Friday 24 February 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 24th February 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 24th February 2023

World COVID Statistics: 679,392,534 reported cases and 6,796,421 losses of life.

"Almost everyone has at least one contact in their phone who will never pick up the phone again. Will never answer a text message "How are you?". These simple words have acquired a new meaning during the year of war. Every day, millions of Ukrainians have written or spoken this question to their loved ones millions of times. Every day, someone did not receive an answer. Every day, the occupiers killed our relatives and friends."
President Zelenskyy of Ukraine.

Bird Flu - what to report to DEFRA in the UK

Exactly a year after the first bombs fell on Kyiv, many countries have released statements hoping for peace. The Chinese message contains 12 points, never referring to invasion or war.  They include an offer of support to negotiate a peaceful settlement, and a promise to help with rebuilding post-war. They are also emphatic that nuclear, biological and chemical weapons must not be developed or used by any country, and that the sovereignty of countries must be respected in accordance with international law and the UN Charter.
They also have a pop at NATO and individual countries, saying that unilateral sanctions must stop, as it only agitates the situation and doesn't promote peace. 

“The Health Secretary will meet with the Royal College of Nursing on Wednesday to begin talks. The Royal College of Nursing will pause strike action during these talks.”
Joint statement from the Nursing Union RCN (Royal College of Nurses) and the Department for Health and Social Care on Tuesday. Scottish nurses have already paused strike action, now the rest of the UK follows, after the Government agreed to begin intensive talks.
"The talks will focus on pay, terms and conditions, and productivity enhancing reforms."
About blinking time. Let's hope it's productive. 

Friday 17 February 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 17th February 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 17th February 2023

World COVID Statistics: 678,346,543 reported cases and 6,788,139 losses of life.

“Being First Minister of Scotland is, in my opinion, the best job in the world. It is a privilege beyond measure - one that has sustained and inspired me, in good times and through the toughest hours of my toughest days.
Since my first moments in the job, I have believed that part of serving well would be to know - almost instinctively - when the time is right to make way for someone else. And when that time comes, to have the courage to do so. In my head and my heart I know that time is now."
First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, announcing her resignation on Wednesday. 
Nicola spoke about needing time for herself, and commented on the brutality in politics... "It takes it's toll on you". 
Whatever your politics, over the past 3 years she had more integrity and honesty than any of the English cabinet, she actually answers questions, and she treated her population far more as intelligent human people, rather than expendable idiot meatbags. 

RSV information UK HSA

We did expect a rise in UK figures, and it looks like its arriving just in time for a half term firebreak. Hospital admissions with COVID are up by 11% on last week, bed occupancy is up 13%.

The UK ONS random sampling for week ending 7th February reflects this week's hospital increases - bear in mind this is always 'community transmission' and doesn't include people in care homes or hospitals:
- England, continued increase; estimate  1,054,200 people had COVID-19, equating to 1.88% of the population, or around 1 in 55 people.
- Wales, increase; estimate 46,300 people had COVID-19, equating to 1.50% of the population, or around 1 in 65 people.
- Northern Ireland, continued decrease; estimate 23,300 people had COVID-19, equating to 1.27% of the population, or around 1 in 80 people.
- Scotland, increase; estimate 96,500 people had COVID-19, equating to 1.83% of the population, or around 1 in 55 people.

This latest UK Continuous Mortality Investigation report is more of the same. We are still losing too many people each week. Week ending 3rd Feb:
"CMI calculates 167,200 excess deaths in the UK since the start of the pandemic. That total has increased by 15,800 in the first five weeks of 2023."
Again, a large non-COVID excess. Calculated excess deaths 1,509, the number of deaths mentioning COVID on the death certificate 499.

WHO were in trouble a good while back, when someone pointed out they were using flawed maths for their estimates of excess mortality - the number of extra people who died over the number we'd expect to lose. WHO apologised and changed it very quickly.
For over a year people in the know have also been telling IHME (the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) that they have a problem with their estimates of excess mortality - their modelled mortality is underestimating wildly, which means the excess figures look HUGE. Finally this is being openly discussed in The Lancet, and questions asked as to why their figures are so different from everyone else's. IHME data is respected and used by companies, agencies and Governments worldwide.
Whenever a big organisation like this makes an error and doesn't correct it promptly, it has a knock on effect and everyone trusts scientists a little less. A lot of people are very unhappy with them for this. 

Possibly as a knock on from this, the UK ONS have also been asked to review their excess deaths data. The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) have complained that ONS 5 year averages now use 2021 data (they have skipped 2020), which includes a lot of COVID-related deaths in the early part of the year. This makes it look like deaths are way down on average, when really they're still higher than 2019. The OSR are unhappy that the ONS don't make this clear enough. We should ALL be able to read this and understand what it actually means. 

