Tuesday 8 February 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 4th - 8th February 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 4th - 8th February 2022

UK Daily Statistics:
Cases: 17,932,803 (+66,183)
In Hospital yesterday Monday 7th Feb: 13,793
Using A Ventilator yesterday: 443
Losses of Life: 158,677 (+314)
Tests: 1,127,178
Vaccinations 1st Dose: 52,447,403 (91.2% of UK age 12+)
Vaccinations 2nd Dose: 48,617,355 (84.5%)
Boosted: 37,586,043 (65.4%)

Rep. Of Ireland: 1,224,862 (+3,780) cases and 6,228 losses of life.

World: 399,569,028 reported cases and 5,773,593 losses of life.

030222 ONS Long COVID chart

Boris and Sajid have announced a great plan to 'tackle England's NHS backlog'. They were going to announce it on Monday - but it was delayed until today. It's 50 pages in total, and they have published a 3 page explanatory letter - in precis here:
'This plan... sets out a clear vision for how the NHS will recover and expand elective services over the next three years. It details ambitions, guidance, and best practice to help systems address key issues, ensuring we have a service that is fit for the future.'
"A central aim is to maximise NHS capacity, supporting systems to deliver around 30 per cent more elective activity by 2024-25 than before the pandemic, after accounting for the impact of an improved care offer through system transformation, and advice and guidance."
"The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is not limited to elective care, and it can be seen across mental health, primary and community care. It will be important to give these areas the same focus as elective care, and for the challenges in these areas to be tackled in unison."
Crucially, the plan has a strong focus on improving patient outcomes and their experience of NHS services.
Goals include:
- eliminating waits of over one year by March 2025
- eliminating waits of over two years by July 2022
- reducing diagnostic waiting times so 95% of patients receive tests within 6 weeks by March 2025
- at least 75% of urgent cancer referrals receive a diagnosis within 28 days by March 2024
- the 62 day backlog returned to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023
"The plan requires our collective focus to:
• Increase capacity and separate elective and urgent care provision, while freeing clinicians’ time for new patients and those with the greatest clinical need
• Prioritise diagnosis and treatment for those with suspected cancer or an urgent condition, and offering alternative locations with shorter waiting times for those waiting a long time
• Transform the way we provide elective care, including streamlined care and fewer cancellations, and more convenient access to surgical and diagnostic procedures, using digital tools and data to drive the delivery of services
• Better information and support to patients, providing personalised, accessible support to patients whilst they wait, improving outcomes and reducing inequalities in health outcomes."
Fingers crossed eh... 

"So many people still struggling with the impacts and trauma of Covid, or worrying about the spiraling costs of living…but for Boris & Co it’s all just a bit of a laugh. This isn’t funny - in the current circumstances, it is offensive."
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon commenting on Boris Johnson joking about his future as Prime Minister and singing "I Will Survive" (an anecdote relayed by new Downing Street Director of Communications Guto Harri, and BBC Reporter Laura Keunssberg).

080222 NHS Improvement Letter Page 1

"Coronavirus (COVID-19) related pupil absence in all state-funded schools was 3.9% on 3 Feb, down from 5.1% on 20 Jan. Among pupils absent for COVID-19 reasons, the main reasons for absence on 3 Feb were: pupils with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (3.1%), and pupils with a suspected case of COVID-19 (0.4%)."
Pupil attendance in all state-funded schools was 89.1% on 3 Feb, up from 87.4% on 20 Jan.
Ahhhhhh.... that's getting better... finally. Not quite so good yet for the staff...
9.1% of teachers and school leaders were absent on 3 Feb (with 4.4% absent for COVID-19 related reasons), up from 9.0% on 20 Jan.
9.0% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent on 3 Feb (with 4.1% absent for COVID-19 related reasons), down from 9.4% on 20 Jan.

Exams this Summer will be marked more generously because of the 2 years of disruption that students have faced. Students will have access to information "to help focus their revision for summer GCSE, AS and A level exams, as part of a range of adaptations to maximise fairness following the disruption to learning caused by the pandemic".

Spain is expected to relax rules on face masks outdoors this week, including on beaches and around swimming pools. Handily, just in time for the half term holidays

Also for half term - travellers are being warned to check the exact date that they had their jab, as a second jab more than 270 days ago means you also need a booster if you want to go to France, Spain or Denmark. 

080222 NHS Improvement Letter Page 2

Australia have also announced relaxation of restrictions. From late February borders will reopen to vaccinated international travellers. 

Austria's vaccine mandate has become law. All adults must be vaccinated or face an initial 600€ (£506 / $686) fine. The only people who are exempt are those who are pregnant, 'those who cannot be vaccinated without endangering their health' and people who were diagnosed with COVID (first positive test) less than 180 days ago. 

