Thursday 23 December 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 22nd /23rd December 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 22nd /23rd December 2021

(Due to a technical issue, testing totals are not complete.)

UK Daily Statistics:
Cases: 11,769,921 (+119,789)
In Hospital Yesterday 22nd December: 8,216 (Up from 7,611 on 16th December - an extra 100 ish patients a day average)
Using A Ventilator Yesterday 22nd December: 842 (fairly level still)
Losses of Life: 147,720 (+147)
Tests: 1,577,020
Vaccinations 1st Dose: 51,617,091 (89.8% of UK age 12+)
Vaccinations 2nd Dose: 47,210,053 (82.1%)
Booster / 3rd Dose: 31,684,926 (55.1%)

Area: Cases / Rate per 100,000 population
Wales: 21,232 / 669.9
Scotland: 38,662 / 707.3
Northern Ireland: 13,976 / 737.3
England: 517,580 / 915.3

Rep. Of Ireland: 680,375 (+7,411) cases and 5,890 losses of life

World: 277,891,348 reported cases and 5,397,228 losses of life

If you need medical attention over Christmas and it's not an emergency, try your GP surgery or 111

"2022 must be the year that we end this pandemic."
Dr Tedros, The World Health Organisation. 

No prizes for noticing the UK case rates are eye-wateringly high... and on the increase.

Wales will have stronger 'Alert Level 2' measures than previously announced. From 6am Boxing Day:
- social distancing returns to public spaces.
- the 'Rule of 6' returns in cinemas, theatres and hospitality. No more than 6 people may mix.
- all events and parties have a maximum 30 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
- nightclubs must close.
- no spectators for sports fixtures, with a newly-announced exemption for grassroots and children's sport, which can have up to 50 spectators.

And Scotland has tweaked their measures too. Night clubs will now close for 3 weeks from 27th December, unless they wish to try and open 'as a bar' with table service and 1m distance between groups.
Scottish people have already been asked to stay at home more than they usually would, and limit gatherings to people from 3 households.

ONS random sampling figures suggest a truly staggering 1.4m people in the UK actually had COVID over the week ending 16th December - that's 1 in every 49 people with COVID at once - and heaven knows how high that figure was over the last 7 days, but it's no wonder everyone seems to be testing positive.
In some London boroughs, 1 in every 40 people tested positive for COVID last week, with case rates waaaay more than doubling. Lambeth, Wandsworth, Hackney and the City, Southwark and Hammersmith and Fulham currently have the most infected people per head in the UK.
Welcome to exponential growth...and hold tight because a small percentage of those astoundingly huge numbers of people will need hospital care over the coming weeks... 

231221 London cases by age

Big news regarding vaccinating children in the UK, as the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) have approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in children aged 5-11 in the UK. This age group get a 1/3rd size dose.
Also yesterday, advisory agency the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) decided against recommending the Pfizer COVID vaccination for all 5 to 11 year olds, but they do however recommend 2 doses for children who are especially vulnerable or immunosuppressed, or live with someone who is.
Separately, the JCVI advised that booster vaccinations should be offered to:
- all 16 and 17 year olds
- 12 to 15 year olds who are in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of someone (of any age) who is immunosuppressed
- 12 to 15 years who are severely immunocompromised and who have had a third primary dose

In England the self-isolation period if you have a positive COVID test has been cut from 10 days to just 7. In most of the world it has always been 14 days, so the UK were always a little shorter than average on this.
(I know Omicron looks quicker moving, but I hope they have done the maths on this one.)
You have to get 2 negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on days 6 and 7, and then you're good to run free in the community.
I can't see this going entirely well - and it does smell a little bit like another herd immunity strategy...

My daughter still had a positive test result on day 7, so the full 10 days self-isolating for her. She also still had symptoms (a temperature and bunged up nose), so again had to continue to self-isolate until the end of Day 10 (which is today - huzzah!). 

231221 UK hospital admissions

After talking about monoclonal antibody treatments last report, on Tuesday night hospitals in New York said they had completely run out of antibody treatments for Omicron COVID.
This is catastrophic, because it means people will die. People who could have been spared serious illness, time in hospital and losing their lives.
New supplies are due in January.
I really hope there are no supplies sitting on shelves anywhere in the world.

The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have approved the first home use pill treatment which helps prevent serious illness.
Pfizer's Paxlovid pill is available by prescription for people with a positive test, and must be taken during the first 5 days of symptoms, before patients have a chance to become ill. In high risk adults it was shown to reduce chance of severe illness or death by 88-89%, so this is a really useful drug. 

