Friday 18 November 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update November 18th 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update November 18th 2022

World COVID Statistics: 642,121,750 reported cases and 6,622,222 losses of life.

"We now have strong evidence that COVID medicines saved lives during the last COVID wave. 
Victorians aged over 70 who took COVID medicines were 26% less likely to be hospitalised and 55% less likely to die than those who did not."
Victorian Department of Health. 
(That's Victorians living in Victoria, Australia, not Victorians living in the past.)

Latest UK ONS random sampling (week ending 8th November) is an all round good news story. 
"The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to decrease across all UK countries."
- England, estimate 940,700, equating to 1.73% of the population (a decrease from 2.43% in the previous week), or around 1 in 60 people.
- Wales, estimate 56,000, equating to 1.84% of the population (a decrease from 2.38% in the previous week), or around 1 in 55 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 34,200, equating to 1.86% of the population (a decrease from 2.17% in the previous week), or around 1 in 55 people.
- Scotland, estimated 97,500, equating to 1.85% of the population (a decrease from 2.04% in the previous week), or around 1 in 55 people.
We could have expected numbers to be creeping up now with the colder weather, so everyone cross your fingers in case this is the real-world result of those new bivalent (2 pronged) Omicron-fighting vaccines... 

Talking of which... Moderna have announced official trial results showing that their bivalent booster jab is more effective against Omicron than their original jab. Data suggests it produces around 15 times as many Omicron-fighting antibodies - which is great (it has performed very well, but not quite that well, in smaller trials). Pfizer's bivalent booster has also proven to offer an increased level of protection, and we do have a good chance of some stability this Winter, although obviously neither booster will stop all cases.

At the weekend new UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said “I’m Scrooge who’s going to do things that make sure Christmas is never cancelled". Ermmm yeah. So how did he do? 
Well, I for one thought maybe someone in the Tory party benches was going to jump up and call him a raging communist. (They didn't.) The budget gives extra attention to the NHS and Social Care, it allowed for lots of discussion and input as to what exactly has been going wrong, it takes tax from some of the wealthiest and most stable people, and should help those folk who aren't in a food or housing secure position. Its not magic, you will still feel poorer, but I felt it went far better than I anticipated. Fingers crossed.
(Ps. Jez. Can we remove the artificial limits and train more doctors, surgeons, nurses, dentists, opticians, podiatrists etc. and fill those very big gaps. Thanks in advance, Jenny.)

The Guardian is reporting that GPs in England are going to be able to refer suspected Cancer patients for tests without having to send them to a specialist first.
This trial is a desperate attempt to speed up Cancer care, which is falling behind targets and risking the lives of people who could be saved. Alas we also already know that there are delays with accessing treatment once diagnosed, due to lack of trained staff, so I'm not sure how helpful this will be, although it should free up consultant and other staff time. Fingers crossed all round. 

The World Health Organisation have updated their Family Planning Manual to include information on "practical measures that support the continuity of family planning services during epidemics". The main recommendations include wider access to self-administered contraception, and direct distribution of contraception through pharmacies. 

National World have looked at the areas in England and Wales worst affected by COVID loss of life.
Around 1 in every 10 deaths that have occurred this year have been due to COVID in Luton, Ealing, Rushcliffe, Wandsworth, Harrow and Cannock Chase. 
Stafford, Nottingham, Nuneaton & Bedworth, and Kensington & Chelsea running closely behind at more than 1 in every 11.
Figures earlier this Autumn suggest England and Wales are losing around an extra 10-13% more people than we'd expect. That's clearly not a trajectory we want to continue forever, or average life expectancy will fall by several more years. 

The US Senate don't hang about. Just 1 week since the mid-term elections and a small swing of power, and they've voted to end the COVID19 Emergency Declaration.
With the declaration in place they were able to do things like pause student loans, offer free testing and vaccinations, cap treatment prices etc. This is a big move, and it's likely to have a visible effect. 

Ontario in Canada is "urging" the public to wear masks when out of the home indoors, as hospitals are struggling with the number of patients with COVID, flu and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus - the chest infection virus). 

Famous People With COVID:
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. He has just taken part in lengthy discussions with a host of world leaders (including 79 year old Joe Biden) at the G20 Summit in Bali. Oops. 

Luxury Cruise News:
Ahhh, how we've missed you.
Last Saturday the Majestic Princess Cruise ship docked in Sydney with around 800 COVID positive passengers on board. There's nothing like a cruise to share whatever you have with everyone else. Good news is that when it docked no-one was very ill. All passengers who chose to stay aboard the ship were required to isolate for 5 days.
Australia is facing a wave of infections at the moment, and people in Queensland have been asked to wear masks in public indoor spaces, including public transport and healthcare settings. 

