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Doc Hines - Covid News & Views - 9th August 2021

The Covid pandemic, at least in England, is in a quiet phase. The statistics for the last 3 days are influenced by the weekend. When there are only low numbers, percentage change gets distorted, and it is much better to look at the total figures for the last 7 days to get a better picture of the trends. Even the trends seem to fluctuate suggesting the overall status of the pandemic is stable, but not yet diminishing in the way we hope for. At the same time, it is certainly no worse than feared and is still following predictions. There are no major developments with new mutations and the vaccine remains effective.

Despite our extraordinary efforts with vaccines, 8 million adults remain unimmunised; we really do need to pull out all the stops to achieve even higher numbers. There has been a lot of speculation within the media by scientists debating what herd immunity is and how near we are to it.

The number of tests being performed remained at around 825K over the weekend but has dropped to 689k today. Remember there are no schools testing and much of the population are on holiday.

Health data has not been released since Friday and that was a few days old. 5,631 people were in a hospital bed with Covid on 5th August. A total of 742 were admitted on one day, the 3rd of August. The number being treated on a ventilator on 6th August was 871. These figures are slightly less than those published last Thursday. A clearer picture should be seen tomorrow and Wednesday.

As for deaths, at a weekend we know they are not accurate, reflecting only the date the death was processed and not when it happened. For the record 103 were reported on Saturday, 39 on Sunday, and 37 today. The death rate has remained the same at 0.8per 100k of the population and over the last week, there has been an overall rise of about 5.2%.

The vaccination figures continue to creep up very slowly, 89% of the adult population or 47.06 million have had two jabs but only 74.8% or 39.55 million have had only one. Putting this another way 25.2% of adults are not yet fully protected. To them, we have to add the children at risk. We have started to vaccinate all 16-17-year-olds and there are over 1 million of those! We are also offering it to vulnerable children over the age of 12 or those children in the same household as somebody extremely vulnerable.

It is vital we get these done as quickly as possible and before the end of August. From September we need to focus on influenza jabs and Covid 19 boosters. These will be necessary to keep us safe over the winter. It is widely believed we could have a difficult winter with winter chest infections, colds, and influenza, as the effects of isolation, mask-wearing and avoiding crowds have greatly reduced infections for 18 months and so there is little immunity in the community. Just as the NHS tries to catch up on its waiting list cases, we are likely to be hit by a large number requiring admission for chest infections.

If you look at a list of catastrophic pandemics in history, you will see bubonic plague features prominently. This disease unlike smallpox has not been irradicated and is still endemic today in parts of the USA. A 10-year-old girl has just died from what is thought to be a bubonic plague in Colorado. Around Lake Tahoe, there is a significant outbreak in chipmunks. The whole area has been closed off. The bacteria which causes the disease is spread by insects, usually fleas. Yersinia pestis the causative organism is sensitive to antibiotics and so it is now very rare for it to be fatal in humans. We will not see a worldwide pandemic of Bubonic plague again.

The latest travel requirements came into force yesterday. France is still experiencing 230 cases per 100k each day. They changed to Amber status yesterday. People living and working in France now need a Covid Health Pass for many of their routine daily activities.

For British people currently in France, they will need to obtain a Covid Health Pass. Those in England and Wales are able to do this by presenting their NHS QR code. If you are from Scotland, Northern Ireland and the offshore islands they will have to exchange their vaccination certificates for a compatible French QR code. You can get further advice via your travel agents and the Government website. Remember it can suddenly change.

The next official update is due in the last few days of August.

Prof Mark Woodhouse of Edinburgh University is claiming the UK is close to herd immunity. My view is that it entirely depends on what is meant by the close. We certainly are a lot better off than a year ago. I fear though that with 25 million still not fully protected this is very much in the balance. We may well fluctuate considerably over the next few months and into winter. It is not all or nothing, immunity fades over time so we need to sort out a booster program quickly. The most likely scenario is that over the course of the winter it will move to be more endemic with small outbreaks occurring from time to time over the next number of years.

Just as we cannot have exotic foreign holidays, we cannot expect this to go away any time soon. We have seen how well lockdown principles together with high levels of immunisation have worked to protect our community. We need a lot of common sense and mutual care for one another. Wear your masks appropriately, more to protect others than yourself. Be double vaccinated and wash your hands and surfaces frequently to protect yourself. Be cautious of confined spaces especially if you are extremely vulnerable, and finally get the children in your life immunised if eligible. If over 16 they do not need parental consent.

Please go on sharing your thoughts concerns and ideas. Above all stay safe.

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