Friday 10 December 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update December 8th / 9th /10th 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 8th / 9th /10th December 2021

UK Daily Statistics:
Cases: 10,719,165 (+58,194 - that's really high folks)
In Hospital Thursday 9th: 7,413
Using A Ventilator Thursday 9th: 900
Losses of Life: 146,255 (+120)
Tests: 1,326,438
Vaccinations 1st Dose: 51,207,496 (89% of age 12+)
Vaccinations 2nd Dose: 46,674,061 (81.2%)
Booster/3rd Dose: 22,184,983 (38.6%)

Area:  Cases / Rate per 100,000 population
Wales: 16,461 / 519.3
Scotland: 19,982 / 365.6
Northern Ireland: 12,753 / 672.8
England: 284,902 / 503.8

Rep. Of Ireland: 610,855 cases and 5,788 losses of life (not yet reported today)

World: 269,134,409 reported cases and 5,307,920 losses of life.

indieSAGE Omicron in South Africa hospital admissions by age

“Even though there’s very few cases here now, and it seems like an overreaction, it absolutely is not an overreaction.”
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage)

Plan B for England is mask-wearing in public indoor spaces, work from home when possible and COVID pass use for events. It also includes daily tests for contacts of people who test positive, instead of self-isolation - which hasn't been the ruling for ages unless you're unvaccinated anyway. 

Nicola Sturgeon is concerned about Omicron spoiling Christmas, and has used the infinitely memorable phrase "We may be starting to experience a potential tsunami of infections".
In response, from tomorrow (Saturday), household contacts of anyone who tests positive in Scotland will be required to isolate for 10 days - whatever their vaccination status.
People in Scotland are also being urged to postpone Christmas celebrations, and do lateral flow tests twice weekly.

Leaders from the 4 UK nations have held an emergency COBRA meeting this afternoon to discuss Omicron. I was really worried in case there was another UK Briefing, because I had so much news already today...  

091221 COVID cases by age England

22 million people in the UK have received their COVID-19 booster vaccine or third dose, and a recruitment drive is underway to try and roll out as many more as we can, as quickly as we can.
"People aged 40 and over in England are now able to book their booster a month in advance - two months after their second dose to be vaccinated on the three-month mark. Around 450 military personnel have been drafted in to support deployment, with 1,500 community pharmacy sites, additional hospital hubs, and pop-up sites opening in convenient locations across the country. Extra financial support to GPs, community pharmacies and primary care staff will help boost capacity and encourage more visits to those who are housebound."
I'm going to be honest. My partner and I tried earlier - we couldn't currently book anything useful (we don't have transport, so aren't super keen on travelling 10 miles across Manchester 2 weeks before Christmas). 

Sajid Javid has warned that Omicron COVID infections could reach 1 million by the end of the month - the next 2 1/2 weeks. Remember a tiny percentage of a very big number is still a very big number.
- If for just 1% of those people (10,000) vaccinations are wearing off or didn't take properly, then that could cause a fair average of around 1,400 new COVID patients in hospital - realistically that is likely to be closer to 10x that figure (if vaccinations are still 90% effective), so 14,000 COVID patients.
- Currently 11% of people in the UK aged 12 or over are not vaccinated. 11% of those million people (110,000) would be around 15,400 people in hospital.
- We don't vaccinate children under 12, and a smaller percentage of them will still also end up in hospital.
Once you start adding it up, you can see why overwhelming hospitals is such a worry, and why EVERY BOOSTER COUNTS. 

Rumour is that Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has privately asked for a lockdown between Christmas and New Year.
It's being pointed out that while Downing Street were partying last Christmas, he was staying in his outhouse to be able to work while still protecting his wife's vulnerable mother. Whether you agree with his political policies or not, the man does at least follow his own rules, and clearly has some integrity and compassion for others. 

Nicola asks for vaccine equity Image of Nicola looking stern, and text snippet alongside

Nicola Sturgeon has written to Boris asking for vaccine equity.
“By waiving patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines, countries will be able to make full use of the manufacturing capacity that is available globally. Ensuring equitable access to vaccine supplies is essential to ensuring as many people as possible are protected, as quickly as possible. The exceptional circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic call for all available measures to be used in order to end this crisis.”
Over 100 countries already support a temporary waiver of obligations to protect Intellectual Property for COVID-19 vaccines.
Only around 6.2% of people in low income countries have received a COVID vaccination.
Only 1 in 4 healthcare workers in Africa has been vaccinated.
We're genuinely not safe until we're all safe, and we're really not humane without compassion for others.

