Friday 8 October 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 6th - 8th October 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 6th - 8th October 2021

There's no data for Wales today, so numbers are lower than they should be. Different data was missing last week, so I can't do a comparison.

UK Daily Statistics:
Cases: 8,081,300 (+36,060)
In Hospital yesterday 7th October: 6,765
Using A Ventilator yesterday 7th October: 808
Losses of Life: 137,541 (+127)
Tests: 962,225 (a fairly low level of tests, but higher number of new cases means we are catching less of the cases that are really out there)
Vaccinations 1st Dose: 49,101,734 (85.4% of population aged 12+)
Vaccinations 2 Doses: 45,107,185 (78.4%)

Rep. Of Ireland: 399,833 (2,002) cases and 5,280 losses of life

World: 237,771,320 reported cases and 4,852,690 losses of life.

Dr Mike Gent tells us to be sensible and wash hands

“As some of you may know, I started my career as a malaria researcher, and I longed for the day that we would have an effective vaccine against this ancient and terrible disease. Today is that day, an historic day.”
Dr Tedros, Head of WHO.
Not COVID-related, but the World Health Organisation has recommended the world's first ever malaria vaccine for a broad rollout in Africa.
Malaria kills around 400,000 people each year, and half are children under 5. Hospitalisation doesn't bode well for survival, but vaccination reduces admissions by 1/3. This is huge news, and as climate change will affect temperatures, humidity and malaria-carrying mosquitos, it could be of even greater use in the future. 

The UK Government have removed the advisory guidance against travel for much of the world. Any travel abroad during a pandemic carries risk it won't go to plan, but when your Government advice is not to go, it can be incredibly hard to get any travel insurance, or help if it goes wrong.

And from October 11th, the UK Government will be making some BIG changes to the travel lists. All countries except for 7 will come off the Red List, meaning you can travel quarantine-free to mostly everywhere. The only countries remaining red are Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The UK Gov have also approved the vaccine programmes of 37 more countries, so arrivals who were vaccinated in India, South Africa, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Turkey, Maldives and others (check the list before you book or travel) won't have to quarantine either.

Still on travel, and a genuine sorry to anyone hoping to get some flight money back - the competition regulator has closed the case on whether British Airways and Ryanair broke the law, when they didn't give refunds for flights that couldn't legally be used because the UK was in lockdown. The law simply isn't clear enough to pursue a case.
I'd expect that to change in future... 

We do have good travel news - for vaccine trial participants in the UK.
"Vaccine clinical trial participants are to be offered the option to get additional vaccine doses from next week, to ensure they can travel abroad to countries which currently only accept vaccination records with approved for deployment COVID-19 vaccinations."
If you were on a trial for Novovax, or any other vaccine that's got a long way before it reaches approval, it's only fair you get to have a recognised vaccine too. 

081021 weekly cases by age uk chart

The UK's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme statistics show that there were (440,000 employers with) 1.3 million staff on furlough on 31st August 2021. A drop of 260,000 since 31st July, when there were 1.6 million staff on furlough.

The Rosalind Franklin Laboratory in Leamington Spa has now processed one million PCR tests.

The World Health Organisation have given Long COVID an official definition:
“Post COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms and that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction but also others and generally have an impact on everyday functioning. Symptoms may be new onset following initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 episode or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms may also fluctuate or relapse over time.."

Good news regarding COVID Toe - less people are developing the condition.
It presents like chilblains, causing sore, red, inflamed toes (and sometimes fingers) and is more common in younger people.
The decline is likely due to vaccinations (it is much rarer in vaccinated people), but could also be Delta Variant, or something else, we don't know. A new study this week has been looking into how it occurs, and found 2 potential immunity responses which can go overboard and cause the body to attack it's own tissues - giving us a far better chance of tackling it.

081021 weekly cases by location uk

While we're on long term symptoms, the UK ONS have published figures on Long COVID up to 5th September. This is self-reported, it doesn't involve scans or medicals to assess levels of damage.
- 1.1 million people in private households (1.7% of the population) self-reported “long COVID”. Up from 970,000 (1.5%) on 1st August 2021(reflecting increased COVID-19 infection rates).
- 831,000 (77%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 at least 12 weeks previously, and 405,000 (37%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 at least one year previously.
- Symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 706,000 people (65% of those with self-reported long COVID)
- 211,000 people (19%) report that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been “limited a lot”.
- Fatigue was the most common symptom (56% of those with self-reported long COVID), followed by shortness of breath (40%), loss of smell (32%), and difficulty concentrating (31%).
- As a proportion of the UK population, 'prevalence was greatest in people aged 35 to 69 years, females, people living in more deprived areas, those working in health or social care, and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability'.
- Compared with the previous month, prevalence "was notably higher among young adults aged 17 to 24 years and people working in the hospitality sector".

