Friday 5 March 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK Briefing, UK and World News Update 5th March 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK Briefing, UK and World News Update 5th March 2021.

The UK hasn't updated the dashboard today yet - I'll edit it in when they do.

Rep. Of Ireland 221,649 cases and 4,396 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.)

There have now been a total of 116,447,544 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 2,585,023. Already 92,040,158 people have recovered.

Immunisation saves lives UK Government Key facts data

Variants of Interest (VOI - This is new, what does it do?)
Variants Under Investigation (VUI - lets just check that)
Variants Of Concern (VOC - we've had a look and this seems a bit concerning)

Yesterday Public Health England added a 4th Variant of Concern to the watchlist. The strain is called B.1.1.318, and although it has emerged in the UK, it doesn't have the N501Y mutation which makes our regular UK/Kent mutation B117 more transmissible and deadly. It does however have that pesky E484K mutation, which keeps cropping up and makes it escape some antibodies.
The UK currently has 4 VUI and 4 VOC - people in areas where VOC appear will be offered surge testing.
As of 3 March:
- "a total of 59 cases of the variant VOC-202012/02, first detected in South Africa, have been found in England where no travel links could be established." (We refer to this as South African Variant B1351)
- "a total of 26 cases of the variant VUI-202101/01, the P2 variant first detected in Brazil, have been found in England where no travel links could be established."
(Brazil's first variant split 2 ways, so they now have 2 main variants, P1 and P2, but the more concerning one is P1. We know there have been cases of P1 in the UK, but they aren't mentioned here as they had links to travel, so we could work out where they came from.)

Nurses and most other NHS staff have been informed they'll get a 1% pay rise. This is not enough to make a difference (or pay the car park fees for parking at work), but it's just rude enough to make you bitter.
According to the BBC, the nursing union, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), has already set up a £35m fund to support strike action. They're asking for a 12.5% increase. The average salary for an NHS nurse in the UK is currently £33,000-35,000.
Our nursing staff have proven invaluable over the past year, they've gone above and beyond. Frontline staff have genuinely risked exposure to massive quantities of virus and losing their own life, in order to help others. They are shattered, and it's not over yet. If anyone deserved a reward, it was them. Demoralising an entire workforce when you are still asking for more is foolhardy at best. 

2 in 5 people vaccinated in the UK

Matt Hancock led today's UK Briefing, with Susan Hopkins of NHS England and Test & Trace.
Matt started by talking about the relief that kids are back to school, and care home residents can accept 1 regular visitor each from Monday.
Cases are going down - over the past week the average daily figure is 6,685, or 84 per 100,000 of the population.
Latest ONS figures show that in England, 1 in every 220 people has COVID, a big fall from 1 in every 145 last week.
Lockdown IS working.
12,136 people are in hosp with COVID, this is still too high, but we are admitting an average of 900 people a day, the lowest figure since October.
Over the past week losses of life have averaged 248 per day - this is also the lowest since October.
Losses of life were halving every 19 days last month, and that has INCREASED to every 11 days this month (the death rate is falling fast!).
Care home deaths are below average for this time of year (sadly a part of that is because a lot of people already lost weeks and months from the end of their lives).
The charts show very clearly a big drop in all statistics, and the fact that deaths is falling as quickly as cases and hospitalisation is due to the vaccination. IT'S WORKING.

Matt talks about a new Study from the Uni of Oxford - looking at all patients aged over 80 in Bristol. A single dose of either vaccination reduces chances of hospitalisation from COVID by around 80% within 2 weeks - even in the frail and those with medical conditions. Excellent 'real world' news.
The UK has now vaccinated 2/5 of the entire adult population.
Matt reminds us "one of the most dangerous things about this virus is that about 1 in 3 don't get any symptoms".
He urges anyone eligible to participate in regular testing programmes, find asymptomatic cases and stop spread.

Big announcement from Matt - £79m for mental health support for young people. There will be teams within schools offering direct support, and mental health support in the community will also be expanded. It won't only focus on people with more severe problems, it will be about mental health strengthening and support for all. 

