Friday 13 January 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 13th January 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 13th January 2023

World COVID Statistics: 670,571,061 reported cases and 6,725,056 losses of life.

"3 years ago, the first SARS-CoV-2 sequence was shared. Today, sequencing remains vital. We urge all countries to keep testing & sharing sequences. We understand efforts won’t be as intense as before but we can’t beat this virus with our eyes closed."
DrTedros, Head of WHO.

130123 8,404 COVID patients in hospital Will Quince MP

3 years on and I thought I'd have finished doing this about 2 and a half years ago. Despite this, there is a huge amount of news today because a lot of 'end of year' stats have been released, so off we go... 

"I get paid £15.50/hr working in A&E on a 48hr/wk contract and I'm on a 30min unpaid break during a night shift. Your NHS negligence kills 500 people a week and you're telling us to work harder?! May I prescribe a visit to Specsavers?"
Dr Andrew Meyerson, London, in response to UK Government requests for more.

The UK Press might have spent the week trawling royal memoirs, but other other countries have had room for some actual news.
"The state-run health service, which delivers free care to the whole population and until recently had been a source of pride for many Britons, is under strain following years of relative underinvestment, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and strike action by frontline staff over pay."
Australia's ABC News. Yowch. 
ABC News even interviewed several UK NHS staff. Emily Ball, a GP in the north-west of England (Liverpool I believe): 
"I think the NHS is not just in a crisis, I think it's gone through the crisis and has now completely collapsed."

The estimate of 300-500 people dying each week in England because of problems accessing urgent care may well be conservative. For many serious conditions, swift action is the best chance to prevent severe outcomes. UK NHS December reporting:
"65.0% of patients were seen within 4 hours in all A&E departments this month compared to 68.9% in November 2022, 73.4% in December 2021, and 79.8% in December 2019. This is the lowest reported performance since the collection began. The 95% standard was last met in July 2015."
The COVID Actuaries:
"Looking only at the waiting time from the decision to admit the patient until the point of admission (the so called “trolley wait”) an additional 5,400 deaths within 30-days are estimated between Sep and Nov 2022. That’s 415 per week."
We are sadly reminded that a person on a trolley may well have already waited for transport to hospital, and/or sat in A&E for several hours before a decision to admit is made. 

130123 5,262 Flu patients in hospital Will Quince MP

Let's have some good news - admissions to hospital with COVID continue to fall. (Whoot!), as do people catching COVID in hospital. This is a very good thing. Remember it well. It means we passed the peak of this wave, or the Autumn boosters are working, or both. Good stuff.

Well, let's have a look shall we? Today's ONS random sampling data, for week ending 3rd January 2023 for England and Wales, and 31st December 2022 for Northern Ireland and Scotland, does seem to suggest half of the UK may have peaked:
"The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) decreased in England and Wales, continued to increase in Scotland, and the trend was uncertain in Northern Ireland."
- England, estimate 2,189,300, equating to 4.02% of the population (a decrease from 4.52% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 25 people.
- Wales, estimate 157,000, equating to 5.16% of the population (a decrease from 5.70% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 19 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 129,100, equating to 7.04% of the population (an increase from 6.43 at least report), or around 1 in 14 people.
- Scotland, estimate 219,600, equating to 4.17% of the population (an increase from 4.05% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 25 people.

130123 £200m to block book community care beds UK Gov

The Government in England have finally responded to the NHS crisis (well, parts of it). They will pay up to £200m to block book private residential home beds. I'm not sure how well this is likely to work, given that we already have an acute shortage of underpaid, under respected care staff, but fingers crossed. This won't move all 13,000 of England’s 'fit to discharge' patients, but it makes a good dent. It will however place additional pressure on community GP's and nurses. 
Steve Barclay (still Health Secretary) also announced:
- £50m for discharge lounges, and  modular units to increase capacity at A&E (also unlikely to help with staffing levels, or waiting times).
- More conditions will be treated in the community, away from hospitals. This includes using virtual wards for conditions that need monitoring (e.g. oxygen levels for respiratory infections), and a new service for people who have fallen and injured themselves.
- 6 Discharge Frontrunners will trial new ways of swiftly discharging people into community care, including long term solutions. This could be an excellent thing, with dementia hubs and rehabilitation centres - much better than a series of hospital beds.  

