Friday, 29 September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 29th September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 29th September 2023

World COVID Statistics: 695,939,792 reported cases and 6,921,077 losses of life.

Get your flu and COVID jabs UK NHS

Hospital admissions with COVID in England increased by 10% in the week ending 22nd September. Biggest increases are in the NW (+33%) and NE&Yorks (+29%).

290923 CMI hospital admissions England

The UK is still losing more people each week than anticipated, but it isn't at the lofty heights (and extra 8-10%) that it was last year. 
The Continuous Mortality investigation (CMI) weekly Mortality Monitor (week ending 15th September) for England and Wales shows rates were 4% higher than the equivalent week in 2019, based on death registrations data.
"CMI calculates 204,200 excess deaths in the UK since the start of the pandemic. That total has increased by 32,600 in 2023.
Cumulative mortality rates YTD (year to date) are 5.4% of a full year’s mortality worse than 2019."
Better news for this year (but worse for last year), the CMI note that there are far more late registrations than usual, so many of December 2022's registrations were actually added in with January 2023's figures.

Friday, 15 September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 15th September 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 15th September 2023

World COVID Statistics: 695,289,957 reported cases and 6,915,596 losses of life.

Massively mutated COVID variant (current estimate is 33 mutations) BA.2.86 Pirola is agitating a lot of people and causing an upset to our calmly steady COVID stats. It is visibly worrying health officials in the UK, US, Canada, Europe and beyond - although we still see no signs it is more dangerous or deadly, just more easily caught and very quick.

150923 weekly England hospital admissions by age UK HSA

Friday, 1 September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 1st September 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 1st September 2023

World COVID Statistics: 694,630,525 reported cases and 6,911,550 losses of life.

Hospital admissions with COVID in England are up among all age groups, but from 3 people per 100,000 population overall, to 3.37.
Up, but it's not a really dramatic increase, and could simply be a reflection of us spending more time indoors as the weather cools or more people returning to work after holidays, or something else seasonal.

Meningitis jabs for uni students

Current UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay has offered a 6% pay rise to England’s hospital consultants, and an average 8.8% rise to England's Junior Doctors. He says these offers are final, and is very disappointed that they aren't being accepted. 
Strike dates are planned, including for the first time ever, consultants and junior doctors striking at the same time - 20th September 2023. They will also be on strike simultaneously from 7am 2nd October until 7am 5th October. Many thousands of appointments will not go ahead as planned.
Junior Doctors in Wales are planning future strike action after refusing a 'final offer' last week, and Junior Doctors in Scotland will not be striking, as they have accepted an offer of 12.4%. 

Friday, 18 August 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 18th August 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 18th August 2023

World COVID Statistics: 693,666,294 reported cases and 6,908,586 losses of life.

The UK JCVI has given their advice on who should be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine this autumn:
- residents in care homes for older adults
- all adults aged 65 years and over
- anyone 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
- frontline health and social care workers
- persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
- persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults

The UK Government have announced £250m funding and plans for 5,000 extra hospital beds. Sadly these appear to be mainly aspirational or rented from private sources, rather than an increase to NHS supplies.
If you are a Tory minister, great news, this makes a tidy profit for someone, and puts more public money into private hands.
If you're a patient or NHS worker, it looks like there'll be 900 actual extra beds - just physical beds and A&E cubicles - by next January.  
If you are a Tory minister, great news, the NHS will spend Winter looking like its not fit for purpose despite your 'heavy investment', and private healthcare will look more attractive to the UK public. 

"WHO has designated COVID19 variant BA.2.86 as a ‘variant under monitoring’ today due to the large number of mutations it carries."
WHO, yesterday.
Exactly as it says, something very shifty looking has just entered the room, so everyone is watching to see if if it hangs around, and what it's capable of. At this moment only 5 cases of BA.2.86 (also known as BA.X) have been detected (although hardly anyone is tested these days) in Israel, Denmark (2) and Michigan, USA and London. We have no reason to think BA.2.86 is more dangerous, but we can see it has a whopping 30 mutations to the parts that latch on (like carrying a big bunch of keys) and has potential to sneak round our immunity and infect a lot more of us - if it learns that trick.

