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Wuhan coronavirus in Scotland?


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Looks as though some progress being made with vaccine at University of Oxford.  With 'strong immune response' looking for thousands of volunteers for next phase of trials. https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2020-07-20-new-study-reveals-oxford-coronavirus-vaccine-produces-strong-immune-response#

Pity about the outbreak in Motherwell - ironically at UK Test and Trace Call Centre outsourced to USA firm Sitel. – I'm a bit suspicious of outsourcing. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-53465160?fbclid=IwAR2G-NMx_cLFAYd_fvKZMg56lz8qnF-5LAS8tj1D-zHz35MH2peaMOiD6_8

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4 hours ago, samscafeamericain said:

we now have a 4/5 month window before we are in the potential double hell of covid and winter flu

Yes, but the measures in place will be equally, if not more effective at stopping the flu spreading.

Edit: I tried to make the post below a separate post, but it turned out added to my reply to Sams post, with the message 'your replies have been merged'.

 

Sobering analysis from two US leading epidemiologists:

Two of the country’s top infectious disease experts presented a sobering look at the battle still to come against Covid-19. Their message, conveyed during a recent CNBC event, was encapsulated in related views on how much of a difference a coronavirus vaccine can make and what reaching herd immunity in the U.S. population will mean for life across the nation. 

“Even with a vaccine, there is no going back to normal anytime soon,” said Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaking at a CNBC Workforce Executive Council virtual event to human resources executives on July 23 about a safe return to the workplace. “Prepare for at least eight to 12 months of this situation,” said Frieden, who now runs the Resolve to Save Lives disease prevention organization.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota, said it is estimated that 7% to 9% of the total U.S. population has been infected with coronavirus, and that means the worst is yet to come. He said the best understanding in the medical field is that transmission will not slow down until 50% to 70% of the population is infected.

For businesses and the U.S. economy, that means there will be no “V-shaped” return to workplaces.

“Most businesses in the country will be hard-pressed to operate in a way they want to schedule when we have ‘houses on fire’ in our communities,” said Osterholm. “I understand the pain and economic suffering, but I don’t see any way we get numbers down regionally. We’ve got to stop this virus activity or there will be fear we will see these peaks, but every time it goes down, it plateaus at a higher level and just comes back again. In many communities in this country, I see no way to operate as they once did.”

Cases have started to show some signs of slowing in recent hot spots across the U.S. South and Southwest, including Florida, Texas and Arizona.

In fact, both experts believe Covid-19 is here to stay.

“We will be dealing with this forever,” Osterholm said.

“Covid is here to stay,” added Frieden.

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Certainly doesn't look as if the virus is going away any time soon.

I am hopeful that people have in general developed better hygiene habits and that this will mean reduced spread of flu, gastro infections and colds.  If people stick with the masks then that will be another huge advantage. 

It upsets me seeing people object to wearing masks, because they don't want to be told what to do.  This doesn't seem to be such a massive problem in Scotland as in England and the USA.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Winter resurgence of virus likely.

Cut & paste

There is growing evidence that seasonal factors could influence the evolution of the current Covid‐19 pandemic, with experts predicting human-to-human transmission of the virus will become more widespread in winter.

The science comes from climatic, behavioural, medical and historic sources and, unfortunately, most point to the same conclusion: we face a long hard winter ahead.

The latest study, published on Tuesday in Transboundary and Emerging Diseases journal, found an association between low relative humidity and an increase in community transmission of Sars-CoV-2 in the Greater Sydney area during the early stages of the pandemic. It estimated that for every one per cent drop in relative humidity, confirmed Covid-19 cases increased by seven to eight per cent.

Although it rains more in winter, the air comes dryer because cold air holds less moisture. It’s why we have “muggy” summers and “crisp” winters. Indoor heating dries things further through evaporation.

Why would the virus prefer dry air? According to Professor Michael Ward, an epidemiologist at the University of Sydney and lead author of the study, it’s because the droplets we exhale become smaller when they have less moisture to become enveloped in.