Latest results of the ONS (Office for National Statistics) study on Long COVID show:
"An estimated 1.3 million people living in private households in the UK (2.1% of the population) were experiencing self-reported long COVID (symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after the first suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) infection that were not explained by something else) as of 2 January 2022."
That is a LOT of people.
"Long COVID symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 836,000 people (63% of those with self-reported long COVID), with 244,000 (18%) reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been "limited a lot"."
Fatigue is still the most common symptom reported (50%), followed by shortness of breath (37%), loss of smell (37%), and loss of taste (28%).
You are more likely to self-report long COVID if you are: aged 35 to 69 years, female, living in a more deprived area, working in health care, social care, or teaching and education, or already have another activity-limiting health condition or disability.
The results are self-reported, rather than clinically diagnosed, and that's mainly because the damage is all internal and it would cost a fortune to scan all of those people. I'm sure a good few symptoms will be due to other things, but I think it evens out at best We know from random sampling that a lot of people with measurable Long COVID (scans, function tests etc) feel better than when they were most ill, but don't realise they never went back to 100% and aren't as well as they were beforehand. 

The US CDC have recommended a 4th vaccine dose for people age 5+ who are moderately or severely immunocompromised. This is fairly standard in countries fortunate enough to be able to offer it, including the UK. 3 Primary Doses and then a Booster.
3 doses brings a severely immunocompromised person's protection up to a similar level as the average for their age group/demographic after 2 doses.

080222 NHS Improvement Letter Page 3 cropped

In the 1st February update I told you that Japanese company Kowa had reported de-wormer Ivermectin demonstrated an "antiviral effect" against Omicron and other COVID-19 variants IN A TEST TUBE. I also said "no-one has managed to get any useful results yet in real live humans".
Reuters were among the media which announced the 'antiviral effect against Omicron' and didn't make anything else clear, leading to a lot of excitement which should never have happened - and a lot of frantic rubbing out.
We first saw Ivermectin can kill off some COVID in a test tube almost two years ago, so it was expected it would kill some Omicron. Sadly, it's not going anywhere, they have been trying since June 2020 and still can't make the same thing happen inside people - and that's really the main place it's actually useful.

There's a price to pay for gathering, and the Lunar New Year has caused a blip, in some East Asian countries especially.
Japan reported +92,865 new cases yesterday - until Jan 17th they had never had over 25,000 daily cases.
South Korea reported +35,275 cases yesterday - a week earlier their highest ever daily report was 20,000.

Just a guess, but it might be connected - South Korea have, at least temporarily, abandoned their full Test & Trace strategy. Omicron means there are simply too many cases to track, so they are going to focus on the elderly and vulnerable. 

Canadian capital Ottawa has declared a State of Emergency because of all of the protesting truckers. They haven't all gone home, they're occupying the city centre and causing absolute havoc for residents.
Canadian officials have cut off some of their access to funding by closing down a 'gofundme' page, they've removed a fuel tanker and announced anyone bringing fuel to the truckers will face punishments, and last night courts granted an injunction to stop vehicles and protesters blasting air and train horns day and night.
Quite honestly it's astounding this has remained mainly peaceful. After 11 days of no sleep and constant horns going off, some of the locals must be going insane - and I'm pretty sure if they originally had support for the truckers, it's worn incredibly thin for many.
Estimates suggest that there are around 1,000 trucks/ 5,000 protesters still there, down from 3,000 trucks/ 10,000-15,000 protesters a week earlier (good to get a better idea of actual numbers finally). They are mostly protesting the fact you have to be vaccinated to cross the border into Canada from the USA. 

And truckers in New Zealand have copied the truckers in Canada. They blocked road access through the capital Wellington. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's "too busy" to meet with them. I don't think she feels she has anything to discuss.  They can't even really have a problem 'driving' over a border anyway... it's a chuffing island
Groups are also attempting to form in other countries including Australia, the Netherlands, Austria, the United States and the UK. They are protesting Coronavirus restrictions, primarily vaccine mandates for truckers using border crossings. 
Listen up chaps and chapesses. You'd be in a much stronger position if they weren't on the verge of being able to replace you with self-driving vehicles. You'd be in a much stronger position if the majority of the public supported you, or if vaccine mandates applied to just a few countries. I don't envisage any bookies having you down as the favourites to win this one. 

Captain Tom foundation annual accounts

Around 1/10th of all of the money raised by the Captain Tom Foundation in the last year has been spent on "fundraising consultancy" fees. Funny really, because I'm pretty damned sure not a single penny in consultancy fees was needed to raise the first umpty million. In fact, more has gone on admin than has been handed out to benefactors according to their annual accounts...  Don't you be giving charity a bad name now guys.  

