Friday 9 December 2022

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 9th December 2022.

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 9th December 2022. 

World COVID Statistics: 652,460,074 reported cases and 6,654,923 losses of life.

"Wages are too low to stop health workers quitting the NHS. As more and more hand in their notice, there are fewer staff left to care for patients. The public knows that's the reason behind lengthy waits at A&E, growing ambulance delays, postponed operations and cancelled clinics."
Unison's head of Health, Sara Gorton, speaking to Sky News.  

UK NHS You will be contacted if your appointment needs to be changed

The UK's ONS Random COVID Survey says... that for the week ending 26 Nov for England, 24 November for Scotland and Wales, and 23 November for Northern Ireland:
"The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to increase in England, increased in Northern Ireland and the trend was uncertain in Wales and Scotland."
- England, estimate 941,700, equating to 1.73% of the population (an increase from 1.60% in the previous week), or around 1 in 60 people.
- Wales, estimate 43,400, equating to 1.43% of the population, or around 1 in 70 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 36,700, equating to 2.00% of the population (an increase from 1.57% in the previous week), or around 1 in 50 people.
- Scotland, estimate 88,500, equating to 1.68% of the population, or around 1 in 60 people.

UK Nurses union The Royal College Of Nursing have published a list of services which will be exempt from strike action. This has caused a furore, as it failed to mention emergency care (e.g. A&E) and some Cancer care, among other things. They say they're holding an open door for negotiation with the Government, something that has so far been refused. 

091222 ONS COVID cases UK

The UK has authorised the Pfizer COVID vaccine for use in infants and children aged 6 months to 4 years. What this means in reality isn't yet obvious  - it could be in order to offer vaccinations at a younger age for everyone, for the most vulnerable, or it could even be a step towards adding an annual COVID booster into childhood vaccinations. (I am just making this up, no-one official has actually said this.) We'll have to wait and see...

COVID-times UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been spilling his beans now that he's home from his trip to a beauty spot car park in Australia. He says he faced immense pressure when he was trying to impose measures against COVID. He had been told it could kill as many as 820,000 people in the UK, but apparently struggled to get others to take notice (Don't Look Up). Thank goodness they paid attention in the end eh... (UK Government current official tally of people who have succumbed to COVID is 197,253).
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Matt has since announced he will no longer be a Conservative MP after his term ends. 

Levels of 'flu-like illness' in the USA are much higher than in a usual year, and there are reports of hospitals in some areas struggling, especially with children's beds. Flu-like illness can include things like RSV (chesty, sore throat type virus), COVID and of course flu itself.
Annoyingly the only graph I can download on the CDC website is already 2 weeks behind, but it's full of purple... 

091222 Flu levels in USA 2 week lag

As of Thursday at 3.25pm 15 UK children have now died from Strep A this Autumn. 13 in England, 1 in Wales and 1 in Belfast.
According to ITV, Public Health Wales have said there are around 30 cases of scarlet fever and three cases of Strep A in pupils at Brynaman Primary School, in Carmarthenshire.
We are being assured that this isn't an especially virulent strain, it is a regular bacterial infection which many tens of thousands of people get each year. Usually it causes very mild symptoms in most children or adults, and some will develop Scarlet Fever, Impetigo, tonsilitis or other relatively uncomfortable symptoms. In very VERY rare cases the level of bacteria rises and it gets into the blood stream or travels to places in the body which are less robust, so the patient can become very poorly quite quickly.
A lot of children aren't at their strongest right now, and this is for a mix of reasons, including:
- Less mixing or going out means less variety of virus and bugs caught over the last 3 years, so immunity is changed.
- COVID damage, tiredness, exhausted immune system.
- Bereavement. Being bereaved, or scared or stressed actually lowers your body's ability to deal with invasions like infections and virus.
Parents and carers are being asked to be aware of the symptoms of Scarlet Fever, which CAN include:
- A rash of tiny raised spots, which feels a bit sandy or gritty under your fingers
- Fever, often causing red cheeks
- Feeling generally very unwell with headache and sore throat
Unlike viruses, Streptococcus A is a bacteria and it's treated with antibiotics. In affected settings, such as nurseries, the folk in charge are considering issuing antibiotics to close contacts who may be at greatest risk, as a prophylactic to prevent infection taking hold.
If your child (or your grown up) is poorly, keep an eye on them. Don't ignore a high or prolongued fever, dehydration (no wee for 12 hours), difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, a cough that keeps getting worse or sounds like a bark, or a person of any age who doesn't wake properly between naps. And if you aren't happy or want a second opinion, then get advice from 111. If you feel a life is in danger, call 999. The NHS might have no money and be desperately short on staff, but they are still there and will do their damndest to look after you. 
If you are poorly and live by yourself, tell a mate you're ill, and check in with them regularly.  

