Coronavirus - 2020 Vision. The road to Freedom Day Part 3

The complete diary and events of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PART 3.

 

This day-by-day factual and complete account of events throughout the coronavirus pandemic, written as it happened, gives incredible insight into what life was like during this tragic and historic pandemic in the United Kingdom and worldwide.

It includes facts and figures, government initiatives, news events, moving individual accounts, and the horrific consequences, as they happened each day.

There is also a daily, personal slant on what life was like for the author and his family during what threatened to be an apocalyptic event.

Not including the preamble, the diary covers 491 days, beginning in earnest on 16th March 2020 until ‘Freedom Day’ on 19th July 2021. It has been something of a commitment for the author, resulting in around 1,700 pages; well over half a million words; determined to get the best, and most interesting stories for you to read and to keep as a record of the times for generations to come.

It reveals all humanity in its idiocy, compassion and brilliance; the key elements, significant dates, statistics, human stories, tragedies, government strategies, the twists and turns, the humour and the obtuse.

The coronavirus will define this generation and identify these times, like other rare global historical events such as the bubonic plague and the World Wars.

This book is something to show your children and grandchildren when they ask you what it was like during such a frightening time. It can also be used as a point of reference for historians, commentators, and educators. It is also merely for posterity.

Were you alive? Do you recall it? Do you remember our Prime Minister almost died with Covid-19? Remember, murderers in jail being vaccinated weeks before the prison officers? The Queen saying ‘we’ll meet again’ during lockdown? Surely you recollect the EU conducting ‘an act of hostility’ towards the UK to get their hands on our vaccines? The thirty police officers fined for having a haircut, or the first man in the world to be vaccinated being called William Shakespeare from Stratford Upon Avon!

The whole world was plunged into chaos, with death, suffering and economic disaster. How did we cope? How did all of this happen? According to Keith’s wife, Jackie, it was ‘all because a man ate a bat!’

 

Keith Wright previously worked leading Corporate Investigations for a global pharmacy retailer. He has worked on major Crisis Management Incidents alongside senior executives impacting across the world of pharmaceutical product management.

Critically acclaimed crime novelist, and former CID detective, Wright moves from fiction to a factual account of arguably the most historic natural event to blight humanity in modern times.

He has four children and lives in Nottingham, England, with his wife, Jackie.

 

 

All rights reserved ©KeithWright2021

Copyright©KeithWright2021

 

If you are affected by any issues raised in the book contact:

The Samaritans or check local charities.

 

All information believed correct at the time of writing.

 

Diary entries gathered from an array of publicly available visual, audio and written sources and merged

to give a holistic and creative editorial view.

 

Glossary and source lists are available at the end of the book.

 

 

 

PART 3.

As we start Part 3 of this Tome, we enter perhaps the beginning of the end. The light at the end of the tunnel is visible but the more we approach it the further away it seems to get.

As I write this, I have no clue when we will be fully out of this mire. We have felt the warming sun of apparent freedom before, only for the chilly winds of winter death to cause a shiver down the spine.

Things are bad and I have a feeling there is more pain to come. We are all tired of this. We all want it to end.

The truth is it won’t for a couple of years, in some parts of the globe, at least. It may be a different story for us in the west. If we can get everyone vaccinated, there is hope.

What we do not need is a mutation.

There are whispers at least of the first chink of change, that school children may be able to go back to school next month.

Please let this be it. The start of normality and a better existence than we have endured.

Freedom is always hard won. But win we must. We have to plough on regardless, even if the weight bearing down on us feels like the chains of Jacob Marley in Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.’

I hope the ghost of Christmas future has a cheerier tale to impart.

 

WEDNESDAY 3RD FEBRUARY 2021

Facts and figures.

20,634 new cases.

915 deaths.

31,670 people in hospital with COVID-19. (down 1,229).

The ONS has estimated that 15.3% of England’s population had the coronavirus by mid-January. This is 6.9 million people, 1 in seven people.

‘Alarmingly high.’

Some facts and figures from the Prime Minster in the Press Briefing:

He said that vaccinations had now passed the 10 million mark.

The rate of new cases is ‘alarmingly high’, and 32,000 people are still in hospital with COVID-19.

Professor Whitty said that 83% of all people who have died of COVID-19 are over 70 years old.

He said cases would stay high ‘for quite some time.’ He expects that in the next two to three weeks, we will see a reduction in mortality of those vaccinated compared to those who have not.

