Where it began, it seems a lifetime ago ....
This is the view from the market town of Ledbury, the heart of a rural community in Herefordshire, England. The county is set between the Malvern Hills and the
border with Wales. Recording facts about the pandemic as it happens from direct evidence or reliable information sources worldwide.
Background. Viruses are everywhere. Probably the earliest to be noticed and the one everyone now knows is the influenza
virus. The word ‘influenza’ coming from medieval Latin meaning ‘(astrological) influence (of the stars)’ and the illness was first recorded
by Hippocrates in 412 B.C.E. It is an orthomyxovirus and the form Influenza A has the potential to cause pandemics. The first viral pandemic
was in 1580 C.E. The most recent were all influenza virus A. “Spanish” Flu in 1918, H2N2 strain (Asian Flu) in 1957, H3N2 strain “Hong Kong”
Flu in 1967, H5N1 strain (Bird Flu) in 2005 and H1N1 strain (Swine Flu) in 2009.
The cold-weather Annual Seasonal Flu is a mild illness which has been common worldwide for many years. One influenza A(H1N1), one influenza A(H3N2), and one or
two influenza B viruses (depending on the vaccine) are included in each season’s influenza vaccines.
The earliest virus to affect humanity was probably the poliovirus which is a picornavirus. It was first described in the UK in 1789.
Because of widespread vaccination from the mid-1950’s onwards, polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1994 but outbreaks have since been noted in
Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Around 1976 a retrovirus in Congo, West Africa passed from chimpanzees to humans and has since spread everywhere. The human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV) attacks the body’s immune system leaving you wide open to other diseases. The illness, termed AIDS, peaked between 2005 and 2012 but to date over 36
million people have died. Another virus, a coronavirus, caused the SARS outbreak of 2002 in Guandong Province, China but the outbreak was only
classed as an epidemic. Another coronavirus caused the MERS outbreak in the Middle East in 2012.
The new coronavirus strain, SARS-Cov-2A, leading to the disease COVID-19, appeared in China possibly contracted by humans from
live animals at a market in Wuhan or possibly an escape from a research labaratory in Wuhan. Previous outbreaks, SARS and MERS came from bats, via palm civet cats
and camels respectively. The virus can be de-activated by soap solution or a 70%+-alcohol sanitary handwash solution. Since it appeared the virus has mutated
into a series of variants of interest (Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda and Mu) and variants of concern (the first alpha, beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron,
the latest). The name comes from the corona or crown which shows up on an electron microscope.
Virions of coronavirus (colored transmission electron microscopy image).Image Credit: Dr. Fred Murphy & Sylvia Whitfield/CDC
The story continues ....
Saturday 1st January The i newspaper reports that thousands of people left messages on the Chinese Weibo social media account
of Li Wenliang, the opthalmologist who first alerted the authorities to the novel coronavirus in Wuhan. It is the second anniversary of his warning (see 2020 diary)
and the messages expressed thanks and sadness that he was among the first to die of COVID-19.
The UK Government website reported today that a total of 546,000 people in England have been hosptalised in England since the start of the pandemic. The number is
43,000 in Scotland, 37,000 in Wales and 15,000 in Northern Ireland. At present there are 14,500 people in hospital including 850 in mechanical ventilation beds but
these figures are expected to continue to rise.
2nd January Last August the UK Government promised to supply around 300,000 carbon dioxide monitors to all state-funded education settings made
possible by £25 million of government funding. The aim was to detect poorly ventilated rooms (CO2 levels over 1500ppm) where improvements needed
to be made. They also supplied 1000 air purifier units as a trial. Today the Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announces that the Department of Education will
supply a further 7,000 units. They will be targeted at modern classrooms without opening windows where recirculating air conditioning units are in use.
3rd January The latest world figures from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. Right click
to view the dashboard full-size or
5th January The Evening Standard reports on 14th January that NHS staff absences peaked today at 49,941. The total includes staff who were ill
with coronavirus or who were having to self-isolate.
