Friday 31 December 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 29th / 30th / 31st December 2021

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 29th / 30th / 31st December 2021

UK Daily Statistics:
Cases: 12,937,886 (+189,846)
In Hospital on Wednesday 29th Dec: 11,918
Using A Ventilator on Wednesday: 868
Losses of Life: 148,624 (+203)
Tests: 1,507,040
Vaccinations 1st Dose: 51,771,384 (90% of UK aged 12+)
Vaccinations 2nd Dose: 47,412,181 (82.4%)
Boosted: 33,924,738 (59%)

Area: Cases last 7 days / Rate per 100,000 population
Wales: 40,266 / 1,270.4
Scotland: 60,071 / 1,099
Northern Ireland: 26,014 / 1,372.4
England: 714,700 / 1,263.8

Rep. Of Ireland: 788,559 (+20,110) cases and 5,912 losses of life.

World: 287,555,450 reported cases and 5,449,799 losses of life.

World Health Organisation Celebrate safely

"As expected, T cell immunity holding up better against Omicron. This will protect us against severe disease. Please get vaccinated if you haven't!"
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation. 

Yes indeed it's true - although I think by now we're beginning to believe what we can see with our own eyes. A not-yet-peer-reviewed lab study from South Africa has concluded that T cell immunity from previous COVID infections and vaccinations is very strong against Omicron, because so much of this variant is still the same as previous variants, and T cells don't need as precise a match as antibodies do.
Professor Wendy Burgers from the University of Cape Town is a great explainer:
"While antibodies block infection, T cells come in and kill infected cells, preventing the virus from growing & spreading more & causing worse disease
They can't prevent you from getting infected, but they can minimise the damage that comes afterwards.."
(And that explains why virtually everyone I know who is catching Omicron has nasty cold symptoms, but isn't becoming very ill.) 

3 out of every 4 of eligible UK adults have had a booster

Please PLEASE bear in mind that all the daily reported figures we are seeing at the moment include backdated and delayed data because of Christmas. It won't settle down until a few days into the New Year.  Of course we are seeing record numbers, but we are also seeing days with artificially low figures. Despite overall higher figures because of Omicron, you need to smooth it out to find something more like the truth.

Boris addressed the nation on Wednesday via the power of a handout-to-media video clip. He very firmly put the responsibility for being sensible on YOUR shoulders. So remember, if you catch COVID and become very ill, it's your own fault, not his.
He also reiterated the huge number of booster jab appointments that are available over the next few days, and the fact that "90% of people in intensive care haven't been boosted".
2.4m more people are eligible to book their boosters at the moment.
“I think everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way.
Take a test, ventilation, think about others... but above all, get a booster.”

We have some new Omicron data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and it's good... it really is actually. And 2 jabs is looking even more effective in real life than it looked in a lab/early data. 2 jabs plus booster does give that extra edge though:
"One dose of any vaccine was associated with a 35% reduced risk of hospitalisation among symptomatic cases with the Omicron variant, 2 doses with a 67% reduction up to 24 weeks after the second dose and a 51% reduced risk 25 or more weeks after the second dose. A third dose was associated with a 68% (95% confidence interval 52 to 82%) reduced risk of hospitalisation when compared to similar unvaccinated individuals. When the reduced risk of hospitalisation was combined with vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease, the vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation was estimated as 52% after one dose, 72% 2 to 24 weeks after dose 2, 52% 25+ weeks after dose 2 and 88% 2 weeks after a booster dose."

311221 daily stats

Nicola has been getting even more stern with the people of Scotland. She has asked everyone to stay home and:
"Reduce your contact as much as possible, even over Hogmanay."
She also had a special reminder that masks should cover both your mouth and your nose... yes chin people, you know who you are...

Just as England did last week, Wales will be dropping isolation for positive cases to 7 days - as long as you get negative test results at least 24 hours apart on days 6 and 7.

The UK regulator, the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency) have approved Pfizer's Paxlovid antiviral pill. We approved Merck's Molnupiravir antiviral in November.
Paxlovid can be taken at home, and is especially suitable for very high risk people who have only just tested positive - and it should be incredibly helpful at preventing severe illness developing. Fingers crossed. 