He showed a chart we have not seen before, revealing deaths, ongoing cases, and those discharged. Naturally, those deaths and ongoing cases diminished relevant to age.

A line below 50 years of age showed that deaths were extremely low and below 44 years were infinitesimally small.

‘Vaccinate all the way down.’

Just 54% of people going into hospital with COVID-19 are over 70. This means that the next phase of inoculations of those over 50 will be crucial.

 ‘If we then vaccinate all the way down to people over 50 and those who have actually got pre-existing health conditions, you then get through virtually all the people who have a high chance of dying.’

Including the over-50s covers 98% of those who will die from coronavirus and 80% of those who are hospitalised.

The takeaway was that once the over 50’s were vaccinated and three weeks after that, for immunity to kick in, there should be much lower deaths. Bearing in mind that the vaccines are not 100% effective, hospitalisations may not improve as much, but the deaths should. It was also noticeable that at least half of those over 70 who caught coronavirus were hospitalised or died, growing by age. Below the age of 70, it was about a third, and over 55’s a fifth.

‘Substantial effect.’

Some welcome good news came out last night; the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine seems to have a ‘substantial effect’ on preventing transmission of the virus to others. According to a study published in The Lancet, the three-month gap between the first and second doses does not lower protection.

The study showed a 67% reduction in positive COVID-19 swabs among those vaccinated. It also showed that a single dose is 76% effective from day 22 to day 90 after the injection. After the second dose, it raises to 82.4%.

Professor Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial and co-author of the paper, said.

  ‘These new data provide an important verification of the interim data that was used by more than 25 regulators, including the MHRA and EMA to grant the vaccine emergency use authorisation.

It also supports the policy recommendation made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for a 12 week prime-boost interval as they look for the optimal approach to roll-out, and reassures us that people are protected from 22 days after a single dose of the vaccine.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said,

 ‘This report shows the Oxford vaccine works and works well. More than 9.6 million people have already received the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, and the NHS is working tirelessly to vaccinate as many people as possible in every part of the UK.’

 

Daily news.

One step ahead.

GlaxoSmithKline is working on a second-generation vaccine that will incorporate the new mutations. In a statement, it said,

 ‘The increase in emerging variants with the potential to reduce the efficacy of first-generation COVID-19 vaccines requires acceleration of efforts to develop vaccines against new variants to keep one step ahead of the pandemic. These next-generation COVID-19 vaccines may either be used to protect people who have not been vaccinated before or serve as boosters.’

‘C’est la vie.’

The French media is asking questions of its government as to why a French Pharma company has promised 100 million doses of its in-development COVID vaccine to the UK when France or the EU has not yet placed a single order.

Valneva, based near Nantes, has had substantial UK government aid - £14 million to scale up its production site at Livingston, Scotland. It has also had UK help to roll out phase one and two of its trials. It is hoped production could start in the summer.

Valneva director-general Franck Grimaud said on BFMTV,

 ‘When we announced that we were developing our vaccine last April, we contacted several governments and institutions. It was the UK which was the first to give a comprehensive response, and we signed a pre-accord with them in July.’

Les Echos financial daily asks,

‘Why has the French government not expressed interest in the Valneva project, leaving it to the British government to offer financial support and – logically thereafter – reap the benefits of a privileged partner?’

Politicking boxes.

Politics continue to abound in the EU countries, with France and President Macron saying that the Oxford /AstraZeneca vaccine should not be rolled out to the over 65’s.

Germany and Italy have done similar, even though the European Medical Agency and the MHRA have given it a clean bill of health for all age groups. The above study showing its efficacy and reduction of transmission and its ongoing use in the UK itself gives evidence of its efficacy to older people. The ten million vaccinated in the UK, mainly over 70, and none of them hospitalised, give sufficient evidence above any trial involving merely thousands.

Driving scepticism.

This might be an opportune time to talk about the ‘anti-vaxxers’ and the impact they are having right now on thousands of people here and in the USA. I have been looking at what is driving the scepticism on some of their social networks. Many are tapping into the Donald Trump supporter base in the USA who are already suspicious of the coronavirus.

The anti-vaxxers are persuasive, showing documents and stories of those who have died after vaccination and lists of the dead after taking a vaccine. They publish convincing videos and testimonies from medical experts denouncing the vaccines. They explain how masks deprive you of oxygen, are ineffective. How the vaccine will kill you after the second dose, or within five years, or has a nanochip in it to control you. Patriots don’t wear masks or take vaccines. They are awake to the secret conspiracies.

