Friday 21 October 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 21st October 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 21st October 2022

World: 631 million reported cases and 6.5 million losses of life.

"COVAX did not fail because it was badly designed. We failed because of the greed of the north. We failed because of the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. We failed because of self-interest in certain member states, who were not prepared to share"
Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organisation at the World Health Summit 2022.

Thank you NHS text over images of NHS emergency workers including ambulance staff

An actual scuffle broke out in UK Parliament on Wednesday, when MPs were voting on Fracking. All the Tories were ordered to vote for fracking, which upset a lot of them, especially MPs who had literally campaigned to have it banned. Photos emerged of people being physically manhandled in to cast their vote, although apparently that was fine because they didn't actually have guns. Over 30 Tories survived without voting by hiding in a cupboard. Priti Patel and the actual Prime Minister Liz Truss were among them. Boris was abroad  on holiday in the Caribbean. 

Thursday lunchtime Liz was up before the 1922 Committee to plead her job, just as Boris did merely weeks earlier.
Within 2 hours she made her 89 second long resignation speech outside Downing Street and the UK is yet again being led by an invisible force. 
Liz has the shortest ever time in office at just 45 days. Truly record-breaking.
3 Prime Ministers during one term in office is a weeny bit unusual, and hints towards some failures within the present incumbents. Calls for a General Election are going to be long and loud. 

The UK is still reporting higher numbers of deaths than usual, 10% higher in the latest report for the week ending 7th October.
"Calculated excess deaths (1,031) were significantly higher than the number of deaths mentioning COVID on the death certificate (400). This is consistent with the general pattern of recent months."
COVID Actuaries. 
Why? The after-effect of the pandemic is multi-pronged, and although we can say these people probably died because we had a pandemic (and we know some of them died because scans or treatments were delayed), we can't yet seem to openly admit these figures are partly because some people catch COVID and never fully recover. 

Paul Mainwood graph showing risk of reinfection
Paul Mainwood

An elderly patient with a chest infection has died in an ambulance outside Fairfield Hospital in Bury, Greater Manchester. There were no beds inside to transfer them to, and despite antibiotics and other treatment in the ambulance, they suffered a fatal heart attack.
This was inevitable with patients regularly being held in ambulances in car parks for 8 hours or more, and is horrific for the patient, their relatives and the ambulance staff. 

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) have published a study titled "Nurse staffing and inpatient mortality in the English National Health Service: a retrospective longitudinal study". 
It takes information from "19,287 ward-day observations with information on 4,498 nurses and 66,923 hospital admissions in 53 inpatient hospital wards for acutely ill adult patients for calendar year 2017".
They were looking to see if you were more likely to survive on wards staffed with experienced nurses. No surprises, they found that you were. 
"On average, an extra 12-hour shift by an RN (Registered Nurse) was associated with a reduction in the odds of a patient death of 9.6%. An additional senior RN (in NHS pay band 7 or 8) had 2.2 times the impact of an additional band 5 RN."
So yeah, the reason we pay experienced people more, is because there is no substitute for experience. Sadly our experienced NHS nurses are leaving in droves. They're over-worked, exhausted, disrespected and no end in sight, who can blame them?

In the UK Autumn COVID Boosters can now be booked by people who fall into the following groups:
- aged 50 and over
- pregnant
- at higher risk due to a health condition 
- immunosuppressed
- a frontline health and social care worker
- a carer

This month's UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is attempting to restore worldwide faith in the UK Government and fiscal policy by destroying everything Kwasi Kwarteng did as quickly as possible. Real life Ctrl + Z (the "please God let me undo that" buttons). Sadly this includes the energy price cap. Bizarrely Putin has been rambling on about this too, he thinks placing a cap means you drive demand and meet the cap very quickly, and push prices over the top. Leaving it to fluctuate naturally ends in lower prices all round. In his opinion. 
So, yeah. No universal energy price cap after April in the UK. We have yet to see where that'll take us. Fingers crossed.

Jeremy Hunt's cuts is a very hard phrase to say correctly isn't it? 
(Just ask Robert Peston.)

The UK ONS have released data on reinfections, and 'natural immunity', which looks at the level of infection that protects you in the future. Basically a very mild case of COVID won't give you the same protection as a more severe case. The implication of this is that, as with lots of other infectious diseases, some people will get infection after infection until one day they get it bad. As we know COVID can cause damage each time you get it, it isn't something we really want to catch repeatedly. (I'd be remiss if I didn't mention school children, care home residents, repeat visitors to hospitals and healthcare workers at this point.) 