6th January The gov.uk ‘Coronavirus in the UK’ webpage says that from 6 January in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and
11 January in England, people with positive lateral flow results for COVID-19 need to report their result but don’t need to take a confirmatory PCR
test unless they develop COVID-19 symptoms. This is a temporary measure while COVID-19 rates remain high across the UK as the vast majority of people with
positive lateral flow test results can be confident that they have COVID-19. A similar approach was taken in January 2021, when infection prevalence was high,
meaning it was highly likely that a positive lateral flow test COVID-19 result was a true positive. Confirmatory PCRs were temporarily paused and
reintroduced in March 2021 after infection rates fell.
8th January The evening TV news reports that the figure for COVID-19 deaths now exceeds 150,000.
Vaccination progress is shown on these UK Government website charts. The number of people of all ages who have received a COVID-19 vaccination is shown as a
percentage of the population aged 12 and over using the 2020 mid-year population estimate. Right click to view full-size or
Sunday 9th January On BBC Broadcasting House this morning Paddy O’Connell spoke to consultant Dr. Steve James who gives his personal
reasons for refusing the COVID-19 vaccination.
11th January A New Yorker cartoon from early on in the pandemic.
Progress of the pandemic in our area of Herefordshire and edge of Worcestershire from August 11 last year to today. Right click to view the video full-size
12th January Dr. Jonathan Van-Tam who has been a prominent figure at Government briefings from Downing Street tells health officials this
evening that he will leave his government post at the end of March to return to academia. He was on secondment from Nottingham University to the Department of
Health for a four and a half year period and appointed deputy chief medical officer for England as well as serving on the
SAGE Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies
13th January The UK Times newspaper reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson defied calls last night for his resignation over lockdown parties
in Downing Street as the Tories fell to their lowest poll rating against Labour in almost a decade. Speaking in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister
apologised to the public for the rage they feel over the allegations as he admitted attending an event in the No 10 garden in May 2020. He said
he believed it was a work event and that he had not seen an invitation from his principal private secretary for 100 staff to bring their own alcohol to
socially distanced drinks. He also told the Commons he had gone to the No10 party gathering to thank staff. The UK newspapers have
critical headlines today.
UK newspapers online report that the Health Secretary Sajid Javid tells the Commons today that the Covid self-isolation period in England for those who test
positive will be cut to five days from next Monday. He said that the UKHSA UK Health Security
Agency found around two thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five. People will only be
allowed to leave isolation if they record two negative lateral flow tests on days five and six, before being allowed to leave on the sixth. After
reviewing all of the evidence, we’ve made the decision to reduce the minimum self-isolation period to five full days in England, Mr Javid said.
From Monday, people can test twice before they go, leaving isolation at the start of day six.
Euronews reports that in India hundreds of thousands of Indian pilgrims are attending a massive religious festival as cases of
Covid-19 spread across the country. Authorities said they expected up to three million people to take a ritual bath in the holy river Ganges on Friday,
the highlight of the annual Gangasagar Mela. A similarly colossal religious festival, the Kumbh Mela, which the Hindu nationalist government refused to ban
last April, has been blamed in part for a devastating spike in cases that have killed 200,000 people, according to official counts, though some experts fear
the real toll is several times higher.
15th January This Herefordshire Council advertisement appeared in the local newspapers last November just before Omicron was recognised.
16th January On BBC Broadcasting House this morning Paddy O’Connell does a follow-up on coronavirus antibodies by having himself tested.
17th January Euronews reports that from today, older people in Greece that are not vaccinated face monthly fines. Those over the age of 60 and
without the jab will have to pay a €50 penalty in January, rising to €100 in February. The decision comes as the country’s public health system
struggles to cope with an increase in cases and the government starts to run out of patience with those who are still unvaccinated against COVID-19. In France
a new “vaccine pass” bill means people 16 and over who aren’t fully vaccinated will be excluded from restaurants, movie theatres, sports arenas,
and other venues, trains and domestic flights.
Starting from February, Austria will become the first European country to make coronavirus vaccination compulsory for all adults. Those who do not comply will
face a hefty fine of up to €3,600.
