Friday 26 November 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 24th / 25th / 26th November 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 24th / 25th / 26th November 2021

UK Daily Statistics:
Cases: 10,070,841 (+50,091)
In Hospital Yesterday 25th: 7,633 (DOWN from 8,079 a week earlier)
Using A Ventilator Yesterday 25th: 925 (923 a week earlier)
Losses of Life: 144,593 (+160)
Tests: 1,048,739
Vaccinations 1st Dose: 50,875,712 (88.5% of UK age 12+)
Vaccinations 2nd Dose: 46,255,081 (80.4%)
Boosters/3rd Doses: 16,779,656 (29.2%)

Rep. Of Ireland: 546,909 cases and 5,652 losses of life.

World: 260,682,363 reported cases and 5,203,984 losses of life.

We'll start with today's big news and, spoiler, it's not great. Don't panic just yet - it's waaay too early to fret - you don't even know what you'd be fretting over...

Omicron vs Delta vs wild COVID 3 lines showing how quickly it can take over

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid to Parliament today:
"Madam Deputy Speaker, over the past 48 hours, a small number of cases of a new variant have been detected on our international genomic database.
I want to reassure this House that there are no detected cases of this variant in the UK at this time but this new variant is of huge international concern.
The World Health Organisation has called a special meeting this morning – and that meeting is taking place right now.
I want to update the House on what we know so far, why we’re concerned, and the action that we are taking although I must stress, that this is a fast-moving situation, and there remains a high degree of uncertainty.
The sequence of this variant – currently called B.1.1.529 – was first uploaded by Hong Kong, from a case of someone travelling from South Africa.
The UK was the first country to identify the potential threat of this new variant and alert international partners.
Further cases have been identified in South Africa and in Botswana and it is highly likely that it has now spread to other countries."
(Sajid thanked the South African government for their openness and swift public response in informing the world.)
"Madam Deputy Speaker, we are concerned that this new variant may pose a substantial risk to public health.
The variant has an unusually large number of mutations.
Yesterday, the UK Health Security Agency classified B.1.1.529 as a new Variant Under Investigation and the Variant Technical Group has designated it as a Variant Under Investigation with Very High Priority.
It’s the only variant with this designation, making it higher priority than Beta. It shares many of the features of the Alpha, Beta and Delta variants. Early indications show this variant may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and current vaccines may be less effective against it.
It may also impact the effectiveness of one of our major treatments, Ronapreve.
Madam Deputy Speaker, we’re also worried about the rise in cases in countries in Southern Africa especially as these populations should have significant natural immunity.
In South Africa in particular, there has been exponential growth, with cases increasing fourfold over the last two weeks."
(Now - this really IS a concern. We shouldn't see cases rise so fast in South Africa. COVID has run wild there for a long time, and immunity from prior infection is very high, even though vaccination level is fairly low.)
Sajid makes 2 very strong and important points towards the end of his speech:
" of the lessons of this pandemic has been that we must move quickly, and at the earliest possible moment."
"The UK remains in a strong position."

twitter dot com miamalan status 1463846528578109444 new variant features

Scientists are very concerned about B1.1.529 (known by UK surveillance as VUI-21NOV-01).
It has over 50 mutations, including a massive 32 spike mutations - that's twice as many as Delta. In the 'receptor binding' domain (the bit that latches onto our cells), it has 10 mutations - Delta had 2 and has taken over in almost the entire world.
B1.1.529 has been found in South Africa, Botswana, Israel and was first detected 5 days ago in a Hong Kong traveller from South Africa. 3 days ago we were at 10 cases worldwide, but obviously agencies are looking for it now, and by yesterday that was up to 59.
(Update: We now have a case in Belgium who is a traveller from Egypt.)
South Africa actually has pretty good sequencing to track variants, but even so they'll only capture a tiny percentage of cases. The fact they've exported it already is a concern, but as yet we have no real idea how this is going to pan out, nor do we know if B1.1.529 is going to be more or less dangerous or deadly. It does look very likely to have vaccination/antibody escape potential that's bigger than anything we've seen before. Darnit.

For once the English Government have acted fast (well done - we knew you could do it if you tried). South Africa has immediately been added to the travel Red List, as have Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Anyone who is not a UK or Irish resident who has been in one of these countries in the last 10 days will be denied entry into England. There will be a ban on ALL direct commercial and private flights from these Red List countries until 4am Sunday 28 November, and after that time, you must book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 COVID-19 tests, before you arrive in England. If you have recently returned, you should immediately book PCR tests.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to impose the same restrictions. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has advised members to also consider a pause on all travel from regions where the new variant has been detected:
“All air travel to these countries should be suspended until we have a clearer understanding about the danger posed by this new variant.”

