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On this day in 2020...23rd September

Extract from the book:






WEDNESDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER 2020


Facts and figures.


On Tuesday 22nd September 2020, the USA passed the grim milestone of having suffered 200,000 deaths from COVID-19.


In the UK, Wolverhampton and further areas of Wales have been put into local lockdown commencing 6pm Tuesday 22nd September 2020. These areas are:

Bridgend.

Merthyr Tydfil.

Newport.

Blaenau Gwent.


Daily news.


As the second wave's iron doors slowly begin to slide across our society, we had (Monday 21st Sept) a science briefing to the nation at 11 am. It was conducted by Professor Chris Whitty and Professor Sir Patrick Valance.


Double act.


It was a bit of a two-and-fro style, something of a double-act, beginning with Sir Patrick and then Chris.

Author’s note. I feel by now we should be on first name terms.


Professor Sir Patrick:


The virus has scarcely changed or mutated since the start of the pandemic.

The increases we are seeing in cases are not because of more testing.

The ONS estimate that 70,000 people in the UK currently have COVID-19 and 6,000 people a day are being infected.

The concern is that they estimate the rate of infection is now doubling every 7 days. This would mean a rapid rate of increase and by 13th October 2020 at that rate it would be 50,000 people a day being infected and 200 deaths per day.

Most people get an antibody response when they are infected which fades over time. 8% of the population currently have these antibodies, around 3 million people. This means, of course that the vast majority of the population are still susceptible to the virus.


Professor Chris Whitty:


There are several areas of the UK that have a highly concentrated level of infection, and these are under restricted measures. Around these concentrated areas are larger swathes of regions with a higher-than-normal level and these are growing around the country.

There were 50 hospital admissions on 1st September and there were 200 on 15th September 2020. These would rise rapidly if they doubled exponentially.

Winter will benefit coronavirus as it does the flu, which means that we have at least six months of taking this very seriously.

COVID-19 is not milder than we first thought; Flu takes 7,000 lives a year on a good year and 20,000 on a bad one. COVID is more virulent and has taken at least 70,000 lives in 6 months or so.

If an individual increases their risk, they increase it for everyone else as it starts a chain of infection.

There are 4 things that need to happen to manage this latest increase:


1) Manage individual behaviours, mask-wearing, washing hands and distancing etc.

2) Isolate the virus. If you have symptoms – self isolate.

3) Break unnecessary inks between households, in work and social environments.

4) Invest in Science, vaccines, diagnostics and treatments etc.


Professor Sir Patrick:


We will be living with this for some time.

We are making good progress with vaccines with several in the late stages of testing and showing good results so far.

The UK has got access to a range of different sources for a vaccine, and we may be able to action them in the first half of next year.

Vaccines:

There are over 240 vaccine candidates globally.

Over 40 are in clinical trials.

9 of them are in large phase 2 or phase 3 of 3 in those trials.

*London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


Covax.


The UK has committed to join COVAX – an international initiative supporting discovery, manufacture, and fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

The UK has supply agreements with the following initiatives ahead of them being passed as effective and safe:



mRNA

BioNTech/Pfizer


Adenoviral

Oxford/AstraZeneca

Janssen


Protein Adjuvant

Novavax


GlaxoSmithKline/Sanofi Pasteur


Inactivated Whole Virus

Valneva


Prophylactic neutralising antibodies

AstraZeneca



Inevitable.


A COBRA meeting is to take place tomorrow morning (Tuesday). A place has been set in the Commons agenda for Prime Minister Johnson tomorrow. He will make a public address at 8 pm.


It seems almost inevitable that there will be tighter restrictions announced, albeit some rumours are that we will be given ‘one last chance.’ I would much prefer the option of getting on with whatever is needed without delay and dithering. Let us see what it is.


Author’s note on Scientific conference: This looks like the scientists have been wheeled out to offer a softener on proposed political statements tomorrow. The tone of the press conference was not one that heralds things being eased, quite the reverse.

Professor Whitty addressed many of the rumours around the legitimacy of the science as there are a lot of rumours around, such as the increased numbers are because of increased testing - the virulence and potency of the coronavirus versus the flu, and so on.

They showed some slides, the notable one being the exponential rise to 50,000 cases a day within a month, however this was not a prediction, it was a potential scenario, yet they showed no other potential scenarios.

This is to try to get compliance from the public, no doubt, and justify whatever action they take tomorrow.

It will be a tougher job than the first lockdown, but the reality is that the government must do these things, take action, and err on the side of caution. This is the perfect time for the test and trace system to collapse, isn’t it? In truth we are all victims of providence unless and until a vaccine is squirted into our arms.


Level Four.


The UK’s COVID-19 alert level has been upgraded to four, amid ‘rapidly rising’ cases. This means the transmission of the virus is high and rising exponentially. If it goes to five there must be a full lockdown. It was at four during the peak of the pandemic earlier this year before being moved to three in the middle of June 2020.

All of the Chief Medical Officers for the four home nations in the UK have been part of the decision-making, along with the Bio-Intelligence Unit to agree that the UK as a whole would be moved to level 4. The CMO’s issued a joint statement which included:


‘After a period of lower COVID cases and deaths, the number of cases are (sic) now rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations. We know this will be concerning news for many people; please follow the rules, look after each other and together we will get through this.’

All very dour and somewhat apocalyptic.


A reminder of the COVID Alert levels:


COVID ALERT LEVELS


5

There is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed


4

A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially


3

A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation


2

COVID-19 is present in the UK, but the number of cases and transmission is low


1

COVID-19 is not known to be present in the UK


*HM Government.



Address to Parliament.


On Tuesday 22nd September 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed parliament and indeed announced the latest additional restrictions:


The below measures will be in place for at least the next 6 months.