Persuasive.

Bearing in mind 80 million people voted for Donald Trump, this could have a huge impact on the U.S. vaccination programme. It could be a real problem in getting millions vaccinated in the USA and maybe some in the UK. I have to say that some are persuasive in their arguments, and I can see how it would put many people off and at the very least make them wary.

Swabbing the deck.

The World Health Organisation investigation team in Wuhan, China, have said they are getting access to data that ‘no one has seen before,’ and they are ‘really getting somewhere.’ They have not ruled out the possibility that the virus escaped from a laboratory.

Dr Peter Daszak said they had been allowed quite a lot of freedom to question people at Huanon seafood market where swabs were taken off the floor months ago, and coronavirus were found.

Despite China having already done their investigations and allegedly shredding documents, Dr Daszak said,

 ‘there are little clues we are finding here and there in the wealth of data. We are really getting somewhere, and I think every member of the team would say that. We will get there, and we will at the end of this mission produce a report which will have some indications of what the most likely scenarios are.’

Pressed at meeting.

Baroness Dido Harding, who is leading the Test and Trace process in the UK, said that around 20,000 a day are not self-isolating when they are told. She was being pressed at a House of Commons committee by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. She was reluctant to give a figure,

 ‘I’d like to put a lot of caveats on that, and I understand the desire to get to a simple number, but we’ve got to be careful.’

Harangue him high.

Social media shows some young idiot filming Professor Chris Whitty as he is queuing for his lunch at an open market. The youth is heard haranguing the Chief Medical Officer,

 ‘Liar. You’re a liar. Mandem, he’s a liar. You’re a liar. You lie about the Covid-19 cases. Stop lying to the TV, man.’

Professor Whitty keeps a graceful silence as he is filmed and ignores the buffoon.

I suspect Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke for the vast majority of us on BBC Breakfast,

 ‘I think the individual concerned is pathetic; I think it is ridiculous what he is doing. Chris Whitty is one of our greatest living scientists, and his advice to the government all the way through this, and his advice to all of us in the population, has been incredibly smart and thoughtful, and he is a great asset to this nation.’

 

5 pm Press Briefing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Professor Chris Whitty.

The Prime Minister began by paying tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore and offering sympathy to the family.

First dates.

The Prime Minister says that the 8th March 2021 is the most likely date for schools to begin to phase back, but it depends on the data at the time. He is conscious that the most vulnerable will be vaccinated by mid-February, and it takes another three weeks for it to take effect.

The Prime Minister will still not give a date when the hotel isolation plan for people entering our borders will take effect. He says that the measures in place are robust. Priti Patel revealed this plan, but it makes me wonder if they are steering away from implementation with no starting date.

He says that the timetable for the next phase of the vaccines and a potential timetable for easing measures will come out in the week of 22nd February 2021.

Model citizen.

There was an amusing moment when a journalist – Daily Mail’s Jason Groves, asked Professor Whitty about the youth haranguing him in the street. Professor Whitty played it down and said he ‘thought nothing of it.’ He was surprised that the media picked it up. He is not worried about being shouted at by a young lad, and he expects him to grow up to be a ‘model citizen,’ like Captain Sir Tom Moore.

The most welcome news was Professor Whitty's acceptance that we seem to be past the peak of this wave.

Clap Moore please.

At 6 pm, there was a clap to celebrate Captain Sir Tom Moore’s life and memory. Like the NHS clap, people came out into the street to clap their support.

There are calls for Sir Tom's statue to be made, and it would be nice to name a hospital after him, perhaps?

 

Family Life.

Visits to the Chemist and Morrison’s today for provisions and petrol by yours truly. I always use the self-service till and sanitise my hands when I get back to the car and again after putting the shopping away once I am home.

Quote of the day.

‘The only time I commit to conspiracy theories is when something way retarded happens- like Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone.’ – Joe Rogan.

 

THURSDAY 4TH FEBRUARY 2021.

Facts and figures.

19,114 new cases.

1.014 deaths.

10,490,487 people have received their first vaccination in the UK.

Public Health England data shows usage categories by age of those suffering the most new infections of COVID:

The highest rates are for 30–39-year-olds with 358 per 100,000 population, down from 499.

20-29-year-olds is currently at 333, down from 478.

40-49-year-olds is 316 from 442.

