Friday 10 March 2023

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

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 10th March 2023 - the Matt Hancock Lockdown WhatsApp edition. 

World COVID Statistics: 681,301,970 reported cases and 6,810,359 losses of life.

"Since April ‘20, the COVID-19 Infection Survey has gathered & analysed more than 11 million swab tests & 3 million blood tests from households.
Thank you to everyone who has participated in the survey… your contributions have provided invaluable data that has helped develop our understanding of COVID-19 & helped shape decisions made throughout the pandemic."
Prof.Steven Riley, Director General of Data, Analytics and Surveillance, UK Health Security Agency.

100323 COVID jab Spring booster rollout recipients

Almost 3 years since the first UK press conferences, so hands up if you've got COVID! Yeeeay... noooo... booo. My youngest is testing positive again (4th or 5th time). Most of us are ill, but he's currently the only one with a positive test to prove it. Should be a fun weekend ahead...   

The UK's JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) has advised that the planned Spring booster dose should be offered to:
- adults aged 75 years and over
- residents in a care home for older adults
- individuals aged 5 years and over who are immunosuppressed
The vaccine you are offered will depend on your age and local supplies, but may be:
- Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent
- Moderna bivalent
- Sanofi/GSK monovalent (beta variant)
- Novavax monovalent (wild-type variant) – only for use when alternative products are not considered clinically suitable
- children’s formulation of Pfizer BioNTech for eligible people aged 5 to 12
The next UK booster dose rollout will be in Autumn and will include far more of us.

The COVID Actuaries are keeping an eye on the figures, as always, and it's becoming apparent the peak which we rode up in January/February has definitely flattened, but the bad news is it's flattened. It isn't going down, it's fairly steady. For the last 3 weeks we've had around 7,800 people with COVID in UK hospital beds. 
Week ending 6th March there were small rises in the 'total COVID admissions' (up 6%) and hospital-acquired COVID (up 4%). Notably the North West has a 20% increase in admissions. 
When you look at the chart, our 'peaks' are shrinking, but the 'troughs' are not dipping as low as we'd like... 

100323 Hospital acquired covid and admissions Adele Groyer COVID Actuaries

ONS data on all-cause deaths for week ending 24th February is much more 'as it should be'. Compared to the 5 year average the week was up 1%, which is 149 people. Year to date all-cause mortality is up by 6% on the 5 year average, which is obviously far better than the 10% or more we saw for a lot of 2022. 
Fingers crossed it keeps improving, we really could do with it.

Ambulance response times in England have dropped to a much less scary level. Not yet hitting targets, but a lot closer. Targets are to respond to:
- Category 1 calls (cardiac arrest/imminent danger of death) in 7 minutes on average, and respond to 90% of Category 1 calls in 15 minutes
- Category 2 calls (including heart attacks and strokes) in 18 minutes on average, and respond to 90% of Category 2 calls in 40 minutes
In actuality we're managing to respond to:
- Category 1 calls in 8m30s minutes on average
- Category 2 calls in 32 minutes on average
Ambulance response times In Scotland 6th Feb to 5th March:
- Purple (cardiac arrest) average response 6m58s; 90% within 15m5s.
- Red(heart attacks and strokes) average response 8m20s; 90% within 18m38s.
Paul Mainwood, numbers bloke, tell us that more recent ambulance to hospital handover times are creeping up again, so that's something to watch.

End of ONS survey  Thank you

Now some very sad news from the UK ONS and HSA. The quote at the beginning of the post is from them, and it is because the ONS random sampling COVID Infection Survey is being paused. I'm genuinely gutted. 
This survey has been testing a random cross section of the UK each week for 3 years, and has given not just the UK, but the world, a great idea of how much COVID there actually is out there in the community. It allows us to spot unusual patterns, which might signal a new variant at work (or a specific event caused a lot of cases), and to target extra healthcare or other measures in areas where there's a rise. It also questions people about ongoing symptoms or Long COVID, which is something we really do need to learn a lot more about.
It will be a big loss. 

So, one of the last ONS random surveys shows an increase in Scotland; the trends were uncertain in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland:
- England, estimate 1,333,400, equating to 2.38% of the population (2.31% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 40 people.
- Wales, estimated 66,200, equating to 2.14% of the population (2.21% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 45 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 24,700, equating to 1.35% of the population (1.14% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 75 people.
- Scotland, estimate 128,400, equating to 2.44% of the population (2.22% in the previous reference week), or around 1 in 40 people.

