Monday 21 February 2022

COVID 21st February 2022 Boris' Living With COVID Masterplan

COVID 21st February 2022 Boris' Living With COVID Masterplan UK Briefing 

UK Daily Statistics:
Cases: +38,409
Losses of Life: +15
In Hospital (Friday 18th): 11,223

A special message for anyone who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, for anyone under the age of 12, and anyone who is especially vulnerable to COVID - particularly people who will never develop good immunity, however many jabs you get, or however many times you catch COVID. YOU ARE IMPORTANT. YOU MATTER.
If anyone in my family tests positive, they'll be isolating, and avoiding you...

JCVI advises an extra Spring Booster dose for people who are over 75, live in an older adult care home or are immunosuppressed

"Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance have been notably silent of late.
I've signed this open letter asking them what the science advice to govt was & to publish any evidence supporting that this is a good time to end self isolation & scale back testing... "
Professor Christina Pagel, indieSAGE member and Professor of Operational Research at University College London

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, Head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, has sidled his way out of giving an opinion about Boris removing legal requirement to isolate. His answer on BBC Radio 4 this morning was:
"There isn’t a right or wrong answer. If restrictions change this week or the week after, in six months’ time the number of transmission events will likely be very similar.
If we’re talking about very short-term delays when we make a decision, it really doesn’t make a huge amount of difference which week it is. So people are getting very hung up on that, it doesn’t have a huge impact.”
Erm... yeah. Clear as mud. I think basically he's saying "it's going to happen, this week isn't dramatically different from next, not going to tell you if I agree with it or not". 

210222 UK GOV Briefing cases by day

Boris was meant to be signing off on his plans on Monday morning, but we are told it was delayed while he waited for some more "briefings". Good to know he did actually do some research before he made these announcements.

While we waited for Boris, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced a 'spring booster' additional vaccination for people aged 75 or over, residents in care homes for older adults, and anyone aged 12 years and over who is immunosuppressed.
This will be the fourth vaccination for most of those people (and the 5th for those people who already had a 3rd standard dose due to lowered immunity), and will be offered around 6 months after your last jab. Over 18s will get either Moderna or Pfizer, and under 18s Pfizer.  

210222 UK GOV Briefing hospitalisations by day

Lateral flow tests can only be ordered every 3 days now, as opposed to each day. This is the beginning of winding back free testing.

Even before the briefing, the UK Government kindly added a lot of the new stuff on the Government website, so here we go. And remember, this is mainly for England, the devolved nations will make a lot of decisions for themselves...

210222 UK GOV Briefing deaths by day

From today 21st February:
- We are removing the guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing.

From this Thursday, 24 February:
- We will end the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test, and so we will also end self-isolation support payments, although Covid provisions for Statutory Sick Pay can still be claimed for a further month.
- We will end routine contact tracing, and no longer ask fully vaccinated close contacts and those under 18 to test daily for seven days.
- We will remove the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate.

Until 1 April:
- We will still advise people who test positive to stay at home. 

From 1st April:
- We will encourage people with Covid-19 symptoms to exercise personal responsibility, just as we encourage people who may have flu to be considerate to others.
- We will end free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public. We will continue to provide free symptomatic tests to the oldest age groups and those most vulnerable to Covid. And in line with the practice in many other countries, we are working with retailers to ensure that everyone who wants to can buy a test.
- We will also no longer recommend the use of voluntary Covid-status certification, although the NHS app will continue to allow people to indicate their vaccination status for international travel.

210222 UK GOV Briefing vaccination by day

Soooooo, tonight's UK Briefing for the general public (the first part of which was mainly identical to his address to Parliament). Boris led, flanked by the  enigmatic and illusive Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, and Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Sir Chris Whitty. The COVID Triumvirate, back together again after months apart, and 2/3 knighted now. Bless... 

Boris started by saying we didn't have a choice at the beginning, but it's very different now. We were first to administer an improved vaccine, first to reach the point we had boosted half the population.
"While the pandemic is not over, we have passed the peak of the Omicron wave, with cases falling, and hospitalisations in England now fewer than 10,000 and still falling."
(Over 71 per cent of all adults are now boosted in England, including 93 per cent of those 70 and over.)
He says we can now "transition towards normality, while maintaining the contingency to respond to a resurgence or a new variant".
In England we will remove all remaining domestic restrictions in law.
(See above.)

"It is only because levels of immunity are so high and deaths are below where you would normally expect for this time of year, that we can lift these restrictions. And it is only because we know Omicron is less severe, that testing for Omicron on the colossal scale that we have been doing is much less valuable in preventing serious illness."

210222 UK GOV Briefing hospitalisation by vaccination status by age

Last year the budget for testing was bigger than the entire budget for the Home Office - 2 billion pounds last month alone. It is being scaled back.
"It's certain there will be new variants, and some of those will be worse than Omicron. So we will maintain our resilience to manage and respond to these risks, including our world-leading ONS survey, which will allow us to continue tracking the virus in granular detail, with regional and age breakdowns helping us spot surges as and where they happen, and our laboratory networks will help us understand the evolution of the virus and identify any changes in characteristics."

