Friday 17 December 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 16th / 17th December 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 16th / 17th December 2021

(Vaccination data for England is late today, so totals aren't complete.)

UK Daily Statistics:
Cases: 11,190,354 (+93,045)
In Hospital Yesterday 16th December: 7,611
Using A Ventilator Yesterday 16th December: 875
Losses of Life: 147,048 (+111)
Tests: 1,598,910
Vaccinations 1st Dose: 51,364,110 (89.3% of UK age 16+)
Vaccinations 2nd Dose: 46,886,162 (81.5%)
Boosted: 25,598,784 (44.5%)

Area: Cases / Rate per 100,000 population
Wales: 16,420 / 518
Scotland: 25,791 / 471.8
Northern Ireland: 11,985 / 632.3
England: 315,611 / 558.1

Rep. Of Ireland: 640,548 cases and 5,835 losses of life (not yet reported today).

World: 273,597,144 reported cases and 5,357,220 losses of life.

Wait 28 days after testing positive before you get boosted

"Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant. I need to be very clear: vaccines alone will not get any country out of this crisis.
It’s not vaccines instead of masks, distancing, ventilation or hand hygiene.
Do it all. Do it consistently. Do it well."
Dr Tedros, World Health Organisation

And indeed attached is a graph from Theo Sanderson of The Crick Institute, showing Delta and Omicron infections in London. It is exactly as Chris Whitty explained at the briefing on Wednesday - the UK has 2 distinct infections running alongside each other. Delta numbers staying fairly flat, and Omicron has caught up and sped past. 

171221 Omicron in London cases by date and variant

"It may feel like 2020 all over again, but your PERSONAL RISK if you are vaccinated and boostered is a LOT lower than it was then. Omicron presents a SOCIETAL RISK because it makes up for that by infecting many more people at once.."
Kai Kupferschmidt, German Scientist and Journalist. He is reminding us that the biggest risk for the vast majority of us is that the hospitals become overwhelmed.

Hospital admissions in London are up 42% on last week. And so it begins...

"The domestic NHS COVID Pass has been updated in the NHS App. Remember to renew your domestic COVID Pass if you have an offline copy saved before using it at venues in England and Wales."

In the UK the current R value for Delta is between 1.1 and 1.2, and the current R value for Omicron is between 3 and 5. So.... yeah.... yowch...
Doubling time is still at less than 2 days, and we are reaching the limits of testing capability - sorry chaps.  Although testing is being "ramped up", as announced on Tuesday, PCR testing will NOT be able to keep up, and genetic sequencing has no chance. Get ready for guesstimates and 'estimates based on adjusted averages'.

Northern Ireland is having a nightmare. Case numbers there have also grown wings and are reaching heights we haven't seen before. I apologise sincerely for thinking you guys were going to be in an improving situation this week. Tragically not. 

Republic Of Ireland has announced an 8pm curfew for hospitality venues and a 50% limit on event capacity from Sunday 19th December until the end of January. 

Nicola Sturgeon has asked Scottish residents to "please stay at home much more than you normally would".
She warned yesterday that 45.4% of cases were suspected Omicron, and it would become the dominant strain by today - and that has proven true.
She is asking Boris to reintroduce support while we have to implement stronger measures. 

From 27th December in WALES:
- Nightclubs will close.
- Social distancing measures will be implemented, including physical distancing, barriers, one-way traffic etc.

171221  Weekly case rates england by age

Latest UK Health Security Agency COVID surveillance (to 12th December) shows:
- case rates are highest in those aged 5 to 9 years old and lowest in over 80s.
- case rates are highest in London and lowest in Yorkshire and Humber
- the East of England has the highest amount of hospital admissions this week
- hospital admissions are still highest among those aged 85 and older

From tomorrow morning France really tightens restrictions on travellers from the UK. We had to expect this would happen - and I assure you they won't be the last. If you are considering going to any other country then take that decision seriously, because you may end up in very expensive quarantine without any warning.
"We will limit the reasons for coming to France from the UK, it will be limited to French nationals and residents and their families. Tourism or business trips for people who do not have French or European nationality or are residents will be limited."
(Basically holidaymakers are not welcome.) Travellers who are allowed entry will also have to provide a negative test result that is less than 24 hours old, and isolate for 7 days after arrival unless they provide a negative day 2 test. Hauliers are exempt. 

