Tuesday 20 April 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 19th / 20th April 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 19th / 20th April 2021.

The UK added 2,524 cases today and now has reported a total of 4,393,307 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 1,041,368 tests yesterday.

The counter says 33,032,120 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night. 10,425,790 people had received 2 doses and are fully vaccinated.

1,973 people were in hospital on Sunday 18th, with 318 using a ventilator yesterday, 19th April.

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 33 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 127,307 losses of life in all settings.

Up until Friday 9th April, 150,841 people in the UK had COVID listed as a cause on their death certificate.

Rep. Of Ireland 244,297 (+386) cases and 4,847 (+11) losses of life.

There have now been a total of 143,138,156 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 3,049,130. Already 121,551,001 people have recovered.

Queue up safely by spreading out UK NHS with image of queue outside shop

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced details of further relaxation of restrictions. FROM MONDAY 26th April all parts of Scotland will move to Level 3:
- Hospitality venues such as cafés, pubs and restaurants can reopen, along with tourist accommodation.
- Non-essential retail outlets and close contact services such as beauty salons can also reopen, in addition to indoor attractions and public buildings such as galleries, museums and libraries.
- The remaining travel restrictions within Scotland will be lifted and travel within the UK will be permitted for any purpose.
- Shielding adults can return to the workplace, if they cannot work from home, while children who have been shielding can return to school
- Non-essential work inside people’s homes will be permitted, subject to mitigations
- Non-essential informal childcare will resume
- Driving lessons and tests can take place, while gyms and swimming pools can reopen for individual exercise
- The attendance limit for funerals and weddings (and related events such as receptions) will increase to 50
- Cafés, pubs and restaurants can resume full outdoor service, subject to local licensing, and serve food indoors without alcohol until 8pm
- Takeaways to resume normal service, with physical distancing and face masks in premises
It is expected that all of Scotland will move to Level 2 on Monday 17 May.
Rapid coronavirus (COVID-19) tests will be made available to anyone in Scotland and to those planning travel to the Scottish islands.

"Nine in ten pharmacies across England are now distributing free rapid lateral flow tests for people to collect and use at home."
"The Pharmacy Collect service is available to people aged over 18 without symptoms, who are able to visit a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of 7 rapid tests to use twice a week at home."

With the situation at breaking point, yesterday India announced a 1 week full lockdown in Delhi. Only essential services and Government offices can open, everyone else has to stay at home. There's no ignoring this - something really, really bad is happening over there.
India is reporting astounding numbers of new cases each day, and it is rising so fast that the graph doesn't have a curve, it has a straight up wall. The amounts of new daily cases and currently ill people are both 10 times what they were 4 weeks ago. Numbers are rising by 60% a week. Yes, this is exactly how exponential growth works, but usually only when it is left entirely to itself - not when restrictions and social distancing measures are being adhered to correctly.
On Monday India opened up vaccinations to anyone over 45, before swiftly adding that from May 1st anyone over 18 can be vaccinated.
I don't blame them. You know the UK would do the same if we were in the same position and capable of producing billions of vaccines each month.

200421 UK GOV briefing vaccinations chart

On March 20th the Toronto Sun reported that for the previous month, nearly every flight from India to Canada was later found to have COVID positive travellers on board.
It's also been revealed that 47 out of 188 people who took a flight from India (New Delhi) to Hong Kong have tested positive. They all had a negative test within 72 hours before boarding the flight. 8 of them were detected before quarantine, and 39 during hotel quarantine - 22 at day 12 (travellers in quarantine in Hong Kong are tested on days 2, 12 and 19).
For everyone looking for clues as to what is making the Indian variant so bothersome, this could mean average incubation time from infection to symptoms is longer, or it spreads much more easily (travelling throughout the plane during the flight, or spreading through the previously secure hotel), or it could be no clue at all, and we could simply have a case of a quarantine hotel messing up and infecting the residents.
Hong Kong has suspended all flights from India until May 3rd. 

The UK has finally added India to the Red List of banned countries - from 4am this Friday 23rd April all arrivals will have mandatory hotel quarantine.
The UK has so far discovered 103 cases of the Indian variant of concern.