We have enough vaccines for a range of different vaccination options, plus millions of anti-virals, we will continue to monitor variants here and abroad, and basically keep up to date with latest information and treatments. 

"Today is not the day we can declare victory over COVID, because this virus is not going away, but, it is the day when all the efforts of the last 2 years finally enabled us to protect ourselves, while restoring our liberties in full. And after 2 of the darkest, grimmest years in our peacetime, I do believe this is a moment of pride for our nation, and a source of hope for all that we can achieve in the years to come."
(160,610 dead people. I think we can leave our pride by the door there Boris.)

210222 UK GOV Briefing ICU by vaccination status by age

Chris Whitty mumbled and stuttered his way through the slides - and he spoke up. He also sounded sad.
He reminds us the number of people being infected is "still very high, and elderly and vulnerable people are still being infected".
"The number of people in hospital with COVID in the UK is still significant, and it is still in many hospitals providing a lot of pressure on NHS services. The rates are now going down, and have been going down steadily for some weeks."
He says the numbers would have been higher if people hadn't been careful. (He is making his personal opinion known here, and all credit to him for it.)
Losses of life are "steadily going down. Next slide please". (That's all he's saying.)
He talks about the impact of vaccination on severity. "Being vaccinated significantly reduces in every age band the change of going to hospital."
He also shows just how effective vaccination is at preventing you needing ICU (Intensive Care).
There is a slide showing the difference with this wave compared to previous waves, and that we currently have a very low level of people overall dying from all causes (below where we'd expect right now). I have spoken about this many times (a lot of people died a few weeks or months early because of COVID, it will affect future mortality numbers for a long time).

210222 UK GOV Briefing deaths by week all causes

Chris says this isn't sudden, it is a gradual steady move, and we will be into Spring before people stop having to isolate. Surveillance is really important to keep an eye on what is happening. He warns us that next Winter might be very hard as regards respiratory diseases.
(Chris is doing that thing where he panics and tries to tell us everything at once.)
The Public Health advice is to stay at home if you are ill - that's the same for all diseases.
Things we are now used to doing remain important - washing hands, ventilation, masks in crowds are sensible.
We must be able to protect the most vulnerable people, beyond the next few weeks.
We must concentrate on surveillance. 

Patrick takes over on evolution of the virus. He says it will probably keep evolving quite fast for the next couple of years. It is unlikely to become less severe than Omicron (Omicron is likely to be one of the mildest possible variants, because it doesn't cause so much lung damage and breathing problems).
He talks about:
A. detecting variants being vital, and
B. being able to respond and switch over to a ramped up response - a couple of weeks to be back in action", and
C. protecting the most vulnerable. 

Public asked about the large number of people in hospital, Boris responds that it's on the downward slope. Chris adds that a smaller proportion end up seriously ill in ICU. 

2nd public question was from a pregnant lady. Pregnancy makes you especially vulnerable to COVID. She asked if pregnant people should lock themselves away now then? Boris talks about other people respecting you, and mumbled a load of garbage. Chris then adds that the evidence is clear - it is safe and wise to be vaccinated in pregnancy, and it will offer you a lot of protection against serious illness. 

Press asked about the scaling back of testing, poorer people not being able to afford it etc. Boris had lots of analogies. We had umbrellas and rain, and icebergs and crows nests. He lists testing labs, and implies being able to respond and react to the situation swiftly. Chris backs him up, talking about changing tack if the situation requires it. 

Boris' mind isn't entirely in it. Putin announced, just as Boris came into this conference, that he recognises the two areas of Ukraine which claim affiliation with Russia as being independent. This is politically incredibly sensitive - it's kind of like like France saying they recognise the North West UK as it's own independent country, and offering us support. It's against International Law, and it's a big thing... 

Boris talks about respect, not going to work if you're sick. The press questions have just about broken down, they're mainly about Ukraine now. 

210222 UK GOV Briefing excess deaths by week

Chris and Patrick answer most COVID questions, mainly by repeating variations on 'detect, respond, protect'.

Press asked about low wage workers, who won't get paid the extra support payment to stay at home, and even lose the right to day 1 sick pay. Should they stay home, even if they won't get paid?
Boris says they've helped low wage workers. Statutory Sick Pay is there. He hasn't got a clue. 

Press ask about being cautious, maybe doing lateral flow tests before you go to a crowded event? Patrick says there are times it will be right to be cautious, he isn't happy with the level of infection right now. Chris says 1.How much COVID is there? (Right now it's too much) 2. Where are we? Indoors, outdoors, packed room etc. 3. How vulnerable are the people who will be there? 

Boris was also asked 'if it was right he be telling people to be sensible, while he is under investigation for not being sensible?', and 'if he thinks his legacy will just be his behaviour during the pandemic?'. Ouch...

It is Mental Health Nurses Day. We have certainly needed you guys the past 2 years. Thank YOU for all that you do. Please don't stop. I have a feeling you may be coming to the fore...

I'll be back tomorrow with hopefully a very short news report, and no doubt some feedback on today's briefing... Stay sensible (proper sensible, not Boris level sensible..)




Image of whitty:


Scrapping isolation won't make a big difference, Oxford vaccine chief says

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