Friday 6 May 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 4th / 5th / 6th May 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus UK and World News Update 4th / 5th / 6th May 2022

UK COVID Statistics:Cases last 7 days: 75,809 (average 10,829 per day)
Admitted to hospital with COVID in the last 7 days: 7,126
In hospital yesterday: 10,763 (well down from 13,027 a week earlier)
Using a ventilator yesterday: 253 (well down from 302 a week earlier)
Losses of life last 7 days: 1,300 (average 186 per day)
Total losses of life within 28 days of a positive test: 176,212
Total losses of life with COVID listed as a cause: 192,464
Tests last 7 days: 1,808,795 (average 258,399 per day)
Vaccinations 1st dose: 53,189,550 (92.5% of UK age 12+)
Vaccinations 2nd dose: 49,730,039 (86.5%)
Boosted / 3rd dose / Spring Boosters: 39,254,038 (68.3%)

Rep. Of Ireland: 1,522,363 (+889) cases and 7,131 (+23) losses of life.

World: 516,102,810 reported cases and 6,273,069 losses of life.

Smiling young person in partywear with hands drawn together and huge grin

From 09 May 2022, the Public Health Scotland COVID-19 dashboard will be updated on Mondays and Thursdays, before moving to weekly updates, on a Wednesday, from June.
(Handily I report on a Friday and Tuesday, so I should still have current data.)

Wales and UK headline vaccination data will now be updated weekly - data up to Thursday will be reported the following Monday.

Today's ONS (Office for National Statistics) random sampling estimates are that around 1.95 million people in the UK had coronavirus last week (ending 1st May) Another huge drop from last week, it's around 32% down, and the lowest prevalence this year. Nice. Well, you know... positive downtick as Jenny Harries might say.
In the week ending 30 April 2022 (1st May in Scotland) there was a decrease in all 4 nations:
- England, estimate 1,586,900 people had COVID-19, equating to 2.91% of the population or around 1 in 35 people.
- Wales, estimate 131,600 people had COVID-19, equating to 4.33% of the population or around 1 in 25 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 44,900 people had COVID-19, equating to 2.45% of the population or around 1 in 40 people.
- Scotland, estimate 186,700 people had COVID-19, equating to 3.55% of the population or around 1 in 30 people.

The UK ONS have changed the levels of antibodies that they deem as effective protection. The original levels were 42ng/ml, then it was 179, and now, because we have far more transmissible variants, the bar has been set at 800. The good news is that levels are still high in our oldest populations, and most age groups come in at above 98% of people having that level of protection, with the exception of our youngest people (who are unvaccinated/not yet fully vaccinated or boosted). Children age 12-15 are at 89.5% and children aged 8-11 are at 47.6%.  

060522 ONS positive by random sampling by UK nation

On 3rd May Pfizer released 80,000 pages of evidence, as the result of a freedom of information request that went to court. Obviously I agree this should be public, we should be allowed to see all of the data. There is however a HUGE amount of disinformation being spread about this, so here are some facts, many of which I've discussed at length before - there's actually very little, if any, 'new' news here:
1. Data covers a period of time, so when it says things like "only tested on pregnant mice" or "it is unknown if the vaccine passes into breast milk", that was back at the beginning, around 2 years ago. Many tens (or hundreds) of thousands of pregnant and lactating people have been vaccinated at this point, and studied.
2. Remember people get ill all the time anyway. Going to the cinema and having a stroke on the same day are not necessarily related, likewise for vaccinations. Billions of vaccinations have occurred worldwide -  for none of those people to get ill or even sadly die within a couple of weeks, hours or minutes of injection is just not plausible. Just because a report has occurred doesn't even imply a link, it just means it needs to be logged and examined for a link.
3. Most reports of 'adverse effects' still involve a variation on 'sore arm'. Some are serious and tragic, absolutely, but they are few and far between. Your risk of serious harm from vaccination is still around 3 in a million.
4. You only need to look at the UK figures, world figures, your own friends and family, people you actually know, to see how effective vaccines are at preventing severe disease and death from COVID. When the UK didn't have vaccines, we were losing upwards of 1,000 people a day at points. We have vaccines and better treatments, and despite horrendous infection levels over 2 million people a week for the last couple of months, we are currently losing around 1,000 people a week. The whole world figures match this - vaccines work.
5. We already know that vaccines were not so effective against Delta, and are not as good against Omicron, and we always knew we'd need regular boosters, the same as we do for flu. There's really not a lot of news in the fact that 2 original jabs 9 months ago does naff all to protect you nowadays.
6. The whole world is not all going to take part in a single lie, and why would they? If your Government wanted to control you, you already willingly hold an item that you pay for yourself, with GPS that tracks your every movement. It logs what you buy, where you go, who you mix with. It's called a smartphone. Think logically, what has anyone to gain from giving you a jab that did anything other than protect you from a disease? 

