Friday 11 November 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 11th November 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 11th November 2022

World COVID Statistics: 639,532,801 reported cases and 6,612,327 losses of life.

"Does it need to be stated that infection with a pathogenic virus does not confer a net benefit to the host? Because sometimes it feels like there is a need to say this."
Aris Katzourakis, Professor of Evolution and Genomics at Oxford Uni, reminding us that things which do not kill us do not always make us stronger.

101122 number of people waiting 18 months for treatment has fallen image of 2 shadow people sitting at a table

"This view of relative mortality risk by age (share of all death certificates mentioning COVID) continues to trace a pattern of decreasing ripples. 
This is despite COVID prevalence being considerably higher than it was in January 2021."
Numbers guy Paul Mainwood summing up the ONS graph nicely. It's great to be a long way away from thousands of deaths a week, but remember low constant ripples still mean we are losing hundreds of people every week. It isn't over, especially for people who are at greater risk. 

Latest ONS stats (to 6th November) are positive - officially reported cases (people who test positive), hospitalisations and deaths are all DOWN on the previous week.

Latest ONS Infection Survey random sampling is also positive. We know cases are likely to go up with Winter, so the lower we can start off, the better. This is a more accurate true measure, as they invite thousands of randomly selected people for a test each week. 
"The percentage of people testing positive for COVID19 decreased across all UK countries."
- England, estimate 1,323,200, equating to 2.43% of the population, or around 1 in 40 people.
- Wales, estimate 72,400, equating to 2.38% of the population, or around 1 in 40 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 39,900, equating to 2.17% of the population, or around 1 in 45 people.
- Scotland, estimate 107,300, equating to 2.04% of the population, or around 1 in 50 people.

"I believe we found room for hope in Glasgow. With one last chance to create a plan that would limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, we made the promises to keep that goal within reach... And the question today is this, can we summon the collective will to deliver them? I believe we can."
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addressing the other delegates at the COP27 Climate Conference - which he did go to, despite saying he wouldn't. Rumour has it he hadn't realised how important the future existence of humans was until he saw the guest list.

111122 ons covid charts by age

NHS figures out on Thursday were eye-wateringly bad - so bad they've issued revisions today, so sorry if I missed any alterations to averages.
1/ We have record breaking queues in A&E emergency departments:
- In October 43,792 people waited over 12 hours for a bed after a decision was made to admit them to hospital, up an extra third from 32,776 in September.
- In October 150,922 people waited at least 4 hours, up from 131,861 in September.
2/ We have record breaking numbers of people who have waited a long time for treatment:
- In October a staggering 401,537, or 1 in every 18 of us, had been waiting for over a year for treatment. Awesome.
- In good news, the number of people waiting 18 months or over has fallen substantially - down 60% on last year.
3/ Ambulance waiting times are, as we well know, grim. For some reason this month's English NHS stats don't include London (but they would likely be grimmer than grim):
- In October 2022, the mean average response time for Category 1 (England excluding London), was 9 minutes 56 seconds, with 90% within 17m 42s. Clearly longer than the 7 minute and 15 minute targets.
Zoe Bell of Upday News points out that we haven't actually met A&E targets since 2015 - 5 years before COVID. 

UK politics continues to bow under the weight of it's own ineptitude. It's like watching a teenager in heels trying to sneak upstairs in the dark after 15 shandies. Now our COVID-times Education Secretary and newly ordained Sir, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Childcatcher Gavin Williamson, has "resigned" after accusations of bullying. It was all fun and games until someone said they weren't happy with being told to slit their throat or jump out of a window. (Defenestration is a rare event in the UK. More common with Russian COVID Doctors). 
Gavin said the allegations were "becoming a distraction"... err, yeah. Okay. 
According to Sky News, "a total of 80 ministers or whips have resigned or been sacked from the government since the start of 2022". Yowch. That's some world-beating staff turnaround...  

Gavin Williamson resignation letter

Remember back in 2020 when 'kids didn't catch COVID'. How times have changed... and also knowledge. Obviously kids always caught COVID. they were just less likely to show it. Sadly although our understanding has changed, everything else is slow to catch up, and in the UK we don't vaccinate young children. Omicron is more severe than previous COVID strains, and you can spot this in the unvaccinated populations, including our children. 
In 2022, up to October 31st, the UK had already hospitalised more children who are testing positive for COVID than in all of 2020 AND 2021 ADDED TOGETHER. The UK has a lot of people with COVID at any given moment, and many of these kids will only find out they have it when they turn up at A&E with a broken leg or asthma attack, but it is not an impressive figure. Even if they aren't really poorly, each bout of COVID can have a long lasting effect on things like concentration and tiredness. 

