Friday 4 November 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Weekly Update 4th November 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Weekly Update 4th November 2022

World COVID Statistics: 637,112,203 reported cases and 6,602,562 losses of life.

Latest ONS random sampling for the week ending 24 October is a mixed bag: 
"The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) decreased in England, continued to decrease in Wales, continued to increase in Northern Ireland and the trend in the percentage of people testing positive was uncertain in Scotland."
- England, estimate 1,593,900, equating to 2.92% of the population, or around 1 in 35 people.
- Wales, estimate 77,500, equating to 2.55% of the population, or around 1 in 40 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 61,200, equating to 3.34% of the population, or around 1 in 30 people.
- Scotland, estimate 141,400, equating to 2.69% of the population, or around 1 in 35 people.

RSV advice on symptoms from UK NHS text over lung image

Variant Watch
The UK HSA's latest report includes notes:
"There is the potential for BQ.1 (and sub-lineages), XBB and other similar lineages to cause a further near-term increase in transmission. This is based on the growth advantage shown by BQ.1 and sub-lineages in the UK based on more than one model, the international growth of XBB and the available predictive and laboratory data on antigenic change (moderate confidence).
Further Omicron derived variants may continue to contribute to transmission as there is still potential for the RBD to evolve on the current background (moderate confidence)."
RBD is 'receptor-binding domain', which basically means keyhole, or docking port. It's where the virus attaches.
So yeah, we do know these variants are out there, and they are all Omicron. We know they're very quick, and can get past a lot of our defences. We still don't know how well they'll do against the new Omicron-specific boosters in the real world, but on paper, it honestly looks pretty good. 
As of 24th October 2022:
BQ.1 (V-22OCT01)  - There are 2,490 non-UK sequences on GISAID and 3,207 UK sequences.
XBB (V-22OCT-02 - a recombinant from 2 parent strains of BA.2) - There are 1,086 international samples, including 18 UK samples and 639 from Singapore. 
BF.7  - 11,922 non-UK sequences identified and 2,644 UK sequences. Now more than 20% of sequences in Belgium and the Netherlands.
BQ.1.1 - 2,304 non-UK sequences from 35 distinct countries and 1,272 UK samples.
BS.1 -  79 sequences in total, including 35 uploaded from Japan and 2 UK. It looks really immune-escapey, which is why it's been flagged. 
(BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, are quickly gaining in the US, collectively accounting for 27% of infections as of October 29.)

In a true tragedy this week, two parents in Oxford, UK, spent 8 minutes trying to get through to 999, and had to wait over 30 minutes for an ambulance for their dying 3 day old baby girl.
The NHS really needs some of that money Boris promised before he was PM, instead, West Midlands and London Ambulance Services are going to downgrade some emergency calls because they're so overrun and failing to meet response times. I'm sure downgrading burns, strokes and heart attacks to triage might find a few heartburn and dehydration people who didn't need an ambulance, but gladly this is for a trial period - to see how many extra people die (I could mince words, but what's the point).

Text over image of smiling lounging pregnant lady

The latest UK figures for Long COVID are DOWN on last month (whoot!) as more people say they've now recovered than the number adding to the list. That might change over Winter, but hopefully slide back down between waves. It's hopeful. It isn't good news for any of those 2.1 million people though, especially not for those who have suffered the longest:
"Of people with self-reported long COVID, 262,000 (12%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 less than 12 weeks previously, 1.8 million people (83%) at least 12 weeks previously, 1.1 million (50%) at least one year previously and 507,000 (24%) at least two years previously."
Fatigue continues to be the most common symptom reported (70%), followed by difficulty concentrating (45%), shortness of breath (42%) and muscle ache (42%).

Scientists have convened a panel of 386 experts in COVID-19 response, from 112 countries and territories, to recommend specific actions to end this persistent global threat to public health. 
They have written up a set of 41 consensus statements (things they all agree are important) and 57 recommendations for Governments, Health Authorities and other agencies.
In short, three of the highest-ranked recommendations call for whole-of-society and whole-of-government approaches, use of proven prevention measures AND vaccination - a 'vaccines-plus' approach - and a range of public health and financial support measures to complement vaccination. "Other recommendations with at least 99% combined agreement advise governments and other stakeholders to improve communication, rebuild public trust and engage communities in the management of pandemic responses." 