Meanwhile in the UK, new variant Eris is spreading well. This is EG.5 and has also recently been tagged by WHO, as a variant of interest. It now accounts of around 1 in 10 UK cases, and although it hasn't yet 'exploded' (helpfully it's the school holidays), there are a handful of scientists warning it could make Autumn and Winter less pleasant. 

Jonathan Van Tam, softly spoken voice of the UK COVID response, has taken up a position working with Moderna. 
Last year the UK Government announced a £1b deal with Moderna to build a new mRNA manufacturing plant. 
Did Jon Bon Tam have any part in that decision? Was his input unbiased? Did Jon Claude Van Tam already know 18 months ago that he'd be taking this position now?
Frankly he always seemed one of the cleverest and most human of the lot, so I'm willing to believe he just fancied a new job, and the timeline is really long for any subterfuge. 

"Misinformation kills.
52 American physicians actively spread Covid-19 misinformation to millions of people on social media about vaccines, masks, and conspiracies.
One third of the more than 1,100,000 Covid-19-related deaths as of January 18 2023 were preventable if public health recommendations were followed."
Dr Jonathan N Stea of University of Calgary, summarising the results of a University of Massachusetts study.

Remember kids, COVID isn't less dangerous than it ever was - we have just been vaccinated and exposed to it, and our immune system has learnt how to fend it off. If you run the gauntlet without any antibodies today, you carry the same (or slightly increased) risk of severe illness as you did back in January 2020 (and that includes the 1.5m people in the UK who cannot develop a robust immune response, however many vaccinations you gave them). 

Cyprus has an outbreak of a really nasty cat Coronavirus. It has already killed many thousand cats, and now vets are treating their patients with a human COVID treatment - Molnupiravir- in an effort to save the most sick animals.  

Does it matter which arm you get your jabs in? Apparently yes!
Newly published research from the USA measured the T cell immune response in 300 people, 2 weeks after the second dose of their initial COVID jabs (none of them had ever knowingly caught COVID at the time).
T cells were found in 67% of people who had both jabs in the same arm, and only 43% of those who got one dose in each arm. 
The moral of this story is "crikey, I never saw that coming" really does happen, and that sometimes your Nan's logic is easily as smart as science. 

Disappointing Human Of The Week:
Captain Sir Tom Moore's daughter is in the news again.
Not only did she pay herself a fabulous annual salary to run the Captain Tom Foundation charity, she seems to have built herself a home spa pool using charity funding, and now she's being investigated for charging for public charity appearances and taking the cash as her own fee for turning up.
No-one wanted to see you for being you love. They only invited you because you were representing your late father's charity. (Too harsh? I think not in this case. I'll be astounded if she wasn't also claiming all expenses, food and travel.)
As a reminder, we are promised that ALL of the original funds raised by Tom walking in his garden were handed over to the NHS Together charities.

Captain Sir Tom died from COVID and pneumonia in February 2021 aged 100. He developed pneumonia shortly after returning from a promotional trip to Barbados with British Airways. Taking a 100 year old man across the world on a plane during a pandemic, before he's even been vaccinated, is an advertising scheme so poorly thought out, you wonder which idiot agreed to it. His daughter and her family went on the holiday with him.

Hoax Of The Week:
Fox News made statements which implied the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) had authorised Ivermectin for treatment of COVID. Nope. Nopeitty nope nope.
The confusion came because during the lead up to a court case, someone mentioned that 'the FDA had never banned Ivermectin for COVID patients'. The FDA issue guidance and offer support, of course they didn't ban it. What if you had horrific headlice or intestinal worms AS WELL AS COVID. You'd want Ivermectin then.
There have now been about a million trials for this, and ALL clinical and real life evidence still shows no decrease in hospitalisations or death from COVID when patients are given Ivermectin - it simply doesn't help. Also, the Earth is a ball. 