311221 COVID actuaries hospital bed use

In a last minute entry the NHS has come up with the winner of "worst tagline 2021". It is Christmas, season of the cracker joke, but they've gone too far.
"Have a Jabby New Year."....
However - they do have lots of appointments and people have given up their holidays for this, so the least you can do is bob out and get stabbed.

The UK Government are also reminding everyone over age 12 that the invitation to get vaccinated is always going to be open to you.
(Come on people, it's neck and neck and if they fill the hospitals they'll look like idiots and will have failed very badly in front of the entire world - they need to keep you well enough to stay at home... ) 

England's shortage of COVID tests and over a million infected people isn't making for a great combination. Demand for lateral flow and PCR tests is massively outstripping availability. Wales have lent us another 4m tests, so that's 10m in total, and the Government are desperately trying to procure as many as possible from abroad. This is a situation which will resolve itself one way or another, but it'll leave a lot of us wondering, and in danger of infecting vulnerable people without knowing it. It'll also cause havoc for people who want to go out and aren't vaccinated... NHS bosses are warning it will have a massive impact and tests should be prioritised for NHS workers or they'll risk not having the staff to carry on.  

311221 Infection Survey chart showing Delta and  Omicron

And in fact, how many people had COVID last week in the UK? Take a guess... The ONS (Office for National Statistics) random sampling has the best true estimate. And this really needs a drum roll.... 2.3 million.
(And that'll be higher this week. Almost every household I know seems to have someone with COVID right now... )
- In England the estimate is 2,024,700 people had coronavirus in the week ending 23 December, equating to around 1 in 25 people.
- In Wales, 76,500 people, equating to around 1 in 40.
- In Northern Ireland, 47,500 people, equating to around 1 in 40.
- In Scotland, 135,400 people, equating to around 1 in 40.
- "In England, COVID-19 infections increased across all age groups and were highest among those aged two years to school Year 6 and those aged 25 to 34 years; the high infections for those aged two years to school Year 6 are more likely to be compatible with the Delta variant, whereas the high infections for those aged 25 to 34 years are more likely to be compatible with the Omicron variant."
- COVID-19 infections increased across all regions of England, with the highest infection levels seen in London (1 in 15) and the lowest in the North East of England (1 in 45).
- Omicron is now the most common variant in England and Scotland.

Don't say it out loud, but infections are slowing slightly in London. We do have holidays and people have gone home for Christmas, and we're out of tests, but shush! It's not bad news anyway...

Southern Rail has cancelled all trains to and from London Victoria for 2 weeks due to staffing shortages.

"The NHS is setting up new Nightingale surge hubs at hospitals across the country as part of preparations for a potential wave of Omicron admissions.
Temporary structures capable of housing around 100 patients will be erected in the grounds of eight hospitals across the country, with work starting as early as this week."
And how will they be staffed?
"Placing the new Nightingale facilities in hospital grounds will make it easier to flex staff and equipment if there is a surge in admissions, providing access to diagnostics and emergency care if required."
"NHS trusts have also been asked to identify areas such as gyms and education centres that can be converted to accommodate patients and more Nightingale sites could be added to create up to 4,000 “super surge” beds across the country.
The move comes as hospitals are using hotels, hospices and care homes to safely discharge as many people who are medically fit to leave as possible."
Well, that sounds great, and really they have all those people who stepped up to be NHS volunteers last year, so they can call on them?
NHS National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Given the high level of COVID-19 infections and increasing hospital admissions, the NHS is now on a war footing."
Fingers crossed we don't ever need our new hubs... that'll be a sign of real success. The first eight will be at the following hospitals:
North West – Royal Preston
North East and Yorkshire – Leeds, St James’ site
Midlands – Solihull Hospital and Leicester General Hospital
East of England – Lister Hospital, Stevenage
London – St George’s
South East – William Harvey Hospital, Ashford
South West – North Bristol

311221 COVID actuaries hospitalisations compared to modelling

And the bad news regarding hospital admissions in England is that they have just crept above the levels that the modelling suggested we would have.
2,370 admissions in the last 24 hours,  NE&Yorkshire has more than doubled in a week, up 117%.
Occupancy is up 75% in a single week, at 12,395 - but there is good news. We still have little increase in mechanical ventilation beds.