Nicola Sturgeon has measures to help the Scottish NHS:
- money to move people into care homes
- cancelling some non-essential operations to prioritise life-saving care
- Some Doctors surgeries will open on Saturdays
- Staffing levels at helpline NHS24 will be increased
Scottish NHS staff have been offered an average 7.5% pay increase, compared with 4.5% average in England and Wales, Nicola also seems willing to discuss improvements to terms and conditions, whereas the central UK Government do not. 

130123 £50m to reduce A&E delays UK Gov

Ambulance workers are set to strike again on January 11th, and after demoralising talks came to nothing, NHS Nurses and Auxiliary Staff in England and Wales will continue with further strikes this month (18th and 19th Jan). Steve Barclay (still Health Secretary) apparently only scheduled 45 minutes to meet with NHS union leaders. Because why? Steve, you are literally in charge of health. For millions of people. What could you have to do that is more important?
Steve is reportedly considering a one-off payment to cheer them all up. It seems chucking fast cash at a problem is all he knows.
In return for his generosity, Steve apparently wants improvements to performance - from demoralised staff who have been covering for missing colleagues since COVID began. 14.6% of nursing roles are currently unfilled, and 12.3% of care roles. Ask Rishi to do the maths Steve - How long can 1 person do the job of 1.2 people, and how can they then improve performance? Answers on a postcard to neverworkeda40hourweek at UKGov

Although, actually Rishi... the latest NHS England figures are not all bad. These people really have worked darn hard:
- on November 30th the number of people in the UK waiting for non-urgent (elective) care fell for the first time since before COVID struck  - slightly, but it's still a good thing. 7.19m, down from 7.21m at the end of October
- Accident and Emergency departments treated more people during December than ever before (2,283,196)
- Record numbers of people were checked and started treatment for cancer during November - more than 9/10 within a month.
So put that "improvement to performance" in your pipe and smoke it. And pay them properly. 

130123 Paul mainwood ambulance response times England and Scotland
Paul Mainwood (Twitter)

Sadly December's ambulance response times for England and Wales continued their flight towards the stars - and it is not in any way the fault of the staff. 
In England during December the average ambulance response time for Category 2 calls (including heart attacks and strokes) rose to more than 90 minutes (an hour and a half), when the target is 18 minutes. 
Scotland have been performing far better than England and Wales throughout 2022 (although it's not possible to do a simple direct comparison as categories are different). They had a blip in December when averages rose to over 1 1/4 hours, but already seem to be back on track. At the same point England's response time appears to have been over 3 1/2 hours, although as usual, we have to wait for final figures. 
Word of mouth suggests this is getting better everywhere - although still far too long and traumatic for all involved. 

Health unions from the UK representing doctors, nurses and other staff have refused to submit evidence towards next year's pay review, as this year's isn't settled and they feel the entire thing is a joke. They've had increases below inflation year on year, amounting to a substantial loss in real wages, so what are the negotiators actually doing? Unions want to deal directly with Government instead. 

Want some more NHS stats? 
- elective care was delivered for 70,000 more patients in November compared to November 2019, knocking 27.012 patients off the waiting list.
- call handlers answered more 999 calls in December 2022 than ever before (1,014,489)
- A newly qualified nurse in 2010 could buy 108 Freddos an hour (small kids chocolate frog). A newly qualified nurse now can buy 55 Freddos an hour. (£10.83/10p vs £13.84/25p.)

130123 Paul mainwood ambulance response times England and Scotland from 2018 onwards
Paul Mainwood (Twitter)

On Tuesday UK Business Secretary Grant Shapps unveiled a plan to ensure minimum levels of service are maintained during strikes. This wasn't popular with our NHS workers, as they are struggling to provide minimum levels of service on any day, and care about the communities they serve, so the strike action only really affects non-emergency services.
Suggestions to curb strikes have also angered unions, with the TUC announcing 1st February will be "Protect the right to strike day".

Coincidentally, 1st February will see around 100,000 Civil Servants strike over pay and conditions.
So that's going well isn't it.. 

Just in case you think these people are moaning about nothing, remember how much we NEED them. Upday have a piece about average pay. Our highly trained and totally essential, shift working Ambulance Staff earn an average basic wage of £33,779 for a 37.5 hour week. At the moment, they're earning an average £12,898 on top in overtime -  which really indicates how hard they're working to cover for missing colleagues. 

