Tuesday 30 November 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update and UK Briefing 29th / 30th November 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 29th / 30th November 2021

UK Daily Statistics:
Cases: 10,228,772 (+39,716)
In Hospital: 7,631
Using A Ventilator: 916
Losses of Life: 144,969 (+159)
Tests: 1,014,359
Vaccinations 1st Dose: 50,963,718 (88.6% of UK age 12+)
Vaccinations 2nd Dose: 46,367,149 (80.6%)
Boosters: 18,215,535 (31.7%)

Rep. Of Ireland: 564,657 cases and 5,652 losses of life.

World: 262,686,518 reported cases and 5,229,286 losses of life.

World Health Organisation Do It All Protect YOurself

"If it emerges that the Omicron variant is no more dangerous than the Delta variant, then we won't keep measures in place for a day longer than necessary."
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
(Surely you won't keep any measures 'longer than necessary' anyway Saj?)

The UK's JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) had an emergency meeting yesterday. They have advised EVERYONE 18+ gets a booster, and that we half the time after your second dose to a minimum 3 months. They also advise children aged 12+ get a second jab - again no less than 12 weeks after their first jab. It's the equivalent of putting on the special sprinting shoes... run Boris run!

We now have 22 detected cases of Omicron in the UK - 9 in Scotland and 13 in England. The bad news is that 5 of the Scottish cases have no direct link to South African travel or travellers - which means it is likely Omicron has already escaped into the community.
I don't think we have any chance of stopping this one guys. As I said last week, buckle up. It might be a bit bumpy, but it might not be too bad. We are back to where we were in that we have to keep transmission steady and not overwhelm hospitals - but aside from that the situation has changed completely.

291121 expand boosters and 2nd vaccinations for teenagers

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford have written a joint letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to step up COVID measures across the UK.
Best of luck with that one. The guy won't even wear a mask when he's sitting with 95 year old national treasure, David Attenborough. He probably sneezed on the Queen's hankie when she wasn't looking. 

Professor Susan Michie of the UK Government SAGE advisory group is interviewed in INews and she was clearly frustrated. She stresses that waiting to implement measures such as working from home is pointless, because once you know for certain you need it, it's already too late. She also does not like "flimsy surgical masks" and feels individuals should wear a proper grade mask such as FFP2 "anywhere that smoking is banned".
That's an excellent rule of thumb really. Smoking is banned in public places where people would be disturbed by smoke. Airborne virus acts in a very similar way - it's just invisible. And she isn't the only one advising FFP2 masks... 

The shiny new head of the UK's Health Security Agency, Dr Jenny Harries, was on telly and radio today. She did say that the current COVID Delta wave 'isn't causing significant harm' (well, the families of about 800 dead people a week disagree), but she also gave a rare cautionary message - suggesting everyone can help do their bit by "not socialising when we don't particularly need to"... which is a bit wishy washy and doesn't really mean anything, but is very brave for her... 

