Friday 3 March 2023

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

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

World COVID Statistics: 680,435,744 reported cases and 6,803,287 losses of life.

"Hospital admissions with COVID in England have fallen by 6% in-week.
Our R estimate has fallen to 0.95.
Admissions rose slightly in NE&Yorks and were flat in the Midlands, but fell everywhere else. The largest fall was 22% in the East.
Bed occupancy has fallen by 7%."
The COVID Actuaries Response Group
(Join in Yorkshire, and then we might get all good news to start with next week... )

Hospital-acquired COVID (which generally works as a canary in a coalmine, to tell us early which way it's going to go), fell by 12% in the latest weekly counts. Adele Groyer:
"There were 1,903 likely hospital acquired cases in the 7 days to 27 February vs 2,160 the previous week."

Protect yourself from Norovirus wash hands with soap

Sadly not quite a full house. The ONS random sampling is a bit more out of date, so expect it to show improvement next week. Week ending 21st Feb: 
"The estimated percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to increase in England and Wales, decreased in Northern Ireland, and the trend was uncertain in Scotland."
- England, estimate 1,298,600, equating to 2.31% of the population (2.18% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 45 people.
- Wales, estimate 68,100, equating to 2.21% of the population (1.79% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 45 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 20,800, equating to 1.14% of the population (1.62% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 90 people.
- Scotland, estimate 117,100, equating to 2.22% of the population (2.18% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 45 people.

The UK ONS have been looking at the likelihood of self-reporting as having Long COVID after a second or subsequent infection, compared to your first time (1st November 2021 to 8th October 2022). They found:
- 4.0% of adults (aged 16 years and over) and 1.0% of children and young people (aged 2 to 15 years) reported having Long COVID 12 to 20 weeks after a first coronavirus (COVID-19) infection .
- Among those who did not report having Long COVID after a first COVID-19 infection, 2.4% of adults and 0.6% of children and young people reported Long COVID following a second COVID-19 infection.
- After adjusting (matching like with like, e.g. white healthy vaccinated middle income women aged 25-35 infected with Delta), risk of Long COVID drops around 28% for a subsequent infection compared to first. 
- New-onset Long COVID that limited daily activities follows a similar pattern, at lower levels of prevalence: 2.8% for first infections compared with 1.6% for second infections among adults, and 0.6% and 0.4%, respectively, among children and young people.
The end comment points out that this equates to 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 165 children and young people developing Long COVID with every subsequent infection. 

A new briefing paper from the UK's Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has attributed 23,000 "excess patient deaths" in 2022 to long A&E waiting times. As reported in Medscape, "1.66 million people in England waited for more than 12 hours in A&E" before being admitted, transferred or discharged.
Cases are beginning to come to inquest, and The Observer report that in at least 55 UK cases already, coroners have ruled that medical delays and staff shortages were likely factors in people's deaths - 24 of these were ambulance delays. 

030323 hospital admissions with COVID lower Paul Mainwood from Twitter

UK PM Rishi Sunak thinks he's finally sorted out the Ireland trade part of Brexit. He did a press conference in a warehouse to tell everyone, with two giant podiums of Coke either side of him. (That's corporate sponsorship Coke, not drugs coke.) He announced what a great deal he has for Northern Ireland. It'll be great because they will be able to access the rest of the UK, and also the EU single market.
“Nobody else has that, no one… only you guys… and that is the prize...”
Ermmm, yeah... So the lucky people of Northern Ireland (who overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU anyway) get back what the rest of us had before Brexit. Well done lads. 

Big COVID story in the USA this week was that the Department of Energy announced they believed COVID originated due to a lab leak. They were shortly followed by the US FBI with an identical conclusion. 
1. This is an opinion, not a proven fact.
2. We have seen no evidence, and are told we can't see any, because it's 'classified'.
3. This is released with 'Low Confidence'.
4. The Department of Energy? 
As it turns out, the Department of Energy oversee US labs, so it's not as wild as it first seemed.  
This was reported in the Wall Street Journal, who don't give us any clues as to why this opinion has been reached, but say the FBI came to the same conclusion for different reasons. There's no obvious suggestion of malice, it appears accident is getting the blame.
Lots of people are using this to attack ex-US COVID lead Antony Fauci - but he didn't ever rule out a lab leak, so erm... yeah.
Dr Peter Hotez, US scientist who was part of the WHO group investigating the Origins Of COVID, has been on the telly since explaining that we just can't say for sure, but he still favours animal to human via the live animal market. Pete believes if it was a lab leak then randomly cases would spring up around the area of the lab, when the first handful all centred on and had links to the market. 