Image of mum and child with text

China's mass instant lockdowns are really making the news, with lots of videos of people climbing fences and walking miles to escape them - especially when they occur in a workplace. Really, even if there are dormitories, who would want to be locked in at work with sick colleagues for the next fortnight or more?

We may have a little insight into why China is specifically continuing with its Zero COVID strategy. A Chinese 'Ted Talk' style lecture is being shared online, and the lecturer believes that within 10 years, the West will be absolutely crippled by long term post-COVID illness (Long COVID) affecting most of the working population.
I think he's being very pessimistic, but still, it will be costly in all ways. 

Excellent news from the Ebola outbreak in Uganda. It seems to have peaked around mid October and is currently very much in the decline. This is due to fantastic contact tracing and isolation by all involved. As of October 29th, this outbreak had 149 cases and 55 of those people had died. 

Chart showing figures for Ebola

Once again the world is harder and costs more if you're poor. Anyone in England, Scotland or Wales and on an older pre-payment meter has to apply for the £400 help for your energy bills. Apparently hundreds of thousands of people haven't yet applied. If this is you, check your email or mobile phone messages for a voucher that you take to the shop where you top up your card or the Post Office. You can show it on a phone, or print it out - or even copy carefully the number on the voucher barcode. If none of those options work for you, contact your local council for help. Don't panic if you don't have yours yet, some haven't quite gone out, and when it arrives, it should be valid for 90 days, so don't forget it! 

If you are in the UK and have Down Syndrome, or you care for someone who does, you've only got until 8th November to tell your experiences and have an effect on how you are treated in future. Google it, 'Gov UK Down Syndrome Act 2022', and the link will be at the bottom of this post on my website.  

UK People who are at high risk of Monkeypox (mainly men who sleep with other men and aren't in a monogamous relationship or sex establishment workers), you can now go online to find your nearest vaccination clinic. Around half of those most at risk haven't been vaccinated yet, and scars from scabby weeping spots are not the best look. (We are very fortunate the mortality rate is not anything like the previous monkeypox outbreaks, let's not risk a mutation).
Google 'NHS Find a monkeypox vaccination site'

Blood pressure monitoring at local pharmacies for people over 40 image of man being tested

There is a fantastic press release today, about a man who has survived after testing positive for the same strain of COVID (original Wuhan COVID) from December 2020 until January this year - 411 days. Thankfully he didn't have symptoms the whole time, but it must have been grim. The virus did mutate inside him, and because of how they were studying his illness, researchers were able to track the mutations almost as they occurred. The patient had a weekend immune system from a kidney transplant, but was still relatively young (under 60), and the battle raged on until he eventually won - with the help of Regeneron antibody treatment, especially tailored to match the Wuhan strain.
Regeneron (monoclonal antibodies casirivimab/imdevimab) is incredibly expensive (around $2100 a dose according to Twitter), so it is not widely available anywhere without private payment. 
Scientists are now calling for more research and funding, so that specialist treatments for people with weakened immune systems can be expanded. They are also asking for access to treatments used elsewhere, such as Evushield, which the UK Government decided against, after trial results found it only helped a small percentage of people to beat current Omicron strains. Each one is a person though, they all count. 

This is not the longest someone has tested positive - the same team treated another gentleman for 505 days, but sadly he did not go home. 

