Friday 7 May 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK COVID Briefing 7th May 2021.

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK COVID Briefing 7th May 2021.

The UK added 2,490 cases today and now has reported a total of 4,431,043 positive cases of COVID-19. We completed 1,067,566 tests yesterday.

The counter says 35,069,641 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine in the UK by midnight last night. 16,764,720 people had received 2 doses and are fully vaccinated.

1,231 people were in hospital on 5th May, with 163 people using a ventilator yesterday, 6th May.

In the 24 hours up until 5pm yesterday, we officially reported the loss of another 15 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 within 28 days, making a total of 127,598 losses of life in all settings.

Rep. Of Ireland 251,904 (+430) cases and 4,921 losses of life.

There have now been a total of 157,283,915 reported cases worldwide. The number of people who have lost their lives worldwide to COVID-19 is 3,277,583. Already 134,604,833 people have recovered.

2 out of every 3 UK adults have had at least 1 dose of a vaccine

2/3 of adults in the UK have now had at least 1 dose of a COVID vaccine. Nice one everyone. Mine's tomorrow.

Today's surge testing roulette wheel has landed on parts of London, and Bolton BL3. Congratulations, you win a doorstep visit from Test & Trace, and a free PCR test (yes, they are all free).


"Following a rise in cases in the UK and evidence of community transmission, PHE has reclassified VUI-21APR-02 (B.1.617.2, classified as a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) on 28 April) as a Variant of Concern (VOC), now known as VOC-21APR-02.
This is based on evidence which suggests this variant, first detected in India, is at least as transmissible as B.1.1.7 (the Kent variant). The other characteristics of this variant are still being investigated."
(Finally! Public Health England have reclassified the Indian variant no.2 as something that needs surge testing. Cases of Indian variants 1 and 3 are almost all directly linked to travellers, but B1617.2 is managing to infect people in the community.)
"Cases of VOC-21APR-02 have increased to 520 from 202 over the last week and almost half the cases are related to travel or contact with a traveller. The cases are spread across the country, however, the majority of the cases are in 2 areas – the North West (predominantly Bolton) and London."
(It's actually higher than that according to latest figures I can find, at 727 to the 4th May.)

The World Health Organisation have approved the Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.
This vaccine doesn't have brilliant results at preventing 'all' cases (around 50%), but is still enough to make that difference, and it massively reduces severe disease and death.

New Border Force checks and quarantine testing information for travellers

There was a UK data briefing on vaccinations this morning, to let us know what they've found out lately. It was led by England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jon Van-Tam, with Professor Wei Shen-Lim of the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation), and Dr June Raine of MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency).
The main point to come out of this briefing is that PEOPLE UNDER 40 WILL NOT BE OFFERED THE ASTRAZENECA JAB in the UK unless they are at a high risk of catching or dying from COVID and there isn't another option available.
Dr June from the MHRA started by explaining all about the rare blood clotting with low platelets disorder, and how they are monitoring all possible cases "rigorously".
Up until 28th April, there had been 242 cases.
There had been over 28m 1st dose vaccinations, giving a risk factor of approximately 10.5 per million of developing the condition.
There have been 6 reports of the condition from 6m 2nd doses.
(Around 1 in 5 people who have developed the condition so far have not survived.)
They have not changed their current approval advice.
Prof Wei of the JCVI then talked about the situation in the UK, and mathematical models for forecasting levels of COVID and vaccination ahead. They have amended their advice to suit the current improvement in COVID cases in the UK.
"Building on our previous advice related to those age 30 years and under, we now advise that unvaccinated adults aged 30-39 years, who do not have an underlying health condition that puts them at higher risk of severe COVID19, should be preferentially offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine where this is possible, and only where no substantial delay in access to vaccination might arise."
When you are young, fit and healthy and there is a low level of COVID, the balance of risk vs reward starts to swing. If you have another choice, you may as well take it.
They do NOT see any concern with the 2nd dose (those 6 cases are possibly coincidence, as some people would be expected to develop the condition among any population.)
"If you've had the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine and had no problems from it, please go ahead and have the second dose."
Jon Van-Tam talked about the UK's available vaccine doses and reassured us that with this change in policy we will not find ourselves short of vaccines (we just took delivery of a huge batch from Moderna for starters).
Jon reminded us that the lives saved by vaccines aren't visible. We will never know who they are.... and for that we should be very grateful. 

indieSAGE today started by saying "beware the variants".
They stress we really need to keep an eye on the Indian variants, because cases are growing quite rapidly, in a similar way to how the B117 UK Kent variant began to grow, but against a background of vaccinated people. It's not what you'd hope for. They have later data than me, and show more than 900 cases to date. The Indian Variant no.2 is clearly at least as transmissible as the B117 variant. The good news is that everything we've been doing has kept numbers of Brazilian and South African variants down, it's just this troublesome Indian no.2 which is managing to increase with any significance. 