It is the weekend! For me it is a busy one, but with family, so it'll be exciting and memorable. I hope you have something nice happening too - and you remember to treat yourself. You earnt it. 

I'll be back in a couple of weeks. 
Play Outdoors, Wear Suncreen, Save The NHS. 

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

Countries / Cases / Losses of life (plus figures added over the last 24 hours):

World 693,666,294 (+1,077) 6,908,586
Macao 14,120 (+412) 123
Hong Kong 2,916,892 (+399) 13,819
Afghanistan 224,812 (+52) 7,941
Lithuania 1,322,361 (+50) 9,695
Poland 6,518,496 (+44) 119,636 
Czechia 4,643,541 (+42 ) 42,813
Denmark 3,182,857 (+39) 8,780
Vietnam 11,622,383 (+17 ) 43,206
Slovenia 1,344,385 (+11) 7,100
Niue (Small island near Tonga) 840 (+7)
(Most countries do not give a daily update, or even a weekly update - these are the countries and communities who reported most new cases yesterday, but it doesn't give an accurate representation of the actual world picture.) 


More beds Image with credit @c_peatfield twitter
Measles image
Autumn boosters

Flu and covid jabs from October NHS advice image
UK beds

COVID variant BA.2.86
Van dammed tam
Misinformation kills



Capt Tom

Friday, 4 August 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 4th August 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 4th August 2023

The UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has currently authorised 9 different COVID vaccines, and the latest is Bimervax, which is suitable as a booster jab for people aged 16+. It's still up the Joint Committee on Immunisation and Vaccination (JCVI) as to whether we actually deploy any of the vaccines we've okayed, and the Government have to agree to buy them. 

Protect yourself from the sun - skin and eyes - WHO poster

In the UK COVID cases are currently on the rise, with pharmacists noting a marked increase in test buying over July and the ZOE app. registering a jump in symptomatic people. That follows a similar pattern to previous pandemic years, with us desperate for the school holidays to serve as a firebreak. It's always worth keeping alert though... 

Friday, 21 July 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 21st July 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 21st July 2023

World to date: Officially reported COVID cases 691,770,965, losses of life 6,901,646

The final witness has testified for the first phase of the UK COVID Inquiry. There's a lot to sift through and evaluate, so an interim report is expected next year, and it'll be a long time before the final document. By then it'll likely be another degree warmer, fish will contain too much plastic to count as fauna, and no-one will really care about a report stating the obvious inadequacies we all lived through. They hope. 

measles is common abroad get vaccinated and image of holidaying family climbing steps onto a plane

A recent UK study has looked at just how many children have been hospitalised with COVID in England. 
• Between July 2020 and February 2022, 3,226,535 children and teenagers in England tested positive with COVID for their first time. 
• 29,230 (0.9%, almost 1 in every 111 of those who tested positive) needed hospital admission - some were tested on arrival to hospital with various other ailments, but 21,000 (around 3 in every 4) were taken to hospital and admitted specifically due to COVID. 
• 1,710 (5.9% or 1 in every 17 of those admitted to hospital) involved paediatric critical care.
• 70 deaths occurred in which covid-19 or paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome was listed as a cause.
•  8,415 (28.8% or more than 1 in every 4) of those children admitted to hospital were aged under 1 year. 

Friday, 7 July 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 7th July 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 7th July 2023

World COVID Statistics: 691,207,603 officially reported cases and 6,898,266 losses of life.

Happy birthday to the NHS! 
On Wednesday the UK NHS was 75 years old, and so was the first baby born in their care. Most of us in the UK have lived entire lives without fear of financial ruin because we got poorly or had an accident. We can ring an ambulance, book an appointment with a GP, become pregnant or turn up at A&E without having to worry if we can afford it. That is a very precious thing, and it has been underfunded and squeezed for a long time. In order that the NHS care for us, we really needed to take better care of the NHS. Thank you to anyone who has ever worked for the NHS. 

