Friday 13 May 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 13th May 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 13th May 2022

UK COVID Statistics - we are missing updated figures for Northern Ireland, as they are delayed:
Cases last 7 days: 76,867 (average 10,981 per day - UP slightly on 10,829 a week earlier)
Admitted to hospital with COVID in the last 7 days: 6,020
In hospital yesterday: 9,619 (down from 10,763 a week earlier)
Using a ventilator yesterday: 203 (down from 253 a week earlier)
Losses of life last 7 days: 1,389 (average 198 a day - UP from 186 a week earlier)
Total losses of life within 28 days of a positive test: 176,708
Total losses of life with COVID listed as a cause: 193,713
Tests last 7 days: 1,821,189 (average 260,169 per day)
Vaccinations 1st dose: 53,264,512
Vaccinations 2nd dose: 49,780,389
Boosters / 3rd doses / Spring Boosters: 39,345,313

Rep. Of Ireland: 1,535,451 (+524) cases and 7,203 (+27) losses of life.

World: 519,990,677 reported cases and 6,285,251 losses of life.

It's not weak to speak numbers to ring in the UK

"A fever whose cause couldn't be identified explosively spread nationwide from late April and more than 350 000 people got fever in a short span of time, and at least 162 200 out of them were healed completely. On May 12 alone, some 18 000 persons with fever occurred nationwide and as of now up to 187 800 people are being isolated and treated. Six persons died (one of them tested positive for the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron.)"
North Korean official media KCNA.
I don't know about you, but by crikey I just want to give them a hug. 

It is official, after over 2 years of reportedly avoiding COVID, North Korea has an outbreak, and the entire country has switched to 'Maximum emergency epidemic prevention system'.
"Emergency measures are being taken to block all provinces, cities and counties across the country, isolate working units, production units and living unions, make a more strict concentrated medical checkup of all inhabitants to find out all persons with fever and abnormal symptoms, and thoroughly isolate them and actively treat them."
North Korea's population is around 26 million people, and many countries (including China, the USA, South Korea etc) have spent the last 2 years offering assistance, testing, vaccines and advice. North Korea is the most secretive and distrusting nation on Earth - they have even refused to join the World Health Organisation's COVAX scheme - and the public admission they have a problem may be because they need help.
It is thought North Korea has an incredibly low rate of vaccination, as well as a fairly limited health service. This really could be quite disastrous. I wish them luck and skill, and the ability to make the best decisions right now.

Talking of disasters, the UK Ambulance / A&E / GP situation is pretty dire. It's not making the headlines it should be.
"NHS England says there were nearly 79,000 life threatening ambulance call outs in April - highest ever for that month. More than 2 million people went into A&E , second busiest April on record."Hugh Pym, BBC news bloke.
And why so many life threatening ambulance call outs? Waiting. Waiting is killing people. Not being able to see a GP about symptoms, not being able to get prompt advice, and waiting for elective surgeries and other treatments.
"6.36 million on waiting list for planned operations/treatment in England in March - another record high - number waiting two years or more has fallen, but those waiting one year or more has increased."
Hugh Pym, shouting in an empty room.
And then, once you get to hospital...
"Long waits in A&E in England - more than 24,000 waited more than 12 hours from decision to admit to being moved to a ward in April - highest since records began."
Hugh Pym, frustrated health journalist and hopefully finally making the news...
Basically the NHS has been wound down and sold off for years, and now we all pay the price.

Morden Train Station notice board with message of support for Mental Health Awareness Week

In the week ending 7th May, the ONS random sampling saw a massive decrease in cases across all 4 nations of the UK (whoot!):
England, estimate 1,204,100, equating to 2.21% of the population or around 1 in 45 people.
Wales, estimate 88,300, equating to 2.91% of the population or around 1 in 35 people.
Northern Ireland, estimate 33,800, equating to 1.84% of the population or around 1 in 55 people.
Scotland, estimate 158,200, equating to 3.01% of the population or around 1 in 35 people.

Baroness Hallett, the Chair of the UK COVID-19 Public Inquiry, has today written to the Prime Minister with her recommendations for expanding the inquiry, after receiving input from bereaved families, members of the public and representatives from various sectors of the community. She has asked that the following be considered:
1) Children and young people, including the impact on health, wellbeing and social care education and early years provision;
2) Impacts on mental health and wellbeing of the UK population
3) Collaboration between central government, Devolved Administrations, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector.
She has also asked that investigation into the unequal impacts of the pandemic runs through the whole Inquiry. In the UK (and many other nations) the more deprived or poorer you are, the more likely to suffer or even die because of the pandemic. This is due to a multitude of factors including housing, working conditions, job and financial security, transport use, caring responsibilities etc etc.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced 90,000 civil service jobs will be cut. This is despite the passport office and DVLA having truly massive backlogs. It is also really counter-productive. Any of those 90,000 people who weren't intending to leave, and don't find alternative work, will then be claiming benefits for not working - and there'll be less benefits staff to deal with their claims promptly. Already tight household budgets will be even tighter, people won't be able to spend money in shops, and our frothy coffee economy nosedives even further.