Anti-vaxxers have been out in force in Milton Keynes. I'm not sure what street drugs are being sold round there, but footage is being shared of a group storming a test centre, and a grinning woman picking up random equipment, putting it all in a plastic tote and walking off with it. Potentially more worryingly, a group (who may or may not be the same people) stormed a theatre foyer, and shouted and chanted at everyone, scaring all of the kids who were there to see Jack & The Beanstalk. Not cool.
Expect arrests. 

If you wish to donate blood, wait at least a week after vaccination, or 28 days if you felt rough after being vaccinated.

The World Health Organisation are warning us that Omicron poses a genuine threat, as newly reported cases are up by 11% in the last week. The biggest increase is in the Americas., which is up by 39%, but still a long way behind Europe, where 7 day case rates are averaging 144 per 100,000 residents. The UK is responsible for a disproportionately large chunk of that. Our average 7 day case rates are currently running at a whopping 1,253.8 per 100,000. Yowch!  

311221 rate of critical care by vaccination status compared to regular population ICNARC

A South African study has found 2 doses of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine gives 85% protection against hospitalisation from Omicron. This is not-yet-peer-reviewed and its lab data, but they looked at antibody and T cell immune responses, and at under a tenner a dose, it offers very good value.
The study also found the Johnson&Johnson jab made a better booster after 2 doses of Pfizer, than a 3rd dose of Pfizer - another tick for mix and match vaccines. 

France have relaxed their ban on people from the UK travelling through the country to reach their residence in other EU countries - but just for the holiday period. They reported the highest ever European daily total a couple of days ago - 208,000 cases. 

Denmark reported a record 23,228 new cases on Tuesday. 1,205 have previously had COVID and are reinfections.  

Italy has announced massively diverse rulings for vaccinated or recovered/unvaccinated people.
From January 10th vaccinated and recovered people can go about their business without quarantine, even when identified as a close contact, although they have to wear a mask until day 10, and do a test if they develop symptoms.
Meanwhile people unvaccinated by choice will be banned from using (even with a negative test):
*Public transport - trains, planes, busses, ships
*Hospitality - hotels
*Leisure, culture and recreation, including outdoor - e.g. ski lifts, outdoor restaurants, swimming pools, activity centres, castles, festivals, fairs.
*Feasts - relating to religious or civil ceremonies.

COVAX has distributed 900 million vaccines - image of runway and cargo plane setting off

Australia regularly seem to follow the UKs lead, and I'm often not sure why. They have announced self-isolation for confirmed cases is reducing to 7 days as long as you test negative by lateral flow on days 6 and 7 - 24 hours apart.
Contacts will also be able to leave isolation after 7 days with a negative test on day 6. (South Australia will remain at 10 days.)
They are also tightening up the list for who can get a free PCR test - only close contacts and those with symptoms. 

On 30th December 2019 Dr. Li Wenliang spoke publicly about a new pneumonia in the Wuhan area of China. He was punished by Chinese authorities for speaking out of turn and panicking the public.
On February 7th 2020 he died in hospital from COVID pneumonia. He was 33.

"COVAX has delivered more than 900 million COVID19 vaccines to 144 countries and territories.
Finally rolling with some speed, but it is a very poor show really... we all understand now that we aren't safe until we're all safe. Let's hope more thought is given to poorer nations in 2022. 

Banksy drawing of a child playing with a Nurse doll while 'superhero' dolls are in the bin. NHS Superheroes

Boris has a New Year's message. Among other things he talked about being in a better position to last year, with fast economic growth due to being able to keep everything open:
"And that is because the British people have responded heroically, voluntarily, and in almost incredible numbers to the call to get vaccinated.
And as I speak tonight on New Year’s Eve, we’ve met our target, we’ve doubled the speed of the booster roll out. And it’s precisely because of that huge national effort that we can celebrate tonight at all. Though I must of course urge everyone to be cautious and to take a test if you are going out and to remember the importance of ventilation. Follow the rules if you are in Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland."
He ended by saying a great New Year's resolution is to get vaccinated if you haven't already:
"Get that jab and do something that will make 2022 a happy New Year for us all."