RSV is a MASSIVE problem in the Northern hemisphere as we head into our Winter. Figures are high and rapidly rising, especially in our youngest infants and children. This is Respiratory Syncytial Virus and it causes chest infections and bronchiolitis, and it has hospitalised a lot of children in New Zealand and Australia over their Winter. Keep your kids home if they are ill, and listen regularly to their breathing in case they develop a persistent wheeze or crackle, or begin to struggle.

A UK study has found that confidence in vaccinations has dropped across the board - whatever your religious, educational or cultural background. All this talk of side effects, efficacy rates, rule breaking and number fudging has made people think more and trust less.
(Read more, all of you. Not just headlines, think about the answers you actually want to know. If you are in doubt, get the numbers for yourself. Google is your friend.)

111122 England children with COVID hospital admissions Antonio Caramina

Waits for Cancer care in the UK are too long. Yet another victim of the NHS being on its knees and desperately short staffed.
The BBC has a clear article explaining that although screening is being rushed through to try and clear the backup, lack of specialist staff to actually oversee treatment means unnecessary delays for very anxious people, and a risk that treatment will arrive too late.

UK Nurses WILL be going on strike, as will Civil Servants. The UK isn't alone in this discontent. A lot of people worked solidly through COVID, risked their health before vaccinations, saw colleagues leave through illness or bereavement, and in return got clapped at and offered a crap pay rise.
Royal College of Nursing members at 176 NHS Organisations have voted to strike. Dates to be arranged. Closed door meetings between brand new Junior Government Health Ministers and nursing representatives are underway already.  

A US team have published a study looking at the difference masks make in schools. This isn't yet peer-reviewed, but it's getting a lot of high profile shares, which we can assume means no-one has spotted any huge errors at this point.
They looked at schools in Boston, Massachusetts, where masks were worn by all pupils and staff until February 2022. Two districts kept the mask mandates until June 2022, which allows for a comparison.
They found that the districts which kept masks were poorer, with older schools and more pupils per class. They also had "higher percentages of low-income students, students with disabilities, and students who were English-language learners, as well as higher percentages of Black and Latinx students and staff".
Despite having extra risk factors, those schools which kept masks continued with a steady amount of COVID cases, while the schools which got rid of masks had a big increase.
'During the 15 weeks after the statewide masking policy was rescinded, the lifting of masking requirements was associated with an additional 44.9 cases per 1000 students and staff, which corresponded to an estimated 11,901 cases and to 29.4% of the cases in all districts during that time.'
So there you have it (again). Masks DO make a big difference. 

111122 ons covid charts deaths hospitalisations

As reported by Channel News Asia, “China will "unswervingly" stick to its zero-COVID policy and persevere with its "dynamic-clearing" approach to COVID-19 cases as soon as they emerge, health officials said on Saturday (Nov 5).”
They're not having it. China still have a mandatory quarantine for arrivals from abroad, and really do think the West is storing up problems for the future... and it's worth noting their vaccination rate is really very low, especially in older people. 
The latest area to be locked down is part of Guangzhou, after reporting over 1,000 cases a day for the last 5 days. Around 5.6 million residents were just told to stay home, in an attempt to prevent a whole area lockdown affecting over 19 million people. 
Despite remaining "unswerving", Chinese Health Authorities do at least review their rules and update them. As a result they have made several changes to their COVID policies, including reducing close contact quarantine from 7 days at a centralised location to 5 days (plus three days at home). Rules regarding inbound travellers and traveller quarantines have also eased.

We have heard before that our genes can make us more susceptible to severe COVID. This week Oxford University Professor Dr James Davies has revealed another unfortunate gene, which dates back to neanderthal times. LZTFL1 is found in around 15% of Europeans, and 60% of Southern Asian people, and it appears to double the risk you'll die from COVID. 
In the UK your risk of succumbing to COVID is clearly greater if you are not white - but it's been very hard to pinpoint physical reasons, as non-white people are also more likely to live in larger or multi-generational housing, more likely to work in high risk professions, less likely to be able to take time off sick, more likely to be poor etc etc... all risk factors.