Talking of 24 minute birthday party people. The Metropolitan Police announced yesterday that over 100 fines have now been issued for lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall.

Who you can call for help in the UK

"When we talk about the zero COVID strategy, we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future. We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts and we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable.”
The Head of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros

China were not impressed with Dr Tedros' comments on Tuesday about Zero COVID being unsustainable. This was shared by the United Nations official channels in China, and within an hour had been censored as "a violation of relevant laws and regulations”.  Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference:
"We hope the relevant individual can view Chinese COVID policy objectively and rationally and know the facts, instead of making irresponsible remarks."
Sadly, as I said earlier on Tuesday, I agree that it's just not going to work. Omicron is too catchy, and you are chasing too hard. That doesn't mean 'giving in' is the correct thing to do, but it does mean actually retaining Zero COVID is going to be hell on all involved, and there's no short term fix to this. Even if China do manage to eradicate their current COVID outbreak, unless you close down all borders hard, the rest of the world are going to spoil it for you very quickly.

Regardless, China are continuing their attempts at Zero COVID, and millions of residents (mainly in the Shanghai region) remain locked down. Most of the time deliveries and group purchases of food and other goods are permitted, but when new cases pop up sometimes they have "silent periods" when no deliveries are allowed. A Shanghai resident on Twitter has shared a notice posted on her apartment block yesterday. It states that their silent period has been extended by a week - with no notice. It also says any perishable goods which attempt delivery will be destroyed, and non-perishables will be kept and released later.
Grim China, grim.

Mental Health Questions to ask your child Young Minds

A US/China study has modelled what might happen if China did drop their Zero COVID strategy. They aren't in the best position to do so right now. The widely used Chinese vaccines aren't the best performing, and vaccination rates are low, especially among the elderly - only 50% of people over age 80 are vaccinated. China hasn't yet had to adopt recently developed treatments, including anti-virals, so they'd really need to get that in place quickly. Models predict that, as it stands, if Omicron was allowed to spread freely (like in the UK), it would cause a wave 15 times bigger than healthcare could cope with, and lead to around 1.5 million losses of life. The wise money says start working on preparations now, even if you don't publicly give up on Zero COVID, or you risk horrid things. 

Strange Hepatitis In Kids Update:
On May 10th the World Health Organisation were aware of 348 probable cases from 5 regions of the world. 70 more are possible and being studied. Only 6 countries have reported more than five cases - including the UK and USA. Of those children who were tested, around 70% tested positive for adenovirus (mostly type 41). Around 18% tested positive for COVID19.
Philippa Easterbrook of the WHO says that adenovirus (causes heavy colds) is still the chief suspect, but prior or current COVID could be a co-factor.
Slightly less official, but using official data from individual countries reporting up to TODAY around 4pm (huge thank you to @Leggomyfuego1 on Twitter - who is keeping a constantly updated tally).
To date there have been  510 Cases / 35 Transplants / 15 Deaths
Cases by country: England 128 / Scotland 26 / Wales 13 / Northern Ireland 9 / USA 115 / Italy 35 / Brazil 28 / Spain 22 / Indonesia 21 / Israel 20 / Japan 12 / Canada 10 / Sweden 9 / Argentina 8 / Portugal 8 / Denmark, Ireland and The Netherlands 6 / 16 additional countries have less than 5 cases.
Tragically it appears 7 children in Indonesia have died from this already.
For reference, we do not know what is causing it, and these 498 cases are out of billions of children, so your individual chance is incredibly incredibly small. It mainly occurs in children aged 1-5. Watch for unexplained tummyache which continues and worsens, dark wee, and yellowing of the skin and the white parts of the eyeball. Those are all symptoms a parent should be aware of anyway - and teach your kids to tell you when something isn't quite right. (If nothing else is wrong, dark wee is usually a sign of dehydration.)

Mental Health Foundation I've been there too. It's okay to admit it. And I have, really, and often.

We are hearing lots from business leaders who want people back in the office, but what do the workers want? Do we like working from home? Bloomberg polled people who had been sent to work from home during the pandemic and among the questions, they asked them "How has working from home turned out for you?":
Hugely better 20.2%
Substantially better 22.3%
Better 19%
About the same 25.4%
Worse 6.9%
Substantially worse 3.3%
Hugely worse 3%
Pretty clear that...
Management who were intending to bring people back are worrying they'll lose their best talent if they force them to go back to the office. Childcare, long or expensive or tedious commutes, and the fact we still actually have a transmissible disease are all major reasons. 