Chris Whitty, England's Chief Medical Officer, was asked if the NHS was wrong to prioritise COVID and Omicron over other things, such as Cancer. He replied:
"This is sometimes said by people who have no understanding of health at all, but I don't think it's said by anyone who's serious, if I'm honest ... and when they say it, it's usually because they want to make a political point.
The reality is if you ask any doctor, working in any part of the system, they will say this - that what is threatening our ability to do cancer, what is affecting our ability to do any of these things, is the fact that so much of the NHS effort, so many of the beds, are having to be put over to COVID, and that we're having to work in a less efficient way because COVID is there....the idea that lockdowns cause the problems with things like cancer is a complete inversion of reality. If we had not had the lockdowns, the whole system would have been in deep, deep trouble... "
Addressing that very clearly. I think if we were in any doubt, we understand now. 

UK hospitality is seeing cancellations in their droves! Harsh. They have struggled so much, if you have booked an evening out or a meal - you owe it to them to turn up, or else pay anyway. They are begging for help from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who was "working" at one of his properties in California, and will fly back to the UK today. Yes, really...
(Maybe he was thinking if he hid out, when he looked again it'd all be over.)

171221  Weekly case rates england by region

There was a study released this afternoon by University of Washington looking at how effective vaccines are against Omicron Variant, and it really isn't very positive. Johnson & Johnson (Janssen),  China's Sinopharm and Russia's Sputnik V shot basically had no neutralizing activity against the Omicron variant. AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna were greatly reduced.
This isn't yet peer-reviewed, but definitely not the results anyone wanted...  Monoclonal antibody treatments by Regeneron and Eli Lilly also lost neutralising ability.
VERY importantly, this is in a lab, it doesn't cover all types of immunity, nor does it tell us about reduction in serious illness or death. Real world studies will give us far more... we need time. We have to wait.
The study – conducted by Humabs Biomed SA, a unit of Vir Biotechnology (VIR.O), and the University of Washington, among others – compared the activity of some widely-used COVID-19 vaccines and treatments against Omicron and against the original virus strain first detected in China.

Lost Their Fight:
Cornish stand-up comedian and singer, Jethro (aka Geoffrey Rowe)

Luxury Cruise News:
A Sydney harbour cruise of 140 people on 3rd December has caused an outbreak which has had disastrous consequences. 4 of the people on the cruise later went clubbing at Argyle House nightclub, and a massive 84 people have tested positive since then (last count I can find). Health officials have stated “a number of these cases are likely to be the Omicron variant". (Ya reckon?)

We've got some even more incredibly clear information on Omicron superspreading - and it's as bad as you thought. Here are 2 studies from Eurosurveillance dot org - from events in Norway and Denmark:
Norway company Christmas party on 26th Nov - 111 attending employees responded. One employee returned from South Africa 24th Nov. 96% were fully vaccinated, all had negative test within 48 hours. It has resulted in one case of Delta, and 81 cases of Omicron. 80/81 Omicron had symptoms, but none were hospitalised by 13th December. The remaining 29 attendees did not have a positive PCR result by 13th December.
Denmark seasonal gathering with 150 participants - 71 (47%) of the participants got infected. Omicron was introduced by a person who had recently returned from South Africa. It was further transmitted to 3 secondary schools and a concert with around 2,000 attendees.
We may have an important clue here from Norway -  "Assuming attendees were infected at the party, we observed a median incubation period of 3 days, which is short compared with previous reports for Delta and other previously circulating non-Delta SARS-CoV-2 (4.3 and 5.0 days, respectively)."
Another way that Omicron is fast... really fast.... 

How about some good news? The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu Province in October – the second in 2021 – was yesterday declared over.
Ebola can kill up to 80% of people who catch it, it's a lot sneakier than COVID, and this is thought to have been a resurgence from the 2018-2020 outbreak. 

171221  Weekly hospitalisations england by age

We have a really interesting new (not-yet-peer-reviewed) lab study which may in other ways help explain the faster spread of Omicron. In a lab Omicron infects & multiplies in human bronchus tissue around 70x faster than the Delta variant and the original wild COVID. That's pretty spectacular if it translates to real life in any way similarly. However it was 1/10th slower to grow in lung tissue. If we do have more mild cases of Omicron, could that be part of why?

South Africa is still reporting really high numbers of new daily cases. Their outbreak is not over, despite what you might read in the papers. They had a reporting lag which meant 37,875 cases were reported on 12th, but there were 24,785 yesterday, which is still one of the 10 highest days ever. The fat lady is not singing yet.
We also have more data on hospitalisations in South Africa, and please ALWAYS REMEMBER THE UK IS VERY DIFFERENT TO SOUTH AFRICA, but...  “Only 1.7% of identified Covid-19 cases were admitted to hospital in the second week of infections in the fourth wave, compared with 19% in the same week of the third delta-driven wave.”
Now, 19% is high, the UK are on around 5% nowadays (we started around 17%), but 1.7% is flipping great - we'd definitely take that!! It could be due to all kinds of factors beyond our control, we have no choice but to wait and see. Fingers crossed eh... 