Two new studies today, and this one is getting a lot of press - immunity after COVID infection.
A huge US study which pulled together 65 studies from 19 countries has concluded that protection against severe illness and death is about as high from previous infection with an Omicron variant as it is from vaccination. 88% at 10 months post-infection. Not so great when you were infected with an older Grandparent variant, but even that still offers around 36% protection against severe disease from current Omicron variants at least 10 months after infection. 
Most of the world has been heavily Omicron variants for over a year now, and there have been billions of infections during this time, so this is really a good thing from a bad thing - although only time will tell how long this protection lasts. 
There is obviously a caveat to this, we all know COVID infection causes some damage, whether it's minimal and all repaired in a few days, or still affecting us 2 years later, and a smaller chance of severe illness or death is just that - a smaller chance. You roll that dice each time. Vaccination really is incredibly valuable and far safer than infection. 

A US Government funded study has found that over half of all adults treated at hospitals for COVID-19 are still suffering 6 months later. It's not a study to be happy about really. They looked at 825 patients after one, three and six months, and found:
- 75.4% of COVID-19 survivors experienced cardiopulmonary problems at 6 months compared with 67.3% at month 1.
- 47.3% of COVID-19 survivors experienced functional limitations at 6 months compared with 55.3% at month 1.
- 56.4% of COVID-19 survivors experienced financial problems at 6 months compared with 66.1% at month 1.
Cardiopulmonary problems include coughing, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and breathlessness. We have to hope they may not be picked up on in the early days because "I'm feeling better" or "I'm slowly recovering back to health and not back at work/bowls full time yet", or else people are not 'recovering' as much as slowly deteriorating. Age will play a part in this, but still not good. 
Better news is to see recovery in function - ability to get on and do your daily stuff - but demoralising that we don't see massive improvement there either. I very much hope the next update from this study does offer us more.
This study was in the USA, with private medical care, and it's horrific to think that 2/3 people have financial worries just after coming out of hospital when they should really be focussing on getting better. Possibly worse that over half of them are still struggling 5 months later... 

The WHO Mpox (formerly Monkeypox) committee have met again, and it's been decided Mpox remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). It's just too dangerous to let it go, lose Government amd international funding to eradicate it, and risk mutation to a more deadly form. The current mortality rate is around 1 in 1,000, but previously it was between 3 in 10 and 8 in 10. 

Scientific Spat Of The Week:
A report in Nature magazine claimed that the World Health Organisation have abandoned plans for a second 'Origins of COVID' investigation. On Wednesday WHO said that simply isn't true, it's just that they're unsure how to progress.
How many times can you visit a meat market, 3 years after an event, and hope to find some clue? 

Famous People With COVID:
The Queen Consort, Camilla. She first told us she had a 'seasonal illness'. Bit of a white lie, unless "the 2020s" is a season now. Maybe in the future... 

Remember on 13th January when I said Russia claimed they had shot down a UFO, and "great, I had war with the aliens on my 2023 Bingo card"? I joked too soon. 
The USA seem determined, they've raised the sensitivity on their scanners and are shooting down everything bigger than car. 4 in the last 10 days. How the heck do we have car-sized things floating about out there and no-one bothered to mention it before?
Efforts are ongoing to collect the pieces and find out what they were. My guess is drones and balloons from over-exuberant gender reveals. Of course, whatever the official sources tell us, we may never really know... *insert X Files theme here*

The World Health Organisation have confirmed an outbreak of Marburg Disease in Equatorial Guinea.
Marburg is a vicious cousin of Ebola. Usually spread by bats, but also in the blood and other fluids from infected people, it is a haemorrhagic disease which causes you to bleed internally. It is horrendously painful, and kills on average around half the people it infects. So far in this outbreak, 9 people are known to have died, and there are another 16 suspected cases.
Because of the severity of this disease, WHO convened on Tuesday to discuss possible vaccine candidates that already exist and have been cleared for human testing, but haven't yet been trialled in infected humans. It is hoped these can be offered to patients - with successful outcomes. 
Your risk from Marburg outside a specific area of Equatorial Guinea right now is almost zero. Fingers crossed they get it under control swiftly.

The world keeps turning. New Zealand announced a State Of Emergency this week for only the 3rd time, after Cyclone Gabrielle devastated first the North Island and then moved South. Those billionaire bunkers better have good waterproofing, or they're not going to be much use in future. Best of luck to everyone affected badly by weather this week - including those of you in the UK who faced a hurricane today. 