291121 Boosters expanded to all UK adults

Boris held a UK Briefing today, and was accompanied by UK Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, and Amanda Pritchard of NHS England.
Boris starts: "Right now, our best single defence against Omicron is to get vaccinated and to get boosted."
Yesterday, in addition to offering 2nd doses to teenagers 12-17, JCVI advised we roll out boosters to everyone aged 18 or over AND reduce the gap between 2nd jabs and boosters by half, to just 3 months. This advice has all been accepted and will happen.
Over 14m more adults have now become eligible for a booster jab.
The target is to offer a booster to everyone eligible by the end of January.
We'll go in 5 year age bands, so please don't try and book until the NHS says it's your turn.
All sites will increase capacity, England will have 1,500 community pharmacy vaccination centres, there'll be pop-up vaccination centres and at least 400 military personnel will be deployed to help.
He appreciates the sense of exhaustion and frustration, but reminds us we are in a far better position than last year. (We really are.)
Sajid thanks everyone involved in vaccinations.
Today we have hit 18m boosters - more than any country except the USA and China.
"The booster dose provides a much higher antibody response than the primary course, so it's more important than ever that people step up and get protected."
Sajid talks about anti-virals - he says we don't yet have a full picture of how our vaccines will perform against Omicron, but they won't be rendered useless. Getting vaccinations into arms still gives us best chance to prevent serious illness. (It really does.)
"If we want to give ourselves the best chance of a Christmas with our loved ones, the best thing we can all do is step up, roll up our sleeves and get protected when the time comes."
Amanda explains the Government accepted all of the JCVI advice, and she is responsible for making it happen. She says "staff are working at breakneck speed". The most vulnerable people will be vaccinated first - that will be the ones who were already eligible. If you were not already eligible, please wait your turn - you WILL get an invite.
All hospitals will be asked to vaccinate their local NHS and social care employees.
The payment for standard vaccinations will increase to £15 until the end of January, and in order to be able to open facilities for longer, and on Sundays, pharmacies which wouldn't usually be open will receive an additional £5 per shot. There will be a £30 premium for vaccinations to housebound people until the end of December.
There are now nearly 3,000 sites giving vaccinations.
She talks about our amazing vaccine achievements, and says next week it is 1 year since the first vaccination took place, here in the UK (Good old Maggie). We have delivered almost 100m doses - including hundreds last weekend by candlelight in Storm Arwen.
They need help. They are recruiting for volunteers to assist with vaccinations, and also 10,000 paid vaccinators. If you are able to volunteer, or are a healthcare professional who isn't currently busy and fancies a couple of months work...
Public asked why we aren't rolling out masks further or asking people to work from home. Boris replies we are trying to maintain a balanced approach.
Public asked about protecting Extremely Clinically Vulnerable people. Sajid says we have an approved anti-viral which should work very well.
Press asked :
- about social mixing - should we limit contacts? Boris says the advice remains the same (not backing up Jenny Harries earlier comments then).
- can the NHS really cope with the massive expansion of the vaccine programme? Answer was a bit "we're great, we can do it". Amanda also makes it clear everyone eligible will have had an opportunity to BOOK their vaccination by the end of January, not necessarily actually be jabbed.
- do we have enough stocks of Pfizer/Moderna? Yes.
- Should public consider proper surgical grade masks? Sajid says we see no need to change advice.
Sajid asks people who are unvaccinated to come forward. Overwhelmingly people who are very ill in hospital are unvaccinated.
Boris says no measures will stay for a moment longer than necessary.
- should we cancel Christmas events? Boris says no. The best place for kids is in schools, take a measured approach.
"I'm still confident that this Christmas will be considerably better than last Christmas, and that remains my view."

Letter to Boris from Nicola and Mark page 1 291121

Omicron was detected in the Netherlands in test samples taken on November 19th and 23rd - before the 2 flights arrived from South Africa on November 26. It means it was spreading in Europe before South Africa sounded the alarm.
The 2 flights from South Africa were already in the air when a travel ban came into place, and a staggering 61 passengers out of 624 tested positive for COVID on arrival, with 14 now having confirmed Omicron.
Excitingly 1 of the passengers decided she must have a false positive result, so she left the quarantine hotel and used her pre-flight negative test to get another flight out. She was arrested on the plane to Spain and is now in enforced quarantine - locked in a Tuberculosis Hospital near Amsterdam.
Probably not the wisest thing she's ever done... 

On Monday afternoon there was an urgent meeting of the G7 Health Ministers, to decide what to do to try and prevent spread of Omicron. The G7 (Group of 7) comprises the UK, US, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan.
They mainly thanked South Africa for their swift action at diagnosing a new variant, and agreed to meet again next month. Errrr. Okay. 

Letter to Boris from Nicola and Mark page 2 291121

Omicron has now been detected in many more countries, including Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy. 

Unvaccinated British travellers are now banned from entering Spain until at least the end of the year. A negative test result is no longer valid for entry, you have to have proof of vaccination. 

Japan only opened its borders to international travellers 3 weeks ago, and it has closed them again.

Morocco has closed the border to all international travellers. 

Poland has introduced a 14 day quarantine for unvaccinated non-EU arrivals. 

Switzerland has introduced mandatory quarantine for all UK travellers. To enter Switzerland, anyone from the UK has to have proof of full vaccination, a negative test before arrival and a 10 day quarantine. 