This week's UK Health Security Agency COVID19 surveillance report shows:
- case rates are highest in those aged 5 to 9 years old and lowest in over 80s
- case rates are highest in the South East and lowest in Yorkshire and Humber
- the West Midlands has the highest amount of hospital admissions
- hospital admissions are still highest among those aged 85 and older

091221 COVID cases by location England

“I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing No 10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures, and I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules because I was also furious to see that clip.
I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives.
But I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no COVID rules were broken, and that is what I have been repeatedly assured.”
Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister and not a Christmas party host at no.10 Downing Street last December, nope, nope, not at all. Honest, guv... 

The No.10 Downing Street party massive are a wheeze aren't they? Boris' above address to Parliament was a response to a leaked film of Conservative Party employees having a jolly good giggle about last year's illegal Christmas parties during lockdown, and even pretending to do a press conference about it. How we laughed....
No. No we didn't laugh. Someone realised we wouldn't be amused, and Allegra Stratton, star of the fake press briefing has resigned. She was originally employed to do real press briefings in the style of former Trump White House press secretary and one-woman tongue-twister Kayleigh McEnany, but never actually hosted a single one, instead taking on the role of just having a well-paid job.

There are now a whole list of governmental parties "being investigated" - although Cressida Dick of the Metropolitan Police has said they won't be investigated by her. This has infuriated a lot of people, including Metropolitan Police, as they were given stern treatment if found to be breaking lockdown rules - because they were assumed to know better.
Nicola Sturgeon is among those calling for Boris to resign. (They hate each other.)

It's just been reported that No.10 Downing Street has cancelled this year's Christmas party, but I'm not covering that story because I try to keep to stories I actually believe myself. 

091221 COVID hospitalisations by age England

It isn't just UK politicians who think they're above COVID rules - Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin went clubbing despite being a close contact of the Foreign Minister, who had tested positive earlier that day. Finland recommends contacts are tested, and should avoid mixing while waiting for COVID test results. 

The World Health Organisation Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) have been studying Omicron Variant, and say that anyone who is immunocompromised or had an 'inactivated vaccine' should get a 3rd booster jab, as protection is good for 6 months, but then begins to wane - especially in older people.
The inactivated vaccines use a piece of dead actual COVID, and include vaccines from Bharat Biotech (India), and Sinopharm (China)

091221 COVID hospitalisations by location England

So, Omicron... in a lab using blood samples, they can see 'vaccine escape'. Pfizer vaccine didn't do so well after 2 doses, but 3 doses massively boosted protection (about 25 x as many Omicron-fighting antibodies after that 3rd dose). Pretty much back to full levels seen against original wild COVID.
2 doses does still look hopeful to keep most people out of hospital, but obviously the suggestion is you get your 3rd, and as ever, only time can give us real world results.
In the meanwhile, Pfizer are making an Omicron-specific vaccine, which should be ready by March in case we need it, and will simply update current vaccine manufacturing.

A second study from Karolinska Institute, Sweden, has found neutralisation of Omicron was massively varied between samples, with some (give or take) reduced to 1/25th of levels against Delta, but other samples showing NO loss in protection. On average, they found the amount of Omicron neutralised was around 1/7th of that with Delta.
(Bear in mind 1/7th doesn't mean only 1 in 7 effective. Imagine a huge army charging across a battlefield. If you started with loads more soldiers than the opposition, just sending 1/7th of yours to fight could still win it. In some cases 1/1000th could still win it, and you only need a single wizard to catch a snitch.)

Boosters really do seem to be the way forward. Beta COVID has some antibody-escape similarities to Omicron, and a second study out yesterday found that people double jabbed with Pfizer and then given either Pfizer or Johnson&Johnson as a 3rd dose showed impressive protection against Beta Variant - again back to levels seen against wild COVID back a year ago. 

Many many scientists worldwide are trying to estimate how catchy Omicron is, and it's especially tricky because how much is actual "transmissibility" and how much is the "antibody escape" mentioned above.