Student confidence in the UK Government on Covid-19 matters is really REALLY low according to research from the NUS:
"Just 15% of students felt they had considered the difficulties Covid-19 has presented to them, and only 16% felt confident that the Government is acting in students’ best interests."
47% of students said that their mental health is worse now than before the pandemic. "Isolation, loneliness and health concerns have led to increased levels of anxiety, stress, worry, depression, and sleep issues."
(I really worried about the one of our students who was living alone for a lot of the last 18 months.)
The good news is that, so far, we do inevitably have some rising numbers of cases, but not the leaps we saw last year. Students aren't daft either:
"By August 2021 83% of students had received at least one vaccination and a further 9% either having it booked in or intending to book."

081021 weekly hospital admissions by age

While we're on student vaccinations, the UK actually has no idea just how many secondary pupils 12-15 we've vaccinated so far... *sigh*... All the numbers will come together at some point, but until then, vaccination totals and percentages are not going to be very accurate.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data says 260,000 12-15 year olds have been vaccinated out of almost 3 million, including 94,000 since schools began vaccinating on 20th September.
NHS England is a little more recent, up until 1st October, when their spokesperson told The Guardian that over 160,000 children had been vaccinated in school.
(Over 150,000 young people had already been offered a vaccination because they are clinically vulnerable, or live with someone who is.)

Lateral flow rapid COVID tests have an error rate of around 3 in 1,000 false positives. That's why you do a PCR test to confirm the result. The South West is seeing a really high rate of what appear to be false positives, but it could be more sinister. There are reports of people having symptoms, testing positive on one or more lateral flow, then testing negative on a 1st PCR, and in some cases then testing positive at the 3rd or 4th PCR test.
We know that levels of COVID virus in the breath can go up and down, but this is unusual, and there has already been at least 1 Variant (in Europe early last year) which wasn't detectable by standard PCR tests (because of precisely where the mutations had occurred). Fingers crossed we don't have another... 

Finland, Sweden and Denmark have all paused immunisation of younger men with Moderna vaccine, due to concerns over heart inflammation condition myocarditis. Yesterday Mika Salminen, director of the Finnish health institute, told Reuters:
"A Nordic study involving Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark found that men under the age of 30 who received Moderna Spikevax had a slightly higher risk than others of developing myocarditis."
It's still incredibly rare, so don't panic if you're 23, male, and had the Moderna vaccine this morning - if you have what appears to be a safer option, you take it.

081021 daily stats uk

Singapore seem to be first in the queue to speak to Merck about buying stocks of Molnupiravir - the drug which was last week found to reduce hospitalisation by half if given early in someone's infection (before they get a chance to find out if they'll become really ill). 

Alaska is the latest US state to be facing real healthcare problems due to sheer volume of COVID patients. Many rural hospitals have very few beds, and with 1 in every 84 people testing positive last week alone, healthcare rationing has already been taking place in major population centres such as Anchorage. They are flying as many patients as they can to another states, but sometimes there simply isn't anywhere else left to send patients, but home.  

Rural Americans are twice as likely to die if they catch COVID than urban Americans - in large part because it is simply so huge and distance so big.

Pfizer BioNTech have asked the US regulators to consider approval for vaccinating children aged 5-11.
Everything is "Emergency Use" at first because the paper trail takes about a year for regular authorisation, but it is just as fully tested (they aren't going to test it again!) and billions of doses have been administered. It feels more risky to give the vaccine to kids because they're little, until you remember it is kids we usually vaccinate anyway - and at some point in the future it will be kids who get the COVID vaccine with their other jabs. 

Thortful card mental health

Native populations in New Zealand have a higher chance than white people of dying if they contract COVID, and a much lower rate of vaccination than non-native populations. Maori health officials are worried this could be as devastating for them as the Spanish Flu in 1918 if vaccinations don't pick up. 