In the UK, if you genuinely cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, you can apply through your doctor, specialist or midwife for an exemption for your COVID Pass.
"The domestic NHS COVID Pass will look and work the same for people with medical exemptions as it will for people who are fully vaccinated. The pass will not show that you have a medical exemption.
You’ll also get a confirmation letter which you should keep for your records. You can use the letter to prove that you’re unable to get vaccinated if you work or volunteer in a care home or are travelling from a country that’s not on the red list. The letter will say that you’re medically unable to get vaccinated. The letter does not explain the reason you’re unable to vaccinate."
Your right to travel internationally will depend on the laws in whichever country you wish to travel to, but most of them follow similar rules and will allow genuinely exempt people to enter. 

"Bad behaviour from scientists and from politicians has probably killed hundreds of thousands of people."
Professor Sir John Bell, member of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine development team.
He must have been one of the world's most frustrated men over the past 18 months. AstraZeneca has been slurred all over and in several different ways, and really a lot of it was because it was the £2.50 cheap and cheerful option, rather than the £35 golden child of Pfizer, so in people's heads 'it couldn't possibly have been as good', and it didn't have big money to back it to raise their profits.
Fact is neither of these vaccines have a bad safety record, they both permanently harm less than a handful of people per million, and both vaccines are keeping our hospital admissions at less than 10% of what they were. They're saving over 90% of the folks who would otherwise die when they catch COVID.
Poorer nations cannot afford Pfizer, they can't store and distribute it because it needs to be at minus 70 degrees, and they can't make it cheaply for themselves. Anyone who ever slurred AstraZeneca really did add to the harm by putting off people who could have benefitted.

vaccination facts from the UK NHS

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has apologised for supporting peddler of disinformation Joe Rogan - partly because it turns out Joe is also pretty darn racist... Spotify have removed over 100 of his podcasts. Seems the shine is slipping off this one... 

Humans aren't the only thing COVID has killed. My van also died after sitting on the drive waiting for an MOT re-test for many months. Sadly one of Britain's oldest pubs has also had to call it a day, at least for now. The current owner of 1,229 year old Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans has gone into administration. Hopefully someone else will take this one on and keep it going, but around 10,000 pubs are believed to have closed permanently during 2020 alone. COVID has been especially cruel to hospitality...

I had a flipping excellent time working with Visit Derby last weekend - I've been sharing photos over on Instagram if anyone is interested, and I will finish writing the trip up over the next couple of days. I was indeed truly spoilt, and I can't understand how anyone on that Coach Trip programme manages more than a few days without flagging. I am shattered - but in a really great way.  I hope you had a good weekend - and managed to spoil yourself, at least a little...

I'll be back with more COVID news on Friday (unless Boris and Sajid decide they need to explain the NHS plan to us in person). Stay sensible.

Some people. They look like numbers here, but they are all people.

Countries / Cases / Losses of life since midnight GMT (so it may not be a full 24 hour's reports for larger countries):

Russia 13,147,666 (+165,643) 336,721 (+698)

Turkey 12,446,111 (+111,096) 89,211 (+241)

Germany 11,304,437 (+105,697) 119,607 (+112)

Italy 11,765,767 (+101,864) 149,512 (+393)

Japan 3,372,297 (+71,708) 19,446 (+122)

UK 17,932,803 (+66,183) 158,677 (+314)

Denmark 1,994,130 (+47,039) 3,927 (+18)

Iran 6,657,842 (+38,757) 133,048 (+114)

Indonesia 4,580,093 (+37,492) 144,719 (+83)

S. Korea 1,081,681 (+36,718) 6,922 (+36)

Romania 2,455,048 (+36,269) 60,916 (+184)

Poland 5,224,144 (+35,960) 106,894 (+286)

Ukraine 4,341,790 (+34,353) 101,647 (+255)

Portugal 2,963,747 (+30,757) 20,302 (+44)

Czechia 3,273,375 (+29,576) 37,549 (+23)

Australia 2,780,440 (+28,202) 4,302 (+55)

Austria 2,111,314 (+27,087) 14,271 (+25) 








BBC News: Covid: Plan to tackle England's NHS backlog delayed.





















"Austria to begin Europe's first vaccine mandate—with hefty fines for holdouts" https://twitter.com/i/events/1489644054627459074?t=nSG7diGIW95BBdkaauM0JA&s=09





Capt. Tom Fund:










"Britain’s oldest pub has been forced to close ‘after 1,229 years’" https://twitter.com/i/events/1490370976932143110?t=r_2JCu4Qso0NgykrBZ3EQg&s=09



UK Health Plan:

I'm guessing it'll include some new figure-fudging measures, an extra waiting list to pretend people are further 'on the waiting list' than they really are, and more payments to private companies to do work on behalf of the NHS. (After the last 2 years I honestly wouldn't be completely shocked if the small print on page 47 announced a mass cull.)






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