80 years and over is 284 down from 412.

Of course, the plan is for these figures to continue to fall as people become vaccinated over the next few months. The early indications seem positive.

Mix and match.

Volunteers are being sought today for a new trial that will look at any benefits to mixing and matching the different vaccines. Professor Van-Tam says that people’s immune response ‘could be enhanced’ by doing so.

Dr Peter English, a communicable disease control consultant at Public Health England, said,

 ‘Many vaccines work better if a different vaccine is used for boosting – an approach described as heterologous boosting. Examples include hepatitis B, where some people respond poorly to vaccination but better if a heterologous booster is given.’

A reminder of the vaccines on the market and which the UK has ordered from:

Briton’s quick on the uptake.

Imperial College London and YouGov's survey indicates that Britons are much more likely to take the vaccines than any other nationality. The French are the most suspicious and reluctant to partake.

81% of UK responders said they would take the vaccination.

79% of Denmark citizen were keen.

70% of Dutch people were willing.

54% Germany.

48% Singapore.

46% Japan.

44% France.

The USA were not included in the study.

Sideboard.

We have some early data on side-effects caused across the board by COVID vaccinations. About one in three people having the vaccination have reported some side-effects, none of which were serious. From the 40,000 people studied, a third reported minor issues such as soreness around the injection site.

The NHS and various experts have said that it is not a bad thing to have mild side effects as it is your body’s immune system going to work.

The pandemic virus itself is not in any of the vaccines, so it cannot harm you, but you can feel off for a day or two. They use a harmless version or fragment of coronavirus to teach the body how to recognise and fight the real thing should it need to.

The studies used an app - ‘Zoe app’ to gather information and found:

37% experienced some local after-effects, such as pain or swelling near the injection site, after the first dose, rising to about 45% of the 10,000 who had received both doses.

14% had at least one ‘whole-body (systemic)’ after effect such as fever, aches or chills within 7 days of the first dose, rising to about 22% after the second dose. These resolved within two or three days.

A word in your shell-like.

Petroleum group Shell has reported a $19.9 billion loss because of the lack of demand caused by COVID-19 lockdowns around the world.

In 2019 the company made a profit of $15.3 billion. Last September, Shell announced that it was planning to cut 9,000 jobs in a cost-cutting drive.

 

Daily news.

‘Wrong to change.’

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has looked at a proposal to bring the BAME community higher up the priority list. Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that they

 ‘came down on the side of age as the deciding factor of people’s risk of death. I certainly think it would be wrong to change the JCVI recommendation.’

There has been much debate on whether others in the community, providing a service and putting themselves at a potentially higher risk, should be given priority. Mr Zahawi said,

 ‘when we get into phase two, we would welcome a debate and ask the question of the JCVI as to whether professions like teachers, shop workers and police officers, who through their work will come into contact with much greater volumes of the virus than others do, and they will then advise us accordingly.’

 

Family Life.

A little light reading.

A conference call with the Wrights tonight. Everyone seems in good spirits. Harry has brought a book that discusses all the potential ways that the universe can be destroyed. Like you do.

Quote of the day.

‘Good things happen when you set your priorities straight.’ – Scott Caan.

 

FRIDAY 5TH FEBRUARY 2021.

Facts and figures.

18,262 new cases.

828 deaths.

The UK’s r number is now between 0.7 and 1.0.

Only two regions have an r rate which spans up to reach 1.0, and they are North East and Yorkshire with 0.9-1.0 and the North West, which is 0.7 -1.0. The others all have parameters under 1.0.

The number of new infections is finally shrinking by 2% and 5% every day.

The ONS data has estimated the number of people who have COVID-19 in the week ending 30th January:

England – 1 in 65.

Scotland – 1 in 115.

Wales – 1 in 70.

Northern Ireland – 1 in 65.

Election May go ahead.

It is thought that the government aims to have all over 50’s vaccinated by ‘May’ this year. This will enable council elections to go ahead safely.

Ahead of us is the final week of vaccinations for the most vulnerable in priority group 1-5. After next weekend we should move on to groups 5-9.

5 – All those over 65 years of age and over.

6 – Adults aged 16 to 65 years in an at-risk group.

7- All those 60 years of age and over.

8- All those 55 years of age and over.

9 – All those 50 years of age and over.

The Vaccines Minister says there are now 4,000 mutations that have taken place in the pandemic coronavirus. Most, of course, completely harmless.

