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. 

More good news. The UK ONS random sampling still does not show an increase in COVID infections (we are expecting one any minute, as the Kraken variant begins spreading). It is a couple of weeks behind, but still, starting low is good. For the week ending 24th January 2023:
"The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to decrease in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland."
- England, estimate 799,200, equating to 1.42% of the population (a decrease from 1.62% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 70 people.
- Wales, estimate 38,800, equating to 1.26% of the population (a decrease from 1.85% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 80 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 27,900, equating to 1.52% of the population (a decrease from 3.08% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 65 people.
- Scotland, estimate 75,900, equating to 1.44% of the population (a decrease from 1.76% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 70 people.

030223 ONS prevalence by age

The general UK COVID testing is also showing a reduction in cases at the moment, but there is something brewing and it is possible to spot it. Although overall cases and hospitalisations are still going down, cases in younger people are going up. As younger people and children are least likely to be given a COVID test unless they clearly have symptoms, and are less likely to end up in hospital, we can assume this is not the full picture. We are also old hands at this now. It's patently obvious that school holidays work as a welcome break, and cases in kids fall immediately afterwards, before rising again over the next half term. 

Ex UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday that he was human, and that's why he broke COVID lockdown rules. A bold claim indeed, and as the interviewer pointed out, several million of us are humans and didn't break the lockdown rules.

Last weekend saw the sudden death of the wife of Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford. I knew little of him before COVID, but he abided by lockdown rules, and understood the humanity behind them. He moved out and lived in an outhouse for several months, so that his wife's clinically vulnerable mother could stay with them during lockdown. He has more integrity than any 10 English politicians, and by all accounts is a genuinely nice bloke, and his wife was his equal. I am truly sorry to him and his family that they have lost her.
My thoughts with anyone who has lost their life partner. 

Met Office make the most of the weather

TV maths person and qualified pilot Carol Vorderman has a real bee in her bonnet regarding Rishi Sunak. He invested some of his multi-billion pound wealth in 'hedge funds'. These are where a money person pools peoples cash together, and invests it short term before moving it about. They take some riskier moves, but move quickly, and it looks possible that Prime Minister Rishi could have had some money in a hedge fund which backed Moderna with £1b at the beginning of the pandemic. He has ignored the question and failed to deny the accusation for over 2 YEARS now. 
If so, then it could be another example of what is commonly know as 'government corruption', as he not only would know in advance that the UK Government were about to invest in Moderna's vaccines, but he'd actually have some very powerful influence into the decision itself. 

4 in 10 UK medical professionals are likely to quit within the next 5 years due to "intolerable pressures". 
This is research by an insurance company, which has been covered by The Guardian, and polled Doctors and Dentists. 
They are working their hardest to clear a backlog that they can never clear without more highly trained human staff, and the necessary funding. The longer that pressure is on them, the more likely they'll go and do something else, and the worse the problem becomes for those who are left. It's a collapsing spiral and it needs some serious propping up before it tumbles down. 
There are already 133,000 NHS vacancies in England alone. 

And right on cue, Rishi Sunak announced the "Delivery Plan for Recovering Urgent and Emergency Care Services". 
The NHS England recovery plan talks about 'ambitions' rather than aims, which is a bit less robust language before you even start. Dreams include: 
"Patients being seen more quickly in emergency departments: with the ambition to improve to 76% of patients being admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours by March 2024, with further improvement in 2024/25."
"Ambulances getting to patients quicker: with improved ambulance response times for Category 2 incidents to 30 minutes on average over 2023/24, with further improvement in 2024/25 towards pre-pandemic levels."
These are very low bars, and long timeframes. It has to be demoralising writing those out as a goal. Anyway... the ways they hope to achieve this and fix the whole NHS include:
- 5,000 new permanent hospital beds before next Winter.
- 800 new ambulances, including 100 special mental health ambulances, by next Winter
- same day hospital services to avoid overnight stays
- more clinicians for 111 and urgent call services
- convincing doctors nearing retirement (or retired) to work on 111 instead
- grow the workforce with more flexible ways of working, and increased numbers of EMTs
- £1.6b for speeding up hospital discharge, including 'care transfer hubs' in each hospital
- access to home treatments without waiting for Local Authority assessment e.g.physiotherapy
- more non-hospital care for frailty (e.g.falls)
- more 'virtual wards' - 10,000 patients by this Autumn, being kept an eye on by hospital, medical and social care staff while at home. 
- encourage everyone to use 111, who will send you to A&E if you need it (I can confirm this is true). If a life is in immediate danger, ALWAYS ring 999. 
Nursing and other unions took about 3 minutes to point out that most of this still requires more staff - something we are going to really struggle to achieve...

