Commentary

Doc Hines - Covid News & Views - 2 February 2022

The Government’s data was published on time today and is generally all good. There is one surprising result which I suspect is a statistical anomaly about the way the data is collected. I do not believe the death rate has suddenly doubled with 534 recorded today. Remember this figure does not indicate when the death happened, it could be over a month ago? Instead, it is recorded the day it is officially reported. The reason I think this is because the death rate has been quite stable, and looked at over a 7-day period, is 25 less than the previous week. Week on week the death rate has fallen by 25 in this last week.


There continues to be 1.1 to 1.3 million tests done each day with some variation depending on which day of the week it is. 1,154,000 were submitted yesterday. Of these tests 88,085 proved positive. Over the last week there have been 22 thousand less positive results resulting in a 3.5% reduction in cases. The rate of new cases is also falling back a little and is now 1,021.2 per 100,000 people.

Hospital data is consistently but slowly decreasing every day. The number admitted on a single day is 1,472 on 28th January. It has not been updated. The total number in hospital with Covid yesterday was 15,233. Only 502 were being treated on a ventilator. This means some hospitals now have no Covid patients on a ventilator. Do you remember at the beginning of the pandemic a variety of industries changed their production line and produced 30,000 new ventilators. I sincerely hope in the end they will never be needed but should be stored safely, just in case, or some given to countries struggling with their ITU equipment in the future.


91.1% of our population have had at least one dose of the vaccine, 84.3% have had two doses and 65% have now had 3 doses.


The UAE now leads the world with 93% of its population fully (3) immunised followed by Portugal at 90%. Both these countries are relatively small compared with the UK.


There has been some interesting new research just published which suggests that the time between someone meeting the virus and being able to detect the virus confirming infection may be a little as 42 hours. This is particularly true of the new variant known as Omicron. This interval has previously been recorded as between 5 and six days.


A lot of ongoing research is being done on what happens in long Covid. It is known to cause continuing breathlessness for months, but the exact mechanism was unclear. Ordinary CT scans of the lungs failed to demonstrate any changes. Researchers therefore used the gas Xenon and an MRI scan. With this combination it has been possible to identify changes on the MRIs which are quantifiable.


I have been asked to explain what is meant by boosters and how many are we likely to need. This is not an easy question to answer but let’s start with the definition of a booster. This is the use of a dose of vaccine to enhance the doses of the vaccine given previously as a primary course in the past.


The difficulty is in measuring the immunity. Measuring antibodies is only part of the story. A further immunity is offered by the complex T cell systems. It takes a deal of time to work all this out for Covid and we have only had it around for two years. We know now that vaccines like tetanus need to be boosted up to five times before life long immunity is achieved. For Measles it is achieved with just two doses. With Seasonal flu it needs an annual booster. At this moment no one has any idea how many boosters are going to be required for Covid. We may need to give more to the elderly and very vulnerable and less to teenagers. The best guess is that some parts of the community will need 4 doses. A lot of effort is currently being given to finding a combined flu and Covid booster to be used annually in older age groups. Rest assured this will be resolved soon and that in England those who need further boosting will get it. I personally believe we must bring the global vaccination rate up considerably first.


All I have said depends on there not being a new variant pop up especially one that is not vaccine responsive. That would change everything.


Please do not forget to comment or ask questions, it helps me know which topics to cover.


Our own Chief Medical Officer is quiet, but the Australian CMO said today he has spoken to his UK counterpart and others and together they all agree we will not escape the pandemic for some time.


This means we must live with Covid. We no longer need to fear it. With full immunisation the chances of death are less than 1 in 100,000, which is probably the same risk as riding your bike or even crossing the road. With common sense and plan K we can slowly and sensibly return to a measure of normality. Please look after and care for those members of our community who are still scared to go out-doors. There are a lot of these people. Fear has become an unintended consequence of the pandemic. We must overcome this hurdle and at the same time stay safe.

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