Tuesday, 16 March 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 15th / 16th March 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 15th / 16th March 2021.

The UK added 5,294 cases today and now has reported a total of 4,268,821 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 1,573,774 tests yesterday.

The counter says 24,839,906 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night. 1,663,646 people had received 2 doses and are fully vaccinated.

7,281 people were in hospital on Sunday 14th March (down from 9,418 a week earlier), with 1,016 using a ventilator yesterday, 15th March (down from 1,356 a week earlier).

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 110 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 125,690 losses of life in all settings. ONS figures up until Friday 5th March show 146,487 people had COVID listed as a cause on their death certificate.

Nation / Cases /Losses of life (until 5th March by death certificate):
England 3,736,240 / 125,276
Northern Ireland 115,181 / 2,838
Scotland 210,605 / 9,710
Wales 206,795 / 7,624

Rep. Of Ireland 227,316 cases and 4,534 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.)

There have now been a total of 121,020,477 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 2,676,327. Already 97,597,214 people have recovered.

JCVI Pref Jeremy Brown response to pausing of AZ vaccine in some nations

“While we need to continue to be very closely monitoring this, we do not want people to panic. We would, for the time being recommend that countries continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca.”
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, The World Health Organisation. 

Latest Public Health England figures are showing an increase in cases in 104 of the 315 logical authorities.
Before you panic, it is a little early for school transmission to make a difference, but these figures will reflect some of those secondary school students who were tested before they returned to in-person learning last week. It's not going to be very accurate until that settles, so next week may not look pretty either.  

So, today's big world news is still the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, and mostly it's people running about like headless chickens in a panic over what to do.
People need to feel secure. They need to feel safe, and several countries have paused vaccinations while investigations take place. That is an easy decision if you have no COVID, but could prove really costly in places where infections are spiralling.


All of the evidence I've seen still suggests blood-clotting conditions as a whole are at the same level or less common among vaccinated groups than in other populations - and that seems to be very similar whichever vaccine you have.
We do have some new information though (thank you to German Science Journalist Kai Kupferschmidt).
Notes from the German investigation show that there have been 7 cases of cerebral venous thromboses (6 women, 1 man, all age 20-50, 3 fatalities). This is a rare condition, and typically among the population of 1.6m people they are examining, over a 2 week period, you would only expect 1 case. This is 1 in every 228,571 people, as opposed to the expected 1 in every 1,600,000.
There are caveats - 7 is still an incredibly low number. A couple of coincidences make a huge difference. Actual COVID causes blood clots in around 2% of positive cases (according to that not-yet-peer-reviewed study from University of Toronto), so we need to find out if any of these people had caught COVID. We also need to see if other countries find the same results.
There is still the possibility of a bad batch of vaccine - remember, as Jon Van Tam said, it is quite like beer-making. Because the EU bought in bulk, batches were then split and shared across several countries. There are many possibilities for the experts to look at.

Even if all 1.6m Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccinated German people had been really young and healthy, with a mortality rate of 0.1%, still around 1,600 would lose their life if they all caught COVID itself. Pausing vaccinations when much more at-risk populations are still vulnerable seems incredibly imprudent, and there has been a lot of rumour and speculation about the motivation behind it.
Is pausing vaccinations a health-based move?, or a "we are annoyed at you UK and won't take your vaccine" move?, or a "the public are worried, we really need to prove we are taking action" move?
Nicola Magrini, the Director General of Italy's medicines authority (AIFA), doesn't appear to be in much doubt, he's quoted in La Repubblica as saying:
"We got to the point of a suspension because several European countries, including Germany and France, preferred to interrupt vaccinations... to put them on hold in order to carry out checks. The choice is a political one."

PHE Wales blood clots information
 

When some of these results come out, don't let apparently 'wishy washy wording' worry you, it's actually very precise. In Science they deal in facts, and it is impossible to prove a negative. For example:
- There is nothing to suggest swans can knit
- We found no proof that hamsters power the government
- All available evidence still implies David Bowie was not holding the fabric of the universe together, despite subsequent observations. 