Hoax Of The Day:
Fact checkers are once again having to explain there are NO foetal cells in COVID vaccines. Associated Press put it very neatly:
"The cell lines used in the testing phase of several vaccines, including those against COVID-19, are cloned copies of fetal cells collected generations ago. They are adapted to grow continuously in labs and are widely used in medical research."
Even the Pope has been vaccinated. He said it was “an ethical action, because you are gambling with your health, you are gambling with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others.” 

Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov have been jointly awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Maria is CEO of Rappler news website in the Philippines, and Dmitry is editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, “the most independent newspaper in Russia today".
Whatever you read tells a story, and that story will always have a slant, which may not always be transparent and honest if someone is controlling it via intimidation, policy or money.
The last few years have made it increasingly clear just how important it is to have a free press and independent journalism, who will question Government decisions, and will look at pros and cons without someone else telling them what to say. Brexit, COVID, the attempted coup in America, Afghanistan, anti-lockdown protests, where the PPE money went, what Prince Andrew spent the 90's doing... The list is endless... 

081021 test and trace stats

Christian TV Channel Loveworld has been fined for a third time by Ofcom for sharing misinformation. Ofcom said that on 2 occasions in February presenters “made a number of unevidenced, materially misleading and potentially harmful statements about the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines”.

For reasons of fairness, and to prove most religious representatives are sensible - in May loads of them got together to ask for worldwide vaccine equity - all obviously pro-vaccine. They included: the Archbishop of Canterbury: Bishop Ivan M Abrahams (World Methodist Council): HE Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon (Ecumenical Patriarchate): The Reverend Dr Chris Ferguson (World Communion of Reformed Churches): The Reverend Dr Martin Junge (Lutheran World Federation): Dr Azza Karam and Rabbi David Rosen (Religions for Peace): Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb (The Grand Imam of al-Azhar) and HE Cardinal Peter Turkson. 

Rumour is that in the UK we'll have to pay for lateral flow tests from next year. It was obvious they wouldn't be free forever, especially not for businesses.

We have a stern warning from the UK's Jonathan Van-Tam to get your flu vaccinations - and around 35 million UK residents will be offered one this year.
Because we didn't mix last Winter, and we haven't mixed much this year, it is likely a lot more people will catch flu this Winter. Because our immune systems have had a lazy time, they're not exactly ready for action (notice how everyone has a lingering cold already?). The limited data available suggests catching COVID AND flu at the same time doubles your chances of becoming critically ill, and even if you were 'okay', you are going to have a very grim couple of weeks.
Precautions that help protect against COVID also help protect against flu. Wash your hands, stay home if you are ill, don't sneeze on your Grandma or get really drunk and whisper-shout in people's faces. And definitely no licking strangers.

It's the weekend again! Hurrah. The weather looks better this weekend, so grab some of that Autumn sun - and don't forget to treat yourself. You made it through another week, so take some 'me time' and indulge yourself for a while. The real world will be back soon enough. It's World Mental Health Day on Sunday, so that's all the more reason to remember to be kind to yourself.

Be Kind, Smile More Often, Save The NHS...

Some numbers. Each number is a unique human being:

Countries / Cases / Losses of life (since midnight GMT. In larger countries,  such as the USA and India, some states /provinces have yet to report today):

USA 45,030,695 (+9,428) 730,413 (+207)

India 33,933,932 (+19,467) 450,402 (+242)

Brazil 21,532,558 not yet reported today 599,865

UK 8,081,300 (+36,060) 137,541 (+124)

Russia 7,717,356 (+27,246) 214,485 (+936)

Turkey 7,357,336 not yet reported today 65,590

France 7,043,316 not yet reported today 116,991

Iran 5,683,980 (+9,897) 122,197 (+185)

Argentina 5,264,305 not yet reported today 115,416

Spain 4,973,619 (+2,309) 86,778 (+77) 

Colombia 4,967,524 not yet reported today 126,517

Italy 4,695,291 (+3,023) 131,228 (+30)

Germany 4,312,009 (+5,252) 94,585

Indonesia 4,225,871 (+1,384) 142,560 (+66)

Mexico 3,707,234 (+7,613) 281,121 (+514) 





Lateral Flow tests

Nobel Peace Prize:

Finland pauses use of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in young men.


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