It is the weekend! Hurrah. Long week for me, half term next week. Hopefully your week has been a good one, whether you had kids on half term or not. I'm finishing early today because I'm in the land of no internet and poor phone reception, and it's cold outside! I'll pull in some more stats next time when I'm not working on my phone. 

Do NOT forget to treat yourself to something nice. Be kind to you - and the world will be a lot easier to cope with when you're refreshed. You've earnt it. 

Stay Warm, Stay Sensible, Save The NHS. 


Bad stats


Stats And images:

Our world in Data US vaccination status




Origins of COVID WHO

Parent company of British Gas, Centrica, have announced record-breaking profits that are triple last year - £3.3BILLION.
The reason for the astronomical profits is that the price of gas went up massively, and their profits are in essence a percentage on top. Is there any other essential commodity which works like this? Are bakers raking it in because wheat is more expensive? Does your local Chinese takeaway now have a merc parked outside because of the price of spices? No. Usually a company has to keep to sensible price rises, or even lose a bit of profit, or the customer can go elsewhere. We can't realistically go elsewhere for power. Government decisions put us here.

War with the aliens

Wednesday 15 February 2023

Goodbye to the #TBCSmiles... 102 months, 8 1/2 years.

So it's happened. After 102 months, or 8 1/2 years, and over 9,100 grintastic snapshots, I don't have enough #TBCSmiles this month to make a full collage. And it really feels right. 

I started The Brick Castle Smiles, or TBCSmiles for short, because I needed it. I needed to be reminded there was happiness in the world. I needed to see simple joy in the innocence of children, the wisdom of their Grandparents. I soaked in your belly laughs and wry chuckles, and warmed my heart. I needed to know the world wasn't broken. Most of all I needed to know that my kids could be happy, and my partner and I could then allow ourselves to be happy, because it meant we were coping.

Small boy in a rowing boat, staring at large metal sunflowers

I also knew I needed help to keep going. I struggled at first to find interest in anything, and having a monthly responsibility meant I paid attention to my blog, and my Instagram, and found the support I needed to know that I had some value. 

Friday 10 February 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 10th February 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 10th February 2023

World COVID Statistics: 677,186,916 reported cases and 6,779,665 losses of life.

"Devastating earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria, injuring thousands of people. WHO has activated its emergency medical teams network, now on the ground delivering health care to those in need."
Monday 6th February's earthquakes are so far known to have killed over 22,000 people, injured over 80,000 more, and they have left hundreds of thousands of people homeless in snowy conditions.
Volunteer teams from more than 25 countries are already there, and 95 countries had offered help by this morning. Volunteers include over 30 search & rescue teams, engineers, medical staff, firefighters and vets, and they are still pulling people out alive.
Thank you to all of them.
Anyone wanting to make donations, please use official agencies such as the 15 members of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). DEC agencies work together to ensure the correct sort of aid is targeted exactly where it's needed most. DEC includes many of the big names, including the Red Cross, Save The Children, Oxfam, CAFOD, Christian Aid and International Rescue.

UK HSA How to not spread regular flu human to human

"Over the past few weeks there have been several reports of mammals including minks, otters, foxes and sea lions having been infected with H5N1 avian influenza. H5N1 has spread widely in wild birds and poultry for 25 years but the recent spill over to mammals needs to be monitored closely.
For the moment, WHO assesses the risk to humans as low. Since H5N1 first emerged in 1996 we have only seen rare and non-sustained transmission of H5N1 to and between humans, but we cannot assume that will remain the case and we must prepare for any change in the status quo."
Dr Tedros, head of WHO, with a little warning at Wednesday's Conference On Global Health. 

Friday 3 February 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 3rd February 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 3rd February 2023

World COVID Statistics: 675,852,150 reported cases and 6,768,076 losses of life.

"Three years ago today, I declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) over the global spread of COVID-19 - the highest level of alarm under the International Health Regulations. 
On Friday the Emergency Committee met to consider whether that remains the case. The committee has advised me that in its view, COVID-19 remains a global health emergency.
In the past 8 weeks, more than 170,000 people have lost their lives to COVID-19, and that's just the reported deaths; we know the actual number is much higher." 
Dr Tedros, Head of the World Health Organisation, speaking on Monday.

Look out for others in cold weather UK HSA Image of older lady smiling and text

Lets start with some good news. Ambulance handover times have improved dramatically. I don't know which genius sorted this out, but someone somewhere fixed this, and they should probably be in charge (as long as it isn't a cover up and all those people are piling up in a caretaker's closet.) 
Down from highs of almost 4 hours of wasted time per handover (on average) in mid December and early January, to less than 15 minutes for most of the UK for the 3rd week of January. Even the South West is down to around 40 minutes. 
Serious credit to all involved, and to numbers bloke Paul Mainwood for keeping his eye on it.