Monday 5 July 2021

UK (England) Briefing with Boris Monday 5th July 2021

UK (England) Briefing with Boris Monday 5th July 2021

Cases: 4,930,534 (+27,334)
Losses of life: 128,231 (+9)
In Hospital: 1,905 (Thursday 1st)
Using a ventilator: 321 (Friday 2nd)
Vaccinated 1 dose: 45,351,719 (86.1% of UK adults)
Vaccinated 2 doses: 33,726,362 (64% of UK adults)

Letter to the NHS from Queen Elizabeth when awarding the George Cross

"It is with great pleasure, on behalf of a grateful nation, that I award the George Cross to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom.
This award recognises all NHS staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations.
Over more than seven decades, and especially in current times, you have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service.
You have our enduring thanks and heartfelt appreciation,
Elizabeth R"
Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II
(I have included her handwritten letter above.)

Scotland is in trouble, at least in parts, with half of the top 10 most heavily affected areas in Europe at the moment. The Scottish Parliament has gone into recess for Summer, and already there are calls for them to get back.
The plan is to remove remaining restrictions on July 19th, dependent on vaccination levels, but yesterday there was a suggestion from the Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, that infection rates and hospitalisations will be taken into account.
Drop-in vaccination clinics will be available in every borough from today. 

The NHS are ace 73rd birthday Sir Simon Stevens

The UK Government published this earlier today:
"Step 4 is expected to begin on Monday 19th July if the government’s “four tests” for easing COVID restrictions have been met. This will be confirmed on Monday 12th July following a review of the latest data."
(So - final confirmation about 19th July will not be until NEXT MONDAY.)
"The latest data and scientific modelling suggest that cases will continue to rise as restrictions are eased, but the link to hospitalisations and deaths has been weakened due to the vaccination programme.
As of 2 July, there were 27,714 new positive cases in England. 331 people were admitted with COVID-19 and there were 1,611 patients in hospital. The latest ONS estimates show that 1 in 260 people have COVID-19 in England."
(We really do have considerably less people in hospital, or worse, than we did in any previous wave at this point.)
"Next steps on the 1m plus rule, face coverings, and working from home will be set out, alongside the findings of the social distancing and certification review. An update will also be provided on the next steps for care home visits."
(I look forward to it...)
"The Prime Minister is expected to reiterate that COVID will become a virus that we learn to live with as we already do with flu. This means that hospitalisations, serious illness and deaths from COVID will continue, albeit at a much lower level than before the vaccination programme."
(It's not flu though, is it? It's not even the same sort of virus. Just saying...)
"Step 3 was delayed by up to 4 weeks so every adult could be offered a vaccine, around two thirds of adults could receive a second jab, and more data could be assessed on the new Delta variant which is now dominant in the UK.
Data from Public Health England now shows that COVID vaccines are highly effective against severe illness and hospitalisation from this variant. The analysis suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective, and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine 92% effective against hospitalisation after two doses."
(Those are very nice statistics, I do agree. Although we haven't given our young people that protection yet, and we know they get Long COVID much more often than they actually die - thankfully, yet still...)
"The government is ensuring preparations are in place to offer third “booster” doses to everyone aged over 50 and the most vulnerable to boost their immunity over the winter months, based on interim advice from the JCVI. Final advice is expected in the coming months."
(Thank you for the update!)
"Our red list border control regime, surge testing, community testing and genome sequencing are effective ways of finding and isolating new cases of variants and will continue to be deployed."
So that should save a bit of typing during the actual briefing... 

050721 UK Gov slides cases in England chart looks like a mountain range

Today's very important UK (England) Briefing was with the COVID Triumvirate - Boris "Remember Me?" Johnson, Chris "I Look Terrified Because I Am" Whitty, England's Chief Medical Officer, and Patrick "I'm Here For My Soothing 'Voice Of Command'" Vallance, the Chief Scientific Officer.

Boris started by saying that the decision on reopening will be made final on 12th July - but today he will set out what it will look like if we can proceed.
 "Let me stress. This pandemic is far from over."
He says there is only one reason why we'd be contemplating reopening under circumstances in which we'd usually be locking down further, and that is the effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.
He talks about how many people we've vaccinated - second highest in Europe after Malta.
The vaccines have achieved "greatly reduced mortality".
Boris reminds us we need balance. We want to be able to reopen with the arrival of Summer and school holidays. If we can't do it then, when can we? If we wait, it could result in having to face a large wave over Winter. 