“When you sneeze and cough, those smaller infectious aerosols can stay suspended in the air for longer,” he told the Australian, the newspaper which first reported the research. “That increases the exposure for other people. When the air is humid and the aerosols are larger and heavier, they fall and hit surfaces quicker,” he said.

A study published by the the Journal of the American Medical Association in June supports the hypothesis that the virus is susceptible to climatic conditions.

It looked at 50 cities and found that those with substantial community spread of Covid-19 were distributed along a narrow band of latitude (30° N to 50° N) with consistently similar mean temperatures (five to 11C) and low specific and absolute humidity. The results were “consistent with the behavior of a seasonal respiratory virus”, the authors concluded.

History suggests we should not be surprised if Sars-CoV-2 exhibits a distinct seasonality. Many past respiratory pandemics, including the mild 2008/9 Swine flu pandemic and the devastating 1918/9 Spanish flu, moved in waves. The same is true of virtually all the 200-plus common respiratory viruses in circulation, including the four coronaviruses that cause the common cold.

Combine this with drier, less ventilated rooms and the pronounced seasonality of other coronaviruses and it is clear the European winter poses a clear risk of second spike.

Europe and northern America saw big winter/spring outbreaks. Social distancing, and perhaps the spring, helped contain them, followed by a fairly quiet summer. The southern US states had a broad peak in summer (where people head into air conditioned spaces) and South America and Australia have had large outbreaks in their winter.

“This is consistent with the pattern of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic given it started 4 months later,” Dr Neher wrote on Twitter. 

“To me, this suggests controlling Sars-CoV-2 in the Northern Hemisphere will become a lot harder over the next six months and things might spiral out of control quickly.

“We understand much better now what settings account for most transmission, so we can hopefully contain it without drastic restrictions but it probably won't be as easy as in summer. We need to act early and should head into winter with as few cases as possible,” he added.

This, unfortunately, may be easier said than done. The lifting of lockdown measures, while essential to get economies moving, has triggered a resurgence of Covid-19 cases across Europe over the last month.

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Looks like we need to put our jumpers on and throw open the windows and spritz moisture round the house. 

Probably be more people meeting indoors as well, which is not so good. I'm happy to stay home. Any sign of a vaccine?

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  • 2 weeks later...

A New Theory Asks: Could a Mask be a Crude 'Vaccine'?

Very interesting theory from the New York Times. NYT is usually paywalled, but allows coronavirus articles without subscription.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/08/health/covid-masks-immunity.html

From the article:

'The unproven idea, described in a commentary published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is inspired by the age-old concept of variolation, the deliberate exposure to a pathogen to generate a protective immune response. First tried against smallpox, the risky practice eventually fell out of favor, but paved the way for the rise of modern vaccines.'

'The coronavirus variolation theory hinges on two assumptions that are difficult to prove: that lower doses of the virus lead to less severe disease, and that mild or asymptomatic infections can spur long-term protection against subsequent bouts of sickness. Although other pathogens offer some precedent for both concepts, the evidence for the coronavirus remains sparse, in part because scientists have only had the opportunity to study the virus for a few months.'

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Sad to see the numbers going up.  Very bad idea for BBC to cut daily briefings by First Minister. Don't see how information can be consistent for all parts of UK, when some areas require specific measures to be put in place. And how will BBC employee encourage engagement and compliance with guidelines. 
Seems like a political move and not going to help in tackling the virus.  Also going to mean that many elderly and those less likely to access digital information will be less informed than previously. 

And certainly not holding politicians and expert advisors to account. 

I think it's a very bad move, particularly in current climate.

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COVID-19 in Africa: Milder Than Expected Pandemic Has Experts Puzzled

https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-in-africa-milder-than-expected-pandemic-has-experts-puzzled/a-54918467

'Milder than expected' is an understatement. It's like it's a totally different disease in Africa, but genetic studies of the virus show that it's exactly the same as the virus that has brought the west to its knees. One explanation for this is that Africa has a much younger population, and that's definitely a factor.