COVID NHS England recovery programme

Still, at least we saved the UK economy, right... erm... 
The UK is the only major economy to actually lose money this year. I'd like to personally congratulate Kwasi "I giggle at funerals" Kwarteng for his part.
Astoundingly we didn't actually go bust, so it could be worse. 
The International Monetary Fund say we could even fare worse than Russia in 2023, "reflecting tighter fiscal and monetary policies and financial conditions and still-high energy retail prices weighing on household budgets."
Basically, the Government aren't giving money to people so that they can spend it, and the UK still has ridiculously high household energy bills. 

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) have discovered that the number of very young children sharing sexually explicit images of themselves online increased by 2022 to ten times the level of 2019. Most of these children had been coerced or groomed by people older than themselves. 
Keep an eye on your children when they're online, and don't just assume they know the basics of internet use. Never give out your full name, address or school, and if it's covered by your swimming costume then it's private. Always talk to a sensible grown up or report anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. 

US CDC have warned people who are immunocompromised that they should take extra precautions to protect themselves now that antiviral Evushield has had US authorisation revoked. It simply isn't very effective against Delta-Omicron COVID. The US cases are over 95% Delta Omicron family strains, around 64% XXB (including XXB.1.5 / Kraken) and 31% BQ. Without antivirals to help them fight the disease, people with a less effective immune system stand a far higher chance of becoming more ill than most. 
Someone get these antivirals updated, and move quickly about it... 

As a reminder, XXB.1.5 / Kraken is incredibly fast, but there's nothing to suggest it is any more dangerous. 

030223 over time hospital deaths infections UK NHS

Latest ONS insights estimate 2 million people living in private households in the UK (3% of the population) self-report long COVID symptoms (continuing more than four weeks after infection). 
As time goes on, the number of people who have had it for a long time increases, but (with relief) the total number of sufferers does seem to have hit a plateau. 
Of people with self-reported long COVID:
142,000 (7%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 less than 12 weeks previously
1.8 million people (89%) at least 12 weeks previously
1.2 million (61%) at least one year previously
687,000 (35%) at least two years previously
1.5 million people (77%) say symptoms adversely affect their day-to-day activities (380,000 (19%) report they are "limited a lot").
Fatigue is still the most common symptom (71%), followed by difficulty concentrating (52%), shortness of breath (48%) and muscle ache (47%).

Talking of Long COVID, 'enhanced provision' changes introduced during the pandemic meant that any NHS staff off with Long COVID were still paid. That 'enhanced provision' has come to an end, so some NHS workers who caught COVID from patients while at work, and are still ill, will be on half wages by the end of the month.

And as we're on the subject, scientists are still attempting to discover what exactly causes Long COVID, in the hopes it'll give us something to work on to try and fix it. A report in National Geographic has pulled together studies and new evidence to suggest microclots could be causing a lot of symptoms.
Researchers at Mount Sinai have discovered microclots in the blood of all of the people with COVID and the Long COVID sufferers that they've tested. Unlike microclots from diabetes or Alzheimer's, these tiny sticky clots from COVID don't break up easily. They aren't big enough to block anything, but they impair organ function - like putting a marble into a hosepipe. You might not notice if all you need is a trickle of low power, but as soon as you try and turn it up, you can't work at full capacity like before.
The researchers note that as time goes on, the body may eventually decide to try and destroy the microclots, and possibly healthy tissue will get caught in the crossfire.
Investigations to find suitable treatments to break up the COVID microclots is ongoing. 

Feb 2nd NHS bed occupancy 9-11% over safe levels

The UK Government on Tuesday 31st Jan rushed through the 'Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill', which will affect health, fire, education, transport, nuclear decommissioning and border security services.
The Government now has powers to set and amend minimum service levels, via a vote in Parliament. 
According to The Independent it's so badly written and rushed that It actually won't affect current strikes, as it needs amending already. 
UK Firefighters are the latest public service workers to have voted to strike this year. 

In more hopeful strike news, Welsh NHS workers have suspended plans to strike next week, as talks are getting somewhere. The latest offer is 4.5% increase, plus a 1.5% increase, and a 1.5% lump sum.

On 11th May US President Joe Biden will end the COVID-19 National Emergency and Public Health Emergency declarations. 
After that date, Americans with private health insurance will pay some out-of-pocket expenses for COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments. Uninsured people will have to pay themselves in full.
Expect testing rates to drop dramatically. 

Feb 2nd 2023 RCN nursing vacancies 47,469

Hoax Of The Week:
Hoaxers are claiming that US states with high levels of vaccination have seen the highest rises in deaths during 2022.
This may be mostly true, but it's twisted statistics, and it's not the vaccines killing people.
The hoaxers are ignoring the fact that US states with low levels of vaccination already had really high excess deaths in 2021, and each person can only die once. If you lost a lot of people in 2021, then you'd better hope 2022 was an improvement.
It also ignores the fact the USA is flipping massive, and not every state had COVID waves at exactly the same time. The arrival of Delta and the massive wave which came with it occurred in late 2021 and early 2022, so comparing those 2 years averages gives very different (we did better / we did worse) results depending on where exactly in the USA you were. 

