Thursday 18 March 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK Briefing with Boris, and World News Update 17th / 18th March 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK Briefing with Boris, and World News Update 17th / 18th March 2021.

The UK added 6,303 cases today and now has reported a total of 4,280882 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 1,635,141 tests yesterday.

The counter says 25,735,472 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night. 1,879,054 people had received 2 doses and are fully vaccinated.

Healthcare hasn't been updated today. 7,218 people were in hospital on Monday, with 968 using a ventilator on Tuesday 16th March.

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 95 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 125,926 losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 228,215 cases and 4,566 losses of life. (Not yet reported today.)

There have now been a total of 122,127,611 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 2,696,832. Already 98,376,487 people have recovered.

180321 PHE weekly hospital admissions by age chart showing current very low levels after large hump

In case you missed yesterday's UK briefing and associated news - the EU threatened to only export vaccines to countries which haven't got very many already. The UK NHS sent out a letter to vaccination centres warning there may be very few 1st doses over April, so don't book in anyone under 50. And Matt Hancock announced the UK are now vaccinating anyone over 50.

Today Mr Hancock has said the UK will be able to continue with first doses of vaccines all through April, despite any 'delivery bumpiness', including that regarding vaccines from India...

...Today also saw a fantastic media interview with the CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), Adar Poonawalla, the world's largest vaccines manufacturer.
Mr Poonawalla explained that they hoped to supply the WHO's COVAX initiative with 2 million doses before the end of 2021, and aren't likely to achieve this. They can't increase supply as quickly as they'd hoped.
In the last month or so, with rising cases, the Indian Government directed them to prioritise supplies for their own citizens, and a few other countries with a high disease burden, so they are having to do the best they can to try and re-plan available distribution fairly.
The UK received 5m doses earlier in March, any further supply to the UK or other countries with a high rate of vaccination is not entirely secure at the moment. (The UK now has 2 plants producing around 2m doses a week.)

Mr Poonawalla also requested that countries stop barring the export of essential items and raw materials necessary for vaccine production. He explains the USA has banned exports of "plastic bags, filters and certain other critical items that we are all dependent on".
I don't think anyone wants to see any vaccine manufacturing shut down through a lack of plastic bags...

Matt Hancock told government earlier today that 1.7m doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine made in India are delayed, as they need to "re-test stability".

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) met today to discuss their findings around the Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clotting. Their conclusion is: "This is a safe and effective vaccine".
Job's a goodun. 

180321 PHE weekly case rate by age. Similar hump to previous image, showing as much lower now across all age groups

Boris held a UK Briefing to share all of the good news with us. He was accompanied by Dr June Raine of the MHRA(Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), and Chris Whitty, UK Chief Medical Officer.

Boris starts by saying the roadmap relies on the vaccination programme, so it's right people are asking for reassurance. The independent MHRA confirm the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks. He quotes the EMA with their findings, and reminds us vaccination is preventing deaths, hospitalisations and cases.
He talks about delays in India, and with the 1.7m doses of vaccine which are apparently in the UK already.
He says if you have had a letter, "we have the jabs for you". We are receiving less jabs than we expected a week ago, but we will still receive more jabs than we did in February. We still have enough for the second doses, and everyone over 50, and we will still offer a vaccination to every adult by the end of July.
"We remain on track to reclaim the things we love... all, of course, as long as the data continue to go in the right direction..."

June explains how the MHRA test, re-test and continue to monitor. Their review of the blood clot situation shows that:
"..there is no difference that blood clots in veins are occurring more than would be expected in the absence of vaccination, for either vaccine. The public can have every confidence in the thoroughness of our review."
"We have also received 5 reports of a different, a rare form of blood clot in the cerebral sinuses... occurring together with lowered blood platelets... a further review of these events is taking place." This is extremely rare - 5 people with CSVT events among 11m people vaccinated.
As caution: "Anyone with a headache that lasts more than 4 days after vaccination, or bruising beyond the site of vaccination after a few days" should seek medical attention.
Benefits far outweigh the risks
She reminds EVERYONE that you can report any side effects through the 'Coronavirus Yellow Card Scheme' online. 