050721 UK Gov slides hospitalisations in England double hill followed by flat line

- The length of gap between vaccines for everyone is being reduced from 12 weeks to 8. Everyone 18+ should be double jabbed by mid-September, and booster vaccinations for the elderly and vulnerable (and health care workers I believe) should be underway.
- We will move away from legal restrictions, and allow everyone to make their own informed decisions on how to manage the virus. We'll remove legal limits on numbers of people gathering, end the 1m+ rule, reopen ALL business and remove legal obligations to wear a face covering - ALTHOUGH guidance will suggest when it may be appropriate, such as in crowded places, public transport, meeting new people indoors etc.
- The Work From Home instruction "will no longer be necessary".
- No COVID certificate will be legally necessary to obtain entry to any business or event, although businesses can make use of the certification and the NHS app. to prove vaccination status.
- The virus will be managed with a test, trace and isolate system proportional to the pandemic. You WILL HAVE TO self-isolate if you test positive, or are told to do so by Test and Trace. They are looking to find a different solution for those who are fully vaccinated, and for children.
Tomorrow the Education Secretary (Gavin "The Childcatcher" Williamson) will outline the plans for removing bubbles and dealing with contacts of those pupils who test positive.
- We will maintain our "tough border controls, including the red list", and are working internationally on a system for fully vaccinated individuals to return from Amber countries. Update later this week.
- We will continue to monitor the data, and have contingency plans in case of more cases, for example over Winter (sure you are pronouncing August wrong there Boris...).
- We will focus on increased guidance in future, and "do everything possible to avoid reimposing restrictions with all the costs that they bring". 

050721 UK Gov slides deaths in England hill followed by flat line

Boris pays tribute to all of our NHS and social care workers, and says we should get our jabs.

Pat with the slides. The most recent 7 day rolling average is 25,447 cases a day. Cases are doubling every 9 days. Still mainly younger people, but spreading. Roughly 1 in every 210 people in England have COVID. "There is no doubt we are facing an increase in cases."
In contrast, we have an increase in the number of people in hospital, but it is not so steep. (His data only goes up to 1st July too.) To be honest you can see the rise, and it doesn't look super scary, but it's clearly rising, an he warns we do expect this to continue.
The link between hospitalisations and cases isn't entirely broken.
It is more evident in deaths. The most recent 7 day average is 18 people. His chart (above) is THE most ridiculous scale! You can't see anything.
"We are in the face of an increasing epidemic at the moment, and therefore we need to behave accordingly, in terms of transmission spread."

Public asked how effective the vaccine is at preventing Long COVID.
Chris mumbles his way through this one - we don't really data on this. Because the vaccine reduces people becoming ill, we assume it will prevent people from Long COVID.
Pat reiterates that there is a link between serious disease and Long COVID (it is more common the more ill you are when you have COVID, but not always). 

Public also asked about vaccinating children. Chris goes for it.
He talks about risk of vaccine vs risk of COVID, and has obviously been asked to remind us that children don't often get very ill with COVID. He says when we have data to show it is a safer option to be vaccinated, then it'll maybe happen. 

Press asked "how bad do you expect it to get?". Boris says "obviously we have to be cautious", and that they always said there would be a 3rd wave (so we just accept that? Hang on, 3rd? Aren't we on about 5 now?).
He mumbles a lot and refers to the school holidays helping us fight the virus, then remembers why that is important - he doesn't want to stave off this wave and just slow it down so that it happens over Winter.
Chris is a little better. He says case doubling time is 9 days, modelling implies we'll reach the peak before the hospital numbers get to the point they were at in Spring.

Press asked when will you wear a mask?
Chris reminds us masks help protect other people, and says he'll wear one any time he's asked by authority, whenever he's indoors in close contact and whenever anyone else is uncomfortable.
Pat says masks help protect you and other people. 

Chris gave away something here - he talked about the 4 week delay being the right move, and then said it was preferable to unlocking after the Summer holidays, going into the Autumn, when Winter is coming. Obviously it must be something they actually discussed.
The NHS is likely to have a problem with flu this Winter - a big COVID wave on top would be a bit of a nightmare. 

Press asked if it's likely we could be asked to wear masks or go home because of other respiratory illnesses, such as flu. Chris says not for seasonal flu, but we might if it's a pandemic - such as the Spanish Flu in 1918.

050721 UK Gov slides vaccinations 1st and 2nd doses

Press asked about crowds at the football, and what the modelling suggests will be the further loss of life with the relaxation of these restrictions? Boris talked about football. Pat talked about super-spreader events and said all data is made available... I guess we'll have to wait for that one then...

So... we're playing herd immunity openly again. This time (thank heavens) with vaccinations, and the nice new name "population immunity". Let's hope their numbers are right this time...

I've an apology for Sajid - his piece in the Mail On Sunday was also published on the Gov dot UK site before lunchtime yesterday (and then republished at lunchtime today with amendments). So, sorry Sajid, and two more words. Long, and COVID. I think it will bite on the backside, and I think it is going to really hurt. 

Happy 73rd birthday to the NHS. We all need it, and it is all too easy to forget the support it offers us from before we are born, through to the time we leave.
In the UK we lose 3 babies per 1,000 in their first year. In much of Africa around 63 babies per 1,000 die before they are 1.
In America, health insurance costs an average of $495 per month, per person (bargain packages start at around $300 a month).
UK life expectancy is 81 years. In the slums of Mumbai it is 44.
Thank you to everyone who has had a role in keeping the NHS going.

Back with the usual report tomorrow... 

Sources: image


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