Heart Attack symptoms in women

The UK NHS is preparing for "what could be the worst Winter on record". We're told they are setting up "war rooms" or control hubs as would probably be a more appropriate name. The aim is to have a live view of where we have any vacant beds, in order to find space for as many people as possible (and stop them dying in the hospital car park or being turned away).
As yet we honestly have no idea how bad a Winter we will have, but assuming no measures against COVID, more damp and mold because of increased energy costs, waning immunity after 2 Winters indoors, and a large dose of complacency from the crowd, it is anticipated we may have a very bad year for respiratory infections, pneumonia and flu. Models predict we could even have half the UK's NHS hospital beds filled with people struggling to breathe.
Be sensible, make best use of fresh air and cardigans.

The UKs Health And Social Care Committee (HSCC) have just published their latest report on General Practice, or Doctor's surgeries as we usually call them.
It found that there are massive flaws, including no continuity of care (seeing a doctor shouldn't be like booking a taxi with a stranger) and an exodus of experienced GPs. Only 23.2% of GPs work full time, and we are 6,000 GPs short.
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the RCGP (Royal College of General Practitioners) presented evidence:
"... one of the reasons some GPs feel unable to work more hours is due to the workload and pressures they are under". 
The HSCC realise that ordering Doctors to take more patients isn't going to fix a lack of Doctors, and will likely just make the current problems worse.

Lurking under the cloud of impending Winter doom, scientists are getting very agitated about which variants will take over - it will make all the difference. Exciting variants include:
- XBB, which is a combination of 2 Omicron variants (BA.2.75 and BJ.1) that is causing a (relatively small) surge in Asia, notably in Singapore and Bangladesh, and Maharashtra in India. It is on paper the most immune-evasive variant yet, although we have yet to see if that will prove true in real life. Early signs are better than predicted at this point.
- BA.2.75.2.
- BQ.1. The USA is experiencing an 'uptick' partly due to BQ.1 (finally, they get their own variant). They also have an issue with BQ.11. Watch this space... 
- BF.7. Belgium gets their own variant too.  
- BA.2.3.20

In the UK BA.2.75.X, BF.7 and BQ.X are all variants which "show evidence of a positive growth rate compared to BA.5". Basically they are low in number at the moment, but all are spreading more rapidly than the rate of our usual Omicron BA.5. Smaller, but faster. The strains currently designated a Variant Of Concern are all of those which start with Omicron BA.1, BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5. 
"From UK data, BQ.X, BA.2.75.2 and BF.7 are the most concerning variants in terms of both growth and neutralisation data at present; there is also supportive animal model data for BA.2.75."
You got all that? Good. This is why I don't spend ages on variants, it's a full time job just to track what's out there. 

Laurie Garratt - Omicron Family Tree image
Laurie Garrett

Hoax Of The Week:
mRNA vaccines for Heart Regeneration are hitting the news in some quarters (anti-vaxxers). I don't get it? It's like seagulls round chips. Something is public knowledge for years, then someone spots it and drags it out like news, and they all flock. Yes. Pfizer and Moderna and AstraZeneca are all DRUGS MANUFACTURERS. They weren't sitting round waiting for a pandemic, they were busy inventing new and more expensive drugs. 
And no, they haven't given us all something that causes heart damage and then offered us a cure. If they were genius evil villains then they'd be offering us all a cure for all the things COVID can cause, not just one. 

What's the difference in protection if you get your booster? Latest research about severe COVID and hospitalisation is in a new paper published in The Lancet (not yet peer reviewed). They found that using UK NHS figures, between 8th Dec 2020 and 28th Feb 2022:
"16,208,600 individuals completed their primary vaccine schedule and 13,836,390 individuals received a booster dose. Between 20th Dec 2021 and 28th Feb 2022, 59,510 (0·4%) of the primary vaccine group and 26,100 (0·2%) of those who received their booster had severe COVID-19 outcomes. The risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes reduced after receiving the booster (rate change: 8·8 events per 1000 person-years to 7·6 events per 1000 person-years)."
Older adults (≥80 years vs 18–49 years), those with comorbidities, males and people with certain underlying health conditions remained at high risk despite getting their first booster. People who had a COVID infection (at least 9 months before) were at reduced risk of reinfection.
Good news/bad news there. Remember though that we now have bivalent boosters especially designed for Omicron, and before vaccinations the rate of severe COVID was 10 times what it is now. 

Footage is emerging of schoolchildren in China wearing white disposable suits and boarding busses to go to COVID quarantine. 

