Friday, 5 February 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 5th February 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 5th February 2021.

The UK added 19,114 cases today and now has reported a total of 3,911,573 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 783,851 tests yesterday. 

The counter says 10,971,047 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night. 505,993 have been fully vaccinated (2 doses).

30,508 people were in hospital on Wednesday 3rd (down from 35,375 the same time last week), with 2,847 using a ventilator yesterday, 4th February (down considerably from 3,918 a week earlier). 

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 1,014 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 111,264 losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 201,763 (+1,019) cases and 3,621 (+35) losses of life. 

There have now been a total of 105,668,451 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 2,301,054. Already 77,320,509 people have recovered.

050221 infection survey ONS UK figures for UK nations

I told you yesterday that German vaccine manufacturer CureVac were working on 'next generation' COVID vaccines. They are still going through phase 3 mass human trials of their first generation COVID vaccine, and can tweak their recipe the same way flu vaccines are tweaked. Clearly trials must be going okay, and the UK is clearly now at risk of those more resilient E484K mutations spreading, and is attempting to future-proof our vaccine stock. Today they announced we have bought into CureVac and are hoping to manufacture it in the UK - if necessary:
"...the UK has placed an initial order for 50 million doses of new vaccines to be delivered later this year if they are required".


The UK's 10 day Managed Quarantine Facilities (hotel quarantine) for 'Red List' countries will begin on 15th February. Arrivals from Red List countries are banned, so it's only really people returning home. They are currently primarily those countries with high numbers of the Brazilian and South African variants, which appear more resilient to vaccines and antibodies.
The Financial Times reports that the UK Government needs around 1,425 - 28,000 hotel rooms per night.
There is a lot of debate over the fact that we don't know where the next mutations are going to come from, so probably we should 'manage' quarantine for all arrivals. Sensibly the UK Government are taking advice on this from the Australian and New Zealand governments - lets hope they listen to the experts.

Scotland are doing a grand job of vaccinating:
742,512 people have received a first dose of the vaccine.
9,525 have received 2 doses.
The number of vaccinations has doubled since last Friday.
99% of residents in older care homes, 93% of all care home residents and 92% of over 80-year-olds living in the community have now received their first dose of the vaccine.
47% of 75 to 79-year-olds living in the community have been vaccinated with the first dose.
16% of 70 to 74-year-olds have also received the vaccine.

In Wales all teaching and childcare staff will be offered twice weekly Lateral Flow rapid tests (like a pregnancy test, but spit and snot, not wee).
532,042 Welsh people have received their first vaccine dose, 1,635 have had 2 doses.

Northern Ireland have vaccinated 275,232 people, and 26,047 have had their second dose.

The MHRA have just now published safety data on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and it's pretty awesome.
"Over 10 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccines have been given across the UK and the MHRA has gathered a large amount of safety data. Data published today shows 22,820 reports of suspected side effects, or an overall reporting rate of 3 in 1,000 doses of vaccine administered from 9 December 2020 to 24 January 2021. This reassuring data has shown that the vast majority of reported side effects are mild and all are in line with most types of vaccine, including the seasonal flu vaccine. These include sore arms and mild ‘flu-like’ symptoms, which reflect a normal immune response to vaccines and are short-lasting."
Good stuff! 

More good stuff - although really we never doubted it - the Oxford vaccine (here known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) IS EFFECTIVE against the UK /Kent variant B117. It's not yet peer-reviewed, and it's fresh from the box, but a preprint in The Lancet shows:
"Efficacy of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 against the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2 is similar to the efficacy of the vaccine against other lineages. Furthermore, vaccination with ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 results in a reduction in the duration of shedding and viral load, which may translate into a material impact on transmission of disease."
So it works pretty much the same and you shed less viral particles too (you can still 'catch' COVID, but your body has the tools to beat it very quickly) meaning you'll pass it to less people. Good news.