Avian Flu H5N1
Sadly it appears over 700 seals who died in a December stranding in the Caspian Sea had Avian (Bird) Flu H5N1. Tests are underway to find out if it's a mutated strain, why it spread through the seals, and if there's any other reason the seals may have died.
In total around 2,500 seals are known to have died recently in the same area (Dagestan). 
It's not the first time an avian flu has jumped from bird to seal, but previously it was not then transmitting forward with seals infecting other seals.
It's not a good thing.
Onward transmission of Avian Flu between mammals has only been found once before, in 4 factory farmed Spanish mink, and their Avian Flu had a mutation which made it easier for it to jump species. That outbreak was defeated. 
Transmission of Avian Flu into humans (mostly from farmed birds) does occur very rarely (possibly a couple of cases worldwide a month), but as yet:
"No known human-to-human spread has occurred with the A(H5N1) virus that is currently circulating in birds in the United States and globally."
Just in case, we have thoroughly practised for a flu pandemic... 

Seems a good time to remind you DO NOT touch any dead birds, and report sick or dead birds to relevant authorities (in the UK it's DEFRA).

How to spread bird flu from bird to human US CDC strip 'cartoon story' with images of a man getting bird poo accidentally onto his hands and in his mouth

Monkeypox, or Mpox, hasn't actually gone away, but thankfully it hasn't proven to be anything like as lethal as previous Mpox outbreaks. To date WHO have been notified of 85,449 cases and 89 losses of life.
Mpox continues to infect mainly younger men (age 29-41) in the Americas and Europe, but household transmission is now leading place to catch Mpox, rather than group party settings as it was initially.
In the UK you can still get vaccinated if you are in a higher risk group (mainly men who sleep with men, and are not in a long term monogamous relationship).

Despite best efforts to ensure themselves that the public don't support the strikes, the UK Government and mass media are realising that overwhelmingly we do. (There are even newspaper funded polls to prove it.)
3 years ago we found out exactly who this country needs to keep it going, and it's the people on the ground. The folk who go out in all weather, or when they're feeling a bit rough, or when they had to find an emergency babysitter, to keep the machine turning and the population alive. The folk we walk past every day, but barely notice. The people most likely to have low pay, long hours, few holidays and little access to realistic sick pay. The essential workers. They are the people striking. We meant it when we clapped for them. We were genuinely grateful.
We still are.

RCN Protect nurses to protect the public

There's a cold weather alert for most of the UK and all of England, from 6pm Sunday until 6pm Tuesday. Keep warm, stay sensible, and check in on your neighbours if appropriate. 

Next week is Children's Mental Health Week (6-12 February 2023) and we are being asked to help children create ‘meaningful connections’ to support their mental health. Over the pandemic friendships and classroom connections suffered, and research shows a lot of our young people don't have the close friends that they need to share worries, gain confidence and relieve anxiety. We all need people to talk to and make us feel normal, whatever our age. 
Find out more about how you can help at childrensmentalhealthweek dot org dot uk

It is the weekend people! Yeeeay! Lie in for me and I can't wait. We also have a movie night planned, and hopefully a film we can all agree on...
I hope you guys have something nice planned, looking forward to a treat gives us that little serotonin hit we all need to keep us smiling. Life is made up of experiences, make sure you add a good one to the stack. 

Be Kind To Yourself, Stay Warm, Save The NHS.  

Some people. They look like numbers here, but they all have a favourite song.

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

World 675,751,529 (+180,114) 6,767,559 (+1,289)
Japan 32,633,741 (+45,299) 68,796 (+397)
Taiwan 9,596,652 (+27,077) 16,430 (+74)
Brazil 36,857,916 (+19,973) 697,248 (+48)
S. Korea 30,213,928 (+16,862) 33,522 (+36)
USA 104,393,464 (+16,047) 1,135,341 (+179)
Germany 37,810,147 (+13,357) 166,016 (+151)
Russia 21,967,983 (+9,287) 395,148 (+40)
Mexico 7,377,333 (+9,081) 332,324 (+126)
Austria 5,790,233 (+4,512) 21,735 (+5)
France 39,533,323 (+4,506) 164,286

NHS Better mental health collage of photos with trite advice


3 years pandemic
Ambulance handover times

Matt Hancock human

Rishi Sunak Investor
NHS exodus

NHS Recovery Plan:
NHS England Delivery Plan
Images to collage
UK economy

Internet safety



Long COVID NHS workers

UK Strikes

US end of emergency declarations
Pfizer profits


Avian Flu



Cold Weather alert


Strikes OFF in Wales

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