Keeping an eye on how vaccines perform is vital - and the US FDA have decided that the single dose Johnson&Johnson (Janssen) vaccine should have limited use:
"After conducting an updated analysis, evaluation and investigation of reported cases, the FDA has determined that the risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), a syndrome of rare and potentially life-threatening blood clots in combination with low levels of blood platelets with onset of symptoms approximately one to two weeks following administration of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine, warrants limiting the authorized use of the vaccine."
The FDA say this vaccine still has a very important part to play (and it's incredibly handy and affordable) but there are simply safer options available, and you should use them if you have a choice. COVID itself still remains a substantially greater threat to your life, and the risk from vaccination incredibly small:
"The FDA has determined that the reporting rate of TTS is 3.23 per million doses of vaccine administered and the reporting rate of TTS deaths is 0.48 per million doses of vaccine administered."

Text and image of COVID Sars Cov 2 virus

The US is seeing an increase in cases wherever the roadies choice Omicron sub-variant BA2.12.1 exists.
CDC estimates show that in the USA BA.2.12.1 made up about 36% of new cases last week, up from 26% a week earlier, which is up from16% the week before that. It's undoubtedly taking over, and likely to do so elsewhere.
We still don't know why it is more catchy (more virus being breathed out/makes more virus more quickly/holds on better in the body/escapes antibodies?), and we don't really have any data for certain because it was only first spotted last month, but so far it still doesn't seem any more serious than other Omicron strains, as hospitalisations and losses of life are not rising as rapidly as new cases.

Looking at the UK's variant monitoring, BA.2.12.1 doesn't make an appearance yet (it will do soon). Remember we don't sequence every confirmed case, just a random selection, and we are currently all Omicron:
Omicron Original (B.1.1.529) = 2,178,620 (+623)
Omicron BA.2 (B.1.1.529.BA.2) = 422,208 (+15,253)
Omicron XE (B.1.1.529.XE) = 1,416 (+45)

And talking of Omicron's severity... It's been widely assumed it is less severe than previous variants, but a large study in the USA (not-yet-peer-reviewed) suggests it isn't. It's just as deadly as previous variants, it appears that we are just better at handling it. They accounted for rates of vaccination and other factors that differ over time and populations, and summarised that:
"....we found that the risks of hospitalization and mortality were nearly identical between periods. Our analysis suggests that the intrinsic severity of the Omicron variant may be as severe as previous variants."
Bad news/good news that one. At least we are staying ahead of the virus... 

060522 UK variants update

NHS England is asking doctors who are due to retire to stay on and help clear the 'elective backlog'. As a reminder, 'elective' applies to pretty much anything that can probably wait until next week without you dying in the meantime. 

'Paxlovid rebound' is a new phrase I haven't mentioned before, and it's getting people talking in the USA. In rare cases patients who take the anti-viral Paxlovid are not actually developing their own immune response and clearing COVID, as much as just putting a pause on it. There are several documented cases where people have had their 5 day treatment course, tested negative, and then tested positive again a few days later - sometimes symptoms are even returning. It was mentioned in Pfizer's own trial results, so it's not unknown, but as more people use the drug, it's happening to more people, and it's something that medical and care staff should be aware of.
The US CDC and National Institutes of Health are both on the case, but don't panic, the FDA are quoted by ABC News as saying that the majority of patients “did not have symptoms at the time of a positive PCR test after testing negative, and, most importantly, there was no increased occurrence of hospitalization or death or development of drug resistance.”

The World Health Organisation estimate that excess mortality since the pandemic began is around 14.9 million. Those people have died as a direct or indirect result of COVID. This is 3 times the officially recorded deaths, and it isn't the first time we've seen this estimate.
- Several countries were unable to test or record everyone due to poverty or during waves which overwhelmed healthcare.
- India, Peru and Ecuador are among the countries which will likely never know due to massive outbreaks during which home burials and cremations took place.
- Several studies have shown large numbers of deaths from respiratory problems before areas/countries began testing or believed COVID had reached them.
- People who died during an outbreak while waiting for an ambulance, or because they were too scared to go to hospital, or because no hospital bed was available, or because they didn't receive the checks and rapid care they needed, also died because COVID exists.
- People have died from lack of food, support with living, or other reasons caused by deprivation due to the pandemic.
(If you do want to read more, the COVID Actuaries Response Group latest article looks at indirect deaths due to COVID in the UK.)

Foreign investors are becoming twitchy about China's COVID response. It is becoming increasingly clear that China is willing to take a large hit financially in order to continue their ZeroCOVID policy and the lockdowns it will require. Long term it's a financial gamble that could well pay off - the UK will spend and lose billions because of Long COVID, plus bereavement and other costs associated with 170,000 people dying early, and then there's the cost to our public health service... 

