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Doc Hines - Covid News & Views - 30th August 2021

How was your Bank holiday? There was plenty of choice for those wanting to catch Covid 19. There were football matches, a test match, numerous camping festivals, and many other events which in England had no rules to help prevent getting infected. To be fair many of the organisers did require evidence of immunisation and a negative test before admission. With 22 % of our population not fully immunised and others who can catch it despite being immunised, we are bound to see a rise in cases by the end of this week.

Over the weekend many figures are not published. Around 948,000 tests were done on Saturday and again today. No figure was released on Sunday. Over 32,000 were positive on Saturday and over 33,000 on Sunday. Today, a Bank holiday, it dropped to 26, 000. The rate of positive tests is static at around 353.3 per 100,000 of the population.

The weekend effect is particularly marked in the death statistics as they reflect when the death was registered and not when it occurred. There were 133 recorded on Saturday, 61 on Sunday and 48 today. Compared with previous recent weekends these figures are higher. There have been 805 deaths recorded in the last 7 days and 104 more that the previous week. This all means a death rate rise over the last week of 14.8 %. The death rate is now at 1.1 deaths per 100,000 of the population which is much lower than at the peak of deaths in the pandemic. Covid is no longer in the top 10 causes of death in England.

Hospital data is not published at weekends and today has a rehash of the data published last Friday. We will have a fresh set of more up-to-date data tomorrow. As a reminder, 969 people were admitted to hospital on one day on 24th August. The total number in a hospital bed was 6,942 on 26th August and 982 were being treated on a ventilator. These figures are slowly creeping up, I anticipate the number being ventilated will rise above 1,000. When the pandemic began there was a push to produce extra ventilators and over 30,000 were made quickly. We will not be short over the winter but staff to manage them and beds to put people in is another issue altogether.

Immunisations continue to rise but only very slowly 48.04 million first doses have been given to 88.4% of the adult population and 42.78 million second doses to 78.6% of those eligible. The shortfall remains at over 20%.

A graph showing the number of new cases in Scotland over time clearly shows a fall during the school summer holiday, but, then followed by a dramatic rise since Scottish schools reopened on 17th August. This means that many of us have grave concerns about what will happen here in England as the children return this week. The teaching unions are furious that mask-wearing is not mandatory in English schools whereas it is still in Scotland at least till the end of September. The Government Education Secretary has asked parents to test the children for Covid 3 times a week. There is no requirement to do so. If a child tests positive, they will be excluded for 10 days, but the child sitting next to them is not isolated.

So, we now have unvaccinated children going into school, with no masks, no distancing, and a much more transmissible Delta variant being dominant. In England contacts of a positive child are not even being asked to test for it.

There is a precedent. One year ago, when 8.9 million children went back to school, there was a 4-fold higher spike in cases within a month. In Scotland this year there were 2,000 cases per day at the end of the holiday and it has now risen to 7,000 new infections per day.

Interestingly, in Arizona, the Governor’s decree that masks MUST NOT be worn in school is being challenged in the courts by parents and schools.

Israel has already started immunising children and giving boosters to adults and has announced they will not consider someone fully immunised until they have had three jabs.

Poor Nicola Sturgeon was in close contact with a positive case and was self-isolating and has had a negative test this morning and has been released from isolation.

The decision for Care workers that “No Jabs means No jobs” policy is causing concern that it may lead to a staff shortage and some homes forced to close.

New Zealand, which have given over 2 million jabs has just seen its first vaccine-related death. The patient was a woman with a pre-existing health issue. She apparently developed a myocarditis after a dose of the Pfizer jab. I think a 1 in 2 million risk is well worth taking.

In an apparent split from WHO policy, Hans Kluge, the WHO Director for Europe, has said that having 3 doses of vaccine is not a luxury booster, making inequity worse, but as a means of keeping the vulnerable safe. He also reported that 33 of the 53 countries in the WHO Europe Region have had a rise of new cases greater than 10% in the last 2 weeks.

There continue to be widespread demonstrations across Europe by anti-vaccine protestors. Yesterday, thousands marched in Berlin for the second day running. Similar demonstrations have occurred in London. In France objections to the Pass Sanitaire have been occurring for the last 7 weeks. In the latest step in France all employees in a public-facing role must be fully vaccinated or have a negative Covid test every 72 hours.

I am not surprised that many are confused by all the conflicting advice and confusion. There is widespread misinformation again, some are probably malicious.

To simplify things. Stick with the rules you have got used to. Wear your masks on public transport, even if you are the only one. If challenged say you are wearing it to protect them. Try to maintain social distancing as much as you can and continue to sanitise your hands and surfaces. Send your children to school with masks if they can manage them. Stay away from mass gatherings if you are particularly vulnerable and only go if you are satisfied with the arrangements. Take full advantage of lateral flow tests if you are a contact with a positive case or feel unwell.

Used properly your computer is a trusty ally in getting safely through the pandemic. I cannot see that banning their use in China by school children except at weekends is anything that is going to be useful and maybe masking more extreme Government control.

Please keep going. You have been safe so far and by using your common sense it can stay that way.

Stay safe everyone.

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