The Zoe Symptom study says Omicron's top five symptoms are:
- runny nose
- headache
- fatigue
- sneezing
- sore throat
Well that'll be easy to spot then won't it... ermm not. Common Winter cold symptoms, which probably about 50% of us would have on any given December day. (Apparently the headaches can be long-lasting and pretty gruelling - paracetamol and rest really do help.) 

Just to keep everyone on their toes... during a Science and Technology Committee panel, Dr Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, told MPs 'I think the lab origin is more likely than a natural origin at this point' in response to the question of the origin of COVID-19

171221 COVID actuary hospital admissions

MP and initiator of the campaign to have a portrait of The Queen in every building which wanted one, Joy Morrissey, made a bizarre and seemingly random online attack on England's Chief Medical Officer Chris 'Never Blinks' Whitty. It was swiftly deleted. She referred to the fact Boris Johnson said in the UK briefing that we aren't cancelling events, while Chris suggested we should scale back and prioritise:
"Perhaps the unelected covid public health spokesperson should defer to what our ELECTED Members of Parliament and the Prime Minister have decided.
I know it’s difficult to remember but that’s how democracy works. This is not a public health socialist state.”
Erm... Chris really isn't in charge, and he gives out non-political advice... Bit Mr Angry there Joy, you okay?
The Prime Minister's spokesman said they did not agree with Joy's stance, and told media:
“Professor Whitty is a hugely respected and trusted public servant who provides independent evidence-based advice. He himself has been clear he provides advice and it’s rightly for ministers and elected politicians to decide. He has been a hugely trusted and valued part of our pandemic response, and continues to be so.”
Yowch. Mince pie Joy?

The Queen is going with Chris Whitty, not Boris Johnson, and has cancelled her early Christmas gathering with extended family.
Prioritising... she is 95 years old, and unsurprisingly actually incredibly wise. 

COVID Omicron emergency get boosted

Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the USA - lots of places are in the same position as we are, or heading there fast - with a massive wave of Omicron pouring towards us. Yes it's scary, but don't overdo it. We as individuals can limit our own risk, we can limit the risk we pose to other people.
We can be sensible, wear masks, keep our distance, prioritise our mixing. Do lateral flow tests every few days and before you go somewhere different or mix with anyone vulnerable.
Get boosted, get jabbed. Batten down, keep your head down, no running on stairs with scissors, and for most of us this will wash overhead. And even if it catches us, we will mostly be fine.
Really our job is to try and make it easier for everyone else out there who isn't so lucky, or so sensible. We have healthy 20 year olds who have had 3 doses of vaccine, and pensioners who haven't had any. The gap in level of personal risk is getting wider and wider, and Omicron is travelling so fast, it will find those vulnerable people.
We're back to being heroes for sitting on our sofa at home. And don't "pah" that, it really is the truth. 

We can do this. We've come a long way, we know how it works, and we've learnt a lot. Look out for yourself, and everyone else. Don't take risks that aren't worth it. No licking strangers, no getting drunk and making friends with everyone in the pub. Open the windows, wash your hands, wear a mask on the bus. Don't let fear spoil your life, but always remember you aren't bombproof, and make those simple changes that leave you so much safer...

Have Fun Guys, But Prioritise, Save The NHS...

Some numbers. Every 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):

UK 11,190,354 (+93,045) 147,048 (+111) 

Germany 6,745,079 (+35,861) 108,482 (+328)

Italy 5,336,795 (+28,632) 135,421 (+120)

Russia 10,159,389 (+27,743) 295,104 (+1,080)

South Africa 3,276,529 (+20,713) 90,297 (+35)

Poland 3,923,472 (+20,027) 90,872 (+566)

Turkey 9,136,565 (+18,141) 80,053 (+190)

Netherlands 2,952,128 (+15,367) 20,370 (+60)

Vietnam 1,508,473 (+15,236) 29,103 (+246)

Denmark 600,468 (+11,194) 3,054 (+3)

USA 51,446,416 +10,764824,637 +117

Belgium 1,990,160 (+10,040) 27,763 (+34)

Czechia 2,388,253 (+9,488) 35,046 (+45)

Ukraine 3,597,046 (+8,899) 92,641 (+328)

S. Korea 551,551 (+7,434) 4,591 (+73)

Canada 1,864,891 (+6,892) 30,024 (+12)

Switzerland 1,169,968 (+5,397) 11,951 (+8)





"Nicola Sturgeon urges Scottish residents to 'stay at home much more than you normally would'"

"France to ban Brits from this weekend as Omicron rips through UK"

Germany Omicron

"Queen cancels Royal Family Christmas plans"



Vaccination efficacy Omicron:

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