Friday 27 January 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 27th January 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 27th January 2023

World COVID Statistics: 674,417,904 reported cases and 6,755,786 losses of life.

"Sajid Javid has called for patients to pay for GP and A&E visits.
This is what the Conservatives have in store for us all. 
We strongly oppose anything that might prevent or dissuade someone from seeking the care they need. 
NHS Million."

Original New National Health Service leaflet

There are some changes to the UK vaccination programme, on advice from the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation). In England it's all change after 12th February. This will be a deadline for Autumn boosters, and boosters for all 16-49 year olds, and basically then they'll move on, so please book yours before then if you haven't had it already.
Up until 15th January 2023, the Autumn booster uptake was 64.5% of those aged 50 and over, and 82.4% of those aged 75 and over. Vaccinations have now dropped to very low levels, so we can assume most of those who want it have already come forward. 
The JCVI have recommended that all older and less robust people should get a COVID booster in Autumn this year, and people who are especially vulnerable to COVID should get an extra Spring booster as well.
(Dropping boosters for anyone under 50 and not in an at-risk group is understandable financially, as it currently makes only a tiny percentage difference to the numbers hospitalised or dying, but each one is a person, and relying on immunity via catching COVID has a cost to our long term physical health. I honestly don't think they are taking it as seriously as they will in future.)

This week's Continuous Mortality Investigation report is grim. In the week ending 13th January, in England and Wales, there were 31% more deaths than if death rates were the same as 2019. 
"Calculated excess deaths (4,083) were significantly higher than the number of deaths mentioning COVID on the death certificate (922). So there was a large “non-COVID excess” this week."
Not what we wanted to see at all, and it's likely to be very much indicative of a population in poorer health and the struggling NHS:
"CMI calculates 160,000 excess deaths in the UK since the start of the pandemic. That total has increased by 8,500 in the first two weeks of 2023."

English hospital admissions with COVID have decreased this week, and total hospital admissions decreased by 5%. That's the good news. Bad news is hospital acquired COVID has increased by around 21%. This is our early warning 'canary in the coalmine' and tends to indicate how things are heading in the community. The UK is in the dip between waves right now, and early signs suggest we are about to start climbing again. 

270123 COVID hospital admissions Adele Groyer

The latest ONS random sampling doesn't yet show a rise (hoorah), but it's a little behind reality. I'll take that. Even if it does go up in the next couple of weeks, it's better to start from lower down the scale. For the week ending 17th Jan for England, Wales and Scotland, and 14th Jan for Northern Ireland:
"The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to decrease in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland."
- England, estimate 906,300, equating to 1.62% of the population (a decrease from 2.61% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 60 people.
- Wales, estimate 57,100, equating to 1.85% of the population (a decrease from 3.94% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 55 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 56,500, equating to 3.08% of the population (a decrease from 4.22% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 30 people.
- Scotland, estimate 92,400, equating to 1.76% of the population (a decrease from 3.26% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 55 people.

Ex-UK Chancellor Sajid Javid believes we should be charged for GP and A&E visits. We already pay, it's called tax and National Insurance. (As a reminder Rishi Sunak's wife and Nadim Zahawi and have not been paying all their tax in the UK, so maybe it's more confusing if you’re terribly wealthy.)
If people are taking up more of a medics time than is physically necessary, they have a mental health issue - and need investment in a different part of the NHS. Anyway, I digress. 
In his Times article Sajid said we need to reduce waiting lists, and means tested payment is an option for this. I refer to the quote from NHS Million. The only way waiting lists reduce when you charge, is because some people can't really (or really can't) afford it.
Word is that Rishi isn't considering this option, and Sajid isn't standing at the next election... but it's a long-time trick of this government to 'leak' information (usually via the Times or Sun), when they want to gauge public feedback, and it would not be the first time charging has been mentioned.

270123 CMI monitoring excess deaths

And as luck would have it, UK PM Rishi Sunak has announced £150m to support mental health services and provide mental health ambulances, safe spaces, crisis cafes and other emergency care for people suffering a mental health crisis.  
Very often people with urgent mental health issues end up sitting in A&E for many hours - because (they aren't actively bleeding to death on the floor) decisions have to be made about where to send them. This is no good for anyone.
Who is staffing this Rishi? (Humans, we need more medically trained humans.)

We have a new ONS England COVID stat - 'Positivity by Integrated Care Board' (ICB). 
ICBs range in population from 500,000 to 3.1 million people, and are a geographical breakdown which is part way between regional and sub-regional. (Basically, yet another new way to present statistics, so that it's even harder to compare figures across time.)
"Between the weeks beginning 5 October 2022 and 28 December 2022, there was little variation between Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) in the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)."
The most recent data is for week beginning 28th December 2022:
- the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 was consistent across the majority of ICBs in England
- the highest percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 was 5.02% in NHS Devon ICB
- the lowest percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 was 3.40% in NHS Cheshire and Merseyside ICB