In light of the disaster happening in India, Boris Johnson has cancelled next week's trip. Finally - something we can all agree is wise! 

200421 UK GOV briefing hospitalisations chart

Boris did indeed host a UK briefing today, his first since the pause on Government activities due to the death of the Duke Of Edinburgh. With him was Dr Nikki Kanani of NHS England.
He started by saying there is no doubt the UK is making progress, and thanked everyone for following the guidance, testing pupils, organising the vaccine rollout, and being vaccinated.
19 out of 20 adults who had a 1st dose, are coming forward for a 2nd.
Almost 1 in 5 adults have now had a second dose.
We've now vaccinated 33m people, including 60% of 45-49 year olds.
We don't yet know the exact strength of our defences, and with cases at record numbers around the world, we can't pretend it's gone away.
"I see nothing in the data now, that makes me think we are going to have to deviate in any way, from the roadmap, cautious but irreversible, that we have set out.
But, the majority of scientific opinion in this country, is still firmly of the view that there will be another wave of COVID at some stage this year. And so we must, as far as possible, learn to live with this disease, as we live with other diseases."
(I have so many issues with this speech. Irreversible is a stupid word to use. We are not seeing much sign that we are currently in a position to 'learn to live with' COVID. Eventually, sure, but right now, no. See India.)
We'll be bolstering vaccines with booster jabs, vaccinating, and today we're creating a new "Anti-Virals Task Force". He says if you test positive in future, you could take a tablet to prevent most of the symptoms of the disease, and there might be a preventative pill if you live with someone who tests positive.  (We are back to Boris' technological dreams here.)

Dr Nikki tells us about her role as a Doctor, and says we're meeting all deadlines on vaccination. She's proud of the 10m people who have had 2 doses already and can be ticked off the lists. She's not happy about protesters being annoying to vaccine teams.
The offer of a vaccination is evergreen - you can come forward and accept at any point.
Nikki talks about the success with minority communities - a much higher percentage are now coming forward thanks to community education and the efforts of medics and local people to fight disinformation.

Public asked Boris if we would be updated on cases and losses of life among people who have had a vaccination. Boris says he doesn't know that statistic, nor does he know if there are plans to share it. Nikki knows. She says those stats are produced regularly, and available to the public as part of the vaccination 'adverse events'.
Public also asked about reviews of the Red List for travellers. Boris said it is reviewed constantly.
Press asked why it took so long to put India on the Red List? (They won't even be on it until Friday 4am.) Boris says it's just a variant under investigation at the moment, not yet a variant of concern (hmmm.....). He talks about self-isolation for travellers, and testing, and surge testing for contacts. 

Press asked if Boris genuinely has 2 new anti-viral treatments that will be available in Autumn, or if he's just hopeful. He talks about Dexamethasone and Tocilizumab, both of which we've been using for months.
Nikki talks about research trials and then again refers to Dexamethasone. She says there are some hopeful treatments in the pipeline. She mentions Budesonide (this is an inhaled anti-viral which is getting promising trial results reducing length and severity of illness. It's usually used for Asthma and things like COPD). Basically she pulled that out of a hat. She clearly didn't have any magic cure hiding up her sleeve, and nor did Boris. Shame.

Press boringly asked yet again "Can I go on holiday?" "Is it too early to book?"
Seriously - don't they understand this yet? A month ago India looked great - they were giving away vaccines, smiley happy people, and now they have no hospital beds or oxygen. We aren't in charge here. We can make guesses, but you can never have a guarantee. Book away, but don't be upset if it gets cancelled.

Press asked about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the EMA's announcement today that they feel there is a link between the J&J vaccine and the rare blood clotting condition. The answer was very vague. 
The fact is, out of 7m people vaccinated with J&J, 8 are known to have developed the condition and 1 died. The stats are incredibly similar to the Oxford / AstraZeneca stats, and really 1 in 7m chance of dying is probably much better odds than you have driving any distance to get the vaccination in the first place. 
Symptoms will start within a generous maximum of 3 weeks (almost all are within 2 weeks) of vaccination. They include things you might expect if part of your body is blocked by a blood clot - persistent headache that gets worse and doesn't go away. Severe stomach, lung or chest pain. Blurred vision, confusion. THESE ARE ALL SYMPTOMS YOU SHOULDN'T IGNORE ANYWAY. The rare blood clotting condition is specific because patients will also have a very low platelet count, so usual blood clot treatments (Heparin) make it worse. 