Mildly interesting.

The MHRA has said that data shows the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines safety remains as high as expected.

It reported the data shows 22,820 people reported mild side effects, 3 in every 1,000 vaccines between 9th December 2020 to 24th January 2021.

Author’s note. These seem much more optimistic figures than other surveys.

The MHRA said,

 ‘This reassuring data has shown that the vast majority of reported side effects are mild, and all are in line with most types of vaccine, including the seasonal flu vaccine.’

 

Daily news.

Travel passport.

The UK is talking with other countries such as Sweden and Denmark, around the viability of ‘a travel passport’ for people who have been fully vaccinated.

There are some mutterings about it being an invasion of people’s privacy, but in reality, companies are going to want to know your status to travel abroad and sit on a plane or other close-quarter activity. Many countries require one to have a vaccine such as Malaria to enter in any case.

Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme,

 ‘It is often the case that the entry requirements for countries are for vaccines or inoculations and that is not an uncommon practice. We will work with international partners to help facilitate their border arrangements and their immigration arrangements.’

However, No 10 Downing Street said,

 ‘There are still no current plans to roll out vaccine passports. Going on holiday is currently illegal.’

Author’s note. I think it is inevitable in some form and even for domestic activities; it is a potential back door to mandatory vaccinations, though. If you cannot go to a bar or restaurant without proof of immunisation, it is a big crowbar for people to get the jab. On the plus side, for those of us who want immunity, it will be reassuring if there is a way of knowing that everyone around us has similarly been jabbed and less of a threat to transmission.

It is all a bit strange, but I am afraid it is the reality of the exceptional situation we find ourselves in.

Joining forces.

The UK government is to join forces with vaccine manufacturer CureVac to,

 ‘rapidly develop new vaccines in response to new COVID-19 variants if needed.’

Whilst the current vaccines work to a lesser extent against the variants; it seems likely that, just like flu, there will be mutations that will require vaccine modification.

The UK government statement went on to say,

 ‘The new agreement will utilise UK expertise on genomics and virus sequencing to allow new varieties of vaccines based on messenger RNA technology to be developed quickly against new strains of COVID-19 if they are needed.’

The Old Kent Road.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine's further good news is that it remains effective against the UK/Kent variant, researchers have confirmed. Professor Andrew Pollard said,

 ‘the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus but also protects against the novel variant B117.’

Ganging up.

Switzerland is refusing to give emergency authorisation to the Oxford /AstraZeneca vaccine. This when 10 million people have been vaccinated in the UK, and many other countries medical regulators, including the EU’s own, have authorised it as safe.

Pfizer has withdrawn its application for emergency use of its vaccine in India. The company gave a statement to the Reuters news agency,

 ‘based on the deliberations at the meeting and our understanding of additional information that the regulator may need, the company has decided to withdraw its application at this time.’

Room with a view.

We have been waiting to get a date from the government about hotel quarantining being implemented. We know it is £80 per night per person to be paid for by the visitor, but when will it start?

Finally, today it was announced that it would come into effect on 15th February 2021. Ten days hence. It hardly seems dynamic. The government claims that it is difficult getting thousands of hotel rooms and air conditioning COVID safe, but why announce the intention so early? You surely need to check the viability first?

The 15th February 2021 will be a full 50 days after we first heard about the South African mutation.

Cop out.

Stupidity knows no bounds. A group of Scottish police officers are under investigation after a lockdown house party ended in a fight with one 31-year-old female being arrested and charged to court where she has pleaded not guilty.

One unnamed spokesperson for Police Scotland spoke for many of us when they told Sky News,

 ‘How they thought this was acceptable, never mind a good idea, is beyond belief – they’re making a mockery of the force, and it sends a terrible message to the public.’

What an absolute cult.

A Church of England cleric, a young black man, Jarel Robinson-Brown, has apologised for insulting those who clapped for Captain Sir Tim Moore on Wednesday as being ‘a cult of white British nationalism.’

 In a tweet he has now deleted, this ‘man of God’ said,

 ‘The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism. I will offer prayers for the response of his kind and generous soul, but I will not be joining in the ‘National Clap.’

Collared.

The irreverent tweet naturally created a backlash, and the ‘Reverend’ Robinson- Brown of All Hallows-by-the-tower (the oldest church in the city of London) was pressured into offering

 ‘an unreserved apology for the insensitive timing and content of my tweet regarding the clap for Captain Tom.’