Chris Whitty talks about side effects being common to all medicines, it is all about benefit versus risk. The safety data for Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines is pretty much the same. He reminds us that 1 in every 270 people in the UK still have COVID, and blood clots are a much more common symptom of COVID. (It is a no-brainer.)

180321 PHE weekly hospital admissions

Boris answered a question from the public about vaccine availability as our Pfizer vaccines are due to come from Belgium. Boris repeats we will be able to get all second Pfizer doses done. "Have no doubt." He then mumbles about how we haven't banned anything and we will co-operate with everyone else. He is obviously feeling very hard done to.

Press asked about people being reluctant to be vaccinated. Chris says he's not seeing any sign of it, take up is over 90%. In some places people are missing appointments, but it's not huge, and hopefully all of today's announcements will reassure them. "No evidence of a significant problem."
They also repeatedly ask about us hitting targets. Boris is really mumbly, and just repeats dates for vaccinations and roadmap easings.
"There is no change to the next stages of the roadmap."

Press ask about areas vaccinating younger people if they have extra vaccines. Chris says we MUST prioritise not missing people out. He explains you can vaccinate 20 people in the highest group and prevent 1 death, but you'd have to vaccinate 8,000 healthy people in their 50's to prevent 1 death. 

Boris calls the Serum Institute of India "heroes" twice during this conference, and reminds us the Indian Government haven't 'banned' any exports. The delay is for "technical reasons". He says we are "global in our outlook, as you'd expect us to be". 

Chris fields questions about the number of children testing positive in schools. He thanks staff for everything they have done, and says we were expecting some "upward pressure" from schools returning - i.e. cases going up. We haven't yet reached the point where we can see the full impact of schools going in (end of next week at the earliest really - you need 3 weeks so that they can infect their families and we can get a truer picture of any actual damage).

Boris confirms on the anniversary of the first lockdown, he will be marking it. We WILL have a national memorial, ideas are being discussed. 

Yvonne Doyle don't get complacent message - all text

Bad news for some immuno-suppressed people, although I guess it won't be a complete surprise. A not-yet-peer-reviewed study from John's Hopkins University looked at 436 solid organ transplant patients and found that when given a dose of mRNA vaccine (Pfizer / Moderna), only "17% mounted detectable antibodies to SARS-CoV-2". It varies depending on medication.
- Immunocompetent people 100%
- Solid organ recipients taking anti-metabolites, such as mycophenolate or azathioprine 8.75%
- Solid organ recipients NOT taking anti-metabolites 41.4%

Sad news from Tanzania today, with the announcement that President John Pombe Magufuli has died.
Tanzania's COVID history has been very different to the rest of the world, and right now, no-one has any clue just how bad the situation is over there.
- Early March 2020:  After reporting their first case, Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa closes all schools and universities, and bans all non-religious public gatherings.
-Mid March 2020: President Magufuli declares being religious will save you from COVID, masks are dangerous and Westerners are just trying to get Tanzanians to take medicines, when natural cures such as 'steaming' work.
- April 2020: Tanzania stop reporting new cases.
- May 2020: Magufuli claims anonymous COVID tests using material from a Pawpaw and a goat have tested positive, and the tests don't work.
- June 2020: Magufuli declares Tanzania is COVID-free. All schools and other education reopen.
- January 2021: An International school announces a student has COVID and lessons will be remote. After discussion with government officials they retract and apologise.
Travellers from Tanzania begin regularly testing positive.
- Early February 2021: Tanzania has no plans to vaccinate, as they have no COVID. They still will not sign up to join the World Health Organisation's COVAX initiative. The Health Minister live on TV demonstrates a protective vegetable smoothie.
- Mid February: Zanzibar’s 77-year-old First Vice President Seif Sharif Hamad dies from COVID - Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, but semi-independent. He had texted his COVID test results to media.
- Late February: President Magufuli's chief secretary dies.
The World Health Organisation release a statement practically begging Tanzania to accept help.
Health advice changes. At the chief secretary's funeral, the population are advised by Magufuli to take precautions against 'a current wave of chest conditions' if they wish, and even wear locally-made masks.
- Early March 2021: 2 weeks of speculation about President John Magufuli's health, and repeated claims by his political opposition that he is in hospital with COVID.
The Catholic Church releases a warning that in the previous 2 months they have lost 60 nuns, 25 priests and 2 laity elders.
- 13th March: At least 4 people are arrested for 'spreading rumours on social media' saying Magufuli is ill.
- 16th March 2021. It is announced that President Magufuli has died 'from a long-standing cardiac condition'.
A BBC investigation finds evidence from Internet searches, minibus drivers, hospital statements and funeral workers, that suggests a wave of chest infections and respiratory problems requiring oxygen may have started in December, and rapidly increased during the first 3 months of 2021.