Quite honestly, if you are considering foreign travel right now, consider it incredibly carefully - you may well find yourself subjected to a surprise quarantine (here or there), a very expensive solo hotel stay, or even having to wait for repatriation. 

The CEO of Moderna doesn't beat around the bush, and obviously isn't one for false promises. He said today in the Financial Times that 'there is "no world" where the effectiveness of our current jabs is the same against Omicron as it is against Delta'.
I think we all appreciate that don't we? We're realists. Personally I'm not expecting much in the way of preventing spread of Omicron, but I've got my fingers crossed for vaccines still offering 85% or better reduction in severe illness and death.

Jenny Harries says get a PCR test if symptoms

Angelique Coetzee is chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, and also the original doctor who noticed there might be a new variant in South Africa.
She's been interviewed in several media now and says the symptoms in her patients have been slightly different, and in her opinion more like Beta COVID than Delta - her patients are mainly younger, with mild illness, and suffering from "fatigue, head and body aches and occasional sore throats and coughs" 

The World Health Organisation on Monday morning convened for a special session of the World Health Assembly. Ironically it wasn't because of Omicron, it was arranged already, with the intention of discussing a strategy to deal with a future pandemic fairly and equitably - a Pandemic Treaty.

The UK head of Iceland frozen food stores says he won't be forcing UK shoppers to wear masks. In his defence, he can refuse entry, but he can't personally demand you wear a mask, partly because he isn't allowed to ask about your disability status. Sadly a lot of people in the UK have the disability that they're arrogant and self-serving, so it'll be very hard for anyone who is especially vulnerable to go shopping safely.  

I now have Deja Vu from January 2020, because I've been tracking down information on the 'first few cases'. The Hong Kong/Chinese authorities didn't disappoint...
The first patient arrived in Hong Kong from South Africa, via Qatar, on November 11th. Double vaccinated with Pfizer BioNTech (Comirnaty) in May and June. He tested negative on arrival, and had a mandatory quarantine, where he tested positive on Day 4. He was asymptomatic, and his viral load (amount of virus he was breathing out) was very high.
On Day 8 the guy across the corridor in the quarantine hotel tested positive. He was double vaccinated at a similar time to patient 1, and he also had a very high viral load.
Hong Kong still hospitalises everyone with COVID, and so the researchers have been able to get in and study their hotel rooms. They took 87 environmental samples (they wipe down desk tops, handles, switches etc) and 25 tested positive for COVID. That's a lot of COVID in a room.
Obviously the quarantine hotel have panicked a bit, and they've reviewed how they do things, and barred any masks with an exhale valve. Safe to say though that initial evidence, from just these 2 people, is another tick for theories that Omicron is substantially more catchy - but isn't yet showing any signs of being more dangerous.
It really does make vaccine passports for travel a bit useless though... 

Hoax Of The Day:
Omicron B is an anagram of 'no Crimbo'. Technically correct, but there is no Omicron B.
Omicron is from the Pango lineage and the family name assigned to its heritage is B.1.1.529, but there is no Omicron B.
If conspiracy theorists are having Omicron B so they can create an anagram of No Crimbo, I'm having Omicron Betelgeuse Nag A Ram - which is an anagram of "just wear a ruddy mask and stop being a dick". 

Lisbon football club Belenenses SAD in Portugal have got an Omicron COVID nightmare, after a player recently returned from a trip to South Africa.
The match on Saturday began with only 9 players on the pitch because the rest were self-isolating, and by the end of half time another 2 had gone, and it was abandoned shortly afterwards.
A whopping 13 players and staff have now tested positive for Omicron Variant, and everyone else is isolating. Good news is that only a handful have mild symptoms and the rest are asymptomatic.  

PaulChuckle2 status 1464672173600251905 Twitter

Paul Chuckle's '2 Metre U' face mask is available from 'PaulChucklesShop' on Etsy. Sadly I do not earn a commission, but Paul does, and he invented the phrase and has his own face on the mask - and he's a truly nice guy.

No numbers today because by crikey it's long already. I'm not going back to doing daily reports though! Noooooooo. I shall be back Friday unless something spectacular happens.

Stay sensible.


















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UK changes image - https://twitter.com/UKHSA/status/1465350078680473609













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