UPDATE: And, as mentioned, the World Health Organisation have held an emergency meeting, and made this announcement just after 6pm tonight:
"The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution met today to review what is known about the #COVID19 variant B.1.1.529.
They advised WHO that it should be designated a Variant of Concern.
WHO has named it Omicron, in line with naming protocols."
(Momentary little smile there for any Futurama fans.)

261121 Nu variant comment by Jenny Harries

We aren't living up to our promises regarding vaccine equity. The Wire have been counting up how many doses of vaccine have actually been given to the World Health Organisation's COVAX initiative and:
"European countries (excluding the UK) have pledged 400 million but delivered only 50 million. The UK isn’t much better, having supplied only 10 million doses out of a pledged 120 million."

The World Health Organisation have reached a non-exclusive licensing agreement with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) for 'serological testing technology' (antibody tests) that detect COVID-19 antibodies from vaccination or prior infection. The technology will be provided royalty-free to poor and middle-income countries. This is the first test licence signed by the WHO’s Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), and hopefully the first of many. 

Trials of cheap and cheerful aspirin have sadly not shown any particular benefit with COVID patients - a real shame. They were hoping it may help reduce blood clotting conditions.
14,892 hospitalised patients were given aspirin and they found:
- No impact on mortality.
- Small improvement in hospital stay.
- No impact on need for mechanical ventilation
- 6 more bleeds. 6 fewer thromboses (clots)

Norovirus is a particularly nasty tummy bug, which has no cure and will make some people very poorly. The UK Health Security Agency are reminding us that if you have a tummy upset, vomiting or diarrrrroeaaoeah (no-one can spell it anyway), stay at home while you are ill, and then continue to STAY AT HOME FOR ANOTHER 48 HOURS - until your chance of passing it on to someone else has substantially reduced.

Norovirus cannot be cured by medicine stay at home for 48 hours

The Slovak government has announced a 90-day state of emergency and curfew, and a 2 week lockdown, with citizens only allowed to leave the house for essential reasons (including education or work). During lockdown unvaccinated people will have to show a negative test or proof that they were previously infected with COVID-19 in order to go to work.
Slovakia currently has the world's highest COVID rate. They have a small population of just 5.5m, and are reporting around 10,000 new cases a day. The equivalent of the UK reporting over 120,000 new daily cases. 

Portugal has brought in fresh restrictions. An impressive 87% of the 10m population is fully vaccinated, but new cases are at around 3,000 a day and too high for comfort.
From next Wednesday any travellers arriving in Portugal have to show a negative test.
Only fully vaccinated people can enter hotels, gyms or restaurants, and to enter nightclubs, bars, large events and care homes they will ADDITIONALLY need proof of a negative test. People sitting outdoors will not face restriction.
Portuguese workers should work from home where possible - this will be mandatory at the beginning of January, and students will go back to school a week later than usual, to try and prevent massive spread with everyone having festivities and then leaping back to normal life. 

The European CDC has warned that there are simply too many unvaccinated people across Europe to be able to sit back and relax. They are very concerned that the roughly 30% of people who are unvaccinated will place too high a burden on healthcare over December and January, and their modelling suggests vaccinations can't be completed in time (even if everyone agreed and was already queuing up). They agree with the World Health Organisation advice that restrictions should be brought in immediately in order to prevent overwhelming hospitals.  

261121 variant watch

If you want full protection by Christmas, get your booster by 11th December 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-11. That should help a bit... 

Vaccine mandates are getting a lot of press, and The Week have a great article looking at where they've been implemented.
Many countries (including the UK, US, Canada, Russia, Italy etc) have mandated vaccinations for specific workers, such as health and care workers. frontline workers, public facing roles, public transport or state employees.
It is also commonplace to require proof of vaccinations in order to enter hospitality, such as restaurants, cinemas, clubs (including in much of Europe, Lebanon and Morocco).
According to The Week, nationwide laws making vaccination compulsory are in place in Indonesia, Micronesia, Turkmenistan and Austria (from Feb 2022).
Most hopeful vaccine mandate comes from Kenya, who have a population of 54m. Only 4.65% of people are double jabbed, and another 3.22% single jabbed, but they hoped to make double vaccination compulsory for entry to hospitality, schools, public transport and some state offices from December 1st. I wish I had 100m vaccines to give to them... yet again a reminder of how privileged we are...