070521 indieSAGE variants in the UK

The UK also had a COVID Briefing today, with Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, Paul Lincoln of the UK Border Force, and Dr Jenny Harries, with her new title of head of the UK Health Security Agency.
Grant started by chatting about vaccinations, low UK case numbers and the reopening going okay.
He talks about just how many people in the UK have relatives abroad, and how amazing it will be to reunite. "There's simply no substitute for human contact." (A huge hug for anyone with relatives abroad, it is damned hard and I feel for all of you.)
He warns us that more new cases have been diagnosed worldwide in the last 7 days than in any other week of the pandemic - our current success isn't replicated everywhere abroad.
"Today's announcement, removing the stay in the UK restrictions from the 17th May is necessarily cautious."
We need to be careful, so we will classify nations by risk, using a traffic light system: 
RED - those which should not be visited except in extreme circumstances. UK residents returning will have to quarantine in a Quarantine Hotel. Non-UK residents who have been in these countries within 10 days will not be permitted entry to the UK.
Because of concern about variants, this includes Turkey, the Maldives. Nepal, who are being added to the Red List today.
AMBER - You should not be travelling to these countries right now. Returnees  will have to do 3 separate tests and self-isolate in a location of their choosing for 10 days. Countries on the Amber List include France, Spain and Greece.
GREEN - You can visit these countries from 17th May, but you will have to take a test before you come home, and a second test 2 days after you return, but you will not need to quarantine. Only 12 countries and territories are currently on this list, including Portugal, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel (and Jerusalem), Australia, Brunei, Falkland Islands and Faroe Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Ascension Island, Singapore and New Zealand.
(Soooooooo.... Portugal looks like it will be popular this Summer then...)
The lists will be reviewed every 3 weeks, although obviously a country can be downgraded to a different list at any point if there is a concern.
The Government's "strong advice" is not to book any holiday which won't just give you your money back if the COVID situation means it can't go ahead. (They are not going to help you if you do something reckless.)
We need to have a standard form of proof of vaccination/infection for overseas travel.
"From 17th May, English residents will be able to use their existing NHS health app. to gain access to their vaccine record. Alternatively they'll be able to request a paper letter to verify their vaccination status."
(This is not AskMyGP, or MyGP or any of the other apps you can also use to contact your GP, it is called 'NHS app'. and is available for IOS or Android.)
He ends by talking about how we want to avoid misery and all that disaster which comes with going overboard, which is why you can't just go on a world hugging tour right now. "We must tread carefully, respecting the science that will guide  us along the way."
Jenny did the slides. Latest 7 day average is 2,060 cases a day, and that's down by 300 since a week earlier. We have an average 23 cases per 100,000 people.
All UK nations have had a 19% decrease in hospitalisations over the last week.
The latest 7 day average is 12 losses of life a day.

Paul Lincoln was next. He basically explained it'll take longer to get through any border checks while we have a pandemic. Allow ages to go through the airports/terminals, and ensure you have the correct paperwork.

Grant answered questions about the upcoming Champions League football match die to be played in Turkey. Fans should NOT travel to the match. The UK has offered to host the match, and is currently in discussion about what should happen.  

There are images below from the risk assessment by the EMA (European Medicines Association), which show their assessment of comparative risk between death from COVID and developing blood clotting from the jab  at each age group, and in different levels of community COVID (just developing it, not dying from it. Around 1 in 5 patients have so far succumbed). 

Risk of death from COVID vs risk of developing Blood Clotting EMA we 020521

India have scrapped testing people before hospital discharge. They've been testing to capacity and really need to test more people who might have COVID, rather than re-testing people who are feeling better.
For reference the UK stand alone amongst the larger economies/countries, in that we haven't ever regularly tested to prove recovery, right since the start.  