UK leaders are finally addressing the Oxford/AZ jab developments, as 6 days is too long to pretend it isn't happening. Various "it's safe ffs" style comments have been forthcoming all day.
I'm actually quite disgusted they haven't done a UK briefing to reassure the public. Am I expected to do this on my own Boris?? Get on that stage! 

160321 vaccinated to date

Scotland have published their 'Timetable for Planned Phasing'. It's massive, I've included most of it:
2 April - lifting the ‘Stay at Home’ requirement and replacing it with a ‘Stay Local’ message
5 April
- the resumption of outdoor contact sport for 12-17 year olds
- return of college students identified as most likely not to complete this academic year (estimated as 29% of learners)
- reopening of non-essential ‘click and collect’ retail
- extending the list of retail permitted to include: garden centres, key cutting, baby and electrical equipment, homewares, electrical repair and other essential shops/services, vehicle showrooms.
12/19 April - Depending on term times - all children back to school full-time
26 April - Assuming the data allows it, more significant reopening of the economy and society:
- outdoor socialising to up to 6 people from up to 3 households
- allowing 12-17 year olds to meet outdoors in groups of 6 from up to 6 households
- travel within all of mainland Scotland permitted (subject to other restrictions that remain in place)
- remaining shops can reopen and mobile close contact services can resume. Gyms can reopen for individual exercise. Tourist accommodation, libraries, museums, galleries re-open, work in people’s homes and driving lessons to resume
- weddings and funerals for up to 50 (including wakes and receptions with no alcohol permitted)
- outdoor hospitality to open till 22:00 with alcohol permitted. Indoor hospitality permitted without alcohol and closing at 20:00
- social mixing in indoor public places maximum of 4 people from up to 2 households.
17 May
- in-home socialising for up to 4 people from up to 2 households
- further re-opening of hospitality: bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes can stay open until 22:30 indoors with alcohol permitted and 2 hour time-limited slots, and until 22:00 outdoors with alcohol permitted.
- colleges and universities have more in-person contact
- adult outdoor contact sport and indoor group exercises can resume
- cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls can re-open
- small scale indoor and outdoor events can resume, non-professional performance arts can resume outdoors
June
"...it is too early now to give specific dates beyond May. However, we understand the need for people and businesses to plan and so, to give a broad sense of likely timings, from the start of June, we would aim for Scotland to move back to Level 1. This will allow further relaxation across all areas of the economy and society, while still applying physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions and the FACTS guidance. From the end of June, we hope that we will be able to move to Level 0."

Simple tips for dealing with anxiety UK Government

Thailand is continuing it's planned rollout of vaccinations using the Oxford / AstraZeneca jab, and the Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had his country's first injection yesterday live on telly.
Nice one. I think we can all appreciate someone in charge who is "do as I do", as opposed to being a Dominic Cummings or Margaret COVID (nee Ferrier). 

Today's lucky UK 'variant of concern with that pesky E484K mutation' lottery winners are Sandwell (DY4 and B69). Congratulations, you win extra surge testing, possibly even door-to-door.

In England, nursery staff, and anyone in the household or support bubble of nursery children and nursery staff, can now also get twice weekly rapid lateral flow testing. Search "lateral flow testing schools" for a map of locations where you can pick some up. 

As if by magic, the EU have announced another purchase of Pfizer vaccines. They have arranged another 10m doses, bringing the total due in the next quarter of the year to over 200m doses.  

Brazil is now on it's 4th Health Minister since the pandemic began, and this one seems to have medical qualifications. Army General Eduardo Pazuello has been in charge for the last 10 months, and the losses of life to COVID stand at 275,000 people. Brazil are currently reporting their highest ever daily figures, and their mortality rate is the highest in the world. (He's going out on a low.)
Cardiologist Dr Marcelo Quieroga takes over - I genuinely wish him well. President Bolsonaro does finally seem to be taking the pandemic a little more seriously. He has been very blasé, even when he personally caught COVID a year ago, and I imagine he expected the whole thing to be long over by now. Very sadly not. 