I'm a science nerd, but on the subject of disease causation, I'm supernerd. I started to review the research on the subject of non-communicable disease causation almost 40 years ago, in order to better understand the etiology of psychiatric illness that affected my family. This soon spread into many other areas, as it became clear that psychiatric illnesses and other non-communicable diseases, such as neurological diseases, autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and even cancer, had an underlying cause - chronic, aberrant activation of an immune system 'master molecule', called nuclear factor - kappa beta (NF-kB).

NF-kB has multiple functions, but a principal function is the control of bacteria and viruses that invade cells and establish long term latency, such as SARS viruses. However, it can very often be activated in the absence of infection, due to a combination of genetic and environmental and lifestyle factors, and it is particularly associated with aging. Genetic factors include immune system, receptor and metalloenzyme variants. Environmental factors include a pro-inflammatory 'western' diet, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, lack of vitamin D, abnormal gut microbiota, chronic psychological stress, smoking and exposure to environmental chemicals, food and chemical allergies and hypersensitivities, and lack of immune challenge in infancy.

Africans tick far fewer of the boxes than westerners, but I believe that the last one may be the most important. We, in the west, live in an unnaturally sterile environment. Until relatively recently, worm infection in infancy was the norm in Europe. It still is in Africa, and as the article above suggests, this may actually be beneficial, as it shapes the developing immune system in infancy in a way that 'trains' it not to overreact to stimuli in later life. We have co-evolved with these parasites since we were apes, and they are now essential to good health later in life. The symptoms of severe COVID-19 are not caused directly by the virus. They are caused by an excessive reaction of the NF-kB driven cellular immune response. This response causes dangerous reactive oxygen species  to be produced inside cells to kill pathogens. It also reduces the expression of receptors used by pathogens to enter cells. When these actions become prolonged and excessive, cell death and other symptoms are the result, leading to illness.

People of African descent, living in America and Europe, are more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19 than white people. There may be multiple factors behind this, but it strongly suggests that the mildness of the disease in Africa is due to environmental, rather than genetic factors.

I wrote a blog on the subject ten years ago, with more than 900 links to PubMed papers.

www.imdtheory.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

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This is an abstract from a preprint paper, which means that it hasn't yet been peer reviewed. 

Abstract

The herd immunity threshold is the proportion of a population that must be immune to an infectious disease, either by natural infection or vaccination such that, in the absence of additional preventative measures, new cases decline and the effective reproduction number falls below unity. This fundamental epidemiological parameter is still unknown for the recently-emerged COVID-19, and mathematical models have predicted very divergent results. Population studies using antibody testing to infer total cumulative infections can provide empirical evidence of the level of population immunity in severely affected areas. Here we show that the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Manaus, located in the Brazilian Amazon, increased quickly during March and April and declined more slowly from May to September. In June, one month following the epidemic peak, 44% of the population was seropositive for SARS-CoV-2, equating to a cumulative incidence of 52%, after correcting for the false-negative rate of the antibody test. The seroprevalence fell in July and August due to antibody waning. After correcting for this, we estimate a final epidemic size of 66%. Although non-pharmaceutical interventions, plus a change in population behavior, may have helped to limit SARS-CoV-2 transmission in Manaus, the unusually high infection rate suggests that herd immunity played a significant role in determining the size of the epidemic.

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Another preprint. Suggests that  ground level ozone kills the virus. Well, we knew that, but it wasn't clear if that had a significant effect on infections. Seems it has.

Abstract

COVID-19, which is a consequence of infection with the novel viral agent SARS-CoV-2, first identified in China (Hubei Province), has been declared a pandemic by the WHO. As of September 10, 2020, over 70,000 cases and over 2,000 deaths have been recorded in Poland. Of the many factors contributing to the level of transmission of the virus, the weather appears to be significant. In this work we analyse the impact of weather factors such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and ground level ozone concentration on the number of COVID-19 cases in Warsaw, Poland. The obtained results show an inverse correlation between ground level ozone concentration and the daily number of COVID-19 cases.