18th January On 21st December the Full Fact website had an article by Abbas Panjwani entitled “How many people in England are
unvaccinated?” It explained clearly the problems in answering this question.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) latest estimate for 2020 puts the population at 55.6 million based on updating the 2011 census figures. The ONS
estimate for the population aged 12 and over is 48,375,273.
The UKHSA UK Health Security Agency uses data extracted from the National
Immunisation Management Service (NIMS) which counts 62,724,319 people in England registered with the NHS. However this s expected to overestimate the
total population of England (and therefore the total number of unvaccinated people), as it includes people who are still registered with the NHS but
moved abroad for example, and may double count people registered with more than one GP. The NIMS figure for the population aged 12 or over is 54,328,630.
Today the total number of first vaccinations in England is reported as 43,819,571 so that means somewhere betweeen 4,555,702 and 10,509,059 people are
unvaccinated. The ONS figure is 9.4%, but the NIMS figure is 19.3% of the 12 and over population of England.
19th January The UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid gives a television briefing this afternoon where he summarise the developments since
he took over the post and confirms the latest relaxations of the rules. (9 mins)
This slide, presented at the briefing, shows the link between vaccination status and hospital admissions.
21st January London Mayor Sadiq Khan says that the Major Incident in the capital, declared on 18 December, is stood down today as daily case
numbers are falling.
23rd January These UK Government figures (PDF file) show how the Omicron wave of COVID infections
was reflected in hospitalisations and the various days when peaks occurred. Reports from various hospitals were that most patients were unvaccinated.
The Open Access News website reports on the latest data released by the
REACT Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission programme. This programme was
commissioned from the Imperial College London, School of Public Health by the UK Department of Health, to track how COVID-19 is spreading in the country.
The Omicron variant has now made an “almost complete” replacement of Delta in the UK, according to the latest analysis. Now, scientists are
tracking “unprecedented” levels of COVID cases across the country. Currently, one in 23 people have had the virus. This is a much higher level
of infection than January, 2021, despite the presence of majority double-vaccination across the country. Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme,
There is good news in our data in that infections had been rapidly dropping during January, but they are still extremely high and may have recently
stalled at a very high prevalence. When it comes to age groups, school-aged children have the highest number of infections. At the moment, one in 13
children are testing positive. The lowest level of infection is currently in those aged above 75+ at one in 41 cases of COVID. However this is still a
12-fold increase in contrast to December, 2021.
27th January The UK Government COVID dashboard reports today that from 31st January UKHSA will change its case reporting. Up to now cases have
been individual people who had been infected but reinfections were not counted as a new case. From here on where a person has a a reinfection 90 days or more
after a previous infection this wil be logged as a completely new case. Many cases now are reinfections, but this means the link with population is broken and
the number of cases recorded will not relate to the number of people affected. The total number of infections may not be a useful figure. Right click to view
the chart full-size or
In Scotland, individuals are only counted
as cases once, on the date of their first positive test.
Also, from today, face masks are no longer required to be worn in secondary school classrooms or communal areas. Face coverings are also not legally necessary
anywhere else, but remain a requirement in healthcare settings such as GP surgeries, hospitals or care homes. The government “recommends” that
people wear face coverings in enclosed or private spaces, but this will be a personal judgement. However London Mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed masks will remain
mandatory on all TfL Transport for London services including the Tube [London
A number of major retailers including Tesco, Sainsburys, Lidl, Waitrose, Morrisons and John Lewis have also asked staff and customers to keep wearing a face
covering as recommended by the retail workers trade union USDAW Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied
Workers . General secretary Paddy Lillis said We hope all retailers will continue to
put staff and customer safety first. Wearing a face covering is an important measure to help protect workers who have no option but to interact with the
public. Masks are still a legal requirement in many situations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
28th January This week’s edition of the BBC More or Less radio programme reports a fact that has been widely quoted on social media,
including by David Davis MP, that the number of deaths purely down to COVID-19 is 17,371 which is far less than that reported by the mainstream media. Their
researcher tracked down the number to a Freedom of Information request sent to the ONS. The reply came back on 16 December 2021 and looking at the various
spreadsheets gives interesting background. Firstly the figure is for England and Wales and the ONS figure to the end of 2021 is 18,907. Secondly these are
simply deaths with no other pre-existing condition written on the death certificate. So people with diabetes, dementia or Alzheimers, high blood pressure,
urinary infection, obesity or asthma for example before they contracted COVID are not counted. To be fair if ‘old age’ was put down as well as
COVID these were actually counted as COVID-only deaths. In summary the figure given on social media is meaningless as people with these conditions were not
expected to die of them but did die because they contracted COVID-19.