More good news - they've found the missing 6th person with the Brazilian variant! (Whoot - Test and Trace has a win!) The person lives in Croydon, where extra testing will take place.
Susan gives more detail - the 6th case person failed to complete the online form correctly. They discovered the case on Friday, worked out from the barcode that it was DHL delivery, worked out from the time window which area it was from, and then contacted everyone who could have received that test. The individual had held onto his test guidebook, which has your barcode on the front, and it matched. He was in a household that had members who had returned from Brazil, and they were all isolating at home, just as they should. Nice.

Public asked about young people under 18 being vaccinated. 16-18 year olds who are extremely clinically vulnerable CAN be vaccinated in the UK. For any other child it is allowed, but it has to be considered very seriously and done only on the advice of a clinician. There is very little data on vaccination in children. (It's not so much safety, more the fact it simply might not work very effectively, as children's bodies can react differently to vaccines.)

Press asked Matt about the NHS 1% pay rise. He put on his serious voice and explained we don't have any more money. He says no pay rise would have been wrong, the rest of the public sector has a pay freeze, and 1% is all they can give. Matt was also asked if English NHS staff might get a one-off bonus the same as Scottish staff will. He didn't actually use the word "no", but it's a no.

Matt says he is not proposing mandatory vaccination across the board, nor are they currently considering it for NHS staff.

Press asked Susan how effective she thinks the vaccines are against variants. She explained very clearly data I've covered here before - SA variant -  pretty similar to wild COVID, darn good / Brazilian variant - will do some good, potentially plenty, but we're short on data still.

The questions about the Nurses pay rise kept coming. Matt talked about his Nan being a Nurse and having respect etc blah blah... he floundered, he had nothing. He thanked Nurses. 

UK Furlough scheme extended in the budget

Today's indieSage had a focus on inequality, as the pandemic is very much 'not a leveller', and the longer it goes on, the more the inequalities increase.
Cases are going down, it's slowing, but it is expected to be slower as time goes on (like a roller coaster, it builds up slowly and increases in speed on the way up, then comes down really fast at first, and slows down).
The vast majority of local authority areas in all nations have seen a fall in percentage of people testing positive over the last week, but it's still mainly above the 5% measure the WHO recommend to give an accurate picture.
People living in the areas with the highest levels of deprivation in the UK are around 1 1/2 times as likely to catch COVID. They're more likely to wait longer for vaccination, but if they catch COVID, more likely to die. It only gets worse as time goes on, and it needs to improve.
They hope the return to school goes well. As do we all... 

On March 3rd Brazil recorded it's highest daily loss of life, 1,840 people. President Jair Bolsonaro's response:
“Enough fussing and whinging. How much longer will the crying go on?...  How much longer will you stay at home and close everything? No one can stand it any more. We regret the deaths, again, but we need a solution.”
Prizewinning compassion there Jair...
Brazil has to date lost 261,188 people to COVID, and although they have had 'peaks', they've never had national restrictions like other countries, so they've maintained a fairly high level of COVID since May 2020. 

The UK's RECOVERY Trial have cancelled testing with drug treatment Colchicine (anti-inflammatory), as it just doesn't help:
"The DMC reviewed data on patients randomised to colchicine vs. usual care alone. The preliminary analysis is based on 2178 reported deaths among 11,162 randomised patients, 94% of whom were being treated with a corticosteroid such as dexamethasone. There is no significant difference in the primary endpoint of 28-day mortality (20% colchicine vs. 19% usual care alone). Follow-up of patients is ongoing and final results will be published as soon as possible.
Recruitment to all other treatment arms – aspirin, baricitinib, Regeneron’s antibody cocktail, and (in selected hospitals) dimethyl fumarate – continues as planned."
The RECOVERY Trial was the first to discover the usefulness of Dexamethasone, and owing in no small part to their work, the COVID in-patients who won't go home has reduced from around 1/3 to around 1/5. 