There's also a New Year message from Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, here's a snippet:
"I want to pay tribute to the scientists who made this possible by developing, innovating and testing; to the magnificent staff of the NHS and the volunteers who worked alongside them; and to the British military personnel who toiled tirelessly amid the greatest national effort of peacetime.
And thanks are due not least to you, for the sacrifices you’ve made, for looking out for your neighbours, and putting up with huge restrictions on your lives. Thank you, most importantly, for rolling up your sleeves for injections that might well have saved your life and those of others around you."

And another from Welsh Secretary Simon Hart. Here's a snippet from him:
"I want to thank everyone in Wales for the sacrifices they continue to make in the pandemic. People the length and breadth of the country have once again displayed the best of Wales in 2021 – whether it’s helping to look after their communities, providing help and support for neighbours and family or simply by following the regulations....."
"It may be difficult to imagine at the moment but I am confident that in 2022 we will have much to be optimistic about."

Nothing as yet for Ireland... *sigh*... 

We are ending 2021 with a lot of the same fears, disappointments and frustrations as we had at the end of 2020. Its really easy to feel like we didn't get anywhere, bu that simply isn't the truth. We have progressed, and we've gone a really long way. We've massively improved chances of survival, and reduced chances of Long COVID. We've not been able to get rid of COVID at all, and a lot of countries have had to abandon any hope for ZeroCOVID, but if you can't get rid of it then the next best thing is to make it harmless. We aren't there yet, but we are a lot closer... 

Charlie Mackesy child riding a horse under an ominous sky What do we know about Storms? That they end
Charlie Mackesy

In this week's episode of "you couldn't make it up", after my daughter in Sheffield tested positive 11 days before Christmas (and continued to test positive and be poorly until Boxing Day)... and then my stepson in London tested positive on Christmas Eve... just when we thought we might be able to get the family together sometime over the rest of this week, my 24 year old who lives here in North Manchester has tested positive. So that's us all at home for New Year, and sitting refreshing the page to try and order some COVID tests - in a less than fun NHS version of the Glastonbury ticket stramash. My partner and I are the only members of our little family who haven't yet tested positive, thank heavens for those jabs.

So... who's up for Christmas in May then? The weather's usually gorgeous....

To EVERYONE with COVID. To EVERYONE looking after someone with COVID, EVERYONE concerned they're likely to be next. To EVERYONE bereaved by COVID, EVERYONE with Long COVID, and everyone who has recovered completely, and all you lucky, lucky people who have managed to escape it thus far. I wish you a more peaceful, secure and comfortable 2022, with less stress, more smiles and definitely more hugs. Happy New Year...

Some people. The are shown as numbers, because I don't have room for all of their names:

Countries / Cases / Losses of life in the full 24 hours YESTERDAY up until midnight GMT:

USA 55,252,823 (+572,029) 845,745 (+1,362)

France 9,740,600 (+206,243) 123,552 (+180)

UK 12,748,040 (+189,210) 148,421 (+332)

Spain 6,294,745 (+161,688) 89,405 (+74)

Italy 5,981,440 (+126,900) 137,247 (+156)

Argentina 5,606,745 (+50,506) 117,146 (+35)

Germany 7,142,982 (+41,820) 112,512 (+379)

Canada 2,142,310 (+39,836) 30,280 (+32)

Turkey 9,441,764 (+39,681) 82,198 (+139)

Greece 1,170,293 (+35,580) 20,708 (+72)

Portugal 1,358,817 (+28,659) 18,937 (+16)

Australia 362,677 (+21,240) 2,226 (+16)

Russia 10,479,344 (+21,073) 307,948 (+926)

Ireland 768,449 (+20,554) 5,912

Denmark 769,766 (+20,280) 3,256 (+9)

Vietnam 1,714,742 (+19,868) 32,168 (+240)

India 34,838,804 (+16,764) 481,080 (+220)

Netherlands 3,116,039 (+14,778) 20,892 (+40)

Poland 4,094,602 (+14,319) 96,416 (+710)

Brazil 22,277,239 (+13,405) 619,024 (+154)

South Africa 3,446,532 (+12,978) 91,061 (+126)

Belgium 2,075,781 (+12,945) 28,267 (+17)

Switzerland 1,307,201 (+11,788) 12,284 (+7)






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