March 5 2021

Scientists have identified 16 cases of a new coronavirus variant in the UK. All those who have tested positive and their contacts have been traced and told to isolate by PHE. Variants of Covid 19 are divided initially into two groups, either labelled “under investigation” or a “variant of concern”. This new variant which is thought to have originated in the UK was labelled a variant of concern on the 24th February.

Remember new variants will continue to emerge regularly and experts are conducting frequent analysis to see which are of concern and which are not.

Cases of another new variant, referred to as VUI-202102/04 were first identified on 15th February. This variant contains a mutation called 3484K which is found in two other variants under investigation already present in the UK. It does not feature the mutation N501Y that has been present in All the other variants of concern.

This means our Scientists are now tackling four variants under investigation and four variants of concern in the UK including those detected in South Africa, Brazil, Kent and Bristol.

Additional testing is being made available for targeted areas where these variants have been found. This includes South Gloucestershire after cases of the Manaus variant discovered here. This has been designated the P1 variant first found in Manaus Brazil and in Japan in travellers from Brazil.

The P1 variant does seem to be more transmissible that the earlier form of the virus and has been responsible for the second wave of infections in Brazil. Six cases have now been found in the UK. The PHE announced today that they had traced the missing patient who was found to have this variant but had not completed his patient identification data to accompany the test. He lives in the Croydon area. He had been socially isolating at home after his return from Brazil. There does not seem to have been any further spread from him but extensive tests are being done.

Finding this man seems to have been a classical bit of detective work, and if nothing else, is a reminder of the need to remember the jobs not done, until the paperwork is done.

Germany have joined France in fully approving the OAZ vaccine for all age groups in adults.

A new study from Canada has brought attention to blood groups and their role in Covid 19 infections. This was noted right at the beginning of the pandemic but nothing much came of it. In Canada those in blood group A were more likely to catch serious infections. Only 95 patients in the study, but 84% of people with severe Covid 19 needed ventilation, whereas only 61% of groups O or B required ventilation. The ratio of different blood groups varies considerably in various parts of the world. Here in the UK I would expect about 30% to be blood group A. However I think 95 cases too small a sample to have any confidence in the results.

The 1% pay rise offered to nurses has caused considerable anger., Most of the rest of public sector workers face a pay freeze this year, the Royal College of Nursing has started a strike fund such is the anger. There is no doubt that several times both Matt Hancock and the Prime Minister have intimated they could look forward to a substantial pay rise. The RCN have suggested it should be about 12.5%. Remembering the PM had his life saved by the NHS last year it does seem rather low. I recognise it is a very difficult and a complex issue. Nurses are a formidable group to fall out with, but with so many having lost jobs altogether and others like the police having a vital job to do with no prospects of a pay rise at all, the NHS must stay reasonable. There is to be a big investment in mental health funds for children to coincide with school children returning to school on Monday.

The President in Brazil has been nicknamed the Grave Digger. He is presiding over a country just not coping with the pandemic. With 2,000 plus deaths per day he has just told people not to winge. Little vaccine is available yet.

Monday is March 8th and the day we begin the series of phased relaxations in the rules.

These are the main changes;

1. All schools reopen fully. There is mandatory attendance again with potential fines for refusing to allow children to attend as there are in non-pandemic times.

2. Secondary School children to wear masks when at school including the class room.

3. Child care and children’s supervising activities can restart.

4. Twice weekly rapid flow testing for all pupils and college students as well as all teachers.

5. Practical class teaching at English universities can return.

6. You are allowed to meet one other person from another household for exercise or recreation outdoors in a public place like a park. You could share a picnic or a coffee with that person but must maintain social distancing and masks when not eating or drinking,

7. Care home residents can appoint one person as a visitor. They need to wear PPE, there can be no physical contact and must have a test before every contact. The visitor should have had one dose of vaccine. The residents can only have one named visitor.

Matt Hancock led the briefing tonight which largely concentrated on the good progress in reducing the numbers, but the questions were largely about how he could justify the issue of nurses pay. Predictably he failed to defend that position other than to say that’s all they can afford. He justified his understanding of Nurses by claiming his favourite grandmother was a nurse at the Pilgrim Hospital Boston. That’s my local hospital and its struggled with special measures over recent years.

Again no data tonight due to a problem. I only know that 242 further deaths have occurred in the last 24 hours.

Remember nothing changes till Monday and then very little changes, you must still stay apart and where possible stay at home. That way you will stay safe .

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