Friday 14 October 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus (and other virussy) UK and World News Update 14th October 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus (and other virussy) UK and World News Update 14th October 2022

World: 629,131,545 reported cases and 6,568,889 losses of life.

The UK NHS has opened up online and phone bookings for the COVID Autumn Boosters today - around 12 million people aged over 50 can now access their jab. Some lucky people will be able to book the double whammy of booster plus flu jab together to save you having to go twice.

Don't say it out loud, but UK hospital admissions with COVID have flattened off this week... shhhhh...

Boost immunity against COVID and flu UK Gov bold text

Today's randomly sampled ONS data for the week ending 3rd October for England, and 29th September for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland:
"The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to increase in England and Northern Ireland, increased in Wales, and the trend was uncertain in Scotland.
- England, estimate 1,513,700, equating to 2.78% of the population, or around 1 in 35 people.
- Wales, estimate 74,900, equating to 2.47% of the population, or around 1 in 40 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 45,100, equating to 2.46% of the population, or around 1 in 40 people.
- Scotland, estimate 109,700, equating to 2.08% of the population, or around 1 in 50 people.

"One of the most worrying discoveries of the past few years is that the NHS doesn't collapse. It degrades. And politicians have discovered that - while people would notice a collapse - most don't notice a huge degradation of essential services they use only occasionally."
Paul Mainwood, a numbers bloke, commenting on the Category 2 NHS ambulance waiting times in the UK. 
Category 2 includes severe chest pain and strokes, and the target is 18 minutes. The current English average is a very sobering 58 minutes. 
Ambulance handover times at hospital should ideally be 15 minutes or less. Because of full hospitals and short staff, the whole system backs up. 
"The South West Ambulance Service handed over 973 patients to hospitals on Monday, 26 September. Their mean handover time was 2 hours and 23 minutes. At Treliske it was over 4 hours." 
He also comments Wales and Northern Ireland have comparable stats, while Scotland are "coping". 

Kwasi Kwartengs goodbye letter

We also have the news this week that the NHS waiting list now contains over 7 million people. That is 1 in every 8 of us waiting for treatment. The good news is people waiting over 18 months has dropped to just 121,711, so fingers crossed eh...
According to figures in the Metro yesterday:
"A record 255,055 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in August, the highest monthly total in records going back to 2009."
This is an indication that people are delaying going to their doctor, or missing regular screening. 

Medical professionals do their damndest to triage people into order of importance and get you the help you need in good time.

The Isle Of Wight has been struggling.
"We are seeing a rise in COVID cases on the Island and the number of people in our hospital with COVID is increasing rapidly to levels beyond what we saw during the pandemic.”
Steve Parker, Medical Director, Isle Of Wight NHS Trust.
St Mary's hospital is full, and declared a critical incident on Tuesday. Only people with life-threatening conditions were able to enter for treatment, including A&E.
They place the blame on the rapid rise in COVID, and slow release of in-patients to home care.
On the brighter side, it's good to know the COVID pandemic is over, what a relief that is. Bet those record-breaking numbers of COVID patients in your hospital will be pleased when you tell 'em Steve...

141022 average ambulance response times England Paul Mainwood
Image by Paul Mainwood

If you are in the UK then Jeremy Hunt is your new Chancellor of the Exchequer. He can count backwards from 13-0 in half the time Kwasi can, so Kwasi was sacked. Or he was the only one with his hand up, or something. 
Kwasi Kwarteng holds the distinction of being the 2nd shortest reigning Chancellor the UK has ever had. It took him a mere 38 days to almost completely destroy the UK economy, devalue the £ and cost us tens of billions. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) wanted a word with him today, but sadly he was already on the plane home before breakfast. 

It's official. The UK does have high mortality this year. I reported 3 months ago that in the first quarter (Jan to March) we lost 99% of the number of people we would expect to die - less people. This was not entirely unexpected, and potentially due to people dying a few months early from COVID over the previous 2 years.
In the 2nd quarter we lost 105% of the number we lost at the same time in 2019. The extra 5% were in part directly from COVID, but also things like heart attacks, strokes and heart disease.
We now have the figures for the 3rd quarter, and it's up again. 109% of the same months in 2019. The 3rd quarter is July-September and traditionally has low mortality, and the heatwave alone doesn't cover it. This is something we really need to keep an eye on, because we simply can't lose so many extra people week in, week out, forever. 

The Swiss CDC, BAG, has reinstated the recommendation to wear masks, due to the rising COVID cases in Switzerland.