Shiny new UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay assures us the UK has good stock of penicillin and there is no shortage. UK Pharmacists are being very vocal in saying they're struggling to keep supplied. 
Whichever one is telling the truth (I think we can guess), coincidentally Government warnings are now being issued about giving other people your old out-of-date prescription drugs, especially children. Please DO NOT GIVE ANYONE ELSE YOUR PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. You do not know how they will react, or if it'll even help. Leave it to someone who has studied medicines for a few years take the reins on this one. 

Compensation payouts for failures in care by the Scottish NHS have quadrupled in a year. It actually accounts for just 35 cases (I'm assuming cases regularly include multiple patients), who were between them paid £67.77m.
We aren't given any clues as to why this increase has occurred, but the official Scottish Government response is that fluctuations occur because it takes months or even years to come to a decision.
That potentially has a lot of truth, and the courts built up a massive backlog during COVID restrictions, as it was virtually impossible to put that many people in a room together - which is why theatres and other large auditoria were used as courtrooms. 

091222 England Scarlet Fever cases by year

The Chinese Grand Prix has been cancelled again due to COVID. 2023 will be the 4th year that it has been paused. 

In a talk on 'Infodemic Management' last week, misinformation was discussed by Dr Silvie Briand, Director of Epidemic and Pandemic Diseases at the World Health Organisation. I'm sure we all remember tales from America regarding people drinking bleach and cleaning products, but we heard little about Iran.
In early 2020 misinformation spread that methanol could cure COVID. More than 5,000 people in Iran were hospitalised and 700 died.
DO NOT EVER drink methanol. If you survive you'll be lucky if you still have your eyesight. 

Controversy around vaccinations and misinformation has had a big knock on effect with other vaccinations, and we are seeing it in action. There is currently a Measles outbreak in Columbus, Ohio. 
The case count reached 63 by this afternoon. 
— All 63 (100%) are under 17 years old. 
— 44 (70%) are aged 1 to 5.
— 25 (39%) have required hospitalisation.
— 60 (over 95%) are unvaccinated.
— 3 (under 5%) have had 1 jab.
— None (0%) were fully vaccinated (i.e. had both doses of their MMR.)

UK Strikes Round Up
More bad news for students and people wanting to go home for Christmas. Plan ahead, have a plan B, leave early, allow plenty of time, take snacks, water and warm clothes. Strikes will affect plane, train, boat and road travel, as well as emergency services, NHS services etc etc. Here are some new announcements since last week:
Eurostar security employees (some of whom earn minimum wage) will be striking on 16th, 18th, 22nd and 23rd December. It will affect cross Channel travel.
Currently expected to affect Port of Newhaven and 6 UK airports, members of PCS have voted for strike action. These are the folk who check your passport and make sure you are allowed in and out. They will be striking on 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31 December, and military are at this moment training people to cover them. Check carefully before you travel. 
New RMT NATIONAL Action - members will be striking from 6pm on Christmas Eve 24th December until 6am on 27th December.
Rail strikes already announced are:
RMT LOCAL Action - 11 and 12 December, Avanti West Coast only. 
RMT NATIONAL Action - 13, 14, 16 and 17 December.
UNITE LOCAL Action - 23 and 24 December, East Midlands Railway only.
There will be more rail strikes in the New Year:
RMT NATIONAL Action - 3,4,6 and 7 January.
Moving on to a very different form of transport:
Ambulance staff from GMB, UNITE and Unison will be striking on 21 and 28 December. This will mainly affect non-emergency ambulance travel from midday until midnight.
OTHER NHS AND HOSPITAL WORKERS are engaged in strike action at various hospital trusts, including a strike by UNISON members in 2 Liverpool hospitals on 21 December.
That's going well isn't it... 

Home care for Norovirus UK Gov

Don't forget Royal Mail workers are on strike today, plus 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24 December. This has brought forward last posting dates for Christmas. This Monday coming (12th) for 2nd class, Friday 16th for 1st class, and Special Delivery Wednesday 21st. 

China is continuing to relax COVID restrictions, after massive and unprecedented protests. This really signals the end of their Zero-COVID policy.
Until this week masks and negative tests have been mandatory in many public places and public transport, and quarantine centres commonplace for anyone with any symptoms and their contacts.
Now people with mild or no symptoms can quarantine at home with their household, including families and young children who would previously have often been separated. People can travel between some areas without COVID tests, and mass quarantines must be limited in size, ending after 5 days with no new cases. Schools in areas with no cases must reopen to in-person teaching. There will also be a push on vaccination of older people. According to the Financial Times/BBC only 2/3 of citizens over 60 have had a 3rd jab. The oldest age groups are least protected, with only 40% of people over age 80 having had that 3rd jab, which makes so much difference to protection against Omicron variants.
Already we are seeing a change in China's official daily reporting - positive test results are down so far they've fallen off a cliff. If only it were true. What it reflects is that hardly anyone is testing any more. The Donald Trump method of reducing daily cases.
AP Media (and others) are today saying:
"A rash of COVID-19 cases in schools and businesses were reported by social media users Friday in areas across China."
Government officials say some restrictions will have to stay in place until elderly people are vaccinated and hospitals strengthened to cope with more patients. Fingers crossed it goes well for them, I have a feeling the runaway train just took the brakes off in the biggest population on Earth... 