And as if by magic, the UK has signed deals for another 1.75m courses of Merck's Molnupiravir (Lagevrio), and 2.5m courses of Pfizer's Ritonavir (Paxlovid) - these are both antivirals which should help prevent serious illness, and they're both expected to be effective against Omicron.
France had orders for Molnupiravir, which it has cancelled and replaced with orders for Pfizer's Paxlovid - home use really is proving a popular idea... 

The UK Government latest totals show we have admitted 300 people with  confirmed and suspected cases of Omicron to hospital, and 24 patients have succumbed. 

231221 Omicron daily update case numbers suspected cases hospitalisations and deaths

The latest tally in the USA estimates that 167,000 children, 1 in every 450, have lost a caregiver to COVID, and this is nowhere near the number of children orphaned in Peru, or Ecuadorian children who have lost family members they lived with.
Loss of carers and loved ones will have a lasting effect in every country where COVID has run amok. The UK has lost 1 in every 463 people to COVID in just 2 years, and they will all have people who will miss them.
It will be up to all of us to look after those who are left behind. 

German ICUs are very much under pressure and Omicron cases are doubling every 2-3 days, so Germany's equivalent of the CDC, the Robert Koch Institute, gave strong advice regarding slowing transmission. Recommendations which are expected to be implemented on 28th December include:
- everyone wears masks indoors, and outdoors if 1.5 m distancing isn't possible (including schools)
- bars, clubs, restaurants (hospitality) takeaway only
- pause indoor sports
- cancel large events
- extend school holidays
- remote university tuition
- reduce travel to a minimum
- accelerate vaccinations

Israel have announced, and indeed begun, 4th jabs for people over the age of 60, those with weakened immune systems and medical workers.
Rumour is that the UK Government are considering it... 

"Official UKHSA data shows that within 14 days of a booster vaccination, your protection against the Omicron variant of Covid increases by as much as 70%.
That's why we're asking parents, school & college staff to GetBoostedNow in time for the new term."
UK Department for Education.

Teachers and parents get booster ready for the new year

Chris Whitty and the Chief Medical Officers of the 3 devolved UK nations have written to all healthcare and wider NHS staff to thank them for their work in 2021. A huge and genuine thank you from me too, and I think a few other people might just feel the same... 

Portugal have imposed restrictions. Nightclubs and bars must close, and everyone should work from home if they can from 26th December until at least 9th January.
Negative tests are essential for hotel stays, and outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people - including on New Year's Eve. 

Thailand only resumed quarantine-free travel a couple of months ago, and they've stopped it again... 

Proportion of age cohort unvaccinated and hospiotalised

Right.... the big news today is that we have several sets of data on Omicron, and spoiler - it's good!! It is all early, it is not yet checked over (peer-reviewed) and it uses small numbers, so is very likely to be a bit out, but it's good... 

A South African study found the odds of being admitted to hospital after testing positive were 80% less with Omicron compared to the previous Delta Variant. Odds of developing severe disease were reduced by around 70%.
The study authors note that previous infections are going to have an effect - around 70% of the South African population has already had COVID at least once:
"It is difficult to disentangle the relative contribution of high levels of previous population immunity versus intrinsic lower virulence to the observed lower disease severity.“
Whether previous immunity or milder illness, it's great news for the South African population, and hopeful for all of us, definitely. (And it really does look like South Africa may already have peaked... but don't say that out loud..)

That data is backed up by more early study results from Scotland, who put it so simply in the report that anyone could understand it:
"...if Omicron behaved the same as Delta, they would expect around 47 people to have been admitted to hospital already. At the moment there are only 15."
Now these are tiny numbers, so every person makes a big difference, and randomness will occur. There are also no high-risk older patients included, but it's still looking hopeful. A "good news story", as Dr Jim McMenamin, the national Covid-19 incident director at Public Health Scotland, is quoted as saying. 

Thirdly we have some amazingly clean and clear data from New South Wales in Australia. They have hardly any prior infection, less than 3%, so all protection is via vaccinations and what we see isn't confused and jumbled. It's Summer there and they are more spread out population, but in many ways are much more similar to the UK, and had around 90% eligible population double vaccinated when Omicron arrived.
They've found hospital admissions are less than half that of Delta - and Delta had already dropped massively because of vaccinations, so clearly vaccinations are still doing their bit.
Delta hospitalisations before vaccinations - 12.5%
Delta hospitalisations with 2 dose vaccinations early December - 6.9%
Omicron becoming main variant hospitalisations late December - 3.6%
This is truly excellent news.
This is early data, not yet peer-reviewed, not entirely identical to the UK, fairly small sample size and no guarantees, but I think its worth a 'Happy Christmas'.