10pm curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants from Thursday 24th September 2020.


Table service only, in hospitality venues.


People can only be mask free when sitting at a table.


Work from home if you can.


Customers must wear face coverings in taxis.


Staff working in retail must now wear face coverings.


Staff and customers in indoor hospitality must now wear face coverings.


From Monday 28th September 2020 only 15 people can now attend a wedding and reception.


30 people can still attend funerals.


Only six people can take part in indoor team sports.


Large sports events and conferences will now not take place from 1st October 2020 as previously planned.


Businesses will be fined £10,000 and could be closed if they breach regulations.


The fine for people not wearing face coverings in shops, supermarkets, public transport, taxis, and indoor hospitality venues will double to £200 for a first-time offence.


This fine will be the same for all those breaching the ‘rule of six.’


People who do not self-isolate will face fines of £1,000 rising to £10,000 for repeated occurrences from 28 September 2020.


If people prevent others from self-isolating, such as bosses threatening redundancy – they can also be fined.


Businesses who break the mask regulations and ‘rule of six’ will be fined £10,000 or closed down.


Covid secure Marshalls will enforce social distancing rules in town and city centres.


There will be more police on the street to ensure rules are adhered to and if needed the armed forces could be called in to help the police.


Union tweaks.


Scotland has some variations, of course; visiting other households is banned from Wednesday. Car sharing is banned other than with people in your own household.

Northern Ireland variations are no households are allowed to mix indoors and only six from two households outside. From Tuesday.


In Wales six people are allowed to mix indoors and 30 people outdoors.

Fines in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales are just £60.


Author’s note: So, this is it for the next 6 months at best. This looks a lot of changes but is it really? Extended face mask-wearing and a 10 pm curfew is really the sum of it. I think Scotland have it right with banning any indoor household gatherings, although their fines are not a deterrent and too low.


I have always found it ridiculous that shop workers do not wear masks as these are the very people who encounter hundreds of people and if they have the virus, they would be spreading it far more than a customer passing through.


The 10 pm curfew will help in large city centres where they have late-night drinking and night clubs, but the fear is that people will go on to street parties, raves or house parties which cannot be policed. It remains to be seen. Interestingly Nicola Sturgeon the Scottish First Minister advised people not to book holidays for the October half-term school holidays. They are in around three weeks’ time, could this be review time? Time for the second full lockdown.


While I hope these measures work, I cannot see it being enough and further measures or a full lockdown seem ever closer in the next month or so. I really hope I am wrong. That would be terrific.


Holy night.


On Tuesday morning there was an amusing exchange on Sky News between broadcaster Kay Burley and the Secretary of State for the Cabinet Michael Gove. Kay Burley asked what the people would call him if Christmas were cancelled. Mr Gove said, ‘Christmas is not cancelled, it is on 25th December.’


Prime Minister’s Clichés Address to the nation.


Tuesday evening saw the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, rather than talk about the restrictions themselves; he tried to give them context, the reasoning behind them and what we should be doing as a country and individuals. Some quotes are below:


‘The struggle against Covid is the biggest single crisis the world has seen in my lifetime.’


‘We must take action, now.’


‘While we are a great and freedom-loving country there have been too many breaches, too many opportunities for our invisible enemy… It is rising exponentially… It is no less fatal than it was.’


‘The biggest weapon we bring is the common sense of the people.’


‘These risks are not our own. Your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell.’


‘As for the minority who flaunt the rules, we will punish them.’


‘Having to do this, for me, is deeply spiritual, and I am reluctant to make these changes to people’s freedoms.’


‘Never in our history has our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour.’


‘We must do all we can to avoid a lockdown.’


‘A stitch in time saves nine.’


‘It will be a harsh winter, but things will be far better in the Spring.’


‘We must rely on our willingness to look out for each other.’


‘There are difficult months to come; the fight with Covid is not over.’


It was typically Boris, and I have made light of it a little, but the essence came over well in my view. It looks like this is going to be a long haul and many of us are pretty fed up with it after all these months, but such is life. We just have to knuckle down and make the best of it and hope we can avoid infection.


I do hope we can avoid a second wave which could be much worse than the first, if the Spanish Flu is anything to go by, imagine that. Please, God, no.


Family life.


Two evils.


My youngest son, Harry, is due to go to university in a couple of weeks. I worry that this will go ahead, and I worry that it won’t!

If it goes ahead, there is the concern that he is going to be mixing with hundreds of other students and may be susceptible to catching corona. If it does not go ahead, it will diminish his studies at best, or put them to a halt at worst. Which is the lesser of the two evils?


Byron days.


On Tuesday, Jackie and I enjoyed some sunshine at Newstead Abbey which is close by, the home of Lord Byron. We had a takeaway coffee and the young guy serving us pressed down on the white plastic drink lid with both hands around the hole where one drinks from. I asked for some hand sanitiser to cleanse the area and then, thinking better of it, I abandoned the lid in the bin outside.


That’s the spirit.


Some wag has posted an old photograph on social media.

For context, the anti-masker voices seem to be growing and demonstrations against restrictions starting up for a host of weird and wonderful theories.

The photograph is a scene from the Blitz in World War 2 in London and shows the public underneath blankets forced to sleep in the underground stations to avoid being bombed at street level.

He titled it ‘If the Blitz happened in 2020…’ He has added ‘speech balloon’ comments emanating from some of the individuals in the photo:


‘There are no bombs you’ve been brainwashed.’

‘They want us to stay here to control us.’

‘I don’t consent to this new normal.’

‘I’m going outside, it’s my right.’

‘I’m leaving the lights on in my house and you can’t stop me!’


It made me smile, and then feel a little bit sad.


Quote of the day.


‘If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want will be the sacrifice.’ – Anon.


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