after making no plea in court.
I don't think I'm alone in thinking that if Dominic Cummings had received similar treatment, it might have impressed upon people the seriousness of the situation, and saved some lives over the past year... 

We've had results for the Regeneron / Eli Lilly monoclonal antibody trials and it's a mixed bag of hopeful. The idea is that antibodies could be given to people who can't be vaccinated, to give them some protection too.
Annoyingly (because of the E484K mutation) the South African variant (and therefore the mutated UK variant), does escape the antibodies used in the trial. However the good news is that there is only modest resistance for the standard old UK variant - which is equally catchy and EVERYWHERE in the UK (which will prevent the other mutated variants taking over). So yes, it works, but it will need updating to cover the mutations, the same as the vaccines will. 

Azithromycin is an antibiotic, but some people thought it may still help COVID patients. The UK's RECOVERY Trial has found no benefit, including no improvement in survival rates - 19% of hospitalised patients succumbed both with and without Azithromycin. It was a bit of a wild card this one.
Remember we have already massively improved survival rates for hospitalised patients with changes in ventilator use, and therapeutics Dexamethasone and Tocilizumab (1 in 3 or 33% of hospitalised patients died a year ago). Sadly, drug trials can't all be winners. 

The team of world experts sent by the World Health Organisation to investigate the origins of COVID are getting a very warm reception from Chinese press and public. From footage and reports I'm seeing, it seems EVERYONE really does want to know exactly what happened. 

UK Biobank COVID Study final results December 2021 chart with cartoon people images

Great news! It appears Flu in the UK is DOWN by 95% - to levels we haven't seen in 130 years. Common colds are also down (although I think my lot have still managed to catch any available). This is not only great because of the number of people who die annually from flu, it's great because catching flu AND COVID at the same time doubles the chances you won't go home. The same seems to be true in the USA, so hopefully it'll be a trend across the Northern hemisphere, as it was in the Southern hemisphere when they had their Winter.

The World Health Organisation's COVAX initiative has published their rollout forecast for the first half of this year. They have prioritised countries where health workers are considered to be at greatest risk - these are generally poorer nations with significant outbreaks and/or very poor health infrastructure, where the loss of a single Doctor or Nurse can affect the care for thousands of people. The aim is that dozens of countries will receive enough doses to immunise 3% of their population by mid-year.
The allocation includes 336 million doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca (mainly to be made in India by the Serum Institute), with 1.2m doses of Pfizer, so a lot won't be ready for a couple of months yet.
The UN earlier this week delivered the first 2 of 8 specialist freezers to Bosnia, who will be among the first on the list.
We CAN all work together...

Some people. 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 27,167,039 (+16,509) 462,335 (+399)

India 10,802,831 (+11,708) 154,841 (+99)

Brazil 9,354,609 (+14,688) 227,883 (+291)

Russia 3,917,918 (+16,714) 75,205 (+521)

UK 3,892,459 (+20,634) 110,250 (+915) 

France 3,251,160 not yet reported today 77,595

Spain 2,913,389 not yet reported today 60,370

Italy 2,597,446 (+13,659) 90,241 (+421)

Turkey 2,508,988 (+7,909) 26,467 (+113)

Germany 2,258,374 (+5,827) 60,482 (+270)

Colombia 2,125,622 not yet reported today 54,877

Argentina 1,952,744 not yet reported today 48,539

Mexico 1,886,245 (+12,153) 161,240 (+1,707)

Poland 1,533,511 (+6,496) 38,344 (+444) 

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Sources:

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

https://www.who.int/news/item/03-02-2021-covax-publishes-first-interim-distribution-forecast

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

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9221155/amp/Rishi-Sunak-fears-scientific-advisors-moving-goalposts-lockdown-end.html

https://twitter.com/ProfBrianCox/status/1357226847927480326?s=19

https://twitter.com/kakape/status/1356592149018648582?s=19

https://twitter.com/TheLancet/status/1356580678201204736?s=19

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00191-4/fulltext

https://www.curevac.com/en/2021/02/03/gsk-and-curevac-to-develop-next-generation-mrna-covid-19-vaccines/

https://twitter.com/LBC/status/1356884983693139968?s=19

https://www.thenational.scot/news/19062097.margaret-ferrier-released-bail-making-no-plea-covid-court-case/

https://twitter.com/uk_biobank/status/1356887899229347840?s=19

https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/learn-more-about-uk-biobank/news/uk-biobank-study-shows-that-covid-19-antibodies-remain-for-at-least-6-months

https://twitter.com/kakape/status/1356945959385759746?s=19

https://twitter.com/piers_allen/status/1356960103707074564?s=19

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.25.428137v2.full.pdf

https://reut.rs/3cvUL8d

https://twitter.com/tallevram/status/1357225062760394753

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/israel-has-a-legal-responsibility-to-provide-vaccines-to-palestinians-1.4475200#.YBvCw_paWqA.twitter

https://twitter.com/PeterDaszak/status/1357024574169255937?s=19

https://twitter.com/PeterHorby/status/1356875584689893376?s=19

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/oxford-covid-vaccine-switzerland-astrazeneca-b1797073.html

https://www.recoverytrial.net/news/recovery-trial-finds-no-benefit-from-azithromycin-in-patients-hospitalised-with-covid-19

https://twitter.com/BBCFergusWalsh/status/1356955594968686592?s=19

https://apnews.com/article/technology-europe-coronavirus-pandemic-coronavirus-vaccine-2d5a2308329c277ada635ab3c75ba957

B117 Denmark https://twitter.com/kakape/status/1357312632747917313

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55924433

https://en.coronasmitte.dk/rules-and-regulations/national-measures/covid-19-lockdown

https://twitter.com/i/events/1357276367679672321

https://www.euroweeklynews.com/2021/01/31/flu-cases-in-england-ninety-five-percent-down-this-winter/

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.27.428353v2.full



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