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On 9/18/2020 at 7:51 PM, yonza bam said:

COVID-19 in Africa: Milder Than Expected Pandemic Has Experts Puzzled

https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-in-africa-milder-than-expected-pandemic-has-experts-puzzled/a-54918467

'Milder than expected' is an understatement. It's like it's a totally different disease in Africa, but genetic studies of the virus show that it's exactly the same as the virus that has brought the west to its knees. One explanation for this is that Africa has a much younger population, and that's definitely a factor.

I'm a science nerd, but on the subject of disease causation, I'm supernerd. I started to review the research on the subject of non-communicable disease causation almost 40 years ago, in order to better understand the etiology of psychiatric illness that affected my family. This soon spread into many other areas, as it became clear that psychiatric illnesses and other non-communicable diseases, such as neurological diseases, autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and even cancer, had an underlying cause - chronic, aberrant activation of an immune system 'master molecule', called nuclear factor - kappa beta (NF-kB).

NF-kB has multiple functions, but a principal function is the control of bacteria and viruses that invade cells and establish long term latency, such as SARS viruses. However, it can very often be activated in the absence of infection, due to a combination of genetic and environmental and lifestyle factors, and it is particularly associated with aging. Genetic factors include immune system, receptor and metalloenzyme variants. Environmental factors include a pro-inflammatory 'western' diet, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, lack of vitamin D, abnormal gut microbiota, chronic psychological stress, smoking and exposure to environmental chemicals, food and chemical allergies and hypersensitivities, and lack of immune challenge in infancy.

Africans tick far fewer of the boxes than westerners, but I believe that the last one may be the most important. We, in the west, live in an unnaturally sterile environment. Until relatively recently, worm infection in infancy was the norm in Europe. It still is in Africa, and as the article above suggests, this may actually be beneficial, as it shapes the developing immune system in infancy in a way that 'trains' it not to overreact to stimuli in later life. We have co-evolved with these parasites since we were apes, and they are now essential to good health later in life. The symptoms of severe COVID-19 are not caused directly by the virus. They are caused by an excessive reaction of the NF-kB driven cellular immune response. This response causes dangerous reactive oxygen species  to be produced inside cells to kill pathogens. It also reduces the expression of receptors used by pathogens to enter cells. When these actions become prolonged and excessive, cell death and other symptoms are the result, leading to illness.

People of African descent, living in America and Europe, are more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19 than white people. There may be multiple factors behind this, but it strongly suggests that the mildness of the disease in Africa is due to environmental, rather than genetic factors.

I wrote a blog on the subject ten years ago, with more than 900 links to PubMed papers.

www.imdtheory.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

Very interesting points, Yonza. Thanks for the information. Thank heavens Africa has been less affected than Europe and America given lack of well established health services in some areas.  

On 9/23/2020 at 3:43 PM, yonza bam said:

Another preprint. Suggests that  ground level ozone kills the virus. Well, we knew that, but it wasn't clear if that had a significant effect on infections. Seems it has.

Abstract

COVID-19, which is a consequence of infection with the novel viral agent SARS-CoV-2, first identified in China (Hubei Province), has been declared a pandemic by the WHO. As of September 10, 2020, over 70,000 cases and over 2,000 deaths have been recorded in Poland. Of the many factors contributing to the level of transmission of the virus, the weather appears to be significant. In this work we analyse the impact of weather factors such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and ground level ozone concentration on the number of COVID-19 cases in Warsaw, Poland. The obtained results show an inverse correlation between ground level ozone concentration and the daily number of COVID-19 cases.

Trying to understand the correlation between ground level ozone concentration and Covid-19 cases, Yonza.  This article seemed useful. Should everyone ditch their car – looks like it. https://healthcare-in-europe.com/en/news/covid-19-severity-air-pollution-exploring-the-connection.html

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Air pollution causes systemic inflammation, and people living in highly polluted areas are more likely to get a severe dose of COVID-19, if they become infected, because of this.

