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Doc Hines - Covid News & Views - 20th December 2021

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

It feels as though there is a strong atmosphere of uncertainty around at the moment. We all prefer to know what’s happening when faced with adversity. Christmas is less than a week away, we do not know whether our family party could be disrupted by political action. We are hearing dire warnings from the scientists. The Prime Minister is faced with rebellion in his own party and will probably only get more restrictions approved by relying on the Opposition to support him. It would appear that some MPs will try everything to ensure they win their seat back at the next election rather than support an action which is clearly in the National interest.

Putting politics aside, I am sure the Cabinet as they meet this afternoon, will be desperate to protect family Christmases as much as possible. We will only see absolutely essential steps taken before Christmas. But It looks like plan C in ones of its forms will be necessary from the week after Christmas. Meanwhile if we all avoid as much social contact as possible, we may still slow the pace of the Omicron variant, to allow Christmas to happen. It is prudent to make all plans flexible and capable of being postponed or changed.

There is just a glimmer of hope. I had expected by now to see more of a rise in the hospital data than there has been so far. Todays figures are 3 days old, but the figures tomorrow will be more up to date. If cases rise a lot, but the hospital cases only increase slightly, we will get through without too great an impact. A further consideration is the numbers of NHS staff off sick or isolating. We do not have enough volunteer staff to boost hospitals, run Nightingale hospitals and run vaccine clinics all at the same time.

There were over 1.5 million tests done daily at the end of last week and 1.46 million today. Today, 91,743 were positive. The weekend figures a little lower. The positive rate is shooting up and is now 716.1 per 100,000.

Deaths remain static with just 45 less in the last 7 days. The death rate has thankfully dropped back to just 1.0 per 100,000 cases. The numbers on a ventilator are a bit old but remain below 900. 7,480 patients occupied hospital beds yesterday and 919 were admitted in one day on the 14th December.

Vaccine rates have made no significant changes, except the number having a third jab or booster has now passed the 50 % of those required.

Reigate and Banstead, a relatively affluent borough in rural Surrey had the highest rates of Covid over the weekend when 982.3 per 100,000 were affected. Any one who can offer an explanation for this?

The Netherlands announced they were the first to go into complete lockdown. Germany has banned visitors from Britain as well. Nadal, the tennis player has tested positive for Covid.

The new GSK antibody drug is now available on the NHS Its trade name is Xerudy and its generic name is Sotrovimab. 100,000 doses have initially been brought for use in the UK. Trials have shown that in the elderly it reduces the risks of hospitalisation and death when infected by 79%. It must be started within 5 days of the disease being caught. It is given by intravenous infusion slowly over 30 minutes. So it's not a simple pill to swallow. Its cost is £2,000 per dose. The only other drug approved so far is another monoclonal antibody called Ronopreve. It is too early to say if either drug is more or less effective against the Omicron variant.

The Cabinet meeting has just ended, and the situation is finely balanced. It was decided to take no new actions today. We will have to deal with this day by day. The Cabinet considered 3 options. Firstly, to just ask people to limit indoor contacts. Secondly to reintroduce bans on indoor mixing and limit out door contacts with an 8pm curfew on pubs and restaurants. Thirdly to introduce a full lockdown. Mr Javid says he is ruling nothing out, but I guess all of government have their fingers crossed.

Israel has added the US and Canada to its red list. Italy has the second highest death toll in Europe, now at 135,778 since February 2020. There have been over 5.4 million cases in Italy. Cuba has surprisingly is the most highly vaccinated now with more than 90% having at least one jab. The UK is still stuck around 89.5%. Cuba has also immunised almost all children between ages 2 and 18.

The USA has opened booking for children between 12-15 to get their second dose.

If you were planning on visiting a museum this week, please check it is still open. A number have been forced to close due to staff shortages.

Remember 3 doses is the best way out of this for us all. Then comes the measures we all now know so well. Wearing masks properly when indoors and away from home, good social distance and hand hygiene. In order to have the best chance of staying free of Covid and able to meet your loved ones, stay at home and only venture out if essential. Do a lateral flow tests every other day to ensure you are ok and before you meet vulnerable family and friends. Remember to comment and share other thoughts and ideas. Christmas is for many, and especially this year, not all fun and joy. Think of those bereaved whether through Covid or other reasons. Be kind, reach out to them and offer support even if you can only do it over the phone.

Please stay safe and perhaps think more about what Christmas is all about.

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