And finally in the "Omicron Early Data" goodie bag we have figures from England and Imperial College, London. They found people with confirmed Omicron are 15 to 20% less likely to need admission to hospital, and 40 to 45% less likely to stay in hospital overnight.
That's truly marvellous. I'm going with a "whoot"!

And breathe...Omicron developed entirely separately from Delta, which is around twice as deadly as original wild COVID. Omicron is the distant cousin who turned up late to the party and took over.
If we admit to hospital half the people we would with Delta, and we save many lives already with our COVID treatments and drugs, we will still lose a substantial number of people before their time, but it could have been so, so much worse. It is my guess that the UK Government will see this as a green light to go ahead with their never-ending herd immunity strategy. Don't let this get you down, nothing changed, I just said it aloud is all. They were doing it anyway, now they'll just be a bit more blatant and cocky.

COVID actuaries 231221 hospital admissions up 15% in one week on average. 49% in London 26% in NW

The rather gorgeous four-star The Bristol Hotel (in Bristol) is going to become the site of new NHS 'care facility' for up to 30 COVID patients, to try and free up hospital beds. Nice... 

If you had planned to do something and it's no longer happening because of Omicron, you are not alone. London, Edinburgh, Paris, Rio De Janeiro and Los Angeles have all cancelled their in-person New Year's celebrations.
How lucky we are to have phones, TV, the Internet, and Skype, Zoom, Facebook etc. Our modern world is really not designed for preventing spread of disease, but at least we can be entertained, and we can all stay in touch... 

"As we end one year & start another, remember that we will get through this
These last two years have been beyond difficult. As we enter the third year of the COVID19 pandemic, we need to grieve, fight like hell to end this & stick together
We can end the pandemic in 2022."
Maria Van Kerkhove, World Health Organisation.
She's not wrong, we can! And we can do this. We've already proven we are stronger than we think.

booster coverage across europe december 2021

Christmas is an incredibly hard time for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons. Yet again we may not be able to see loved ones, we may not be able to hug people we long to hug. A lot of us will have an empty chair at the table. It may not be non-stop fun, and being in a crowd can be a very lonely place.
Whatever you are doing and wherever you are in the world, you never need to face it on your own if you don't want to. There are always people out there to talk to. There are always people out there who understand. Don't be afraid to reach out, never be shy about asking for help. We can all do this, but we can only do it together. We are all people.

I'll now be taking a few days off. Happy Christmas to you, and those you care for. Treat yourself, because by crikey you earned it. Allow yourself to indulge and enjoy, make smiles, relax, put stress to one side and focus on what really matters - just get the important bits in place, and you can create your own glitter as you go along.

Open That Window, Prioritise Contacts, Save The NHS.

Have a Very Merry Christmas...

Some numbers. They are all people:

Countries / Cases / Losses of life YESTERDAY until midnight GMT:

USA 52,510,978 (+232,383) 833,029 (+1,634)

UK 11,647,473 (+106,122) 147,573 (+140)

France 8,798,028 (+84,272) 122,116 (+170)

Spain 5,645,095 (+60,041) 88,937 (+50)

Germany 6,915,353 (+45,858)110,234 (+475)

Italy 5,472,459 (+36,283) 136,092 (+133)

Russia 10,292,983 (+25,264) 300,269 (+1,020)

South Africa 3,353,106 (+21,098) 90,587 (+99)

Turkey 9,228,835 (+19,095) 80,957 (+179)

Poland 4,000,264 (+18,015) 92,829 (+775)

Vietnam 1,588,335 (+16,555) 30,251 (+210)

Canada 1,924,261 (+14,986) 30,113 (+28)

Netherlands 3,014,805 (+13,344) 20,581 (+47)

Denmark 653,268 (+12,855) 3,158 (+14)

Czechia 2,427,526 (+11,831) 35,545 (+76)

Argentina 5,415,501 (+11,121) 116,964 (+11)

Switzerland 1,215,127 (+10,582) 12,085 (+13)

Portugal 1,242,545 (+8,937) 18,823 (+11)





Is it less deadly? Is it a faster illness and recovery? Is there less pneumonia? Do we breathe out many times more virus? Are more kids going to be ill? Will we have masses of superspreader events? Will hybrid immunity from different vaccines or vaccination plus infection prove really protective? These things all look plausible, but there's just no proof of anything.

Image -

London 1in40:


Thank you and Happy Christmas to the COVID actuaries:

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