We know what he really thinks.

He’s apologised, but we know what he really thinks, don’t we? It seems the Church of England put such people in roles for us to follow their reverent example. Phooey! (Blows raspberry).

 

Family Life.

With Jackie being furloughed and Spring approaching, we have brought various plants for the garden, which Jackie has planted, along with displaying some new lights, now at the front and along the fence line.

Fat balls.

Most mornings, she will have ten minutes looking out of the window watching the birds as she has put up several bird feeders, which she keeps stocked up with seeds and ‘fat balls’—Author’s note. I know.

Expletives.

Anyway, there is a large tree which is situated between our garden and a neighbour’s. Many of the various birds live in this tree and pop out to feed. Jackie has noticed that the Robins tend to prefer the neighbour’s garden to ours.

A Robin came and fed on one of the feeders in our garden this morning which caused much excitement. A couple of minutes later, the neighbour came out holding a giant ball of seed which she hung up. The quiet viewing turned into expletives, dear reader.

Quote of the day

‘Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.’- Langston Hughes.

 

SATURDAY 6TH FEBRUARY 2021

Facts and figures.

15,845 new cases.

373 deaths.

At 8 am today 10,971,047 had been given their first dose of vaccine. 480,560 were given yesterday alone.

There are 30,508 people in the hospital with COVID. This is down 1,185 from yesterday.

Total cases in the UK from the pandemic is 3,911,573, with 111,264 deaths from COVID-19 within 28 days of testing positive.

Some attention is given to the 143 patients who have died shortly after receiving the vaccine. Authorities said vaccines played no part in the fatalities, with almost all occurring in the elderly or ill. Investigators said that there is no suggestion that the jab played a role in the deaths.

Author’s note. Merely from a common sense point of view, when 11 million older people are selected from society, a number of these will die during that period. I would have thought it might be more. The death figures from catching coronavirus are somewhat higher!

Dr Philip Bryan, the vaccine's safety lead at the MHRA, said,

 ‘Another cause or reason was involved in their death, and we do follow them all up. Deaths after vaccinations can worry people, but it’s really important that as we put this out into the public domain, people understand what they mean and what they don’t mean.’

75 people have suffered facial paralysis after the vaccines, which is included as a possible side effect.

This is a slight worry, but one has to remember that 11 million people have been vaccinated.

Amazon sales in the UK increased by 51% to nearly £20 billion in 2020 as more and more people bought online during the lockdown.

Tech UK says that last year they created 10,000 new jobs, and last week, they announced 1,000 new apprenticeships.

 

Daily news.

Worcester source.

Surge testing will take place in Worcestershire after the South African variant has been discovered in the area. Home testing kits are available to anyone, as is a mobile testing unit. Worcestershire council said,

 ‘Every person over the age of 18, living in the WR3 postcode and some WR9 postcodes, is strongly encouraged to take a COVID-19 test this week even if they are not showing symptoms.’

Smoker’s paradox.

I mentioned earlier in the diary about some strange effect being noted in France regarding the ‘smoker’s paradox. The paper submitted in April 2020 that people who undertake the unhealthy habit of smoking are less likely to catch COVID-19. The authors said,

 ‘current smokers have a very much lower probability of developing symptomatic or severe SARS-CoV-2 infection as compared to the general population.’

The researchers said that the virus enters our cells by latching onto protein receptors called ACE2, which are found on particular cells' surfaces. They theorised that nicotine attaches to the ACE2 receptors preventing the virus from sticking and potentially reducing the amount of virus that can get into a person’s lungs. Strangely the report has seemingly lain dormant and not yet been peer-reviewed a year later.

More research has been done into this anomaly, but I feel that medical professionals do not want to sing from the rooftops about it. When seeking out how it was progressing on the internet, it took a while to find the information at source.

Meta -analysis.

The low prevalence of active smokers among hospitalised patients with COVID-19 has been a consistent finding across most published studies. A recent meta-analysis of 13 studies demonstrated that the pooled prevalence of smokers among hospitalised patients with COVID-19 in China was 6.5%, with a population who smoke being a much higher 26.6%.

Similar findings were made in France, and three studies in New York City showed hospitalised smokers at 5.1%, with a smoking population at 13.7%. Interestingly the report also showed only 12.8% of current and former smokers became critically ill.

Smoke and mirrors.