Matt Hancock's Pandemic Notes 1c true

Matt Hancock's lockdown WhatsApp messages continue to spew forth, like sewage overflow being discharged onto Britain's beaches on a grey morning... 
Whilst sometimes unpleasant, I haven't seen anything I'm actually really shocked about so far. These people are politicians, they aren't usually chosen for their caring personalities (sadly). The big 'expose' at the weekend was:
MH: "We frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain.
But the complication with that Brexit is taking the top [head]line.”
DP: "Yep that's what will get proper behaviour change"
MH: "When do we deploy the new variant"
Matt Hancock (then Health Secretary) and Damon Poole (then Media Advisor) 13th December 20209
Okay, so just imagine a scenario. There genuinely is a new strain of COVID (Alpha) which travels much more quickly, it's Winter, we're mixing indoors, and everyone's about to snog half the pub/office after 3 festive sherries, then visit all of our elderly relatives to deliver Christmas wishes. You are concerned hospitals won't cope. You know all the people around you don't care, they're partying and mixing like crazy. You assume everyone else is like you, so you need to get the general public to slow it down. You're the Health Secretary. Waddayagonnado? Sure his wording is grim, but you do need to make a quick impact to save some Grannies. Even with his 'scary' messaging, the UK lost as many as 13,000 people a week to COVID over the Winter of December 2020 to February 2021.

"I think the latest WhatsApp disclosures suggest there's an interesting debate to be had as to the validity of methods in which government might wish to influence the population's behaviour when it sees a crisis emerging that is maybe less apparent to that population."
John Roberts, COVID Actuaries.
Yeah. Can we go for more honesty next time. Don't lie to people, don't treat them like children, put out clear information everyone can understand and let people have some control over their own lives. Even if they chose to behave the same way, we all like to pretend its free will.

"I'm no fan of Hancock and I do think the WhatsApp messages are valuable evidence. BUT the Inquiry has all the messages - and much more. 
I am uncomfortable with how the Daily Telegraph is yanking everyone's chain with rolling selective release promoting a covid sceptic agenda."
Christina Paget of indieSAGE, saying what most sensible people are thinking.
If I took your messages (yes, actually YOU), and shared a carefully selected few, I could make you say just about anything I wanted.

That said... 
The WhatsApp messages (as reported quite succinctly in The Guardian) also showed that MP's were being 'coaxed' into publicly keeping their mouth shut, as they were led to believe funding for local projects might not go ahead if they spoke out. These 'projects' include a health hub and centre for disabled children...
There were some comments about teachers not wanting to work... the MPs involved should try a couple of months in an inner city secondary school and tell us about how those teachers 'don't work'. Living on teachers wages, obviously...
The messages show clearly that Matt Hancock was worried Eat Out To Help Out was not helping areas with high levels of COVID, and wanted it to stop. It was always a zany idea. As Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, commented last year:
"‘Eat out to help out’ was terrible idea during pre-vaccine pandemic - actually encouraged people into one of the riskiest settings (indoor hospitality). Could have instead supported take-aways, delivery services and local businesses operating using public health basics."

Matt Hancock's Pandemic Notes 1d2 true eat out to help out

Meanwhile, Sue Grey's Partygate enquiry is still ongoing, and we are being repeatedly told by Boris Johnson that he believed and still believes he was following the rules - yes, really.  
"I believed what we were doing was within the conformity of the Covid regulations."
"I believe implicitly that these events were within the rules."
Not the sharpest knife in the block that one. Either that or he's simply lying. Or both. 

Next week's planned UK Junior Doctor's strikes are worrying people from all quarters. As the NHS attempts to clear backlog, they're losing 72 hours from Monday morning - which will have to be covered by Consultants (at potentially hundreds of £££s an hour each).
Junior Doctors earn under £30k until they complete foundation training. The average pay is £40,200.  

This week Moderna and the UK Health Security Agency (HSA) announced that Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire will be the location of the new Moderna Innovation and Technology Centre (MITC) in the UK.
Moderna and the UK government agreed a ten-year strategic partnership  in December 2022, including building a lab to develop and produce mRNA vaccines for respiratory diseases.

