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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Inactivated Whole Virus
Prophylactic neutralising antibodies
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.
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
There is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed
A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially
A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation
COVID-19 is present in the UK, but the number of cases and transmission is low
COVID-19 is not known to be present in the UK