For a while now there has been a calm stable situation in most of the world and Covid was no longer the headline news it has been for much of the last 2 years. This all changed on Wednesday when a new Covid variant was found in a few cases in Botswana and South Africa. Since then, the situation has been changing several times a day. This is what I have most feared happening and have given regular warnings of the possibility, this could change the whole situation.I will do my best to give you an up to day situation report.
The first announcement said three cases had been found in Bostwana first and then six cases emerged in South Africa. A further case turned up in Hong Kong in a passenger who had flown from South Africa. We were very fortunate that South Africa is on the Ball with its genomic testing and shared the information fully and immediately across the world.
The virologists report this is a very unusual variant of the virus. Its official number is B 1. 1529. It has between 26 and 32 possible mutations in the spike protein. It is thought it might have first developed in an immune-compromised patient perhaps an untreated HIV-Aids patient. Virologists thought it MIGHT present a threat because it was possible it MAY have a greater potential to spread rapidly and that its transmissibility COULD be higher than the delta variant. Most worrying was the possibility that existing vaccine wound not be effective.
Contrary to several reports it has not been officially named Nu following the Greek alphabet like the earlier variants. This letter may well be missed as giving it that name could lead to confusion. We await the decision.
By yesterday morning there were 22 patients with it in South Africa. And today it is believed to be over 50. It is now classified as a variant of significant concern. For once the UK and others acted very quickly. The arrangements for a red list for travel have been brought back into action. From this weekend The Red list has 5 countries on it. South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia. British and Irish citizens will only be allowed into the UK if they undertake 10 days quarantine in a Government hotel at their own expense and do the necessary tests.
At the moment no cases have been detected in either the UK or the USA and every effort is being made to keep it that way. Tonight, a case has been found in Belgium which means it has reached Europe. By moving early and hard we have the best chance of keeping it out of the UK. Getting immunised is still your best protection.
I think travel to Southern Africa should only be done for the most compelling reasons and recognising the need for quarantine on return.
You will notice I have used only conditional words like could, might and may. It is likely to take the worlds’ scientists working flat out at least 2 weeks to establish just how much worse if at all this is compared to the delta virus. Whilst we wait, we need to ramp up all precautions both personally and as a nation to get as much protection as possible.
There does not seem to be much information yet about how ill these people in South Africa are and what their vaccine status was before catching the virus.
I suspect that if a case is found in the UK, the Government may well act quickly. If there are significant developments, I will produce an extra report over the weekend. I recommend you all look at your Christmas and other plans and consider the possibility they will be disrupted.
Today’s data comes from the last two days where the number of tests being done are around 1.05 million. Sadly though, we are back over 50,000 new positive cases today, a 10% increase in a week. The positive case rate is now 437.1 per 100k.
Deaths recorded were 147 yesterday and 160 today. This figure is at present dropping each week and the death rate remains at 1.3 per 100k of cases.
Hospital data continues to improve. all be it, very slowly. There were 730 admitted on the single day the 22 November, there were a total of 7,633 in hospital with Covid yesterday and 925 of those were on a ventilator. The figures for first and second jabs hardly change but we are now approaching 30% of the population having had a booster jab. A total of 16.79 million have been given.
If the emergence of this new variant has impacted on you or your family please share your thoughts and experiences. I stress there is no need to panic at present. I am assured that in a worst case scenario a modified new vaccine could now be produced in bulk very quickly. Please stay safe using all the methods we know, be alert and stay away from potential risks where possible.