Another report (Richardson) showed a higher prevalence in critically ill smokers at 15.6%, which is seemingly the only report where the prevalence of smoking patients resembles that of the general population. All the others indicate a significantly lower uptake of COVID by smokers.

Plausible biologic mechanisms by which smoking might be protective in COVID-19 include the anti-inflammatory effect of nicotine, a blunted immune response in smokers (reducing the risk of a cytokine storm in COVID-19). Also increased nitric oxide in the respiratory tract, which might inhibit replication of SARS-CoV-2 and its entry into cells.

Smoking has poor outcomes long-term concerning other diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and strokes.

The phrase the ‘smokers paradox’ emanates from the curious fact that smokers counter-intuitively tend to have a greater survivability rate in heart attack and strokes.

Regardless, don’t smoke, kids. Seriously, don’t.

Chinese whispers.

Today is the anniversary of the death of Li Wenglian. Li was the Wuhan doctor who initially raised the alarm of a strange disease which ended up being the coronavirus. The Chinese authorities reprimanded him for ‘spreading rumours.’ You will recall he alerted people but was arrested and shortly afterwards contracted COVID-19 and died, even though he was a young man in his thirties.

Local hero.

Locals are celebrating his being a local hero, but the authorities are not acknowledging him at all, indeed they are actively discouraging any recognition, particularly with foreign reporters. Reuters journalist David Kirton was stopped from filming the hospital where Li worked by two men in plainclothes identifying themselves as ‘car park security.’

Pay as you grow.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that he is giving small businesses more time to repay state-backed loans taken out to survive lockdown. They can extend loans from six to ten years under a ‘pay as you grow’ initiative.

The Chancellor is also considering a new online sales tax to help the government pay back debts accrued, keeping businesses afloat during the pandemic.

A Treasury spokesman said,

 ‘we want to see thriving high streets, which is why we’ve spent tens of billions of pounds supporting shops throughout the pandemic and are supporting town centres through the change online shopping brings.’

Quote of the day.

‘Take the risk or lose the chance.’ – Anon.

 

SUNDAY 7TH FEBRUARY 2021.

Facts and figures.

14,104 new cases.

333 deaths.

11,465,210 first vaccines have been given.

29,326 people are in hospital with COVID-19.

112,798 total deaths from COVID-19 within 28 days of test.

There are currently 147 cases of the south African virus known to be in the UK.

Author’s note. Cases and deaths are relatively low today, but they are weekend figures which tend to be lower because of how they are collated and reported.

New cases falling indicates lower transmission and that the vaccines are working. Fewer new cases mean a decline in hospitalisations, and then ultimately lagging by some weeks will be the death rates. Death rates will be the last to fall. I anticipate new cases and hospital rates to begin to decrease steadily in the next couple of weeks.

As time goes by, this may flip on its head because as those most vulnerable are vaccinated and those who suffer the most fatalities, deaths will become fewer. At the same time, new cases will continue to a lesser extent among the younger population. Hospitalisations will also steeply decline.

We should remember that the vaccine is not 100% effective, so it seems unlikely we will ever totally be rid of the disease.

Magic bullet.

Rapid tests will be offered to workplaces with more than 50 employees to control the pandemic. Previously lateral flow tests were only dispersed to businesses with more than 250 employees.

112 organisations have signed up to take part in mass testing so far, with employees tested at 500 sites, according to government figures. Unions have been lukewarm to the proposal of testing in the workplace, describing them as ‘not the magic bullet’ and that confirmation testing would be needed to avoid false negatives.

‘The virus will seek them out.’

The Sophy Ridge show on Sky News, featured Vaccine Minister Mr Nadhim Zahawi who said he was very concerned about the vaccine's low take-up among some parts of the community. Referring to the BAME community, he said,

 ‘If one particular community remains unvaccinated, then the virus will seek them out and go through that community like wildfire.’

While 85% of adults were very likely to have the vaccine, the remaining 15% who are unlikely to partake,

 ‘skew heavily towards BAME communities and especially Afro-Caribbean, black communities and of course other Asian and BAME communities.’

New data released from the Royal College of GPs found that 90% of vaccine doses administered so far have been to white people.

At the moment, 33% of mixed race, 47% of Asian and 64% of black people are likely to receive a jab.

Author’s note. Of course, rumours are troubling, but I think that the privilege of being vaccinated is lost on many, as I have said before, we are fortunate to happen to live in a wealthy country where vaccines are available. Of the 195 countries in the world, only 10 are currently in a position to be offering vaccines to their citizens. We should be grateful.