NHS birthday card with a small donor card beside

Yesterday the UK Government lost their legal battle to keep some of Boris and his mates' WhatsApp messages and notebooks secret from the COVID inquiry. They argued that some of it is 'irrelevant', and the High Court decided the COVID inquiry can be the judge of that. I think the Government are out of legal options now - they've got to hand it all over by 4pm Monday.
(For reference, the Christmas party video with catered snacks, flirtatious dancing and shiny paper hats is amongst things previously deemed irrelevant by our Government.)

Friday, 23 June 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 23rd June 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 23rd June 2023

We may as well start here... The Privileges Committee Report:
Within an hour of my last post, Boris Johnson resigned. This was after he received an advance copy of the 'Partygate' report - which he said finds him guilty "regardless of the facts". 
Even then he didn't actually give in, and reportedly sent the panel some extra evidence. They delayed the report by 24 hours to read it, which bizarrely resulted in Johnson getting shouty in Parliament about delays to publication.
On Thursday we were able to see what has been blindingly and unquestionably obvious since the very start. We were right there watching. Johnson lied to Parliament. Repeatedly.
He was emphatic that all of the COVID socialising rules had been followed, but as he has a brain and implemented them in clear English himself, he must have been aware he was breaking them.
Parliament still had to endorse the Privileges Committee's report, and they did, by vote of 354 - 7 (225 Conservative MPs abstained). 

COVID jab UK deadline July except vulnerable NHS

Among evidence which has now become public is a reminder WhatsApp isn't just for text messages, and the 'Partygate video'.
Handily this video appears to be from a party the met police didn't investigate through 'lack of evidence', and it shows people wearing paper party hats, laughing, flirting and dancing at an actual Christmas office party - with music, booze and catered food. Awesome.

I am so very sorry if you lost your next of kin, your parent, your child, during lockdown and restrictions on mixing. If you lost someone you loved very much, with very little contact or chance to say goodbye. If you attended a limited funeral, or weren't even able to go. If you had a baby, and couldn't show them off. If your Grandchildren grew, without you being able to watch. 
This affected ALL of us. They set the rules, and some never for a second believed those rules also applied to them. 

Tuesday, 13 June 2023

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Two young boys in school uniform with book bags, walking ahead facing away from the camera

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Friday, 9 June 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update catch up 9th June 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update catch up 9th June 2023

World COVID Statistics: 690,078,591 reported cases and 6,889,524 losses of life.

Hey up! Remember me? I'm finally regaining use of my faculties after having my abdomen wall reconstructed, and dipping back in to the COVID news between naps and 'exercising by walking round the block at the speed of a UK Government Renters (Reform) Bill'. 
I get a 6 month sicknote, so recovery is all going to plan, just veeeery sloooow. It's been 6 weeks, so there are quite a few headlines you might have missed - here are some of them.... (as always source links are at the bottom of the page, so you can find out more if you wish). 

Mpox vaccination deadlines UK

Friday, 14 April 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 14th April 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 14th April 2023

World COVID Statistics: 685,461,263 reported cases and 6,841,423 losses of life.

"There is no health without health and care workers.
Health information does not communicate itself.
Vaccines do not administer themselves. 
Wounds do not dress themselves. 
Caesarean sections do not perform themselves.
Diseases do not diagnose themselves. 
Medicines do not prescribe themselves.
And care, compassion and kindness do not deliver themselves. 
They all require a person, and not just a person, they require a health or care worker."
Dr Tedros, head of WHO, on 7th April - the 75th anniversary of the formation of the World Health Organisation. 