But, although ozone is a dangerous pollutant, it's also a very powerful disinfectant, and the study seems to be suggesting that the benefits of its virus killing properties outweigh its health hazards.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Good Guardian article here https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/10/covid-cases-and-deaths-today-coronavirus-uk-map showing the number of daily UK cases, hospitalised cases, daily tests and daily deaths today, compared with the spring peak.

Summary: There were 5,000 new daily cases in spring, compared to 16,000 today. However, only the more severe cases got tested in the spring. There were 14,423 tests done on 8th April, with 5,865 positive (41%), compared to 290,000 on the 9th of October, with 14,000 positive (4.8%). So, we're now doing 20 times the amount of testing, and a much greater percentage of the positives today are mild cases.

A better metric for comparing today with the spring peak is hospitalisations. There were 19,000 people hospitalised with the virus at the spring peak, compared to 4,660 today, a 75% reduction. The figure continues to climb as we approach the winter, and the colder north of the country is worse affected than the warmer south. That's ominous.

Daily deaths at the spring peak were 900, compared to 90 today, which probably reflects better treatment, including dexamethasone, which wasn't prescribed early on. Doctors are also being much more circumspect in their use of ventilators, which may have done more harm than good in many cases. In addition, deaths are a 'lagging indicator', since death from Covid typically follows around two weeks after hospitalisation.

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Australian researchers have determined that COVID-19 is 'extremely robust', surviving for up to 28 days on surfaces at what they describe as 'low temperatures'. The Australian idea of low temperatures is a bit different from ours. The temperature was 20 C, which is almost heat wave weather in Scotland. By comparison, the flu virus only survived for 18 days.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/12/virus-that-causes-covid-19-can-survive-up-to-28-days-on-surfaces-scientists-find

At 30 C and 40 C, survival time was progressively shorter. So, how long is it going to survive for outside in typical 5 C winter weather here? Three months? I've always thought that the usual explanation for the flu being a winter virus - that people spend more time indoors, thus passing it on to others more easily in  enclosed spaces, didn't ring entirely true. It's not as if there are public waiting rooms in towns that people crowd into in winter, spreading germs to each other. They spend more time indoors in their homes, so I don't really see how that works.

Low temperatures, lack of humidity and no sterilising UV radiation from the sun all help the virus survive for long periods in winter, but these are factors that are relevant outdoors. Sunlight at northern temperate latitudes in winter has to travel through more atmosphere to reach the ground, which effectively blocks the UV wavelengths that cause sunburn, and also kills germs.

So, if the virus survives for 28 days at 20 C, and presumably for much longer at typical UK winter temperatures, then live virus has to be building up in quantity on streets and pavements as the winter progresses, being stirred up by air currents and inhaled by pedestrians and motorists, and carried into shops and homes on peoples' shoes.

Given that it's much more robust than the flu virus, and much more transmissible, I think we could be in for a hellish winter with it. To test the theory, the government should select some cities to have their streets disinfected every day during the winter, and compare the rate of infection in those cities to those that are untreated. It would be costly, but nothing compared to the unsustainable economic cost of the virus, and it would help to boost employment.

 

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As a wee counter to the media's doom laden headlines.

Trends are confirming that the second peak will be around 80%-90%  less than first peak in terms of lethality.
Five year all cause mortality is in the normal range of the 5 year average for last 5 months.
Econonomy is at 92% and climbing.
Schools and universities are back at least to some form of decent standard.
Vaccine roll out is continuing with a good expectation of  being a real game changer.
Antibody therapy is showing good signs of reducing the lethality / long term damage of Covid further.
No one is wanting to be all good news, we are still fighting a battle but we are winning. 
 