Another new thing is "International comparisons of possible factors affecting excess mortality".
This report is written by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). They stress that there are many differences between individual people, so it's incredibly hard to pinpoint what exactly makes someone more likely to succumb to COVID, but they've given it a try.... It's also noted that some surprisingly low results may be because people who know they're at greater risk are more likely to shield and protect themselves. Some surprisingly high results can be the result of several combining factors. 
Likely factors affecting your risk from COVID:
- Known physical comorbidities include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Obviously immunosuppressed people (for whatever reason) are also on this list.
- Obesity and smoking, being male, and advanced age - which remains consistently the greatest risk factor. 
- It's incredibly hard to distinguish between ethnic groups. A UK study found that after taking into account known risk factors, "higher mortality rates were still seen for Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups".
- Internationally, "socio-economic differences, climate and ethnicity as well as differing coronavirus pandemic responses contributed to differences in excess mortality across countries; however, comparing these is complex".
- Access to healthcare, PPE and training, how poor people are and how well educated. 
- Housing, who lives in the household, and how densely packed with people your area is. Living in an area with high CO2 emissions, or a high volume of international tourists. 
- Public transport use, having to attend work in person. 
They note that: 
"Although low-income populations within countries are at higher risk of infection and death, less wealthy countries have generally reported a lower case and mortality rates overall." 
Some of this will be due to limitations on testing, and some will be because the poorer you are, the more you have to rely on common sense to stay alive any day... 

270123 CMI monitoring excess deaths last 26 weeks

Remember the Immensa COVID lab scandal last November? Where it emerged many thousands of people (especially in the South West of England) had been given the all-clear, but had in fact tested positive?
It turns out that Public Health Wales employees flagged the same test centre back in March 2021, because asymptomatic testing of care home staff had over 5 times as many positive results than any other labs. Repeat testing usually showed a high number of those positives were false, yet Test & Trace had a look and said 'it's fine, no problem with the lab'. The Immensa lab in Wales' own 'quality check tests' were getting strange results, and yet they  reported less void results than anywhere else. 
We do tests and checks for a reason, we shouldn't ignore them if the results aren't what we hope. 

Talking of labs, the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory will cease to process PCR tests for COVID, in response to reduced demand. They haven't yet decided what to use it for, but it will remain, in case we need to increase testing again. 

Nadhim Zahawi, UK Tory Party Chairman and co-founder of 'YouGov' (the company which run polls on how we feel about the Government and their policies) is in big trouble with HMRC, with a fine of one million pounds. Which gives an indication of just how much tax he's been caught not paying... and why I tend to avoid YouGov polls... 

Sky News have a brilliant 'NHS by the numbers' article, to go with their televised "Can the NHS survive?" debate. 
Back when it was formed in 1948, the NHS cost £373m a year, which was 3.2% of the UK GDP (Gross domestic product - national earnings). Right now it costs 11.9% of UK GDP and it's quite broken. 
Obviously the reasons are complex, and some really super expensive treatments are available nowadays, but I think we have to look at the fact almost half the NHS employees aren't medical staff as a big failing. We employ hundreds of managers just to oversee managers, on wages greater than most doctors or nurses. The amount of admin is astounding, much of it because it's broken into so many departments, all attempting to prove they're value for money and having to justify why they took on a patient and what they spent. We also have the issue of expensively renting private / agency facilities and staff... 

Changes to vaccination programme UK Jan 2023

US research into the efficacy of bivalent boosters (original COVID and Delta variants including Omicron) compared to monovalent (just original COVID) has found that:
"For all participants 12 years of age or older, vaccine effectiveness against severe infection resulting in hospitalization over days 15 to 99 after receipt of one monovalent booster dose was 25.2%, and the corresponding vaccine effectiveness for one bivalent booster dose was 58.7%."
This is extra on top of the protection these people had after their other vaccine doses - and the study also found little difference between people who had Moderna or Pfizer for their primary vaccinations and first booster jab.
The UK has also been using bivalent booster doses since the Autumn booster rollout. Good stuff. 

The US CDC have published a report which will make you want to check your Great Aunt Flo has had all her jabs... 
"Nursing home residents who were not up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccines had a 30%–50% higher risk for acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection compared with residents who were up to date with COVID-19 vaccines."

A pre-print (not yet peer-reviewed) study was released this afternoon which shows there's a rare potential for patients treated with Molnupiravir antiviral medication to not completely clear their COVID infection, and instead broken and damaged COVID virus escaped their bodies and have continued to spread. They can actually track one of these mutated strains from a trial participant into the genome sequences (like DNA testing, but for virus) being uploaded into the global database (which exists to track variants).
While nothing dangerous has been seen, it emphasises a need for continued caution. Molnupiravir has been very widely used, and has saved thousands of lives, but it doesn't come entirely risk-free.

New research based on UK Biobank figures from the early months of the pandemic show that within the first 18 months after catching COVID, unvaccinated people are 5 times more likely to die, and 40% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, then they would be if they hadn't caught COVID. Those results are even higher in people who were severely ill.
The researchers have called for monitoring during the year after infection. 
I'll say it again. Repeatedly catching COVID really is NOT good for your health.