We have I think our first study on Long COVID a full 2 years after infection. This is using Chinese data, with individuals who survived hospitalisation between Jan 7 and May 29 2020. Health outcomes were measured at 6 months, 12 months, and 2 years after symptom onset - with a 6-min walking distance (6MWD) test, laboratory tests, and a series of questionnaires on symptoms, mental health, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), return to work, and health-care use after discharge.
The proportion of COVID-19 survivors with at least one symptom decreased significantly - from 777 (68%) of 1149 at 6 months, to 650 (55%) of 1190 at 2 years, and fatigue or muscle weakness were most common throughout.
(That is still disappointingly high.)
"Regardless of initial disease severity, COVID-19 survivors had longitudinal improvements in physical and mental health, with most returning to their original work within 2 years; however, the burden of symptomatic sequelae (symptoms) remained fairly high. COVID-19 survivors had a remarkably lower health status than the general population at 2 years. The study findings indicate that there is an urgent need to explore the pathogenesis of long COVID and develop effective interventions to reduce the risk of long COVID."
Right now vaccination is your best protection - because it reduces your chance of severe illness massively.

Nature has an article looking at Coronavirus particles in the gut, and there are 2 recent studies which support the theory that they may persist for at least 7 months in some cases, and could be responsible for some Long COVID symptoms. More research is ongoing. 

Loneliness is a huge problem UK Mental Health Awareness Week

It's a lot harder to run a charity than you might think - it was certainly harder than Captain Sir Tom Moore's family thought it would be. For starters his daughter's 6 figure salary wasn't actually what people assumed they were donating money too. Now bottles of £100 gin have been removed from sale after inspectors discovered they weren't actually telling people the amount of money donated with each bottle sold. The Tom Moore Foundation is already under investigation by the Charity Commission, and it transpires it is also being investigated by the Fundraising Regulator.
Rich people eh. If they can't cream some cash off by claiming to be a PPE distributor or a Test & Trace Consultant, there'll always be another way. I bet Tom is less than impressed. Too mean? Probs. 

The European CDC are removing their guidance mandating the use of face masks on flights and in airports. From next week in the EU overall, they won't be required - HOWEVER... individual countries, airports and airlines are still legally entitled to make their own decisions, as are individual people, so just because it isn't a legal necessity doesn't mean it won't be a preference or a requirement depending on where you travel, and with whom.

Luxury Cruise News:
I started covering Cruise News because back at the beginning cruises were one of our major sources of COVID data, and a friend of one of our older children was an employee stuck on one for months, thousands of miles from home. Even in the worst of outbreaks most people on any given cruise ship did not, do not and will not catch COVID. Seattle Times is reporting that confidence is high, and 3 major cruise lines will be running a full fleet from next week. Although cruises will always be one of the riskier ways to holiday or travel COVID-wise because of the close contact between guests, requirements for testing and vaccination before departure mean your risk of catching COVID is probably smaller than at your average wedding after-party. 

130522 hospital admissions and deaths from covid uk

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that after over 2 years locked down, the final part of reopening has been brought forward from October. The border will reopen to all visitors (including tourists, business, workers, relatives, students and trade) from 31st July.

Hey, you people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, I've not forgotten you - you still matter. You will always deserve protection and care. 

It's Mental Health Awareness Week. Back in the olden days before COVID I used to take time to write heartfelt posts about looking after your brain as well as your body... And I wrote about how poor mental health took my brother, and one of our teenage children. Mental Health has been forefront in my life for a long time. COVID has been really rough on us all. It has made us all far more aware of each other's mental health, and we all know we should keep an eye on those we care for. Send a text, give someone a call, check in on that person you know might need something firm to lean on. And if that's you, don't be scared to ask for someone to hold your hand for a while. It is ridiculously hard to reach out, but we ALL need help sometimes. (Huge thank you to the pupil from St Maurice's High School in Cumbernauld whose image I have used.)

St Maurice's High School Cumbernauld Mental Health Awareness Week

It is also the weekend! Give yourself a treat - you've earnt it. And get outdoors if you can, the weather forecast is good, and playing outside is good for the soul. Just close your eyes, do nothing for a minute and feel the fresh air on your face.... ahhhh. I shall be back with COVID news on Tuesday - I get a full weekend off now, it's weird, and amazing.

Some people. They might look like numbers here, but they are all people, and they are much more like you than not like you.

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):

Taiwan 635,870 (+65,011) 1,009 (+41)

Germany 25,719,252 (+53,342) 137,778 (+150)

Australia 6,501,329 (+51,773) 7,721 (+51)

Japan 8,260,356 (+42,378) 29,974 (+39)

Italy 16,993,813 (+38,507) 165,091 (+115)

S. Korea 17,727,086 (+32,409) 23,606 (+52)

Thailand 4,361,016 (+7,779) 29,370 (+56)

New Zealand 1,030,733 (+7,528) 892 (+29)

Russia 18,250,290 (+4,896) 377,464 (+105)

Chile 3,595,968 (+4,871) 57,697 (+17)

Austria 4,205,380 (+4,555) 18,296 (+5)

Greece 3,384,982 (+4,388) 29,521 (+30)





Long COVID 2 years

Mental Health Awareness Week

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