The US CDC have a new campaign to encourage pregnant people to get their COVID vaccinations. The main point of the campaign is:
"Infants aged <6 months, who are ineligible for vaccination, have high COVID-19–associated hospitalization rates compared with other pediatric age groups."
Yes. Infants under 6 months do have high hospitalisation rates for COVID, and in the US that has gone up by a whopping x11 since Omicron COVID took over. 
Hold on before you panic, it's a bit misleading. Younger babies catching Omicron can show more cold or flu-like symptoms, so are more likely to be admitted out of caution. Most importantly a "return to normality" means far, FAR more people have COVID in the community, and as a result far, FAR more babies are being born WITH COVID.
Despite that eleven-fold increase in hospitalisations, the CDC see no increase in levels of severe illness. Being admitted to hospital doesn't mean they'll become very poorly - it means they're in the right place if they do.
Getting vaccinated before or during pregnancy hasn't shown any detrimental effect, and offers a level of protection for both the parent and newborn baby. (And as we well know - pregnancy and COVID don't mix well at all.) Talk it through with your healthcare professionals.

111022 Excess deaths England by week age 0-24
111022 Excess deaths England by week age 0-24

Ugandan schoolchildren will break up 2 weeks early on 25th November, because of Ebola. Official case counts only include confirmed cases, and sadly when you add on 'suspected', the numbers are not good. 8 school children have already died from Ebola, which can have a fatality rate as high as 80% - this outbreak is currently running at around 40-50%. According to leading expert Helen Branswell, (Senior Infectious Diseases Writer at STAT News), the updated total on Monday was believed to be 157 cases and 74 losses of life.

Remember the woman from Alberta, Canada, who had been refused an organ transplant because she wouldn't get vaccinated against COVID? The Court of Appeal have upheld that decision. They say expecting her to get up to date relevant vaccinations is not a violation of her rights. The survival rate for people with COVID after a recent organ transplant is greatly reduced. 

All On The Board Armistice Day - notice board at London underground station bearing poem about the futility and waste of war

Scientists have announced they've found the oldest ever known sentence written by humans. It was written on an elephant ivory comb around 1700BCE and says:
"May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard."
We really haven't changed... 

Ukraine's official Christmas stamp, “Separated by war”, was created by Valeria Mykhailova, a year 11 schoolgirl who, until becoming a refugee, lived in Mykolaiv. It's split in two, with a young woman sitting inside a Christmassy room alone, and an armed person in a helmet and military clothing, sitting alone on the battlefield with gunfire around.  

Separated By War Ukraine Christmas stamp 2022

SchoolsWeek is reporting that the UK Government Treasury is going to be taking back over £100 million of the money earmarked for pupil catch-up schemes, as it hasn't been allocated this year. Schools have really struggled to access the money, because they have to pay 40% themselves this year, and they simply don't have it. Next year they'll be expected to pay 75% of the costs, so frankly it's hardly worth the paperwork.
It would be nice if the underspend went towards FREE catch-up programs for our most disadvantaged pupils. (It won't.) 

In case you missed it, the UK has a new King, and it has been confirmed we will get a one-off extra bank holiday when he has his Coronation. The crowning, swearing oaths and all that jazz will take place on Saturday 6th May, and the bank holiday will be on the Monday 8th May. I make that 2 proper weekends off in a row. Nice one.

A man arrested on a COVID ward in Scotland has been ruled by an Edinburgh Court to be an American wanted for serious sex crimes in the USA.
Nicholas Rossi claimed to be an Irish man named Arthur, and if Hollywood is anything to go by, his accent was probably appalling. He also claimed his tattoos (which matched the suspect) were drawn onto him while he was in a coma. 

Christmas really is on the way now. John Lewis have an absolutely excellent campaign, supporting young people leaving care, and highlighting fostering. Made me bawl. I've added it below. 

No numbers today because it's too long already, but next week I'll be without internet, or travelling, so it'll definitely be shorter! 

It is the weekend! Huzzah. I'm definitely having treats, because it's my birthday weekend, so I'm hoping to be very spoilt. I hope you are too. You've earned it, and we all need things to look forward to... 

Stay Sensible, Be Kind To Yourself, Save The NHS. 

Sources/Further Reading:

Interesting thread on NHS problems:

Link to John Lewis Ad:



NHS stats - images:
England Excess Mortality:
Kids and hospital
Vaccine confidence
Cancer care

Masks in Schools
China has loosened some COVID rules.
Beard lice
Catch Up Premium

Ukraine Christmas Stamp
Coma Tattoo

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