Life expectancy 1950 to 2021 Our World In Data

WHO have asked the USA to share the information they claim they have, which  has made up their decision on the origins of COVID. Last week both the Department for Energy and the FBI said they had reason to believe COVID escaped via a lab leak in Wuhan, China, but neither would share why.
Yeah, come on. Photos lads, or it didn't happen (and I'll just carry on assuming you're basically just racist and mean).
Excitingly, lots of other people want to know what they've got on China, and today the House of Representatives (US Government thing) passed a bill to require the director of national intelligence to declassify information on the origins of COVID. The vote was unanimous, as was the earlier vote by the Senate, so now it goes straight to Joe. Can't wait. 

Funnily enough Matt Hancock's non-WhatsApp scrawlings are also making the news. Apparently he was told to tone down his Chinese lab leak origins claims to 'avoid problems' internationally, and make it clear his book is NOT official Government view, just his.
(Personally I think it's been 3 years, we've never found patient zero and they're hardly likely to stroll in now. Learn many lessons about all plausible scenarios, and act on it where appropriate.)

All week representatives from all countries who are members of the World Health Organisation have been discussing the initial thoughts on a Pandemic Accord. 
The Pandemic Accord is intended to be "a global accord on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response"... "an agreement to protect nations and communities from future pandemic emergencies".
Lots of people, mainly in America, are getting very shouty about giving away our rights to the World Health Organisation, and losing control etc etc. I'll just remind you that 3 years ago, everyone said they'd share vaccines, and right now only 28% of people in low-income countries have ever received a dose. 
I'm sure promises will be made, but it's potentially as much about forward-planning and taking responsibility, information and technology sharing, and making trustworthy friends with other countries you think might be useful in future. 

Life expectancy 2011 to 2021 Our World In Data
6.8 million people dying from a new disease globally has a far-reaching effect. At the end of 2019 the global average life expectancy had steadily risen to 72.8 years. By the end of 2021, it had dropped by an average of almost 2 years to 71.
Africa down 1 year, from 62.7 in 2019 to 61.7 in 2021
Asia  down 1.7 years, from 74.2 in 2019 to 72.5 in 2021 
Europe down 2.1 years, from 79.1 in 2019 to 77 in 2021
The Americas down 2.5 years from 76.7 in 2019 to 74.2 in 2021
Oceania (far less affected by COVID) overall was UP by 0.7 years, from 78.7 in 2019 to 79.4 in 2021
UK down 1 from 81.7 to 80.7
USA down 1.9 from 79.1 to 77.2
New Zealand down 0.1 from 82.6 to 82.5
Canada UP 0.3 from 82.4 to 82.7
Australia UP 1.4 from 83.1 to 84.5 
The life expectancy figures for 2022 will be along shortly, and are not anticipated to reverse the decline.

British Science Week begins today!
I know a lot of you are teaching and care staff (and parents), and there are FREE to download 'Connections' themed packs for each school age group, plus soon a Community Pack for youth groups etc. You can find them at BritishScienceWeek dot Org. 

British Science Week free packs

It is the weekend! Hurrah! Time for many of us to take time off (although to be fair I've been ill half the week anyway). A huge thank you to those people who work through the weekend to keep us safe, warm, clothed and fed. Treat yourself to something nice when you can - it's been a hard 3 years, you've earnt it. Personally I'm thinking pyjamas and movies, and sending the COVID infested kids to bed early whenever they annoy me sounds like a perfect weekend... 

Keep Warm, Ventilate, Save The NHS.

The numbers here are all people, I just don't have space for all of their names...

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

World 681,248,329 (+85,957) 6,810,150 (+593)
Russia 22,388,556 (+12,496) 396,463 (+40)
S. Korea 30,605,187 (+10,890) 34,081 (+20)
Japan 33,298,296 (+9,834) 72,989 (+80)
Taiwan 10,143,783 (+9,579) 18,371 (+49)
USA 105,547,760 (+8,964) 1,148,391 (+129)
Germany 38,249,060 (+7,829) 168,935 (+127)
Austria 5,961,349 (+5,270) 21,977 (+5)
Mexico 7,479,635 (+4,416) 333,170 (+34)


Spring Booster and Image

Stats ambulances / hospital / mortality

UK ONS COVID infections survey
More and potential quote and image

Matt Hancock:
More on Matt's missives from last week.  WhatsApp messages included:
Matts threats

Last week's report
Did Eat Out To Help Out cause a massive wave in the UK? 
Eat Out To Help Out
And old quotes


Junior doctors
Moderna And image 

Origins of COVID

Hatt Mancock's Origin theory

Life Expectancy

Pandemic Accord

Norovirus image


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