On 26th November we missed Omicron's birthday. It was 1 year since WHO designated it a variant of concern. Over 99% of sequenced cases in the entire world are currently Omicron family variants. Charles Darwin would have loved watching this. Survival of the fittest - or the most easily caught and spread?

Tis the season to be coughing and spluttering. We've had a delightful respiratory infection in my house this week, I hope your health has been better. Across the UK flu numbers are increasing as anticipated, COVID seems to be about to rise, and thankfully RSV (throat and chest bug) has dropped slightly, but is still at high levels. Norovirus (tummy bug) is slightly down on previous monthly averages. The UK Government are reminding us that while washing at 30⁰ is great for the planet, if your household have caught a bug, wash bedding, towels, jamas etc at 60⁰ to kill it off much more thoroughly. And wash your hands! 

061222 Lateral Flow compared to PCR timeline of efficacy UK Gov

It's very cold, and a lot of people are worried about the cost of putting on the heating. There is also a cost in not putting it on, and that could be your health. The English Government Cold Weather Plan was published in October, and is full of useful reminders, such as:
- Never use a hot water bottle AND an electric blanket together. Hot water bottles are more effective than you might remember. You can easily overheat. 
- Heating a home with a regular oven is not the best way to do it financially, nor is it safest. 
- 18⁰ is a suitable temperature for most people indoors, during the day, when you're wearing regular clothing and relaxing. 
- At night most people who are under 65, and fit and healthy, can sleep in a room which drops a bit below 18⁰. If you are less robust, ensure you aren't getting too cold while you sleep.
- Wherever possible UK babies should live and sleep in rooms between 16⁰ and 20⁰. 16⁰ feels cool, you'd want your cardi, but it isn't cold. 

It is a staggering 2 years since Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to receive a COVID vaccination as part of a vaccination rollout. Since then, according to Our World In Data:
- 68.6% of the world population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- 13.04 billion doses have been administered globally, and 2.32 million are now administered each day.
- And yet, only 24.9% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.
A peer-reviewed Imperial College study modelled the numbers and found that  during the first year of vaccinations, almost 20 million lives had been saved. We've gone from being controlled by COVID as a world population, to existing alongside it. Here's to more research, better vaccines, and proper up-to-date therapeutics for those millions of people for whom vaccination will never work effectively.

COVID continues to wreak havoc in parts of Asia which avoided the worst for so long, and cases are rising across the Northern Hemisphere, as expected at this time of year when we all spend more time together indoors.
Best of luck to everyone. Stay sensible. 

It's the weekend! It's a cold one, and by now the December stress is probably biting. Make lists, thin them out into whether they're actually important or not, and break what is left down into manageable chunks. Don't overwhelm yourself - there's no point being unhappy now in order to be happy later. We all want to do great things and prove ourselves, but not at the expense of your wellbeing. Get the glittery bits at a time when you can have fun doing it, or just put on a big smile and a Christmas jumper and create your own sparkle. Don't forget to take time off to relax, and give yourself a treat - you've earned it, and it'll leave you refreshed. Have a good week...

Wear A Christmas Jumper, Stay Home If You Are Ill, Save The NHS. 
Some numbers. Most of them know that the people themselves are always the most important thing at any gathering...

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

Japan 25,687,798 (+133,065) 51,062 (+243)
France 38,331,430 (+71,597) 159,517 (+62)
S. Korea 27,548,821 (+65,253) 30,908 (+61)
USA 101,213,638 (+37,689) 1,109,394 (+194)
Germany 36,726,061 (+35,826) 158,851 (+167)
Brazil 35,563,044 (+33,433) 690,739 (+104)
Taiwan 8,427,469 (+15,279) 14,585 (+37)
Australia 10,835,261 (+15,221) 16,407 (+30)
Peru 4,344,977 (+14,456) 217,604 (+38)
Hong Kong 2,203,790 (+14,373) 10,891 (+27)
Russia 21,643,194 (+7,430) 392,454 (+54)
Colombia 6,323,357 (+5,336) 141,943 (+32)
Austria 5,600,568 (+5,140) 21,257
Chile 4,949,655 (+4,230) 62,659 (+54)
China 354,017 (+4,079) 5,235


Strep / Penicillin

Scarlet fever cases England by week by year

Measles / Methanol



Norovirus image

Vaccines save lives - evidence:

UK GOV Lateral flow test efficacy

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