060522 Updated antibody levels chart by age group UK

The World Trade Organisation's 'Quad' group of 4 (the European Union, India, South Africa and the United States) have proposed a waiver on the 'intellectual property rights' for COVID vaccines. This would mean companies around the world could make them at cost, and would be especially beneficial to our poorest nations.
'The Quad' have a lot of power, so although this has to go to the full council of 164 members (which includes each EU state individually), it is hopeful. Especially so as China have already said they are in favour. Financial end of year accounting released this week shows the main vaccine companies each made billions in profits. They got enough already. 

The latest COVID Media Briefing by the World Health Organisation is mainly positive, but wary:
"Globally, reported cases and deaths from COVID19 are continuing to decline, with reported weekly deaths at their lowest since March 2020. But these trends, while welcome, don’t tell the full story.
Driven by Omicron sub-variants, we are seeing an increase in reported cases in the Americas & Africa.
The South African scientists who identified Omicron late last year have now reported 2 more Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 & BA.5, as the reason for a spike in cases in South Africa.
It’s too soon to know whether these new subvariants can cause more severe disease than other Omicron subvariants, but early data suggests vaccination remains protective against severe disease & death."
Omicron really is just a pain in the behind... 

The WHO's opening address at their high level International Conference for Ukraine was worth a listen too:
"It’s often said that the 1st casualty of war is truth. The same saying could apply to health. The disruption of health services across Ukraine has been catastrophic, compounded by displacement & millions of people remain trapped in conflict areas, unable to move.
This puts services and infrastructure, and the health of millions of people, at severe risk. The resilience of any health system is defined not by its buildings, but its people – those who deliver care even in the most extreme circumstances.
We salute the nurses caring for newborns in hospital basements;
Ambulance drivers and paramedics rescuing people from bombed buildings;
Medical teams conducting surgery and delivering babies under fire;
Primary health care workers still trying to provide care for children and older people;
And the logistics workers who continue to find and deliver supplies on which lives depend."

Tiny baby hand in a very feminine hand

The US FDA has announced it will temporarily track COVID prevalence and variants using wastewater. We know that you can predict an outbreak before it happens by looking in people's poo, but you can also see exactly which family tree the COVID belongs too, and track it's movement from area to area. It's incredibly useful, and if you take the time to study it, can be used to predict where extra staff may be needed in hospitals in 2 weeks time, how fast variants are spreading, and a multitude of other potential things I can't think of just now. 

Britain's Food Standards Agency have scrapped a rule on radioactivity levels in produce, so now fish and vegetables grown near the old Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan can be freely sold over here...
As one reply I saw said "I'm sure you can spin glow in the dark vegetables as a gourmet delicacy". 

Hello, you especially vulnerable people - you still matter to me. All of you. 

Mental Health and wellbeing for pregnant people call for evidence

It is Maternal Mental Health Week. Millions of babies have been carried and born over the pandemic, and it must have been a very scary and potentially lonely time for every single parent involved. The UK Government is asking for pregnant people and new parents to share their experiences and views on how mental health services can best support them, to help shape the new 10-year mental health plan. Make your voice heard.
They are also asking for evidence and views from anyone (of any age) who has required mental health support, works with people who need support, or studies mental health. Google 'mental health and wellbeing plan UK Gov' to make YOUR feelings known. 

It is the weekend! Hurrah! It has been a good week for me overall, I hope yours was too, and I hope you have something nice planned for yourself over the next couple of days - or whenever your 'weekend' falls. You still made it through another 7 days, and you still earnt a treat for yourself - not because anyone else would like it, but because you would. The UK and most nations are in a better place COVID-wise than last week, but we have areas on this Earth where COVID is really hitting hard - best of luck and common sense to anyone in that position.

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

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):

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

World 515,815,537 (+561,934) 6,272,006 (+2,404)

Germany 25,203,564 (+87,201) 136,564 (+159)

USA 83,437,158 (+66,611) 1,023,908 (+225)

Australia 6,130,748 (+54,868) 7,424 (+57)

Italy 16,683,043 (+48,672) 164,179 (+138)

France 28,849,915 (+44,225) 146,498 (+122)

S. Korea 17,438,068 (+42,277) 23,158 (+79)

Taiwan 232,356 (+30,060) 886 (+5)

Finland 1,052,767 (+29,754) 4,150 (+211)

Japan 7,978,912 (+26,720) 29,708 (+25)

Brazil 30,524,183 (+21,682) 663,967 (+151)

Canada 3,783,091 (+11,631) 39,673 (+188)

UK 22,107,483 (+10,896) 175,984 (+438)

Thailand 4,300,614 (+9,790) 28,917 (+54)

South Africa 3,818,125 (+9,757) 100,471 (+64)

New Zealand 969,959 (+8,697) 774 (+21)

Austria 4,166,759 (+5,755) 18,222 (+22)

Greece 3,348,756 (+5,191) 29,315 (+31)

Russia 18,211,178 (+5,011) 376,560 (+139)




Mental Health and wellbeing questionnaire


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