A new study published in Nature (not yet peer-reviewed) looks at added risk from reinfections with COVID. Hopefully you guys all understand you roll the dice each time you catch this virus, and every infection can cause lasting damage to your body. It's not going to be a huge surprise to learn that reinfection carries a greater risk of severe COVID outcomes, and repeated reinfection even more so.
The researchers looked at the US Veterans data, which is proving to he useful time and again. They studied data collected from 1st March 2020 to 6th April 2022, including 443,588 patients with one SARS-CoV-2 infection, 40,947 with two or more infections, and 5.3 million non-infected people.
As Dr Eric Feigl-Ding nicely summarised:
"Compared to no reinfection, reinfection contributed additional risks of death (hazard ratio (HR) = 2.17, hospitalization (HR = 3.32) & risks of pulmonary, cardiovascular, hematological, diabetes, gastrointestinal, kidney, mental health, musculoskeletal & neurological disorders."
A hazard ratio of 2.17 means 'times 2.17' - more than double. And more than triple for risk of being hospitalised. 
Across the board, whether vaccinated, boosted or not, every group saw this increase. 

Dr Peter Hotez, the Dean of Baylor College of Medicine and Chair of Tropical Diseases at Texas Children's Hospital, thinks its time we stopped listening to crazy theories and started reacting to what we have. He is in no doubt COVID came to us via wildlife, and that we should be looking more closely at how this happened, and how we can prevent it happening again.
A paper out this weekend supports him. It's not yet peer-reviewed, but has some important people backing it, and gives explanations about why COVID came from animals and wasn't a bio-weapon made in a lab. The author talks lots about the genetics and how well SARS-COV-2, the virus which causes COVID, can attach and grow in different animals. In short he uses this as an example of why it wasn't created in a lab - if it was a weapon against humans, they wouldn't have made it infect everything from mink and deer to cats, rats and bats - it would be too difficult to engineer, and too risky to ever use. He also talks about lab leak theories and says if it had been present in lab samples, then wildlife and then human populations near to where the samples were originally collected would become infected, so one lab technician breathing in a few particles would be irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. 
As hard as they look, the first known cases all had links to Wuhan live animal market, and samples from cages and drainage covers tested positive, but conspiracy theories still persist. You can never prove a negative, you can only prove something DID happen, and in this case, we'll likely never have definitive proof of anything. 

The Bird Flu epidemic continues apace, with many dead birds appearing in parks in London and Glasgow among others. 
Do NOT touch dead or sick birds or pick up bird feathers.
If you are asked to keep dogs on a lead or keep to pathways, do so.
In affected parks do not feed the birds or approach them
If you find dead or sick birds in the UK, contact DEFRA. (One or more large birds or predators, 3 or more smaller birds.)
All farmed birds should now have been housed indoors for the last 2-3 weeks. Fresh free range eggs are not currently an option. 

The world's population passed 8 billion humans on Tuesday. This is 3 times the number of people we had in 1950, just over 70 years ago. That growth rate is slowing, and caused in large part by increased life expectancy as opposed to loads of new births. This causes its own problems, as less young people means there's no-one to take care of us when we are old...

The UK's Royal Mail have announced several strikes in the run up to Christmas, after being offered a 2% pay rise, which is less than 1/5th of inflation, along with unpopular changes to working conditions. 
They plan to strike on November 24, 25 and 30, and December 1, 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24. 
Get your Christmas post sorted early to avoid disappointment. (Obviously delivery of a parcel doesn't guarantee there won't be any disappointment.)

Thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday last week - I had a very lovely meal out with most of our kids, and a cardboard "Birthday Princess" tiara, which made everyone smile. I also had 3 lazy days, which was an epic present to myself. It is the weekend again now, so I hope you've planned something nice for yourself - you really have earned it. Be kind to others, but always remember to be kind to you too. 
I'll be back next week. 

Let Fresh Air In Often, Wear A Cardi. Save The NHS. 

Some people. They are shown as numbers, but that's because I can't spell all of their names.

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

World 641,927,262 (+352,137) 6,621,844 (+1,121) 
Japan 23,519,801 (+93,005) 47,959 (+133)
S. Korea 26,412,901 (+55,437) 29,862 (+67)
France 37,250,370 (+33,331) 158,089 (+87)
Brazil 35,009,176 (+29,102) 688,886 (+75)
Germany 36,180,077 (+27,587) 156,410 (+218)
USA 100,108,704 (+23,012) 1,101,843 (+158)
Taiwan 8,112,228 (+20,121) 13,790 (+76)
Australia 10,541,753 (+10,922) 15,953 (+15 )
Hong Kong 2,012,877 (+8,052) 10,569 (+12 )
Indonesia 6,590,113 (+7,822) 159,291 (+38)
Chile 4,859,241 (+6,904) 62,102 (+50)
Russia 21,520,021 (+5,680) 391,273 (+61)
Austria 5,506,809 (+4,509) 21,134 (+6)
Malaysia 4,960,179 (+3,457) 36,583 (+9)




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