050221 indieSAGE losses of life first and second wave

 Today's indieSAGE briefing was overwhelmingly positive. "A good news week".
Since the 27th January positive Lateral Flow rapid tests temporarily don't require a PCR test to confirm - because we are simply testing too many people to be able to. This should only be temporary.
The COVID dashboard and the Public Health England 'positivity rates' (percentage of people who test positive) were becoming more and more different. It turns out this is because PHE were including results from mass-testing of asymptomatic people, which obviously gives a lower % of positives. (Well, you'd bloody well hope so!). It's more realistic to go with the higher figure, which is around 12% - which means we are still missing a lot of cases.

Positivity Rate is really important when we are looking at reopening. If 50% of people you tested were positive, you'd know the real number of cases in the community was pretty horrific. If only 1% of people you tested were positive, you'd have confidence there could be hardly anyone out there among the general public with COVID. WHO consider 5% positive is a benchmark below which you hopefully aren't missing very many positive people.

Hospital admissions are dropping and are now below the highest point they reached in the first peak. 
The number of people in critical care beds, is double the total for the usual Winter surge in several areas, including London, South East and East of England. Despite the news that flu has been reduced to possibly 5% usual numbers, all areas still have more people in critical care beds than this time last year. This IS improving, but we have a way to go.

indieSAGE have published information regarding school reopening to all pupils, and really think the Government should be looking into this already, and working on making schools safer for everyone in them. 

050221 indieSAGE adult critical care beds UK comparing 2020 to 2019

There's quite a bit of consternation across Europe and America regarding the standard UK COVID variant - B117. Many scientists are referring to it almost as a separate virus outbreak entirely.
Earlier this week Denmark realised that despite their lockdown and overall numbers of cases dropping, B117 was still rising.
Now Germany has found the same. Their restrictions are bringing down case numbers and on the surface it looks good, but delve underneath, and it's really quite a concern. B117 accounts for just under 6% of cases in Germany now,  according to the Robert Koch Institute.
UK figures suggest just under 70% of our cases were B117 at the end of December, and I don't believe we've had any update on that. Heaven only knows how we have managed to get cases to drop so successfully under lockdown (but keep doing what you're doing. No-one touch anything).
B117 has also been found to be growing in around 40 countries, including Ireland, The Netherlands, France, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, the USA, and very importantly, Israel.

Israel is having great results from the vaccinations,  but overall their lockdown is not bringing down case numbers. Levels of UK variant B117 are very high, and may play a part, but adherence to restrictions including social distancing, mask-wearing and bans on mass gatherings is pretty poor. Some schools are still open, defying the nationwide closure, and 10,000 people turned out for the burial of a Rabbi last weekend.
Among vaccinated populations: 50% drop in cases / 40% drop in hospitalisations / 15% fewer serious patients
Among whole population, total cases and losses of life have increased by 20% in the last fortnight. 

The UK variant may be more catchy and is possibly slightly more lethal, but it also has a slightly different effect on the patient. The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found:
"The largest differences in reported symptoms between the new variant compatible positives and those not compatible with the new UK variant were found in cough, sore throat, fatigue and myalgia (muscle pain)."
Fun times... 

The UK's NERVTAG a couple of weeks ago announced that the UK variant B117 may be more lethal, and they estimate around 30%. With wild original COVID 10 /1000 people with a positive test died, and with B117 it seems around 13 /1000 succumb, roughly. This was based on collected data from several different reports, which ranged massively, but all agreed there was an increase.
There has been a lot of 'peer-review' on this and although people generally agree,  they think it may be high. Reasons include populations affected, seasonal illness, numbers not matching up, lack of confidence ranges etc.
Sadly some of those doubts are also because scientists worldwide can see the pressure the UK NHS is under, and has been under for months, and are confident in assuming that it is causing more people to die than would normally succumb. If this were not my own country then I'd assume the same. The sustained pressure on all NHS staff and hospitals must have had an effect. All of these people are humans. They're exhausted. 

Meanwhile back in the UK, I have people shouting at me on social media, saying only 388 people have died from COVID and I should stop believing everything I read.
If anyone here thinks I believe anything I read.... 