Blah quote about immunisation safety from mary ramsey - all text

Hate crimes against Asians have spiked recently in the USA, and on Tuesday 8 people were shot dead when a 21 year old went on a rampage.
The gunman's exact motive is as yet unclear, but the relationship between a racist ex-President who blames a single entire nation for a pandemic disease outbreak, and a big increase in hate crime, is incredibly clear.

Luxury Cruise News:
P&O Ferries have made the decision that ANYONE wishing to go on a cruise with them this Summer will need a full course of vaccination (2 doses for most vaccines). This applies to anyone, of any age, and pretty much rules out family cruising from the UK for now. The situation will be reviewed in September. 

The US CDC have, as requested by the new administration, completed a review of everything they have published over the past year. It's pretty grim. Some published articles, including guidance, weren't even written by the CDC. Wording was very soft, when it should have been strong, and some of the science which was given as evidence has no obvious backing - it was basically "yeah, sure, you don't need measures in schools, scientific studies say it's fine", but there were no publicly available corresponding studies.
The US CDC are who always saves you in the movies, and they spent a year of a pandemic hobbled, not very visible on TV or in the mainstream media, and apparently unable to even have full control over what they were reported as saying.
It is hoped that this review, and the removal and updating of several articles already, will restore public trust. I really hope so. It's been a very disappointing year, I'd like to be able to rely on such a huge and prestigious institution again.
At least in the UK they do show us the real science (even if they then ignore it).

US Politician John Kerry has been photographed on an American Airlines flight without a mask on. They say they are "looking into it", which has prompted about 40 trillion people to reply with the photo of him without a mask, just in case they had missed all the evidence they needed. 

Italy have already announced they will resume using the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, after the EMA announcement earlier this afternoon.

Today the people below are all from the continent of Europe...

Country / Cases / Losses of Life:

Russia 4,428,239 (+9,803) 93,824 (+460)

UK 4,280,882 (+6,303) 125,926 (+95)

France 4,181,607 (+34,998) 91,679 (+268)

Italy 3,306,711 (+24,935) 103,855 (+423)

Spain 3,206,116 not yet reported today 72,793

Germany 2,616,512 (+5,743) 74,732 (+55)

Poland 1,984,248 (+27,278) 48,388 (+356)

Ukraine 1,504,076 (+15,053) 29,253 (+267)

Czechia 1,439,019 (+11,928) 24,117 (+107)

Netherlands 1,179,612 (+6,125) 16,198 (+33)

Romania 881,159 (+6,174) 21,877 (+90)

Belgium 818,142 (+5,116) 22,600 (+28)

Portugal 816,055 (+485) 16,743 (+21)

Sweden 738,537 not yet reported 13,236 (+35)

Switzerland 578,861 (+1,750) 10,181 (+18)

Hungary 539,080 (+6,502) 17,628 (+207)

Serbia 536,904 (+5,346) 4,840 (+30)

Austria 504,581 (+3,357) 8,982 (+26) 






Adar Poonawalla


BBC Tanzania investigation:

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