UK ONS Deaths data this week took us almost up until the very end of 2022 (and may not be final due to bank holiday reporting).
In the final week of the year, the UK lost 20% more people than the 2015-2019 average.
Jan 1st to Dec 30th there were 576,896 deaths recorded, 8% more than the 2015-19 average.
This is the raw data, but the Continuous Mortality Investigation is hopefully more accurate (and kinder), as it accounts for changes to population (aging, breeding etc).
The CMI found in the final week of 2022, there were 22% more deaths than in 2019. Calculated excess deaths were 1,705, significantly higher than the 393 deaths mentioning COVID on the death certificate. A very large “non-COVID excess”.
Cumulative mortality rates for 2022 are 4.8% of a full year’s mortality worse than 2019.
"CMI calculates 151,400 excess deaths in the UK since the start of the pandemic. The total increased by 31,000 in 2022. 

Variant watch:
The day of the Kraken is nigh. I don't know if mentioned before that the variant taking over in the US is nicknamed Kraken? Sounds scary, but as we have already learned, XXB.1.5 is super fast, but doesn't really appear to have much else exciting going on. XXB.1.5 Kraken spreads 38.87% more quickly than our current COVID strain, BQ.1.1.
The other variant currently growing in the UK is CH.1.1, which is now more than 15% of our cases, but again doesn't seem any more dangerous. CH.1.1 spreads 20.56% more quickly than our current leader, BQ.1.1. 
They are all from the Omicron family, and Kraken is a 'recombinant' where 2 Omicron strains mixed together. 

COVID Actuaries A&E waits graph 2022
COVID Actuaries

Reporting by the Sunday Times has compared excess deaths in the UK and the EU. According to their stats, Germany and Austria are actually having a worse time. They have UK on 1.6 people per 100,000 dying when they shouldn't, whereas Germany are at 2.2 and Austria 1.9. By contrast, Romania are losing 1.9 people LESS than expected per 100,000. Luxembourg -0.9 and Poland -0.8. 

The UK Coronavirus dashboard is only updated once a week, and is horrendously out of date even at that point, which is why I don't use it a lot. 
England's official total people succumbed to COVID (within 28 days of a positive test) up to January 5th 2023 is 177,037 (up by 2,030 from 175,007 two weeks earlier). 

When repeatedly questioned over the weekend, UK PM Rishi Sunak eventually said it was "not relevant" whether or not he used a private GP (General Practitioner / Doctor).
Hahahahaahahaha omg it so is. 
They should all use the services they want to be in charge of for us mere mortals. NHS healthcare, standard class public transport, state-run schools. All of it, even social care... 
Put YOURSELF and your own loved ones where your mouth is.
Anyway, I digress. Rishi's first Tory Party advert as Prime Minister is out, and in it he has a banner saying "Strengthen the NHS". He says his Dad was a Doctor and his Mum was a pharmacist and he's going to get waiting lists down. That was it really. I'm stunned he didn't clap.

Moderna want to charge Americans over $100 for their vaccine, which costs around $2 to produce. Obviously it cost billions to get to this point, but the sheer numbers of doses sold and opportunity for ongoing income really do mean $100 is very excessive. Not only that, but US Government money went into "Operation Warp Speed" to get the vaccine rolled out really quickly. US Taxpayers already helped pay for it.  Disappointing Moderna. 
(For a more affordable alternative, Texas Children's Hospital have a patent-free more traditional vaccine which costs around $2 a dose and has already been given to over 100 million people in India and Indonesia.)

Officials in Beijing, Henan, Jiangsu, Zheijiang and some other areas of China are claiming they have already gone through the worst of COVID, with around 90% of people already catching the virus, and a downward trend. I would love for this to be true, and it is plausible, but would be incredibly unusual. The official national Chinese figures are not so believable. Yep, we all want to look good, and we don't want to alarm the public, but 2 or 3 deaths a day for claims of millions of infections is so low it's not even funny. Everyone else in the world has 3 years practice, more vaccinations, and in many places a population who have already caught it more than once on average each. We can see your lips moving, and you look like you're kidding.
China's official COVID reporting only includes people who have symptoms and a positive test result, and to be officially classed as a COVID death you need to test positive and then die from pneumonia and/or respiratory failure. They're the only fatalities who are counted. We know this simply doesn't cover it. 
As of yesterday China as a whole has reported an all time official total of 503,302 cases and 5,272 deaths. Since relaxing restrictions in mid November 2022, they've officially reported another 227,882 cases (275,420 on 15th November) and 46 deaths (5,226 on 15th November). 