COVID vaccine will always be free

There's yet more evidence that the South African variant, because of that pesky E484K mutation, can 'escape' antibodies and vaccinations. It appears they could be around 49% effective. This mutation also appears in the mutated UK /Kent variant, and the Brazilian variant. Remember the benchmark for vaccination being worthwhile is 50%, and not everyone in the population will have these variants, so it is all still worth doing - even in Cape Town, Liverpool or Rio De Janeiro. 

Canada are getting the side-eye for accepting their supply of vaccines from COVAX - the worldwide initiative for global vaccine equity. They are facing delays with their own purchased supply, so even as a wealthier country, are pretty desperate for vaccines.
They actually have orders for more vaccines per head than any other country. We're all a bit scared. 

There's a fascinating article in NPR which attempts to delve into why India is doing so well. They were also expected to have a 3rd wave in October and it just didn't happen. There really is no clear reason, and it could simply be some common sense and a mix of things:
- Government messaging is very strong.
- Warm, humid climate
- Very young overall population (around half under 25)
- very few people over 65
- other infections mean only the strong survive. Population with comorbidities is very low.
- Some areas (such as the Mumbai slums) may have actually fairly silently achieved herd immunity or be pretty close to it (loss of life may have been fairly low, or hidden. The average life expectancy in these slums is below 45 years).

Argentina is clamping down on "alternative cures" after the deaths of an adult male and a 5 year old boy who drank MMS - Miracle Mineral Solution - or bleach, as its most commonly referred to by the sane.
It goes without saying that drinking any bleach is in fact not good for you, however in many cases it will prevent you from dying from COVID, as will falling from an aeroplane or being run over by a speeding train.
Chlorine Dioxide is used in minute quantities to purify water for drinking, in larger quantities to disinfect streets, and in even larger quantities to bleach paper. If you are wearing a tinfoil hat and convinced it will save you from COVID, maybe try drinking 3-4 pints of clear tap water a day - I promise you that it contains all the ClO2 you could ever need. 

One of our Uni kids is in London and has just moved flat, partly because rents have gone down - everyone is moving out.
The businesspeople have noticed too. The Telegraph is estimating around 700,000 people have moved away from the capital since the start of the pandemic - around 1 in 12 of the population. A lot are UK and foreign workers who just went home, or people who are working from home and don't need to live in an expensive flat in the city. The big question is, what will happen next? Will it recover, and will it look completely different?

Children mental health - they need listening to too

It is Children's Mental Health Week, which is something I feel very strongly about. Everyone's mental health is important, and when you are having a hard time yourself, it can be easy to forget the quieter members of the family. Every Mind Matters has 3 main pieces of advice, and frankly they apply to all of us, whatever age we are:

1. Talk about feelings - and actively LISTEN to what they say. Don't be dismissive. Children's worries should be very different to grown up worries - that's how it's meant to be.

2. Help them manage unhelpful thoughts - answer questions, talk through solutions and coping strategies. Reassure them this will NOT be forever. Arrange time for them to socialise online with people who aren't you. Plan a timetable that allows for time out, and time off, and time to just be together stress-free.

3. Encourage their interests - play football, do indoor gardening, baking, crochet, jigsaws, painting, belly dancing, playing the tuba, build a giant Minecraft castle. I've never impressed my kids so much as when I got platinum trophies playing Bioshock and Fallout. Yes - that's me showing off, because I'm still proud. We need to have things we are proud of. Some entertainment and creative options aren't available right now - but millions still are. You can usually get taster classes or 'how-to' online for free - and you can join in...

Have a good weekend - take care of your own mental health, and keep one eye on the health of those around you. Remember to have a treat for yourself - you've earned it. Back Sunday... It's Working, Keep Going, Save The NHS.