Denmark have barred the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of the potential for a link to blood clotting. They previously barred use of AstraZeneca jab for the same reason.
We've covered risk of developing the rare blood clotting with AstraZeneca above, and with Johnson & Johnson it seems to be around 1 in a million. Around 1 in 5 patients have succumbed.
Denmark's daily cases have been fairly static around 800-1,000 a day for about 3 months. Their population is very small though, under 6m people, so it's the equivalent of the UK having about 11,000 cases a day, which isn't low level. Hopefully they have enough orders in elsewhere. 

A group called The Citizens made a video for indieSAGE, which pretty much took the pee out of the Government, especially their early response to COVID and Chief Medical Officer Chris "where is he now" Whitty. indieSAGE shared it, then took it down swiftly when they remembered they're grown ups and we all expect much better from them. 

5 workers who had been testing people at the airport in Bali have been arrested, after a raid discovered lots of used swabs and around $10,000 in local money. Although samples were sent to the lab as they should be, they had been washing and reusing the swabs (bowk). CNN's maths suggests they could have done this to as many as 10,000 people.
Passengers were charged $14 for a test, and the workers involved are facing a possibility of 5 and/or 10 year jail sentences.
I have 2 questions. 1/. So were the swabs $1 each then? Who the heck charges $1 each for a swab during a pandemic? 2/. Living wage in Indonesia is around £95 ($132) a month, how could you think they wouldn't be tempted when they are throwing away $1 swabs?
The South China Post says 2 lawyers who flew the route regularly are already on the case for compensation for any traveller affected. That will not be cheap... 

Scientists from South Bank and Kingston Universities believe as many as 1 in 3 of us may struggle reintegrating into 'normal' society at the end of this.
I'd say that was pretty obvious, and something we should be kind about. Not everyone will be rushing back to the cinema, the football, the bingo or club night. Some people will need a little time. Many people will need a little time. Make the most of being outdoors when it's sunny, and ease yourself back into it. 

A Miami teacher is a bit red-faced today, after telling students not to hug their parents for more than 5 seconds after they'd been vaccinated, because they'd be 'shedding spike proteins'. NOT TRUE. All the fact-checkers have had a smile about that one. The COVID vaccine is not live, it's not even whole. It can't copy itself, it can't be shed. . .  

Graph of UK case numbers showing huge mountain behind us

Remember that guy who was helicoptered off Everest base camp with COVID? He may have left a gift. They are having a disaster, with 17 cases flown out by yesterday morning.
You need full lung capacity to be able to even survive comfortably at base camp, so it doesn't look good for the remainder of this season, and it's yet more bad news for Nepal...

Two YouTubers who thought it would be hilarious to draw a mask on their face and enter a shop in Bali have shopped themselves with their own video. Joke's on them. Bali take mask laws very seriously, and their passports have been retained while a decision is made on how heavily to charge them.
Prison may be an option, but previously Bali hit the headlines for making foreign tourists do press ups and street sweeping for breaking minor rules, so I think they'll survive to make another video... presumably not in Bali though... 

Have a good weekend. It IS still going right in the UK, and we lost less people in the last week than we were losing each day just a month ago. Vaccination data is giving us excellent results again and again, and we can see we will win. The rest of the world has to catch up. but over 180 countries are vaccinating now.

Watch out for the broken Chinese rocket coming down - if it burns up in the right place at the right time, it could look spectacular. No parts are likely to actually land any further North than Madrid or New York - and fingers crossed for "in the sea". Don't forget your treat - you made it through another week and you can still smile (yes you can). Be kind to yourself, you've earned it.
Throw open the windows, go for a walk in the rain, save the NHS.

Some people. All on a big rock flying through space:

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

USA 33,376,109 (+6,917) 594,135 (+129)

India 21,874,777 (+389,492) 238,081 (+4,010)

Brazil 15,009,023 not yet reported today 417,176

France 5,728,090 not yet reported today 105,850

Turkey 4,998,089 (+20,107) 42,465 (+278)

Russia 4,863,514 (+8,386) 112,622 (+376)

UK 4,431,043 (+2,490) 127,598 (+15)

Italy 4,092,747 (+10,554) 122,470 (+207)

Spain 3,567,408 (+8,186) 78,792 (+66)

Germany 3,493,757 (+7,295) 84,924 (+113)

Poland 2,824,425 (+6,047) 69,445 (+453)

Iran 2,627,094 (+17,076) 74,241 (+335)

Mexico 2,358,831 (+2,846) 218,173 (+166)

Ukraine 2,105,428 (+8,404) 45,830 (+379) 




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