China have suspended short term visas with South Korea and Japan, as they're annoyed about 'discriminatory entry regulations' placed by these countries on travellers from the Chinese mainland. Many countries have now imposed mandatory testing for anyone wishing to travel from China. It's hard to say how much of that is genuine fear of unchecked variants, as opposed to racism and political cat-fighting.

COVID Actuaries trolley waits graph 2022
COVID Actuaries

UK Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has lost the whip (no longer part of the party) after tweeting a tweet that compared the COVID vaccine rollout to the holocaust. Clearly that comparison is horrific, and during the tweet he said it came from a "consultant cardiologist". Lots of guesses online as to who it is, along with evidence, and everyone's saying the same name. It's a person who has already been discredited by masses of Doctors and scientists for vaccine misinformation, even telly doctor, all-round nice guy and real life GP Dr Ranj has written a warning about him. 
Just in case you still wondering if the vaccine is as bad as the illness, a Spanish Government-backed study has some answers.
They were looking to see if recovered COVID patients were more likely to die from Cardiovascular problems (serious heart arrhythmia, stroke, embolism etc) within a year of catching COVID.
They found the chances of having Cardiovascular conditions were greater (often 2-3 times or more), but the chance of dying from a Cardiovascular condition were "not significantly greater" (1.4% vs. 0.8%).
This is bad/good, but they also found some very bad news.
For study participants, chances of dying from anything at all in the year after COVID are increased. All-cause mortality was more than 4 times the control group (17.8% vs. 4.0%). 
The same results were found whatever the vaccination status.
I've said all along that catching COVID is NOT good for your long term health. 

Huw Corness Nurse Freddos

UK scientists are studying millions of stored swabs from COVID tests - to find out what else we all had during the last 3 years. As well as looking at virus and diseases, and how they evolved and spread, they are hoping to develop wide ranging tests, which can use a single swab to check for lots of different virus at once. 

"During the last 6 months of 2022, people aged 65 or over accounted for around 90% of all reported deaths." 
Dr Tedros of WHO. He asked for countries to provide basic data, such as fatalities by age and sex, in order that we can continue to monitor who COVID is still killing, and hopefully work out how to reduce that number.

New data shows, as Prostate Cancer UK tell us: "huge variation in the likelihood of men being diagnosed too late for a cure. It ranges from 1 in 8 in London to more than 1 in 3 in Scotland".
Early signs mostly involve problems with weeing, or changes in how often you need to go - which can also be symptoms of less harmful conditions, but shouldn't be ignored. Look after yourself, we need you. 

Russia claim to have shot down a UFO while defending their skies from potential Ukrainian strikes. Brilliant. I had 'War with the aliens' on my 2020's bingo card. 

In UK local elections in May, you will need photo ID in order to vote. Voter fraud in the UK amounts to just a handful of cases a year, so it can only be changing in order to prevent people from voting. If you don't have a valid passport or driver's licence, this is aimed at you. Don't be beaten. You'll still be able to register for a postal vote, or a free certificate that you can take to the polling station instead.
People in Northern Ireland already have to show ID to vote. 

Prostate Cancer Uk

There have been cold weather, snow and ice warnings issued for much of the UK next week. Don't take daft risks. If you are affected, stay home when you can, and minimise travel outdoors, whether you are driving, walking or anything else.
Stay warm safely. Use layers of clothes, wear a hat, shut doors and curtains. And treat yourself to something nice, you've earned it. A special mug of hot chocolate could be just the thing... 
My thoughts with anyone experiencing extreme weather now or next week. 

Be Careful Out There, Stay Sensible, Save The NHS...

No numbers today because it's already too long for Facebook... 


A&E / Trolley waits
COVID Actuaries, plus images

Admissions with COVID

UK Gov fixing the NHS:

Scottish Gov fixing the NHS:

NHS Strikes

Good stats
Also bed stats:

Ambulance response times:
Ambulance worker pay

Excess deaths COVID Actuaries / ONS


Excess Deaths Europe


China travel

Bridgen / Malhotra






Image prostate cancer

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