UK Chancellors Jan to October 2022 4 images of faces with title text

The newly-developed Oxford/AstraZeneca nasal COVID vaccine has had disappointing trial results. It just isn't reliable enough, and even in people who did have an antibody response, it was a substantially lower than with vaccination by injection. Shame, however it isn't all bad news if you hate needles or can't be jabbed. The UK might have to go back to the drawing board, but India's Bharat Biotech and China's CanSino have both had far better results with their inhaled vaccines, which are now both approved in the country of origin, so large scale real-world data, and possibly even authorisation, should be available soon. 

We have more research looking into what COVID infection does to our brains, and it's as grim as last time. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine found that in the year after after testing positive for COVID, patients had a higher chance of being diagnosed with 44 different Neurological Disorders, including memory loss and Alzheimer's disease. The worse the COVID illness, the higher the chance, but overall on average it was almost 1 1/2 times as great. 

Post COVID 1 year risk of Neurological conditions

The UK NHS Blood and Transplant service has declared it's first ever Amber Alert as we are dangerously low on blood stocks - we have less than 2 days supply. Anyone is requested to please donate if you can, especially if you are:
- Type O - O Negative can be given to almost anyone, so is used in emergencies, ambulances etc. O Positive can be given to anyone with a positive blood type.
- Black or South Asian - people with sickle cell anaemia desperately need B Positive blood, which is more common in Black and South Asian populations.
Go to Blood dot Co dot UK to find out if you're eligible to donate, and book an appointment. 
Tragically they are short of staff, so you might not be able to come in this week, but constant rolling stocks of blood are needed to keep people alive, so any appointment is worth making. A single 1 pint donation can be used to help up to 5 people, including premature babies, accident survivors, and platelets for people undergoing Cancer treatments. 

Both COVID and flu are on the rise as we approach Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and literally no-one can predict how bad a flu season any of us are going to have.
The USA certainly seems to be heading into flu season early. That is a bit concerning, and hopefully not made worse by people becoming confused or wary because of all the misinformation, and deciding against a flu jab.
Flu is just as harsh as it was 4 years ago, and if you get it at the same time as COVID, whatever your age, you double your chances of being hospitalised, or dying.
Stay at home if you are ill. Don't share.

UK ONS Obesity and mortality Jan 2020 to August 2022

The UK ONS have released a report (early figures) looking at Obesity and Mortality During The Pandemic - Jan 2020 to August 2022. Ordinarily being so overweight that you are classified as obese does increase risk of death from illness by a fairly small margin, but with COVID it becomes a really big factor.
"The rate of all-cause death was 1.22 and 1.12 times greater for men and women, respectively, with obesity compared with those without obesity, after adjusting for age, ethnic group, geographical factors, socio-economic characteristics, and smoking status.
The rate of death involving COVID-19 was 2.12 and 2.22 times greater for men and women, respectively, with obesity compared with those without obesity; this was after adjusting for age, ethnic group, geographical factors, socio-economic characteristics, smoking status, and COVID-19 vaccination status."
Even after they'd adjusted the figures to match for comorbidities like asthma, heart disease or diabetes, "the rate of death involving COVID-19 remained 1.64 and 1.62 times greater for men and women with obesity, respectively".
Winter vegetable soup is very cheap and easy to make, retains most of the vitamins (you'd usually throw them out with the vegetable water), fills you up and is naturally low calorie and low fat. 

Hoax Of The Week:
Pfizer have been in the European Court this week, discussing their vaccine rollout and whether it was all done correctly and safely. Comments made have got the vocal anti-vaxxer contingent very agitated.
1. Yes, Coronavirus vaccines were in development for years before COVID came along. You know why I'm sure.  It's because the common cold is a coronavirus, and who wouldn't want to cure the common cold? Lots of people had been trying for decades. COVID caused the urgency and released almost unlimited funding for that technology to be developed into targeted COVID vaccines. It's also shown us 'curing the common cold' wouldn't be at all easy. There are several common cold strains, and they all adapt and mutate the same way that COVID does...
2. It's true, at the beginning Pfizer didn't know if vaccines would prevent you catching COVID, or whether you'd still be able to pass it on. That's impossible to really test in trials unless you trap and isolate all the participants away from the rest of us and watch what happens. What they aimed for was preventing loss of life. Pfizer themselves and UK Government Ministers mentioned all of this lots of times, but some folk seem to have forgotten.
Less than 10% of the people who used to die currently still die. That's a massive win. Reducing transmission also occurs, because less snotting and coughing everywhere reduces transmission, and less virus in your lungs (because you beat it more quickly and easily) also reduces transmission. Secondary big win. 
3. If a headline or comment sounds like someone with a lot of anger, or has 15 exclamation marks, take a step back and consider why they're so emotional about it, and whether what they say makes sense. 