310323 1st and 2nd COVID jabs will end for most on 30th June

The UK ONS have released their finalised mortality figures for England and Wales for 2022. This is based purely on raw numbers, and comparisons don't account for changes to population (age and number) over time. 
"In 2022, there were 577,160 deaths registered in England and Wales; this was 9,174 (1.6%) fewer deaths than in 2021, and 33,747 (6.2%) more deaths than the five-year average (2016 to 2019 and 2021)."
- More men died than women, and the area with the highest figure above the 5 year average was the South West. 
- Leading cause of death was dementia and Alzheimer's disease, with 65,967 deaths (11.4% of all deaths); higher than in 2021 (61,250 deaths, 10.4%).
- Leading cause of death for males was ischaemic heart diseases (38,730 deaths, 13.3%), and among females was dementia and Alzheimer's disease (42,635 deaths, 15.0%). This was also the case in 2021.
- COVID was the 6th leading cause of death (22,454 deaths, 3.9% of all deaths registered), having been the leading cause of death in 2021 (67,350 deaths, 11.5%).

Friday, 31 March 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 31st March 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 31st March 2023

World COVID Statistics: 683,871,943 reported cases and 6,830,866 losses of life.

"Isn't a baseline of 1 million current cases & several hundred deaths a week dramatic enough for you? Like Coronation Street, it drags on forever, but can't be said to lack drama."
Excellent quote from someone named Mal Smith on the COVID stats last week. COVID very definitely isn't over, we are 'learning to live with it'. Never forget those who won't ever be able to take it lightly. Around 1.5 million people in the UK will always be more vulnerable to serious disease and death. Never belittle someone who wants to wear a mask or flinches if you cough, whether for their own safety or yours.

310323 1st and 2nd COVID jabs will end for most on 30th June

The weekly COVID19 surveillance report from the UK HSA shows that hospital admission rates have decreased in almost all age groups. The highest admission rates continue to be seen in the over 75s.
This is for the week ending 26th March, so it's much more up-to-date than we used to have to work with. 

Friday, 24 March 2023

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

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

World COVID Statistics: 683,110,747 reported cases and 6,824,665 losses of life.

"I did not intentionally or recklessly mislead the house on December 1 2021, December 8 2021, or on any other date."
Boris Johnson, ex-UK Prime Minister, giving his written evidence at the 'Did you lie to Parliament?' enquiry.

"The PM certainly knew it was a drinks party because I told him and when he walked outside he saw a drinks party."
Dominic Cummings, ex-advisor to the ex-Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

"Like many thousands of others, my family followed the rules and will have to live with the consequences of not being with our loved ones at the end, for the rest of our lives."
Ms Becky Cummer, spokesperson for the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, speaking to Sky News.

Boris Johnson's official written defence was published on Tuesday. There was literally nothing new, a point that the investigating committee noticed immediately.
Boris admits he 'misled' Parliament, but said that he did it "in good faith". He's repeatedly saying he didn't know after-work partying and Friday afternoon drinkies were illegal. He claims when he said "I've done nothing against the law", he believed it.
He is clearly still confused over how he could be fined for his surprise birthday party where "no cake was eaten and no-one even sang happy birthday".
I can believe that. I can believe Boris thinks anything he does is fine, and if it's not fine now, it will be eventually.
The issue isn't cake Boris, the issue is lots of people gathering together in person, and as you didn't leave when they started arriving, you were one of them.

On Wednesday Boris gave sworn verbal evidence in person and underwent questioning from the Privileges Committee. One point raised repeatedly was whether he was advised works parties were illegal or not.
Hands up who had advisors during lockdown? No? Me neither. Hands up if you actually made the rules? ...that's you Boris...
Boris said that people who think folk in Downing Street were partying during lockdown "simply do not know what they are talking about".
My son missed out on his 10th and 11th birthday parties in March 2020 and 2021 (he was 13 on Tuesday). He says "3 or more friends would have counted as a party". I'm with him.

Moving on, the latest Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) report is far better news, although still unfortunate for anyone involved. It shows 55 losses of life above those lost during the same week (ending 10th March) in 2019. I can't see any bank holiday reporting affecting that, so it's possibly the best it's been in months or even years.
Although 533 deaths mentioned COVID, the non-COVID losses of life were incredibly low, so they were offset.

