Commentary

Doc Hines - Covid News & Views - 17th September 2021

I was hoping to include the changes Grant Shapps is expected to make today about international travel. So far there is no detail of when it will happen. I hope I can include this on the end of my report tonight. There are demands for the traffic light system to be simplified. Virtually every adult in the UK understands our traffic lights, they could not be much simpler, so why try to change for the sake of change ? Red means stop, do not go. Green means you are free to Go. Amber means that the situation could change for the better or worse so be careful.

If the millions of Great British public who drive can manage this I would expect our MPs to understand as well. To do away with Amber does away with the warning things may change for better or worse leaving some unexpectedly stranded.


The last two days have seen just over 1.5 million tests being done and reported each day. It would now seem a significant number are done by individuals who then discard them without a result being recorded. This means the numbers are becoming rather inaccurate.

The number testing positive fluctuates quite a lot from day to day, almost 27 thousand yesterday and 32 thousand today. Looked at over the last seven days the number positive has dropped by 61k or 23%. The rate is now still dropping at 337 per 100k of the population. A week or so ago it was over 400. If positive tests are being thrown away as well, and this is widely suspected, it means these statistics are not even worth being recorded. The NHS has difficulty proving full figures every day and has not done so at weekends for a long time. Counting the number admitted should be accurate, 909 admitted on one day on 13th September and 836 the day before. The total number in hospital beds has dropped by over 250, 8,339 on 15th September and 8,068 yesterday. Similarly, the number on a ventilator has also dropped from 1,081 to 1,020. As the number of cases have dropped, I expect the hospital data to fall 10 days later and finally deaths drop 10 days later. At the moment, there is no sign in the drop in the number of deaths. 178 were reported yesterday and 158 yesterday. We cannot use weekend figures to assess trends so must wait till the middle of next week or look at 7 day figures. There were 48 more deaths in the last week compared to the previous week and the death rate is steady at 1.4 per 100k of the population. Vaccine counts should be accurate, but I am not sure how much is wasted every day and whether the wastage is before or after being counted. Wastage occurs through spillage, syringe filling errors or needle falling off. Officially we have now done 48.52 million first doses or 89.3% and 44.29 million second doses or 81.5%. The aim for the winter months is to move the Covid crisis from the pandemic it is now to endemic status by next year. A tall order but possible. Our weapons are vaccines boosters, sensible personal precautions, immunising children and increasing ventilation. A new study from Maryland University school of Public Health shows that masks properly worn reduce the aerosol of virus getting passed it by 50%. It therefore significantly prevents spread of the virus but certainly does not stop it. You will find this paper in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases. It was also shown that the Delta variant is much more transmissible because of its ability to travel through the air. This also accounts for the higher percentage of admissions due to the Delta virus compared to the Alpha variant. Grant Shapps waited for all his colleagues to go home for the weekend, possibly to avoid any arguments. He announced that the following changes apply to England only and will be effective from the 4th October until the new year. So it includes both half term and the Christmas holidays. From 4th October the traffic light system is scrapped and replaced with one red list only. Any country not on the Red list will be considered green and clear for travel. There are no Amber lists. There will be no need for pre-departure tests for travelling into England from the end of October. Fully vaccinated passengers from non-Red countries will be able to replace the current day 2 PCR tests with cheaper lateral flow tests. The unvaccinated travellers will still have to pay for PCR tests. Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and then take a free PCR test to confirm. This test will also be genomically sequenced to help detect any new variants. From 22nd September Eight countries will no longer be Red, they will be categorised Green. The countries are Turkey, Pakistan. Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya. With the traffic lights, people invented subcategories which complicated everything. For example we had a green watch system. I am sure similar things will happen again with this system. The statement itself refers to non-Red countries when they mean Green.

I also have concerns that this refers to England only. I understand that the devolved counties of the UK wish to flex their muscles and make minor changes. This does not help simplify things in any way, it just adds complications. To be really simple it should be a global plan but you can be sure the EU will not wish to follow a UK plan. If you are leaving the UK you will have to understand the arrangements in every country you plan to visit. Finally it is reported this plan will last to the new year. This could mean my friend trapped in Turkey may get home for Christmas, but it is equally possible if there is a new resistant variant or other changes to the situation the rules would have to change.