030323 COVID actuaries hospital admissions with and acquired covid

There's been a lot about masks this week, with the results of the Cochrane Review into whether masks and other physical interventions work to prevent transmission of respiratory disease.
A lot of what people are saying is balderdash, so be careful what you believe. Remember, 3 exclamation marks signals a desperate attempt for attention, rather than a genuine interest in the actual content.
The Cochrane Review looked at loads of mask data from over several years, including mainly pre-pandemic situations. It mixes full time mask-wearing with part time wearing, indoor with outdoor, sick with healthy, and different virus and respiratory disease - most often flu. Fact is, the only 2 studies included looked at COVID, and both found that masks work.
It's not that this review is worthless, but it's not going to give you definitive answers, and especially not involving COVID. It'll give you a better (but rough) idea of how likely wearing a mask in busy places will protect you from a chest infection. Their results couldn't even accurately assess with confidence whether there was a benefit to hand-washing - which we know for a fact is our number 1 line of defence.

French health officials have decided they will no longer recommend COVID vaccinations for healthy populations. 
"Almost all of the population not at risk of severe disease has already come into contact with the virus at least once."
The French National Authority for Health as quoted in Le Monde.
They continue to recommend an Autumn booster annual jab (combined usually with flu jab) for people over 6 months old at greater risk, and in some cases their households or carers.

Age standardised mortality the last 3 years Paul Mainwood numbers guy on Twitter using ONS stats

Professor Peter Hotez is being very vocal at the moment in his belief we are going to see a 4th coronavirus epidemic or pandemic before the end of this decade. In case you had forgotten, COVID (SARS-CoV-2 2019) is the 3rd, after SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome 2002) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome 2012).
There is some evidence to suggest that potentially tens of thousands of people living in close proximity to bats are infected by their coronaviruses each year. Almost all illness is mild or asymptomatic, and it's only the rare one which can cause havoc. But without change, that's likely to occur again at some point...

The UK price cap for energy for an average household will go down to £3,280 in April. Er great... ish. 
Thank heavens because the average home price cap had risen to £4,279 per year, but we weren't paying that. We were paying an average £2,500 and the government were subsidising the rest. The price cap is set by Ofgem, a "non-ministerial independent government department" - where the governing body is appointed by the Secretary for Business (this week that's Kemi Badenoch MP).
Sooooo, by setting a higher price cap than is justified, and subsidising each user, the government literally hand over free money to their mates at the energy companies. Glad it's going down.
Sadly the reduction in government subsidies in April means we'll all still pay more anyway. Good news/bad news if ever I saw it. 

A recent US study looked at how many people had COVID during the USA's big wave in July 2022. They tested a cross-section of people for 2 weeks, asked about any symptoms or Long COVID, and found the true number of infections was possibly 40 times as high as CDC estimates.
That's actually not surprising, nor is the fact they found you were more likely to catch COVID if you were poor, aged 18-24, Hispanic or black, or less highly educated. It matches UK and other findings.
They estimated Long COVID symptoms to affect 21.5% of people who had COVID at least 4 weeks earlier. News Medical had a great comment on this:
"This inequity in infection prevalence during the surge of Omicron BA.4/BA.5 will likely result in an inequitable incidence of long COVID in the future."
Basically, as time goes on, COVID will increase the number and ratio of disabled people who are poor and non-white... 

Following on from that, a group including the UK's Bereaved Families for Justice and many other organisations have demanded that the COVID inquiry "must investigate structural racism as a key issue in all modules".
The most recent data shows that almost all minority ethnic groups died disproportionately from COVID-19. "For Bangladeshi men the death rate was 3.1 times greater than that of White British men, followed by Pakistani men (2.3 times) and Black Caribbean men (1.8 times)."
This isn't solely because these people had a greater risk of dying once infected, it's because despite that increased risk, they often had little or no choice about being exposed repeatedly to the virus. 
“Covid-19 is not just a health crisis; it’s also a social and economic crisis. The ability to cope, to protect and to shield oneself from the virus varies vastly for people from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Boris has no soul

Reality TV celeb and ex-UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock is getting a bad press for his WhatsApp messages sent during the pandemic. He made a lot of mistakes, but is actually being  badly reported by the Telegraph (he's no longer a Tory and this is his punishment - although he's a telly bloke/author now so any press is good press). WhatsApp messages aren't the whole story. Lots of actual meetings, phone calls and emails took place before he decided not to blanket test care home residents very early on, against Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty's advice, and it was because we didn't really have capacity at the time.
Later on in the pandemic he does appear to have placed little importance on visitors for people in care homes though, which was hellish for everyone affected... 
Matt is very sad that his 100,000 (I haven't read them all) pandemic messages have been leaked by the well-known tabloid journalist he hired to help with his novel. He said it was a "massive betrayal and breach of trust". It is. Well spotted, glad you understand what that means. It's also possibly broken a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), so expect legal arguments on this one. 
Moving along... 