The ONS random sampling study is winding down, and this week there are less random test results across the UK, which reduces accuracy, and they didn't have enough samples returned in Northern Ireland to compile a full report. Sad times.
For the week ending 13th March for England, Wales and Scotland, and 7th March for Northern Ireland:
"The estimated percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) increased in England, and the trends were uncertain in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland."
- England, estimate 1,493,200, equating to 2.66% of the population, or around 1 in 40 people.
- Wales, estimate 74,500, equating to 2.41% of the population, or around 1 in 40 people.
- Northern Ireland, estimate 26,000, equating to 1.42% of the population, or around 1 in 70 people.
- Scotland, estimate 136,200, equating to 2.59% of the population, or around 1 in 40 people.

The Health Foundation have examined results of a 10 country survey (high income countries, 9,526 people responded), and found that while most GPs have a higher workload than before the pandemic, UK GPs have the highest stress levels and lowest levels of satisfaction. On the plus side, they were great at using computer data and dealing with patients with dementia. Ermmmm yeeay.. ?

Junior doctors in England have voted to strike again over pay, after Government talks did not prove successful.
There will be a 96-hour walkout for shifts starting between 7am Tuesday 11th April and 7am Saturday 15th April.

Following on from last week's revelations about the origins of COVID and animals in environmental samples at Huanan Market in Wuhan, the French scientists involved have published their (not-yet peer-reviewed, but being held in high praise online) study.
The samples were collected waaay back at the very start of the outbreak, when the market was closed, right at the beginning of 2020.
A cluster of human COVID cases surrounded the market, but all animals within the market at the time tested negative. The genetic codes from swab samples of equipment and the market walls, floor etc were uploaded by Chinese scientists more recently, and the French team spotted they included lots of animal DNA.
Environmental samples can be a bit of a soup. If you tested my kitchen table you might find flour, human, cat, COVID and tomato. We can assume the flour and tomato aren't responsible for the COVID, but we can't say for sure the human or cat was, and it could even have been introduced by someone else. What is clear though, is that they existed in the same space together.
Animal DNA found mixed together with COVID included raccoon dogs, red foxes, rabbits, cats and dogs - all of which can definitely catch COVID - as well as other more exotic mammals including Amur hedgehogs, Malayan porcupines, hoary bamboo rats, Himalayan marmots, masked palm civets, Siberian weasels and hog badgers.
Lots of animal and lots of COVID together at the market does suggest a possibility that animals were infecting each other with COVID for a while before they passed it to humans, and/or humans became aware it existed.
(There's a great write up on this on CNN actually.)

A newly released (not-yet peer-reviewed) study from the University of Edinburgh has found that while having COVID infection often affects the menstrual cycle of those who have one, COVID vaccinations usually do not.
Now, this is one of those studies that relies on memory and personal experience, so it may not be as accurate as something measured and precisely counted, but it found people with a history of COVID infection reported an increased risk of heavier bleeding, missed periods and bleeding between periods, while there was no real difference between experiences of vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Tanzania now has an outbreak of Marburg Fever. This is the haemorrhagic (bleeding) disease which Equatorial Guinea currently has an outbreak of too. It is a relative of Ebola and the fatality rate in previous outbreaks has been between 24-88%. There is no treatment.
Tanzania have identified 8 confirmed cases so far. 5 of those people have died.
Equatorial Guinea are not so quick to tell us what is happening, but we had an update on Wednesday. It isn't good news. In total there are now 9 laboratory-confirmed cases and 20 probable cases. There are 7 deaths amongst the laboratory confirmed, and all 20 probable cases have died. The cases are from 3 areas, 150km apart, and in one of those areas there's no clear link to other cases. The World Health Organisation sadly accept that this "suggests the potential for undetected community spread of the virus". 
WHO have access to trial vaccines which are too late to help anyone already ill, but as the fatality rate is so high, are being considered as an option for close contacts.
WHO still assess global risk as 'low', but within Equatorial Guinea it has been raised to 'very high'.