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On 10/10/2020 at 10:13 PM, yonza bam said:

Good Guardian article here https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/10/covid-cases-and-deaths-today-coronavirus-uk-map showing the number of daily UK cases, hospitalised cases, daily tests and daily deaths today, compared with the spring peak.

Summary: There were 14,000 new daily cases in spring, compared to 5,000 today. However, only the more severe cases got tested in the spring. There were 14,423 tests done on 8th April, with 5,865 positive (41%), compared to 290,000 on the 9th of October, with 14,000 positive (4.8%). So, we're now doing 20 times the amount of testing, and a much greater percentage of the positives today are mild cases.

A better metric for comparing today with the spring peak is hospitalisations. There were 18,000 people hospitalised with the virus at the spring peak, compared to 3,660 today, an 80% reduction. The figure continues to climb as we approach the winter, and the colder north of the country is worse affected than the warmer south. That's ominous.

Daily deaths at the spring peak were 900, compared to 90 today, which probably reflects better treatment, including dexamethasone, which wasn't prescribed early on. Doctors are also being much more circumspect in their use of ventilators, which may have done more harm than good in many cases. In addition, deaths are a 'lagging indicator', since death from Covid typically follows around two weeks after hospitalisation.

That lagging factor is very important, Yonza.  I wonder if steps people taking at individual level to build immunity e.g. Vitamin D, have any impact?
 

18 hours ago, samscafeamericain said:

As a wee counter to the media's doom laden headlines.

Trends are confirming that the second peak will be around 80%-90%  less than first peak in terms of lethality.
Five year all cause mortality is in the normal range of the 5 year average for last 5 months.
Econonomy is at 92% and climbing.
Schools and universities are back at least to some form of decent standard.
Vaccine roll out is continuing with a good expectation of  being a real game changer.
Antibody therapy is showing good signs of reducing the lethality / long term damage of Covid further.
No one is wanting to be all good news, we are still fighting a battle but we are winning. 
 

Good to hear some positive thoughts. Thanks samc and yonza.  See Oxford University have developed new five minute test. Expected to roll out in middle of next year. 

 

Very good suggestion from Dr Philippa Whitford that measures to support the hospitality sector should include funding to improve ventilation systems in restaurants and pubs.  Reminded me to throw open the door to the verandah. Trying to make indoors outdoors. 

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I've been looking at the graphs for UK cases and deaths for the UK on the Worldometers site https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/uk/

March 23 was when the PM imposed the lockdown, having closed pubs, restaurants and gyms three days earlier. On March 24, daily new UK COVID-19 deaths were 143. Just two weeks later, on April 7, daily deaths reached 1,037, bringing the NHS to the brink of collapse.

A large majority  of those deaths would have been infected with the virus prior to the lockdown. Two weeks after that, daily deaths peaked at 1,166, suggesting that the lockdown measures were working, although it's impossible to say how much was due to the lockdown, and how much to warming weather and increasing UV keeping the virus in check.

The worrying thing is just how quickly, in the space of two weeks, daily deaths escalated from a manageable 143 to over 1,000. During the current second wave, daily deaths have increased from 78 on October 9, to 137 on October 16. That's a 75.6% increase in a week. That rate of increase would bring us to 1,303 daily deaths in just FOUR weeks (Nov 14), and it's still just autumn.

The PM has said he'll do anything to avoid another national lockdown, but it's clearly going to be unavoidable, unless we go down the road of 'shielding' those at the highest risk of needing hospitalisation if they become infected. That includes the elderly, those with 'metabolic syndrome chronic diseases, and the obese. The younger, less vulnerable population, would carry on working, with social distancing and mask wearing, limiting the damaging effects on the economy. However, this seems to be a deeply unpopular solution, so another, even longer national lockdown by December seems inevitable.

 

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New UK deaths today, 241. Last Tuesday, 143. That's a 68.5% increase in a week. On this trajectory, we'd be at 1,153 daily deaths in just three weeks. That's the peak that was reached during the spring. The local lockdown measures that have recently been implemented might have a moderating effect on the rate of increase, but it'll likely be small. Deaths are a 'lagging indicator', typically occurring 14 days after hospitalisation, so even if a national lockdown was imposed next Tuesday, we'd still see death rates rise at the same rate for two weeks. It's 'baked in'.