US CDC nursing home residents 50% more likely to COVID

Matt Hancock, the UK's COVID-times Health Secretary and public TV face of the pandemic, was assaulted on Wednesday on the London Underground. A man filmed himself attacking Mr Hancock with words such as "murderer". He was later arrested. 
A statement was released to say Matt was 'unharmed'. It was a verbal assault, so 'unharmed' presumably refers to Matt's heart of pure stone.
I reiterate that no-one should be risking their own wellbeing simply for being an MP or Councillor. They're voted in to represent the constituents, and can be voted out if you don't like how they do it (although technically Matt has been found guilty of crimes a few times in court now, yet still hasn't lost his job and isn't in prison). 
Well done to the Transport for London employee who had to accompany them onto the tube - she repeatedly calmly asked for the shouting to stop, never forgetting her manners. Of the 3 of them, she wins my respect hands down. 

Talking of Matt Hancock, the Good Law Project have discovered that the UK PPE scandal has so far cost UK taxpayers £14.9b (FOURTEEN POINT NINE BILLION POUNDS) in vastly inflated prices, storage and unusable PPE. 
I have no words. 

Matt's occasional partner Boris Johnson hasn't gone away. It transpires that not only was he getting wasted and partying while we were all at home following the rules and saving lives, but the UK taxpayer has the joy of paying for his Partygate legal defence and advice. So far that bill is £222,000. No wonder it's still raging on, someone is raking it in. 

Things You Never Thought You'd Say:
Croaky voiced model railway enthusiast and popular 1960's/70's/80's musician Sir Rod Stewart rang a public phone-in on UK Sky News to give his opinion of what's happening to the UK NHS. He offered to pay for 10-20 people to have scans privately, and told the reporter "this government should stand down now and give the Labour Party a go at it".
Well, if even Rod (and Carol Vorderman) are speaking up... I never in my life expected to have to maintain relative impartiality towards such selfish, arrogant, criminal politicians, who clearly feel they're above the law, and above the majority of the population.
I would honestly believe you if you told me an asteroid was going to blow the country to smithereens next year, because it looks like they are taking as much as they can before they leave, and damn the rest of us and the UK as a whole. Every move appears calculated to earn a profit for someone, and it isn't you or I. They have spent years dismantling the NHS in front of our eyes. The Naylor Review in March 2017 reads like a valuation visit by the bailiffs, and suggested selling as much as 86% (Charing Cross Hospital) of NHS buildings, land and assets in order to make quick cash. It was a shopping list for the wealthy to choose what areas they'd invest in next. THAT is why your scans and other NHS tests and treatments are very regularly nowadays in a private facility, which the NHS rents from them. It is a business model which is designed to fail. 

Fair pay for nursing RCN poster with text 'protect those you love' and image of nurse in action

Next Wednesday is a 'day of action' in the UK, and many union workers will be on strike over the week. All emergency medical situations will still take priority, so if you need help, go to 111 for advice on what to do next. If someone is at immediate risk of death, dial 999. 
Strikes may mess up some of your plans, but if no-one fights for fair pay and conditions, then conditions deteriorate unchecked, and everyone who isn't at the top of the pyramid suffers. Circumstances of birth aren't good enough reason alone for one person to live a life of luxury, while another works a full week and still freezes and starves. Not in my book anyway. We are ALL people. 

Sorry to everyone who isn't UK-based, but we've had 2 weeks full of new studies so we were due a quiet one, and obviously the home events have somewhat eclipsed international news for me this week. I have also been without Wi-fi for the past few days, so if I missed anything pertinent, please feel free to add it in the comments! 

It is the weekend...and relax... Make sure you do, and have a treat for yourself. It's cold out there, we all need little boosts and something to look forward to. Keep warm, and keep well, and keep a smile when you can. 

Stay Sensible, Wear A Cardi, Save The NHS. 

Some people. They look like numbers here, but they are all people.

Countries / Cases / Losses of life (plus figures added YESTERDAY in the full 24 hours until midnight GMT):

World 674,285,856 (+195,842) 6,755,164 (+1,324)
Japan 32,310,939 (+59,885) 66,707 (+410)
S. Korea 30,075,652 (+35,096) 33,296 (+26)
Taiwan 9,404,136 (+19,142) 16,189 (+21)
USA 104,093,499 (+18,457) 1,132,132 (+209)
Brazil 36,794,650 (+13,782) 696,731 (+86)
Germany 37,728,155 (+13,155) 165,314 (+175)
Russia 21,917,097 (+7,077) 394,861 (+40)
Mexico 7,353,630 (+5,338) 332,026 (+71)
France 39,503,473 (+5,287) 164,036 (+28)
Austria 5,766,283 (+3,118) 21,657 (+8)
Australia 11,290,091 (+2,638) 18,514 (+82) 


NHS Million /Charges

Changes to vaccinations UK

Excess mortality

Hospital acquired COVID

ONS random sampling:


US CDC care homes

Mental Health

New Stats
COVID comorbidities / risk factors

Immensa lab in Wales


Vaccine efficacy bivalent

COVID and death 18 months

NHS Stats

Matt Hancock

Unusable PPE

Partygate cost:

UK NHS dismantling

NHS leaflet - Prof Gavin Yamey MD MPH, Duke University:
Fair pay for nursing RCN:

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