Monkeypox good news from the UK HSA:
"Thanks to the sustained reduction we've seen in mpox cases, the vaccination programme in England can be wound down this summer."
In fact, the UK has only detected 6 cases in 2023 so far, and 3 were returning travellers. Amazing considering the high in July last year was 350 people per week.
If you are eligible, there is still time to get your 1st, 2nd or both doses to get protected, but be quick. First dose by 16th June, 2nd by 31st July.
And guys... well done on putting the reins on this one...

The 3rd National Day of Reflection took place yesterday, Thursday March 23rd, marking 3 years since the UKs first COVID lockdown.
Organised by Marie Curie, COVID charities and other agencies, the Day of Reflection was an opportunity for all people to think and talk about their own experiences of loss, grief and bereavement during the pandemic.
I am sorry for anyone who has lost someone over the last 3 years, especially those who lost someone to COVID, or missed out on final moments or days, funerals, hugs, and held hands, and all of those things which make us human.

It is the weekend! Early finish for me as I am in the land of no internet and poor indoor phone reception, and its raining and getting colder, but at least its been sunny and I've topped up my Vitamin D. Don't forget yours, it boosts your immunity and makes the world feel a little less grey. Get yourself outdoors for some fresh air, and don't forget that treat either. You earned it. I have mine waiting back at home for me next week, and it's 2 hour long bubble bath shaped... ooooh yes.

Play Outdoors, 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 683,070,914 (+85,592) 6,824,482 (+617)
Russia 22,550,395 (+12,512) 396,974 (+36)
S. Korea 30,739,457 (+11,400) 34,201 (+14 )
USA 106,082,759 (+10,424) 1,153,526 (+138)
France 39,735,279 (+9,249) 165,454 (+29)
Japan 33,398,536 (+8,485) 73,632 (+40)
Germany 38,326,616 (+5,635) 170,231 (+157)
Mexico 7,516,046 (+4,008) 333,362 (+27)
Chile 5,243,653 (+3,769) 64,443 (+27)
Australia 11,297,847 (+3,373) 19,750 (+10)
Austria 6,015,537 (+3,327) 22,071





Jr Drs

Origins of COVID

And marburg image

Monkeypox and image

Friday, 17 March 2023

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

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

World COVID Statistics: 682,255,152 reported cases and 6,817,431 losses of life.

"Over 3 years into the COVID19 emergency, too many lives have been lost. Too many people are still suffering, including from Long COVID. We'll never stop demanding equitable access to life-saving tools.
"Understanding COVID19’s origins and exploring all hypotheses remains:
-a scientific imperative, to help us prevent future outbreaks
-a moral imperative, for the sake of the millions of people who died and those who live with Long COVID"
Dr Tedros, Head of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Norovirus home care NHS advice

On 11th March it was 3 years since WHO declared COVID a pandemic. It wasn't actually their job, but by 11th March 2020 it had become clear no-one else was going to do it and everyone was waiting, so Dr Tedros made the announcement. In some people's minds this made him responsible for the entire thing. 
"Around this time three years ago, the world woke up to the seriousness of COVID19, to stay at home orders, to life - as we had known it - changed…
We have all been impacted by the COVID19 pandemic, we are all different, and we cannot go “back” to the way it was, we need to make our futures better…
I know the world wants so desperately for the COVID19 pandemic to be over. I do too. But we aren’t done yet and this virus isn’t done with us yet. It is here to stay and we can do more to protect everyone, everywhere…"
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical Lead, Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses Lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

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...   

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.

Look for These Things in a Good HVAC Company (Featured Article)

Today I have a post from a contributor in the USA, with helpful tips for anyone looking to hire a company to fit, service or repair Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning - HVAC

Look for These Things in a Good HVAC Company

If you want to live in the warmest or coolest climate possible, your heating and cooling systems need to work effectively. The servicing, repairing, or replacing of a system is not a task for the typical "Do it Yourselfer," since it is rather complex.

Image of LEGO air conditioning unit on LEGO house roof eaves

In such a case, locating a reputable HVAC firm to carry out the essential repair becomes imperative. Name recognition and fame alone are not enough. In order to help you choose the most qualified professional, I have included some suggestions below.

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.