Professor Alastair Grant of the University of East Anglia is one of the first scientists to brave giving an estimate for Omicron catchiness, or transmissibility - and he estimates 3.47 times as catchy as Delta Variant. This means each person with Omicron will pass it on to around 3 1/2 others for every 1 on average they would have passed Delta on to. Yowch. Again - early days, and educated guesstimates.

The UK HSA are also trying to estimate how catchy Omicron is. Data released today says they estimate you will infect on average 3.2 times as many household contacts, and twice as many other contacts.
"The growth advantage is also visible in the community testing data. The proportion of cases with SGTF (now highly predictive of Omicron) continues to grow rapidly. The estimated growth rate of Omicron based on adjusted SGTF counts is 0.35 per day. If Omicron continues to grow at the present rate, Omicron case numbers are projected to reach parity with Delta cases in mid December."
Erm... that's not exactly a long way off...
"There is currently no evidence of increased reinfection risk at the population level, but preliminary analyses indicate approximately three- to eight-fold increased risk of reinfection with the Omicron variant."
(Maybe time for another yowch...) 

101221 indieSAGE Omicron immunity evasion

Excellent news from Glaxosmithkline, who say their antibody treatment sotrovimab still works against all of the mutations in Omicron Variant, with a relatively small reduction in efficacy (around 1/3 of the levels against wild COVID). This is a not-yet-peer-reviewed test tube study in a lab, but:
"Sotrovimab is the first monoclonal antibody to report preclinical data demonstrating activity against all tested SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and interest to date, including Omicron, as well as the still prevalent and highly contagious Delta variant."

Omicron has actually split into 2 distinct genetic lines - mostly the same, but with enough differences that the they are being given different names on the GitHub COVID family tree website. 

A not-yet-peer-reviewed study has discovered that the COVID virus can get inside our fat cells, and the immune cells which are inside body fat - which could help explain why obesity and being overweight is a very clear risk factor for severe illness, even if you are otherwise young and healthy. 

Hybrid Immunity is a bit of a buzzword right now. It appears from all data we have so far that 'hybrid immunity' might offer a real advantage against Omicron. This is immunity from 2 or more sources - and can be because you caught COVID AND had vaccination, or because you had 2 different vaccines. (A high 5 to anyone who mixed and matched - including most of the UK population.)

Remember r rates - reproductive rates. If it goes over 1, cases are increasing. South Africa's went all the way up to over 4 when Omicron arrived. The good news is it's dropped massively. It is still almost at 2, but it was not up at 4 for long. It could be testing capacity or fluke, and we could be getting excited too early, or it could be true - and cases could be slowing due to luck, prior infection, vaccination or hybrid immunity. We'll know more by this time next week, and we'll also know more about how it's going in the UK. A lot of people might soon be able to let out that breath they’ve been holding... 

101221 indieSAGE Omicron what we know and don't know

"A Zoƫ contributor has told of a super-spreader event in Somerset at a 60th birthday where All guests were vaccinated and some with boosters and had a lateral flow test 24 hours beforehand that was negative. 14/18 developed PCR positive for omicron- but symptoms all mild luckily."
Tim Spector. 

France is now seeing a massive surge in cases among school-aged children, especially those aged 6-10, which currently has an infection rate of almost 1,000 per 100,000 (1 in every 100)

indieSAGE unofficial government advisors believe the UK should take a more cautious approach to Omicron, and protect our population, including our children, while we buy some time to find out more, and get booster jabs in arms. This is a rapidly evolving situation, it was barely even on the radar 2 weeks ago.
Cases are going up in all UK nations, especially in London and the South East - which is where Omicron has been found in greatest numbers. Cases in school-aged children are still going up in all nations (around 1 in 25 children currently have COVID), and so are all other age groups, except in some areas the over 60's.
Hospitalisations are plateauing in England, falling elsewhere. This is still due to Delta - people with Omicron haven't filtered through to hospital yet.
South Africa had a press conference on Omicron this morning. Hospitalisations are highest in people over 60 and children under 5 - which has never happened before in the pandemic. We should be a little concerned about this. We don't know why it's happening, but it doesn't seem to be just because that group are the ones where Omicron is spreading. It does need to be watched, but it is still early days, so no-one panic yet. However indieSAGE believe the UK JCVI should seriously consider authorising vaccination for young children - immediately. 

indieSAGE urge vaccination of younger children Omicron

Austria's lockdown ends on Sunday for fully vaccinated people only. Some measures will remain for everyone, including masks on public transport, shops and in public spaces, and an 11pm curfew for restaurants.