 

Daily news.

Sunday newspaper headlines.

Starmer ally: Covid is ‘a gift that keeps on giving.

 – The Mail on Sunday.

750,000 OAPs rebel over TV licence.

 – Sunday Mirror.

Now put kids first – PM told to put children at heart of Covid recovery.

 – Sunday People.

Boris: youth deserve the nation’s thanks.

 – Sunday Express.

Vaccines at work for under 50’s from spring.

 – The Sunday Telegraph.

 

Limited protection.

Reuters reported last night via Andy Bruce and Derek Francis that AstraZeneca admitted their virus only offered limited protection against mild disease by the virus's South African variant.

According to a Financial Times report, South Africa’s Witwatersrand and Oxford University showed the vaccine had significantly reduced efficacy against the B.1.351 South African variant.

In light of this, South Africa halted its roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to this limited protection. 90% of their cases are the South African variant.

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said,

 ‘We do believe our vaccine could protect against severe disease, as neutralising antibody activity is equivalent to that of other COVID-19 vaccines that have demonstrated activity against more severe disease, particularly when the dosing interval is optimised to 8-12 weeks.’

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said,

 ‘Evidence suggests the Oxford AZ vaccine protects against disease caused by the predominant COVID variants circulating in the UK. It remains highly likely that the vaccine will also protect against severe disease caused by the South African variant.’

AstraZeneca said,

 ‘Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started adapting the vaccine against this variant and will advance rapidly through clinical development so that it is ready for Autumn delivery should it be needed.’

Boost.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi was doing the rounds on the Sunday morning television shows and spoke about booster jabs on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show,

 ‘we see very much probably an annual or booster in the autumn and then an annual, in the way we do with the flu vaccinations, where you look at what variant of virus is spreading around the world, rapidly-produce a variant of vaccine and then begin to vaccinate and protect the nation.’

The NHS who cry wolf.

As always, there is some cynicism around the annual ‘NHS cannot cope’ narrative. The Guardian recently gave examples of headlines each year since 2012:

2012- Hospitals ‘full to bursting’ as bed shortage hits danger level.’

2013 – ‘Hospitals scramble to prevent crisis in NHS’s ‘toughest ever’ winter.’

2014 – ‘More patients, overstretched doctors – is the NHS facing a winter crisis.’

2015 – ‘Hospital bed occupancy rates hit record high risking care.’

2016 – ‘Hospitals in England told to put operations on hold to free up beds.’

2017 – ‘NHS bosses sound alarm over hospitals already running at 99% capacity.’

2018 – ‘NHS intensive care units sending patients elsewhere due to lack of beds.’

2019 – ‘Hospital beds at record low in England as NHS struggles with demand.’

Speechless.

An example of both the horrific results of catching COVID-19 and the fantastic treatment given was exemplified in a report by Rebecca Woods, BBC News, West Midlands. She highlighted the case of COVID survivor Robert Crowther;

 ‘I was very, very ill. I had lost the ability to swallow- one of my vocal cords had been paralysed by the ventilator. It was clear I’d fought off Covid, but now I couldn’t speak.’

Mr Crowther had been unconscious in intensive care for a month. He was left with a severe and persistent chest infection, muscle wastage meant he was unable to walk, but the impact of the ventilator tubes and a tracheostomy left him unable to talk, eat or drink.

Being unable to communicate with his family after weeks away was more isolating than anything else. Mr Crowther said it was frustrating, and he could only ‘answer yes and no by head movements.’

Robert learned to walk again with physiotherapists' help reasonably quickly, but his lack of speech was much more of a trial. After 45 days in ICU and several more weeks on a ward, he was able to go home, albeit with a feeding tube.

He worked with the speech therapy team, and five months after he contracted COVID-19, he was finally able to eat and drink properly again. However, he was still mute. It was another three months before his voice ‘just came back.’

Mr Crowther has expressed how grateful he is to those working with him, but he is not alone; thousands of survivors of COVID are continuing to have speech therapy post-recovery.

 

Family life

Trapped inside once more, we spent the day quizzing with my daughter Lily, chatting and watching television. Snow is on the way.

As the weeks go by, the time is being reflected in my hair's length, which is just starting to show that things could get messy in the next few weeks.

Quote of the day.

‘Your word is the power that you have to create; it’s a gift.’ – Don Miguel Ruiz.

 

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