February 17 2021

Another quiet day on the Covid news front so I will start with the continuing progress of the statistics in all the right directions.

The total number of tests done yesterday was 488,578. This number has been lower than the last few weeks and is 13% less than a week ago. It may be that we are doing less because most of the population have been tested at least once and therefore not as many are required. We have capacity to do more so this is good progress. 3.8 million tests have been done in the last week.

The key number is the number testing positive and in the latest data was only 12,718 which is a 24% reduction in the last 7 days. The positive rate has also fallen to 136.5/100k of the population. Scientific opinion is that the number daily positive figure needs to drop below 1,000/day before there can be significant reductions in the rules and restrictions about mixing.

There is usually a delay of about two weeks before those testing positive with severe disease need to go into hospital. The latest figure is 1,415 admitted on 13th February. This figure is steadily dropping but needs to be a lot lower before we can claim to have won the latest battle. Just over 20,000 patients remain in hospital. This figure is also dropping but only rather slowly. The NHS is still under enormous pressure and very little of the urgent non Covid work is being done. The waiting lists are huge again.

The number of daily deaths is also falling steadily but remain very high. The last 24 hours showed a further 738. A drop of 26% in the last 7 days. There are still over 4,000 deaths in the last week, there is absolutely no time for complacency. If we have this figure continuing for another 6 weeks, we could have 24,000 more deaths. This is why it is absolutely vital we all work extremely hard to stop this virus spreading through Lent by staying apart. Staying at home for the next few weeks is vital as is the role out of the vaccine. I am glad the government has now sent letters to a further group of people they consider extremely vulnerable and have asked them to shield till the end of March. This includes those with severe learning disabilities. It is important to prevent the disease in them as many do not understand what is going on. Hugging and touching is very much part of the reassurance that such patients need and they cannot accept it is suddenly unacceptable to do this. Others have been added to this shielding group on the basis of a complex algorithm used on GP records to more accurately determine those most at risk. It is a more sophisticated tool but still depends on the data being recorded in the notes in the first place. For example, it appears many GP records have little or no mention of learning disability assessments.

Dr Clive Hix, who is now the head of the UK Vaccine Squad has said it would take only a maximum of 60 days to get new jabs ready to go to deal with new variants. They are already being redesigned as the south African variant is becoming more widespread and we know that the present vaccine is not as effective at preventing the new strain as we would like. The ground work is already done as well as clinical trials for the second round of vaccines in the autumn. PHE report they now have 217 confirmed cases of the South African variant of the virus confirmed in England.

An interesting hybrid version of the Californian variant and the British Kent variant have been found together in a single case in the USA. The two different versions of the virus have been found in the host cell. This is a rare but well-known possibility. It is unlikely to be much more than a curiosity.

Many MPs are said to be furious over the Prime Minister’s plan for only a very slow and progressive route out of lockdown, demanding it is speeded up. He needs our support to resist this idea. He has hinted he wants to see the number of new positive cases to be lower than 1,000 in 24 hours. There is a great deal of speculation but little in the way of facts. We will know the plan next week and so must wait a bit longer.

We may have to wait, but there is still a lot we can do to bring this all to an end. Firstly, it’s to get our immunisations as we are called for, reassuring those still worried or unsure and being kind and helpful to assist getting them done. We can all help to prevent spread. This virus needs to travel around on a human. If we do not travel, it cannot travel, so stay at home whenever possible. Remember Hands Face and Space if you have to go out.

If you need medical attention please ask for it; the NHS is still open for business and wants to help you. Keep in touch with family, friends and neighbours.

For the time being its more of the same, say alert, stay apart and above all stay safe.

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