Some people. All floating at 67,000 miles an hour, on the same piece of rock as you:

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

USA 27,288,131 (+14,117) 467,658 (+661) 

India 10,814,656 (+11,123) 154,954 (+92) 

Brazil 9,406,817 (+9,048) 229,097 (+214)

Russia 3,934,606 (+16,688) 75,732 (+527)

UK 3,911,573 (+19,114) 111,264 (+1,014)

France 3,274,608 not yet reported today 77,952

Spain 2,971,914 (+28,565) 61,386 (+584)

Italy 2,611,659 (+14,218) 90,618 (+377)

Turkey 2,516,889 (+7,901) 26,577 (+110) 

Germany 2,269,012 (+3,518) 61,161 (+276)

Colombia 2,135,412 not yet reported today 55,131

Argentina 1,961,635 not yet reported today 48,700

Mexico 1,899,820 (+13,575) 162,922 (+1,682) 

Poland 1,539,564 (+6,053) 38,712 (+368)

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Sources:

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

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-vaccines-partnership-to-rapidly-respond-to-new-virus-variants

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

indieSAGE - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBd2ENlhZ7I

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/articles/coronaviruscovid19infectionsinthecommunityinengland/characteristicsofpeopletestingpositiveforcovid19inengland27january2021

https://twitter.com/kakape/status/1357636825754570752?s=19

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variant_of_Concern_202012/01

NERVTAG response - https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-suggestion-made-in-downing-street-press-conference-that-the-new-uk-variant-may-be-linked-to-higher-mortality-than-the-old-variant-nervtag-paper-also-now-published/

https://www.businessinsider.com/mms-bleach-advocate-andres-kalcker-investigated-after-2-deaths-2021-2

Vaccine / Antibody escape https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.19.21249840v3.full.pdf

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-update-deputy-first-ministers-statement-5-february-2021/

https://public.tableau.com/profile/public.health.wales.health.protection#!/vizhome/RapidCOVID-19virology-Public/Headlinesummary

https://gov.wales/slides-and-datasets-minister-education-and-deputy-chief-medical-officers-coronavirus-briefing-5-0

https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/northern-ireland-covid-19-vaccination-programme

"London no longer calling as population shock takes hold" https://twitter.com/i/events/1357639781166047234

https://twitter.com/Haggis_UK/status/1357604492603252736

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-confirms-mandatory-hotel-quarantine-to-be-introduced-from-15-february

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/02/01/962821038/the-mystery-of-indias-plummeting-covid-19-cases?utm_source=pocket-newtab&t=1612428328200

https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-suggestion-made-in-downing-street-press-conference-that-the-new-uk-variant-may-be-linked-to-higher-mortality-than-the-old-variant-nervtag-paper-also-now-published/

https://twitter.com/i/events/1357418125696901122

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-02-01/uk-coronavirus-variant-southern-california-sparks-alarm

https://twitter.com/Shmeggeg1/status/1355125814577258498

https://twitter.com/i/events/1357418125696901122

https://twitter.com/bopinion/status/1357417939423678465

https://www.statnews.com/2021/02/02/comparing-the-covid-19-vaccines-developed-by-pfizer-moderna-and-johnson-johnson/

https://twitter.com/GuptaR_lab/status/1356514431535054848?s=19

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.19.21249840v3

https://twitter.com/kakape/status/1354900984993083392?s=19

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.26.21250224v1

https://twitter.com/i/events/1357718701420605443

https://twitter.com/axios/status/1357380994232442880

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/articles/coronaviruscovid19infectionsinthecommunityinengland/characteristicsofpeopletestingpositiveforcovid19inengland27january2021

Stat news comparison of vaccines: https://www.statnews.com/2021/02/02/comparing-the-covid-19-vaccines-developed-by-pfizer-moderna-and-johnson-johnson/

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/latest-monitoring-data-confirms-safety-of-covid-19-vaccines

https://twitter.com/i/events/1357716242769977348

https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2021-02-05-oxford-vaccine-effective-against-major-b117-kent-coronavirus-strain-circulating-uk

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3779160

https://twitter.com/i/events/1357716242769977348

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