The USA is under pressure to consider sharing excess doses of vaccines. They have orders for twice as many doses as they'd need to vaccinate everyone, but Biden has made it quite clear the Administration wants to be over-prepared and over-supplied. It is the diametric opposite of the government stance last year. Last Thursday night on telly Biden said:
“As I’ve told you before, I carry a card in my pocket with the number of Americans who have died from COVID to date. It’s on the back of my schedule. As of now, the total deaths in America - 527,726. That’s more deaths than in world war I, world war II, the Vietnam war and 9/11 combined.”

Moderna have begun vaccine trials with children.
"We just announced that the first participants have been dosed in the Phase 2/3 study, called the KidCOVE study, of mRNA-1273, our vaccine candidate against COVID-19, in children ages 6 months to less than 12 years."

Simple tips for improving mood when things out there arent so good

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forgot to put a mask on yesterday. She went into the German parliament and sat down, then it was hand flaps and absolute panic on her face when she remembered. She practically ran over to a box of masks nearby. She clearly genuinely cared, and she showed just how human she is. Let's face it, we've all had that moment we are casually doing something, and in a panic remember we don't have a mask on, and realise it's A/In the car, B/In your pocket, or C/ Ha, joke's on you, you ARE already wearing it.

Some numbers. Every number is a unique human being:

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

USA 30,150,416 (+11,830) 548,248 (+235)

Brazil 11,525,477 not yet reported today 279,602

India 11,438,464 (+28,869) 159,079 (+187)

Russia 4,409,438 (+9,393) 92,937 (+443)

UK 4,268,821 (+5,294) 125,690 (+110)

France 4,078,133 not yet reported today 90,762

Italy 3,258,770 (+20,396) 103,001 (+502)

Spain 3,200,024 (+4,962) 72,565 (+141)

Turkey 2,911,642 (+16,749) 29,623 (+71)

Germany 2,589,882 (+4,497) 74,249 (+134)

Mexico 2,167,729 (+1,439) 194,944 (+234)

Poland 1,931,921 (+14,396) 47,578 (+372)

Iran 1,763,313 (+8,380) 61,427 (+97) 

Ukraine 1,477,190 (+9,642) 28,697 (+264)

Indonesia 1,430,458 (+5,414) 38,753 (+180) 

Czechia 1,412,962 (+10,511) 23,657 (+128)

Netherlands 1,167,563 (+4,902) 16,119 (+32)

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Sources:

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

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

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cavernous-sinus-thrombosis/

https://twitter.com/kakape/status/1371828269406904323?s=19

https://t.co/dsXiM3ngTi

https://ourworldindata.org/mortality-risk-covid

"There is no causal link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots, according to medical experts" https://twitter.com/i/events/1371407721916866562?s=09

https://twitter.com/moderna_tx/status/1371779513865154562?s=19

https://investors.modernatx.com/news-releases/news-release-details/moderna-announces-first-participants-dosed-phase-23-study-0/

https://twitter.com/msderohanes/status/1371484738175832064

https://twitter.com/spectatorindex/status/1371577316476739585?s=19

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/13/us-faces-pressure-send-covid-vaccine-doses-less-wealthy-countries-biden

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/16/thailand-australia-stick-with-astrazenecas-covid-vaccine

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nicola-sturgeon-margaret-ferrier-covid-mp-coronavirus-snp-b830421.html

https://www-standard-co-uk.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/astrazeneca-covid-vaccine-boris-johnson-people-european-b924305.html

https://mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKBN2B80KK

https://twitter.com/kakape/status/1371510452878999560

"Brazil set for fourth health minister since the start of COVID-19 pandemic as outbreak worsens" https://twitter.com/i/events/1371593714087305216?s=09

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/rapid-lateral-flow-testing-for-households-and-bubbles-of-school-pupils-and-staff

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/latest-sweden-pauses-astrazeneca-vaccine-76483866

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_21_1202

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-timetable-for-easing-restrictions/pages/timetable/

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/surge-testing-to-be-deployed-in-targeted-areas-in-sandwell

https://twitter.com/DHSCgovuk/status/1371873194953601024

Countries suspending use of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine as precaution: Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Estonia, The Netherlands, Thailand, Bulgaria, Iceland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, Slovenia, plus Congo, Switzerland? 


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