Talking of Pfizer approval, the USA have just approved their bivalent COVID Booster for children aged 5-11, and Health Canada have approved it for anyone 12+. They're just 2 of many, so expect bivalent (two-pronged attack on regular COVID and Omicron) jabs somewhere near you soon... 
(The UK are already using Moderna's Bivalent vaccine for your Autumn Booster, and have orders in with Pfizer for theirs.)

Three images of Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid - who we will have forever
Robbie Coltrane, who died today aged 72

China are still pursuing their Zero COVID strategy. According to the New York Times:
"Desperate to isolate recent outbreaks, health workers have resorted to barricading buildings and even cordoning off single individuals in public spaces. Nearly two hundred million people are in some form of lockdown in China."
Word is that the ongoing mass testing is crippling China financially, and they really can't keep it up forever. 

Monkeypox Watch
There have been around 22,000 monkeypox cases in Europe, and the trend is definitely down. Catherine Smallwood of WHO:
"Reason to reflect on what contributes to decline and what we must do to end the outbreak? Yes. 
Reason to wrap-up public health response? No."
She lists 5 reasons:
1. A temporary reduction in sexual partners won't be sustained forever.
2. True transmission rates are likely to be much higher because of testing capacity and stigma - not everyone will get tested or report symptoms.
3. Our understanding of vaccine efficacy and how long it protects is weak, as is understanding of treatments and why exactly they help. (Smallpox vaccines were originally used as an emergency measure when a far more fatal strain of monkeypox broke out, and they'd have tried just about anything.)
4. Access to information, testing and treatment is really not even across the board. For a lot of people it is, and will continue to be, very difficult or impossible to access.
5. Complacency and boredom. Attention will go elsewhere and no-one will talk about monkeypox any more, which will lead to people thinking it's gone away and isn't an issue for them. We owe it to those people who have worked hard and given up their free time so far, to keep going until it really has gone. 

We've had clearer advice regarding the Bird Flu outbreak. Do not touch any sick or dead birds you find, and in the UK contact DEFRA if you feel concerned or spot any of the following:
- a single dead bird of prey, including owls
- 3 or more dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls
- 5 or more dead birds of any species

Bird Flu dos and donts Avian flu

As well as the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, there are outbreaks of Cholera in Haiti and Malaria in Pakistan due to the flooding. Floods occur every year, but extreme weather is in large part due to climate change, which means we caused it, and they suffer the consequences. My thoughts are with everyone living somewhere where they can't feel safe.
It's the weekend! Hurrah. I have no idea why Facebook republished last week's post on Thursday night, but I did think it was strange when I had so many notifications... thank you to everyone who thought I'd gone mad, but don't worry, I can hide it better than that. It says nothing is scheduled, so fingers crossed it doesn't happen again.
I shall be going to the tip this weekend, but to balance it out I will also be spoiling myself a little. I hope you guys remember and have a treat for yourself - those little things can give us the boost we need to raise us from the floor. You earnt it. Have a good weekend.

Stay Warm, But Get Outdoors, Save The NHS. 

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

COVID Cases / Losses of life YESTERDAY in the full 24 hours until midnight GMT. (Access to testing varies by country and time period.)

Germany 34,517,327 (+114,198) 151,260 (+165)
France 36,102,545 (+64,218) 155,737 (+62)
Taiwan 7,050,703 (+53,374) 11,686 (+29)
Italy 22,990,201 (+45,705) 177,785 (+66)
Japan 21,656,190 (+45,690) 45,693 (+78)
USA 98,779,943 (+28,545) 1,089,916 (+246)
S. Korea 25,052,677 (+26,928) 28,748 (+25)
Russia 21,264,080 (+15,477) 388,610 (+101)
Austria 5,306,372 (+13,599) 20,895
Singapore 1,988,760 (+9,501) 1,639 (+3)
UK 23,798,793 (+9,075) 191,681 (+114)
Hong Kong 1,821,754 (+5,622) 10,254 (+8)
Chile 4,664,095 (+4,894) 61,355 (+5)
Australia 10,302,591 (+4,485) 15,454 (+15)
Brazil 34,782,182 (+4,189) 687,120 (+44)


Ambulance Times
Swiss CDC


Bivalent safety

Obesity and mortality


Bird Flu

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