Commentary

Doc Hines - Covid News & Views - 27th August 2021

I have been very delayed starting tonight’s report but have finally been able to start it. Just as the news from Afghanistan is terrible, I feel that the trends we are seeing across the UK are also quite worrying. Figures show an increasing number of cases in all four countries with Scotland having the highest number of new cases daily since the pandemic struck early last year.

For the last two days, we have been back to over 900,000 tests done each day. This has meant over 38,000 new cases each day. This is about a 10% rise from last week. The positive case rate is back up to 350 per 100k again.

We are regularly seeing over 100 deaths a day, there were 140 yesterday and 100 today. That is 68 more this week than last week and again is a 10% rise. The death rate has climbed to 1.0 per 100,000 for the first time in some time.

The number of hospital admissions also continues to rise but at a slower rate than the new cases. 848 patients were admitted on one day, the 23rd of August. The total number in hospital beds has risen to 6,942 on 26th August compared with 6,906 on 25th August. The numbers being ventilated also continues to rise slowly putting an increased strain on ITUs. There were 982 people being ventilated on the 26th of August and this is likely to rise above 1,000 next week.

Immunisations continue to very slowly bring up our immunity status, 47.91 million first doses or 88.2% and 42.37-second doses or 78%. That still leaves 22 million with no protection and this is the reason our figures are rising. We know that the vast majority of new cases are in people not fully immunised. The dramatic rise in the number of new daily cases in Scotland has been attributed to the return to school last week. Few children are immunised and most of the new cases are in the under 23s. With English schools returning next week it will be interesting if the same increase occurs here in England. This will reopen the debate about whether children over 12 should be immunised as a routine. I think it may shift the evidence in favour of doing so. Although the risk of serious illness or death is very rare it balances with the risk of very rare side effects. It was thought that to immunise children for the benefit of adults might not be ethically justified. If the number of children being affected rises dramatically there will be a good case to reassess the risk/benefits. The Scottish figures showed 3,613 new cases last Monday which was up 1,542 from the previous week. Today in Scotland there were 4,925 new cases. Nicola Sturgeon has hinted that she will not hesitate to bring back lockdown conditions to control it. Scotland still has mandatory masks in place.

We also know that for many of those who had the earliest vaccines, that’s the elderly and the vulnerable, that the immunity is beginning to wane. This group needs boosters as soon as possible. As we approach autumn the temperatures are likely to drop. The virus thrives best in colder conditions. Influenza and all its problems will be back soon.

In England, it's festival time and over the weekend 10 of thousands of young people will congregate in large campsites without using masks and forgetting social distancing because they no longer need them. I go shopping once a week. Last week nearly everyone was wearing a mask in the supermarket. This week it's only about 50% wearing them. That’s in spite of signs and public address systems urging people to use them and respect social distances.

I feel somewhat that the situation is going to deteriorate and that despite political opposition all around we will need to go back to some mandated control. I anticipate that we will have the age lowered to 12 years, and possibly vulnerable children over 2 may be offered immunisations. It’s the highly mobile and those thought invincible we need to catch and jab. We may need to incentive youngsters somehow.

There have been some changes to the travel arrangements. Thailand and Montenegro have both been made Red. Turkey also stays Red. The Azores, Switzerland, Demark, and Canada are now Green. France and Spain remain Amber. The is a Paralympic athlete in hospital with covid in Japan. A member of the GB coaching staff has also tested positive. Only 43% of the Japanese are fully immunised. But they have been doing 1 million jabs a day. The use of the Moderna vaccine has been suspended following the discovery of a contaminated batch. The rest have now to be tested. My advice now is to voluntarily take all the precautions you are used to doing for the foreseeable future. Discourage attendance at large gatherings, prepare to have boosters if you are very vulnerable and be prepared to immunise your teenagers. You have been safe so far, you know the measures worked when we had less protection and they will still work if we use our common sense. Please stay safe. Again apologies for keeping you waiting with this rather sad report.

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