Monday 15 February 2021

UK Coronavirus Briefing UK 15th Feb 2021

UK Coronavirus Briefing UK 15th Feb 2021

Cases: 4,047,843 (+9,765)
Losses of life: 117,396 (+230)
In Hospital: 23,341 (Thurs 11th)
Using a Ventilator: 2,943 (Fri 12th)
Vaccination First Dose: 15,300,151
Vaccination Second Dose: 539,630

News today is that Nicola Sturgeon is not happy about the idea of people arriving in England and then travelling into Scotland - thereby avoiding their universal hotel quarantine for all arrivals from outside the UK.

The media isn't happy about the fact England doesn't appear to have a system in place for the first minutes after new arrivals from Red List countries get here - they have to wander through the airport with everyone else, before being bussed to their hotel quarantine. 

150221 daily summary uk gov

Today's UK briefing was with Journalist Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, and scientists Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, and Sir Simon Stevens of NHS England.

Boris started with a vaccination update, and we have vaccinated over 15m people. He thanks everyone involved - including Pharmacists. He reminds us we cannot relax. We've vaccinated over 90% of those most at risk, but don't forget over 60% of hospital patients are under 70.
We still have more people in hospital than at the height of the first peak. Admissions are running at 1,600 a day.

Vaccination groups 5 and 6 - All those over 65, adult carers and those who have underlying health conditions, will be getting their letters first in Phase 2 - 1m letters went out today.
IF we can keep supply steady we hope to offer a first vaccination to everyone over 50 by the end of April, as well as delivering "millions of 2nd doses to the most vulnerable within 12 weeks of the first".

"We must be both optimistic, but also patient.... and next week I will be setting out a road map, showing as much as we possibly can, about the route to normality, and even though some things are very uncertain. Because, we want this lockdown to be... the last. And we want progress to be cautious, but also irreversible."

Chris with the slides.
The numbers of new cases are coming down steadily, but still above the level in September last year.
The number of people in hospital is STILL higher than at the April peak.
The most recent 7-day average is 657 people succumbed. This is still very high.

Chris talks about vaccinations. Remember it won't start to work for 2-3 weeks, and when you are asked to go back for the 2nd dose YOU MUST DO SO. The 2nd dose will make it work better and be much longer lasting.
We know vaccination DOES reduce transmission, so vaccinating people helps protect everyone else as well. He adds that once we have a large number of the community vaccinated, that halts transmission too (it acts like roadblocks), bringing cases down and protecting those who haven't yet been vaccinated even further.

Sir Simon Stevens talks about vaccinations. He says it's 2 sprints and a marathon. The first sprint is almost over, the second sprint of 11 weeks is about to start. (The marathon will be the 'everyone else' - which sounds more like the bit of the marathon after the elite runners have gone, and everyone left is wearing fancy dress and waving).
1. If you've been offered vaccination and haven't yet accepted, you still can, just get in touch.
2. 2nd doses need to happen, this will mainly be early to mid March. You will return to the same location for your second dose.
3. 1st doses for groups 5 and 6 need to happen. People aged over 65. People aged 16-64 with underlying conditions, those who live in care, and adult carers.
Firstly most people are being offered jabs in large centres and pharmacists, but if this doesn't suit you, you can go elsewhere, you won't lose your jab. People with complex situations or additional needs may be contacted directly by their GP, rather than have the jab in a less familiar setting. Chris asks that we help those with mental health issues to access their jab, and ensure they get it done. 

Ovr 15m people offered a first dose of vaccination in the UK

Chris explains that we may need 'booster jabs' because of variants (that pesky E484K). We have no idea whether this would have to be everyone, or those at highest risk, or how often it would have to happen. It does look like we might need one this Autumn/Winter because of there being several variants around that might 'escape' the vaccination (variants with that pesky E484K mutation).
Bear in mind COVID is still running rampant through millions of people. Once that slows down, development of new mutations will also slow down. It's been running at breakneck speed for the last few months - COVID has passed through a lot of host bodies... 

Press asked about mental health. Boris sounded very sincere, and clearly appreciates that everyone is struggling a bit right now. There's really not a lot he can do to just fix that. (I think we're aware the infrastructure isn't in place - and I think they'll have to address that very carefully, and swiftly.)

Despite being able to dress themselves, a member of the press asked for a guarantee it would be the last lockdown. Boris made his answer very clear. He CANNOT give any guarantee about anything. 

I dunno, he's either a great actor or a man genuinely a bit beaten down. (Get out in the fresh air Boris. Look for Spring - it's coming.)

Boris says he's not going to talk about the roadmap until next week as planned, and speculate however you want, it isn't happening unless you hear it from him.
Chris adds that we can look at data from Israel as a guide to planning, (they've vaccinated more than we have, and also have the Kent variant B117) but we can't say any definites yet.
Boris: 'We know it's going to work, but it's the speed it works we don't know.'

Chris reminds us we have improved drugs and treatments, social distancing measures, vaccinations. It's hoped that vaccinations will 'take most of that weight'. The effects of all of this together may get COVID down to zero, but more likely to very low levels. We may be able to stop all restrictions once and for all, or we may need to leave social distancing a bit longer, or use it at certain times (e.g. when cases appear in our area/over Winter). WE DON'T YET KNOW. 

Press asked about health and social care workers who have not taken up the offer of a vaccination. Sir Simon and Chris said it isn't just people who have decided against, a lot of people may not take it up immediately, but may come back to it, or get around to it. (These are people who work shifts and lead busy lives.)

Chris with a vaccine reminder:
"The risks of the vaccine are MASSIVELY lower than the risks of getting this infection, and the vaccine will protect from this infection... and in the long run, that is the way we actually need to combat this disease, is by the much safer route of vaccination... rather than the very significant risks that go with this infection for many people."

Boris is asked about 'Vaccine Passports'. Clearly Boris is all for this, but not so much for arrivals to the UK. He starts on about live theatre and all those things we enjoy, and his dream of daily lateral flow testing.
Chris says we hope to see the effect of the vaccinations on all of the figures. You can see it in Israel already, in the UK we are beginning to see a slight difference, but we can't 'properly evaluate' for another week or two. 

Press asked about 'the USA asking for more transparency from China over the origins of COVID'. Boris talks about general agreements and a 'global treaty' which agrees to provide all available data asap on any potential zoonotic disease outbreak (other animal to human animal). 

As I said at the weekend, it's now over a year since I told you my estimates for how many people COVID could make seriously ill. They were taken from publicly supplied Chinese data, and they weren't far wrong. Whether China told us everything or not, they told us plenty to be going on with. They were disinfecting the blinking streets in white paper boiler suits and building a 4,000 bed temporary hospital on livestream for goodness sake. The clues were all there...

Back tomorrow with the regular UK/world news update! You stay well. 


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