February 21 2021

Following on from yesterday’s discussion about other epidemics around at the moment. I thought I should mention 2 others. The Nipah virus has been shown to be carried by bats. and normally only affects bats, it has however spread to humans in Kerala India , It is though to spread to humans through food. It can have a 70% mortality. It was first detected in 2018 and there were 17 deaths. There is much still to learn about this virus and its behaviour both in bats and its possible spread to humans. There is also the Llovia virus which is closely related to Ebola and Marburg diseases. This virus has been recently detected in a bat cave in Spain. I mention these simply to make you aware of their existence and of the ongoing research into how to manage any outbreaks. It is highly unlikely to cause a pandemic like Covid, excellent stringent steps are in place to monitor and contain it.

A study from India reported in the Telegraph, but not yet peer reviewed, showed that those who wore glasses were three times less likely to catch Covid than those who did not wear glasses. It is well established that touching face, nose, mouth and eyes after contact with a virus leads to an infection. Those who wear glasses rub their eyes much less often and therefore are less likely to be infected.

It was a small study of 304 patients in a hospital in Northern India between August and September last year, all the patients had been admitted with Covid symptoms. Their ages ranged from 10 to 80 years old. They were required to complete a questionnaire about their vision and their habit of wearing glasses. 19% of the subjects wore glasses most of the time. Normal behaviour suggested an individual touches their face 23 times an hour and their eyes at least 3 times an hour. The research in these patients showed the risk of catching Covid was 2-3 times less in the spectacle wearing group. Those who wore them more than 8 hours a day were the least likely to become infected.

Prof. John Edmunds from the London School Of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene said “ I would guess we are more likely to get a more severe seasonal flu epidemic next winter, assuming all the Covid restrictions are relaxed.” He asserts that the Covid restrictions have prevented any chance of a significant outbreak this winter, but come next winter there will be much less immunity and therefore a higher risk of infections. He considered it possible it could even cause an early out of season epidemic. I do hope you will maintain your annual seasonal flu vaccination, you may well be pleased you did next year.

Israel has begun to ease restrictions having reached 50% of the population with a first immunisation. Shops, libraries and museums have reopened from today. Masks and social distancing are still required and will be enforced.

Boris Johnson says every adult will now be offered their first dose of vaccine before the end of July. A whole month earlier than first planned. This of course presupposes that the supply of vaccine is maintained at its present rate.

A Dr Muhamed Siala who works at the Hedi Vhaka Hospital in the Eastern City of Stax in Tunisia has found a novel way to boost the morale of his Covid patients. He plays his violin to them, serenading them around the wards. It brings smiles and pleasure to both patients and staff. He plays wearing full PPE including surgical gloves. Tunisia , country of 12 million inhabitants is seeing about 725 new cases per day at present and numbers are dropping. There are about 1,264 in a hospital bed. There is no vaccine in the country yet.

Matt Hancock now believes that the number of Covid variants in the UK appears to be falling, thanks to enhanced contact tracing and strict border control. It is much easier to achieve this with the numbers lower to start with, there can be heightened vigilance and more attention to every case.

A single case of the South African variant has been found near Brentwood Essex. This has led to intensive local activity with surge testing and contract tracing.

There are continuing calls for children to be immunised before they return to school or if not as quickly as possible. As much as this is desirable it cannot be possible without authorisation for use in children. There are trials and studies running which are all suggesting it is safe to immunise children but until all the evidence is passed to the regulator and approved children cannot be vaccinated.

Remembering today is a Sunday the statistics, especially deaths are under-estimated . Tuesday will give a more accurate picture but I remain confident we are moving fully in the right direction.

560,400 Covid tests were done on the 18th February (last time counted) Some 9,834 tested positive, a drop of 16.2% in the last week, the positive rate now 124/100kThere are no new hospital figures. Deaths amounted to 215 which is a 27% drop in the last 7 days and is a death rate now of only 5/100k.

First vaccinations are over 17.5 million and second doses over 615,000.

Tomorrow will bring the exit strategy, I may be running late tomorrow as the PM.s briefing often goes on for an hour or more and there will be a lot of contentious issues to discuss. What is not contentious is that we must keep going , staying at home and staying apart and above all keep safe.

Thank you all for the concern and prayers for my great niece. I am pleased to say she is progressing well and has been allowed home to rest with ongoing monitoring for 4 weeks.

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