"A recent preprint purported to show that SARS-CoV-2 is of synthetic origin, but it is so deeply flawed that it wouldn’t pass kindergarten molecular biology."
Kristian G Anderson of the Anderson Lab at Scripps Institute.
He goes to to explain they are getting over-excited about finding small virus mutations which will also occur naturally - and gives examples from the COVID GitHub database.
"The study is a clear example of motivated reasoning with a heavy dose of technobabble to make it sound legitimate - but it’s nothing more than poppycock dressed up as science."
He isn't all mean, he had a kind word for them:
"By all means, analyses such as these are valuable and worth doing - I myself did a bunch back in Jan/Feb, 2020. However, let’s make sure we have an actual scientific approach to them and don’t make up complete nonsense ‘studies’ to try and bolster a preferred narrative."

The US CDC has authorised the Novovax Vaccine as a mix and match booster for Americans aged 18+ who previously had the Pfizer or Moderna jab.
This is a classic vaccine, more similar to the Oxford AstraZeneca jab, and mixing vaccine types has proven more effective time and time again. Novovax is also particularly effective against Omicron B5, and it can be given to people who can't use mRNA vaccines. 

If we do have power cuts (seems likely) then a battery-operated camping lantern is a very safe thing for kids to carry and tends to be less hilarious than a torch. If you use candles then tealights floating in a cereal bowl look very pretty, and when the cat/child/dressing gown sleeve knocks them over, you've a large chance they'll be put out before they hit the floor. Be careful. 

We have more on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Uganda, and it's taken a turn for the worse. Officials have imposed lockdowns in 2 areas and the US CDC have stepped up a response level in case of any imported cases.
This is the Ebola-Sudanese variant, for which there is no vaccine. It's possible around 25% of people who catch it may have no symptoms, but around 50% of people who have symptoms will not survive. 

Book your Autumn booster online text over autumnal leaves

Trump Of The Day:
Podcast celebrity Tucker Carlson claimed that the US CDC were about to vote on adding COVID vaccination to the childhood Immunisation schedule, which would make it compulsory for school. The CDC themselves corrected him with the following:
"Thursday, CDC's independent advisory committee (ACIP) will vote on an updated childhood immunization schedule. States establish vaccine requirements for school children, not ACIP or CDC."
Naughty Tucker. Try and keep it real.

Professor Xi Chen of Yale School of Public Health has warned that China currently have such a low rate of vaccination, and so few people have caught COVID, they would face an "Imminent public health crisis" if they allowed COVID to spread at all. They have no choice, they can't give up on Zero COVID, they are far from prepared for it. 

Scientists Get Naughty:
Researchers at Boston University in the USA have made a SARS-CoV-2 virus that has the spike of Omicron BA.1 and the remaining genome of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. 
(This kind of thing has merit because it can be used when testing potential treatments and vaccines.)
However, they are in big trouble because their research was funded by the US government via the National Institute for Health (NIH), but they did not ask the NIH for permission to create this potentially more dangerous variant. Unsurprisingly you need to have all of the authorisations signed and dotted, you aren't allowed to just create super mutant virus whenever you feel like it...  

People Get Stupid:
The rise of anti-vaccine sentiment has a knock on effect to all a host of infectious diseases which we currently protect ourselves against by vaccinations. Tragically this is becoming evident in the USA already, outbreaks of Polio (New York) and Measles (Minnesota). 
The reason you don't fear these diseases is because you don't have to.

It is the weekend - Hurrah! It's also a week off for a lot of children, and a week of juggling for parents. Don't try and do too much, slow down and take a breather. Enjoy the Autumn light and the last of the warmth. Winter's coming.

Get Outdoors, Breathe Fresh Air, Save The NHS.

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

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

Germany 35,098,062 (+92,293) 152,278 (+178)
France 36,475,518 (+56,793) 156,256 (+69)
Italy 23,254,633 (+40,560) 178,359 (+84)
Taiwan 7,341,940 (+39,782) 12,128 (+92)
Japan 21,894,638 (+36,110) 46,085 (+71)
USA 99,037,439 (+25,626) 1,092,409 (+175)
S. Korea 25,219,546 (+25,369) 28,922 (+23)
Russia 21,345,154 (+10,067) 389,266 (+90)
Austria 5,380,340 (+9,968) 20,980 (+5)
Singapore 2,046,123 (+8,176) 1,659 (+5)
UK 23,855,522 (+8,105) 192,682 (+143) Chile 4,696,888 (+6,375) 61,495 (+36) Hong Kong 1,858,720 (+5,433) 10,306 (+9)
Brazil 34,818,774 (+5,096) 687,544 (+66)



WHO Quote
"New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announces universal energy price cap will now only last until April as he reverses almost all of Liz Truss' mini-budget"

Severe outcomes

The USA might be about to provide the next exciting COVID variants
Variants and Winter
Note on XXB
"Is there really a COVID ‘nightmare variant’ spreading? Here’s what experts say"


Obesity and Mortality covered last week:

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