The US CDC has a warning about a recent rise in antibiotic-resistant Shigella. In 2015 it was almost unheard of, but in 2022, 5% of confirmed Shigella cases in the US (239 people) had antibiotic-resistant strains.
Shigella is a severe tummy bug which causes stomach cramps and diarrhoea that can become bloody. For most people it's a few days inconvenience feeling very sorry for yourself, but less robust people may need antibiotics. 
Blokes in the USA - this is another one spreading well between younger and middle aged men who aren't in monogamous relationships. 82% of antibiotic-resistant cases were in men. 
Like most digestive complaints, your best defences are regular scrupulous handwashing, and avoiding close contact when ill (and no sex for 2 weeks afterwards in Shigella's case). Never prepare food for others if you have a bad tummy. 

The Marburg outbreak in Equatorial Guinea continues. As of 21st February there are 9 cases - 1 confirmed, 4 probable and 4 suspected. All 9 people have died. There are no cases among healthcare workers and 34 contacts are under follow-up.
Marburg is a hemorrhagic fever (similar to Ebola), which causes uncontrolled bleeding throughout the body. Global risk is still assessed as low. 

Avian Flu also continues, and a bit closer to home for us all (just about wherever you are in the world). Scientists studying the young girl who recently died in Cambodia tell us that her virus sample differed slightly from those so far collected from birds. They believe these random mutations happened inside birds, and may have made it easier for their farmed birds to pass on the virus to humans (her father was also infected). This is obviously causing some ripples of concern, especially as recently we've seen indications in 3 isolated cases that bird flu has passed from mammal to mammal.
We don't really know exactly what the mutations do in real life, and the rest of the family seem unaffected. Not time to lose any sleep on this one just yet. 

030323 daily deaths COVID 7 day rolling average Worldometers info

In brighter news, the overall COVID situation seems very calm right now. We don't really know what's happening in China, especially in the parts still meeting the virus for the first time, but what we do see is fairly controlled but busy. Worldwide there are pockets where it's rough, but overall numbers are very low. We can't really look at testing as accurate, as most countries don't regularly test now, and fatalities is still not precise, but likely to be a more accurate guide. Worldwide we haven't lost so few people to COVID each day since the middle of March 2020. I'd call that a win. Not a complete win, not yet anyway, but a much better place to be...

In breaking news, GMB England ambulance staff, UNISON and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy are all entering talks with Government over pay and calling a halt on planned strikes. Fingers very much crossed they all reach a fair resolution...  

It is the weekend. My kids had a fun tummy bug this week, but thankfully everyone is well enough for shopping this weekend (oh joy). I shall be ensuring I treat myself tomorrow evening, and you should fit in some time for you too. Do something you want to do, and indulge yourself. You earnt it. 

Wear A Hat, Smile More Often, Save The NHS... 

Some people. They always look like numbers, but each one has a name.

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

World 680,372,793 (+111,079) 6,803,009 (+674)
Taiwan 10,069,538 (+14,102) 18,010 (+35)
Russia 22,300,004 (+14,096) 396,176 (+39)
Germany 38,202,571 (+12,617) 168,296 (+121)
Japan 33,230,544 (+11,506) 72,573 (+87)
USA 105,384,017 (+10,500) 1,146,630 (+130)
Mexico 7,459,860 (+8,431) 333,038 (+50)
UK as of 16th Feb: 24,341,615  / 206,246
China as of 10th January 503,302 / 5,272
Some countries, including China and the UK, rarely appear here because they don't report daily figures, instead reporting with a massive lag or sporadically. 


England hospitalisations and image


Excess deaths due to delays
Rishi Northern Ireland

Long COVID subsequent infections

Lab leak Origins of COVID:
Gain of function
Fauci never ruled out lab leak. In fact in November last year he was interviewed by Politico and said "I have a completely open mind".
Lab leak scientists
Peter Hotez on telly?
More lab leak
Fbi director lab leak

Mask wearing Cochrane report

Ofgem energy prices UK

Peter Hotez, Coronavirus

US study disability and race

Structural Racism COVID inquiry
Matt Hancock, care home testing
Matt Hancock
Lockdown files image



Bird flu


UK hospitalisations with COVID are still going up for the 4th week running. Up 60% on a month ago.
Age-standardised all-cause mortality in Great Britain.
Health & Food Supplements Information Service

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