The total number of COVID-19 patients currently in hospital in the UK is 6,899, which is 506 more than yesterday. That's equivalent to a weekly increase of 80%.

The graphs on this official UK website give a clear picture of the trends. Worth bookmarking.

https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/healthcare

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I got a letter this morning (27th) informing me I was booked in for a flu jab in East Kilbride on the 19th of October. There's been a COVID-19 outbreak at the Larkhall sorting office, so letters haven't been getting delivered. Frankly, knowing that, I'm very wary of picking up any delivered letters, now.

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I spray the post with Dettol Spray. 

 

On 10/20/2020 at 12:21 AM, samscafeamericain said:

the current restrictions appear to be having an effect, the rolling average days to a doubling of infected numbers has gone from 8 days three weeks ago to 35 days yesterday.  R number must be getting close to 1.

 

r number scotland. .jpeg

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  • 2 weeks later...

I decided to do a survey of the average number of daily Covid-19 deaths in selected European countries, plus the US, over the past 7 days. I used the worldometers site, and had to do the calculations myself, from the figures there. The first column is the average number of daily deaths, and the second column is the ratio, adjusted for the population of each country, giving the UK a figure of 1 for comparison. For example, France has a figure of 1.53, indicating that average daily death rates from Covid-19 over the past week have been 53% higher than the UK.

The calculations aren't straightforward. Countries may employ quite different counting criteria. In the UK, if someone dies within 28 days of a diagnosis of Covid-19, that is recorded as the cause of death. It may not be the same in other countries. Covid-19 causes pneumonia, so some countries may record the death as being due to pneumonia, while others would record it as Covid. It also causes cardiovascular disease, so some countries may record such a  death of an infected person as cardiovascular disease, while others would record it as Covid. 

So, there's some scope for disparity in the figures, some of which may be politically driven. Sweden decided to follow a different path from other countries early on, and didn't 'lock down'. This drew criticism, and I'm sceptical of their figures, which may be 'massaged' to make it look as if they did the right thing. I'm also sceptical of the figures from Germany, which borders the country with the highest numbers, Czechia.

 

UK daily deaths 332 (1.0)

Czechia 204 (3.9)

Belgium 183 (3.23)

France 487 (1.53)

Spain 253 (1.12)

Italy 367 (1.11)

Netherlands 81 (0.97)

USA 978 (0.60)

Germany 126 (0.31)

Sweden 10 (0.13)

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We have a vaccine!

From a double blind trial conducted in a joint venture by Pfizer and BioNTech, which involved 43,538 participants, half of whom received a placebo, over 90% of the 94 people who became infected with the virus had received the placebo. 'Double blind' means that neither the participants nor the doctors who administered the vaccine and placebo knew who had received which.

This means that the companies can claim a greater than 90% effectiveness for the vaccine, which is far better than the flu vaccine. But it gets better, since its highly likely that a far smaller percentage of those unlucky enough to catch the virus after vaccination will go on to develop severe Covid-19, so the reduction in deaths should be much higher than 90%. It's expected that about 50 million doses might be produced this year, with 1.3 billion in 2021.

Caveats include that it requires two shots, a week apart, and that it has to be stored at -80 C, although it can probably be stored at normal fridge temperature for up to 5 days after being thawed. The cold storage problem shouldn't be too much of a problem in developed countries, as it's about the temperature of 'dry ice', but could be a serious obstacle in developing countries. The UK has pre ordered 50 million doses = 25 million vaccinated, but no idea when they'll actually be  delivered.

There are many other vaccines in development, and AstraZeneca are just a few weeks behind Pfizer. They had to suspend production due to what might have been a serious adverse reaction in one of the participants, but is now believed to have been unrelated.

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