According to Bloomberg, the European Union is set to impose a 9 month limit on validity of vaccinations for travel - after that time you'll be expected to have topped up your immunity with a booster. It is also likely they'll recommend countries should reopen to fully vaccinated travellers (WHO and/or EU approved) from January 10th. It will be up to individual EU countries to decide what actual restrictions they decide to implement. 

261121 daily stats uk

New Zealand have announced dates for when they anticipate they will reopen borders to travellers.
Fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to enter the country from April 30th 2022, with a 7 day isolation on arrival.
Vaccinated New Zealanders resident in Australia can travel to New Zealand from Jan 16th, vaccinated New Zealanders resident in other countries from Feb 13th. 

Boris has been out in public without a mask again - despite the Almeida Theatre asking visitors to wear face coverings. People sitting nearby said he had a chin nappy for the first half and no mask at all for the second half, but put a mask on at the end when the lights came on....

The Bird Flu outbreak I told you about has stepped up a notch. It has now been found in at least 17 sites in the UK, and from Monday all poultry and domestic birds should be moved indoors to try and prevent mixing with wild birds, and spread of disease. This was done last Winter and was very effective, so fingers crossed it does the trick this year.
Obviously they are referring to barns, outhouses and sheds, although a lounge full of hens or ducks would definitely give you a Christmas to remember... 

Hoax Of The Day:
A video of Quantas Airlines CEO Alan Joyce getting a custard pie in the face is NOT because of mandatory COVID vaccinations at all. It was someone back in 2017 who didn't share his support for same sex marriage - they were banned for life from flying with Quantas and later realised it actually doesn't matter two hoots who anyone marries as long as they respect and love each other, and apologised.  

get a booster image of booster as umbrella

Switzerland have become the first country to swap places in a vaccine queue and let COVAX go ahead. They were due to receive 1 million Moderna doses before the end of the year, but would probably struggle to use them all quickly, so have given them to COVAX and will get their turn later next year.

Do not panic about anything, especially that which is not inevitable. Yep, Omicron looks unpleasant, but we aren't as naive as we were 23 months ago, and we only spotted it 5 days ago. It is a baby, and we are onto it already - and we aren't just talking this time, we are acting. We ARE taking steps to prevent it getting into the UK, and around the rest of the world.
Even if B.1.1.529 proves able to get past vaccinations more than previous variants, it definitely won't make them useless, and we can still tweak everything to make it more effective going forward.
Even if it manages to infect us, we have far more effective treatments and medications than we did 18 months ago.
Even in a worst case scenario, we wouldn't be going back to anywhere near square one.

It's the weekend. Don't forget your treat! You really do deserve it this weekend - and an extra for those of you who have COVID in your household. It's getting cold, but don't forget to let fresh air into the room every now and again - it'll help you minimise all kinds of Winter bugs, not just COVID.

Wear A Cardi, Snuggle Under A Blanket, Save The NHS...

Some numbers. All used to be scared of the monsters under the bed:

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):

Germany 5,684,549 (+61,502) 101,132 (+336)

UK 10,070,841 (+50,091) 144,593 (+160)

Russia 9,502,879 (+34,690) 270,292 (+1,235)

Czechia 2,089,857 (+27,717) 32,643 (+48)

Poland 3,461,066 (+26,735) 82,607 (+421)

Netherlands 2,555,415 (+21,278) 19,217 (+59)

Belgium 1,679,861 (+20,836) 26,793 (+50)

Ukraine 3,400,340 (+15,936) 84,149 (+608)

Italy 4,982,022 (+13,686) 133,537 (+51)

Vietnam 1,181,337 (+13,109) 24,544 (+137)

Austria 1,121,134 (+12,245) 12,284 (+51)

Hungary 1,068,888 (+11,871) 33,866 (+162)

Slovakia 651,234 (+9,331) 14,177 (+70)

Greece 914,824 (+6,602) 17,779 (+86)

Thailand 2,094,886 (+6,559) 20,643 (+64) 





EU 9 months travel limit fully vaccinated:

VOC B.1.1.529

EU Flights:

Switzerland swap COVAX

Today's big news - Omicron:

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