Norway has introduced a 10 person limit on mixing in private houses - it doubles to 20 on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. They have also implemented a 50 person limit on events. 

Still with Norway and some good old real life data. Remember the Oslo Christmas party which has spread Omicron Variant? 60 of the guests have now tested positive, out of 120. That's catchy as a catchy thing, and I don't think I've seen numbers like that ever. The whole world is staring at this story.
All attendees were fully vaccinated and had tested negative on lateral flow before the event....

Famous People With COVID:
8 first team players for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Yowch. 13 players and staff had tested positive by Wednesday teatime.

Random Question Of The Month:
Philip Schofield was a bit scathing to ex UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock on the telly on Tuesday. He asked if he broke COVID rules because he's dyslexic... erm, nope... I think we all understand exactly why he broke COVID rules, in front of a mystery camera that no-one ever knew was there, although the film mysteriously ended up online.
I wouldn't want to be UK Health Secretary either. 

Boris Johnson and present wife Carrie have had another baby together. Her 2nd, his another one. Thank heavens he doesn't have any other commitments that might distract him from having all of these babies... 

How catchy is Omicron

Hoax Of The Day:
It's Jacinda. A hoax image of the New Zealand Prime Minister is being shared on social media which has text along the lines of 'remember to book your Christmas booster for 6 months of freedom' and the tagline "No jab. No job. No refunds." It's really badly photoshopped, and actually was really an election poster which boringly said "Let's Keep Moving"...

On Wednesday it was a year since Margaret Keenan  had the first COVID vaccination in the world outside a trial. We've come a long way...
UK Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup had to pull out of all of her planned celebratory TV interviews because Conservative HQ was too terrified of questions about Christmas parties. 

Do not attempt to rebel against the self-serving arrogance of any Government by refusing to wear a mask, distance or use a COVID pass - that would be the same as rebelling against a parking ticket by driving down the road at 40mph with your eyes shut. It'll mainly harm you, and possibly others, but it won't give the Government a useful message.
If you truly want to rebel, then whatever lacklustre shrug towards protecting the public they offer, just take charge and do it for yourself. You can choose to wear a mask, you can keep your distance from strangers. You can limit your contacts and take a rapid test before you go to see your Nan. You use your own knowledge to do what is best for you, while still looking out for other people. 

It is the weekend! Hurrah! It felt like the busiest week ever here, so the weekend is very welcome yet again. I hope your week hasn't been as manic, but hopefully it has involved some fun. Take some time out for yourself - a couple of hours proper break will recharge your batteries before you start to fuss and panic about being ready for festivities again. If you are fretting about Christmas, join my partner, because we've bought one present so far. Someone has to be the last one in the shop, and it's usually me... I did get 4kg of Sosmix though, so we're good for vegan sausage rolls for the next few months... (priorities).

Wear A Cardi And Open A Window, Don't Lick Strangers, Save The NHS...

Today is Human Rights Day, and the theme is Equality. Something I very strongly believe in. Every single number that is quoted in COVID death statistics is a real human being, who lived somewhere on this planet, and left people behind. All with equal value to the others. 

24 Hours to midnight last night GMT:

World 268,765,324 (+662,892) 5,303,057 (+7,949)

Asia 82,874,134 (+84,304) 1,228,651 (+1,727) 

Europe 77,114,130 (+402,953) 1,451,115 (+4,272)

North America 60,310,080 (+120,820) 1,208,667 (+1,448)

South America 39,160,046 (+19,291) 1,185,464 (+383)

UK 10,660,971 (+50,863) 146,135 (+148) 

Africa 8,922,099 (+33,606) 224,825 (+109) 

Oceania 384,114 (+1,918) 4,320 (+10) 


Linky link to allegra video

Antibodies after booster - - says booster for Omicron

Fat and immune cells

Slides -

Latest number of variants


Latest number of variants

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