February 24 2021

Statistics first tonight and they continue to bring the good news of a slow but progressive move forwards, and being able to join Boris’ pathway for the exit from the pandemic on the 8th March.

The R number remains between 0.6 and 0.9 in all areas confirming numbers should be dropping.

We now have the capacity to do 780,320 PCR tests per day. In the last 24 hours a further 594,629 were done. This still leaves plenty of daily capacity to test school children as the return to school next week. Only 9,938 proved positive yesterday. Its pleasing to see this number now below10,000 regularly. It represents a 14.7 % drop and the positive rate is now only 116,6 per 100k of the population.

Deaths amounted to 442 yesterday. The rate continues to fall and is now only 4.4 per 100k of the population and is a 31% drop in the last 7 days.

1,327 patients were admitted on 18 February to make a total of 16,803 in hospital beds. At the moment it is this figure that needs to be tackled urgently to go forward on the path to recovery; this must continue to fall.

There has been some discussion about the numbers being vaccinated having dropped in the last few days. This is the temporary blip that we were warned about with supplies. There was a lot of upgrading to be done by Pfizer at their plant in Holland and the scheduled break in supplies has happened. All the work is now complete. 326,000 doses were given today and the figure will climb again to over 500.000 which is where it is required to be to maintain the roll out as planned.

Additionally, some 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected next month. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine has officially received FDA approval for emergency use in the USA today, adding further to our stocks.

Gavin Williamson is scheduled to announce that an additional £400 million on top of the £300 million announced in January to support the Education Recovery plan for additional teaching in the summer.

Another important development today has been that all adults with learning difficulties whose names are on the GP learning disabilities register are to invited as part of group 6 to have a Covid vaccination. This is everyone now, not just those with profound and serious disabilities.

I have some insider knowledge on these disability registers. They were established just before I retired and proved very difficult to complete or maintain. If you or someone you care for does not get invited for a jab first check the GP has them on a register. I believe that many who lived at home with elderly parents just quietly got on with life and were not recorded, or they reached adult hood and were not added to the register. Additionally, many long-term residential homes have unregistered patients. As a group they often do not understand or cope with social distancing so it is important to get them protected.

An important review article in this weeks BMJ debates the issue as to whether or not, in the light of new more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2what kinds of masks should the public be wearing. Early in the pandemic members of the public were asked to avoid using medical grade masks because they were needed for health care workers. At this point the public were advised to wear cloth masks and even to make them out of household items such as T shirts. Although many still wear these masks the world-wide supply of medical grade face masks have expanded it has been argued that the public should now wear more protective masks such as surgical masks. The argument has been strengthened by the emergence of more transmissible variants. Some countries have responded by tightening the guidance on the types of masks allowed.

In France , homemade masks, and some shop brought have now been banned after the President of the government’s scientific committee said the new variants had ‘completely changed the game’.

France now only approves 3 types of mask, firstly the surgical mask which will filter 95% of 3um particles. Secondly, the FFP2 mask which filter 94% of 0.6um particles and fabric masks made to category one standard those that filter 90% of particles.

Austria has gone a step further making FFP 2 masks mandatory in indoor public spaces and sending 5 free packs to all residents over 65 and to low income families.

Germany has made medical masks mandatory in supermarkets and on public transport. There are voices in the UK calling for a similar requirement on the Capital’s public transport. Jeremy Hunt has been calling for FP2 respirator masks to be worn on public transport.

Dr Anthony Fauci in the USA has suggested double masking would make them more effective. Research from the CDC supports this view but the WHO suggested they would not recommend double masking and maintains its current advice.

There is a lot more to be considered in this complex question. At the beginning of the pandemic, I observed some appalling behaviour with people wearing masks. Nobody seemed to wear them properly, with the nose not covered, taking them on and off and stuffing them into a pocket till next required. Instead of regularly replacing them, many wore the same mask for a week or more. Most people were constantly adjusting them with their hands. I feared they were doing more harm than good for general public use. They had been introduced for the 1918 pandemic but the recommendation for public use was removed as it was felt they were not effective. Only medical professionals were the ones to use them correctly. I accept totally the psychological prompt that masks give to us to remind us of social distancing but just how much protection is being achieved. Are we clear why we are wearing them to protect the wearer or to protect others that come nearer than 2 metres to the one wearing a mask. Is it a bit of both? I will be interested in your comments. I am going to try and find hard evidence and will continue this review tomorrow. Meanwhile wear your mask whichever type you have, wear it as correctly as possible, change them regularly.

Remember we want you to stay at home still. You do not need a mask then, but go out in the best you can find if leaving home is essential. Please clear them up, put them in a bin I heard this week of a poor dog who had intestinal obstruction which at operation was found to be due to an ingested face mask. He is doing well post op.

Stay safe everyone.

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