Asylum Seekers have been in the news a lot this week, with the UK's RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) picking up over 1,000 of them from the English Channel this week alone. Please always remember what the words refugee and asylum mean - and that for the vast majority, their intentions are honest. Many of these people were born in countries the UK pillaged until recently, or where we sent weapons, or imposed sanctions.
Despite shocking headlines, the numbers of people arriving in the UK seeking asylum have been pretty steady for the last 20 years, with a blip at the very beginning of the COVID pandemic, followed by a big lengthy drop, and then only rising recently with the withdrawal of peacekeeping forces and subsequent Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

041122 COVID comment Mary Ramsey

Matt Hancock, the face of the UK Government COVID response and former Health Secretary has been a naughty boy again. This time he's decided being on the telly is more important than being a politician. Unlike Boris, who still has WiFi in Bermuda when he's on holiday, Matt is off to Australia to be a contestant on a game show. This doesn't mesh well with being a representative for your constituents, and he's been chucked out by the Conservative Party, who have had a rare attack of integrity. 
Coincidentally Matt has a new book out. Someone suggested it was called "How I Killed 150,000 People And Saved The Economy", but that can't be right because the economy wasn't saved. Matt's main comment on the matter is:
"Some may think I've lost my marbles."
Yes. Yes they might. 

Avian (bird) Flu is not easing off. In an effort to keep as many birds alive as possible, (and not face a huge shortage of turkeys this Christmas), ALL poultry and captive birds across the UK MUST BE KEPT INDOORS from 7th November onwards.
If one bird gets it, the entire flock are culled in order to protect other birds locally, including wild birds, and prevent a painful death for those who are sick. 2.3 million UK birds were culled in October alone. 
This will of course mean that 'free range eggs' and free range poultry may temporarily cease to be available (depending on how long it lasts) unless they are imported. 

Bird Flu Alert November 2022

Bonfire Night tomorrow - BE SENSIBLE. Focus on what you are doing and set a good example to the kids. As they are actual explosives, here are a few UK firework facts:
1. On any ordinary day it's illegal to set off fireworks before 7am or after 11pm. On bonfire night cut off is midnight, and on New Year, Chinese New Year and Diwali it is 1am.
In Scotland you can't set them off before 6pm on any day.  
2. Most shops are only allowed to sell fireworks 15 Oct - 10 Nov, 26 - 31 Dec and for 3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year.
3. Most firework injuries occur at smaller private gatherings.
4. It is against the law to carry fireworks in public if you're under 18.
5. In Northern Ireland you need a valid fireworks licence to even buy outdoor fireworks.
6. It is an offence under the Explosives Act 1875 to tamper with or modify fireworks.
7. It is an offence under the stupidity act to place lit fireworks anywhere other than a safe distance and trajectory from people or animals (I made that one up, but it's still true). 

It's the weekend! Huzzah! I hope you have something nice planned. We're going to the tip, which always feels good and takes away a little stress. I'm not taking that as my treat though! (My OH can have it as his muhahaha.) Have a good week...

Stay Sensible. Dispose Of Used Fireworks Safely. Save The NHS. 

Some people. They look like numbers here, but they would all be able to see the joy in a child's face on bonfire night.

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

Japan 22,500,313 (+67,473) 46,850 (+69)
Germany 35,784,912 (+56,635) 154,328 (+233)
S. Korea 25,717,277 (+46,870) 29,280 (+41)
France 36,890,626 (+42,025) 157,199 (+55)
Taiwan 7,810,064 (+29,964) 13,010 (+81)
USA 99,580,091 (+28,905) 1,097,881 (+167)
Russia 21,447,518 (+6,375) 390,388 (+73)
Hong Kong 1,933,080 (+5,245) 10,428 (+10)
Indonesia 6,507,610 (+4,951) 158,737 (+42)
Malaysia 4,914,557 (+4,711) 36,480
Brazil 34,887,505 (+4,573) 688,316 (+16)
Australia 10,399,763 (+4,273) 15,717 (+10)
Austria 5,453,038 (+4,218) 21,012
Chile 4,769,638 (+3,709) 61,725 (+48)
Singapore 2,115,621 (+3,511) 1,683 (+1)


Down Syndrome Act 2022 call for evidence:


Random sampling

Ambulance waiting times:
Video report

Longest infected

UK Winter Fuel Bill Help:



Avian Flu

Panel of response experts

Asylum seekers
Hat Mancock

And the excellent

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