Antivirals taskforce announced 200421 Text and image of drawn microscope

There are murmurs from UK GP's,  who are already finding patients returning in droves, having often put off visiting, and now in a far worse state than they would have been usually when they got to their doctor with a problem. Hands up if that's you? Hands up if you still haven't been?... Worrying about something can take up far more of your time and effort than actually doing it. Don't put it off any longer. Many problems can be addressed easily before they cause serious or permanent harm.

The USA has changed their Do Not Travel list so that it matches up with CDC guidance. The situation worldwide is currently so bad that this means 80% of countries are now on the list.

Luxury Cruise News:
Not entirely unexpectedly, all cruises, including river cruises, are also rated "Do Not Travel" on the updated US guidance. 

Researchers in Oxford are going to purposefully infect young healthy people who have already recovered from natural infection, in order to find out exactly what level of antibodies offer protection. Apart from anything else, it will help them assess how powerful vaccines need to be - if we find we don't need half as much, it goes twice as far, and there may be less unwanted side effects and reactions.

UK Sexual Assault referral centres remain open image of mobile phone

With the reopening of shops, Primark have bounced back. They've had such huge record sales this last fortnight that they are going to pay back £121m in furlough money to the UK Government. Most of their business is in England and Wales, but they also have a lot of stores worldwide, particularly in Poland.
I've been impressed with Primark the whole time - they really do feel like they might be the good guys.  

I'm personally not the biggest fan of mega-sized multinational companies, but the UK Government and Unilever partnered up "to provide soap, sanitiser and surface disinfectants to developing countries, where there is little or no sanitation". They have now reached over 1 billion people. You can't knock that. Nice one. 

From the big to the small. Greta Thunberg:
"About 1 in 4 people in high-income countries have received a COVID-19 vaccine, compared with just 1 in more than 500 in low-income countries.
My foundation will donate €100,000 to support COVAX to ensure a more equitable global COVID-19 vaccine distribution."
Greta's foundation is literally money people throw at her - she doesn't actively engage in fundraising. The COVAX initiative has now delivered vaccines to 100 of the world's least wealthy countries. You're not safe until you're all safe. 

Israel have had such success bringing down case numbers and hospitalisations, due to hard restrictions and their mass vaccination programme (over half the population are now fully vaccinated), that they are relaxing a little. They have removed the mandate to wear masks in outdoor spaces, and fully reopened education.
They intend to reopen to fully vaccinated foreign tourists from May. Fingers crossed all round. 

There have been lots of really heartwarming photos and video clips over the past couple of days, after New Zealand and Australia opened up their Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble.
Borders have been closed for over a year, and there were plenty of emotional reunions. Bless em...

Some numbers. Each number represents a name, because I don't have the space to write them all:

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

USA 32,488,152 (+13,109) 581,724 (+182)

India 15,586,512 (+271,798) 182,331 (+1,781)

Brazil 13,977,713 not yet reported 375,049 (yesterday +34,642 /+1,607)

France 5,296,222 not yet reported 101,180 (yesterday +6,696 / +447)

Russia 4,718,854 (+8,164) 106,307 (+379) 

UK 4,393,307 (+2,524) 127,307 (+33)

Turkey 4,323,596 not yet reported 36,267 (yesterday +55,149 / +341)

Italy 3,891,063 (+12,074) 117,633 (+390)

Spain 3,435,840 (+7,486) 77,216 (+114)

Germany 3,171,524 (+7,077) 80,946 (+172) 

Argentina 2,714,475 not yet reported 59,476 (yesterday +20,461 / +248)

Poland 2,704,571 (+9,246) 62,734 (+601)

































Tasman bubble


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