BBC are reporting that Cyprus say that from May they'll accept vaccinated British tourists, and Portugal will accept people who tested negative or were 'immune'. No further details yet as to how that will happen, and don't forget it's illegal to leave the UK for inessential purpose at this moment. Watch this space... 

Luxury Cruise News:
Saga Cruises have delayed their May sailing and will resume service on June 27th, when Spirit of Discovery will leave dock. ALL guests must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before sailing.
After watching what happened to cruise ships last year, you can hardly blame them. They'll really struggle to dock anywhere in a hurry if people become ill, and some ships had to carry around deceased guests for quite a while last year. Not a great memory of your cruise experience.

Vaccine free of charge anywhere in the UK

Former Stone Rose Ian Brown has the fear:
"My Saturday night headline show at NHBD Weekender Festival will now not happen! I refuse to accept vaccination proof as condition of entry. Refunds are available! X"
Errrr. Yeah, sure Ian. Neighbourhood Weekender haven't actually made anything a requirement,  and nor have the UK Government at this point, so Mr Brown is either privy to information no-one else knows, or just making it up.
It's a somewhat ironic stance from someone who we know has experimented so heavily with the chemistry box in the past.
If large events do require vaccination, it'll be in main part because of insurance. No event can risk that sort of potential financial payout, and we are very likely to see changes to Terms & Conditions which state 'you attend at your own risk from COVID, and they are not responsible if you catch it'. In order for that to stand in court though, any venue has to be able to show they did their best to keep you safe, including following any government guidelines.
Next week, Shaun Ryder refuses to take Anadin Extra for a banging headache, in case it's 'too strong'.

Reuters have a great story on Dutch inventor Peter van Wees, who has created an airtight cubicle for "scream" COVID testing. Participants enter the cubicle and scream, and the air is removed through filters and checked for virus. He's checking how effective it is at the moment - it's been placed beside a regular testing centre and he's re-testing volunteers as they leave.

Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the Oxford University Nuffield Department of Medicine, and Head of the Oxford vaccine team, has won the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Albert Medal for her work on the Oxford vaccine.
The medal is awarded for "distinguished merit in promoting Arts, Manufactures and Commerce", and this year the RSA said "in keeping with the traditions of RSA , we have decided that the Albert Medal should be awarded to an individual who has contributed to social innovation". Well done Ms Gilbert.
She's in great company, previous winners include Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Hawking, Karl Marx, Nelson Mandela, David Attenborough and Tim Berners-Lee.

9 of the Great Apes at the San Diego Zoo are the first non-humans to be vaccinated against COVID. 4 Orangutans and 5 Bonobos have been immunised, with a specially developed ape-specific trial vaccine. Gorillas who have caught COVID from their humans have suffered similar symptoms, with a cough and a temperature, but so far thankfully none has become seriously ill... 

Getting there... and we are saving lives. The lockdown is working, the vaccinations are working. Don't take your foot off the brake until we reach the bottom of the hill. Enjoy your weekend - remember that treat for yourself. Stay well, Have Patience, Save The NHS. 

Some numbers. All look up and see the same sky as you:

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

USA 29,533,327 (+7,241) 533,772 (+136)

India 11,190,651 (+17,079) 157,689 (+105)

Brazil 10,796,506 not yet reported today 261,188

Russia 4,301,159 (+11,024) 88,285 (+462)

UK 4,201,358 not yet reported today 124,025

France 3,835,595 not yet reported today 87,835

Spain 3,142,358 not yet reported today 70,501

Italy 3,023,129 (+24,036) 99,271 (+297)

Turkey 2,757,460 (+11,302) 28,901 (+62)

Germany 2,489,818 (+5,512) 72,163 (+156)

Colombia 2,266,211 not yet reported today 60,189

Argentina 2,133,963 not yet reported today 52,644

Mexico 2,112,508 (+7,521) 188,866 (+822)

Poland 1,766,490 (+15,829) 44,912 (+263)

Iran 1,673,470 (+8,367) 60,512 (+81) 




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