To the end of 2021 deaths recorded in England and Wales as involving COVID were 159,753; if 18,907 were COVID alone, then 140,846 were people who were
vulnerable because of other health conditions. A quote from a website called MENAFN.com:
To argue that the deaths from COVID of people with pre-existing conditions don’t count as true COVID deaths is to say
that people with pre-existing conditions don’t matter; that their lives are expendable and shouldn’t be considered when assessing the impact of the
pandemic. Over 140,000 people with pre-existing conditions have died of COVID in the last two years. We should be mourning this tragic loss of life, not
31st January UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid tells the House of Commons he is considering scrapping the mandatory vaccination requirement for
NHS and care home staff if Parliament approves the change. Around 40,000 people lost their jobs in November when the rule came in for care home staff and around
77,000 NHS unvaccinated healthcare workers are likely to follow if the law is not changed. BBC News summarises the FORs and AGAINSTs making vaccinations mandatory.
FOR Vaccines save lives AGAINST Civil liberty resistance worldwide
FOR No other options left AGAINST Improved access to jabs still needed
FOR Higher take-up avoids damaging lockdowns AGAINST Encourage conspiracy theories.
FACTCHECK: In the UK some frontline healthcare workers are required to have the Hepatitis B vaccine, this is not law but rather hospital trusts enacting
workplace health and safety and occupational health policies. In the US healthcare workers at any facility that receives funding from the Center for Medicare
and Medicaid Services must be vaccinated by 4 January 2022, unless granted a medical or religious exception. A Memorandum from the Secretary of Defense of
24 August 2021 requires military personnel to be vaccinated by various deadlines unless granted a medical or religious exception. Noncitizens traveling to
the United States by airplane must be vaccinated by the date of entry. Exceptions include persons under age 18, airplane crews, diplomats, permanent residents,
citizens of one of 43 nations with limited vaccine availability, persons issued exemptions due to humanitarian or national security reasons, vaccine trial
participants, and those with documented medical contraindications to vaccination.
1st February The UK Government COVID case figures released yesterday including reinfection cases from 1/1/2021 to date is 837,426 cases. This
is worked out from cumulative totals 17,315,893 - 16,478,467. However the daily figure given yesterday was 92,368. So around 750,000 cases last year were
On the UK COVID online dashboard this note appears: From 31 January 2022, UKHSA COVID-19 case reporting has changed to an episode-based definition which includes
possible reinfections. This means that from 1 February 2022 deaths will be reported using the new episode-based case definition in England, including deaths
following possible reinfections. From this point, reported deaths in people with COVID-19 (within 28 or 60 days of positive test) are considered from the first
positive specimen date of the most recent episode of infection, rather than an individual’s first ever positive specimen date. Deaths by date of death
have today been revised back to the beginning of the pandemic but historical deaths by report date have not been revised, so there is a step increase in the
cumulative numbers of deaths on 1 February.
[Ed. My UK Progress chart shows deaths by report date and the figure for today is 1,121. This is worked out from cumulative totals 156,875 - 155,754.
However the daily figure for deaths given today is 219. So around 900 COVID deaths last year were not reported at the time.]
The Anchorage Daily News includes an Associated Press item. “New cases of COVID-19 in the US are falling in at least 49 out of 50 states as omicron
rapidly loosens its grip even as the nation’s death toll closes in on another bleak round number: 900,000”
The UKHSA issues a blog today explaining the changing of the COVID case definition.
Reuters News Agency reports that last Thursday the CEO of Afrigen Biologics Company in South Africa says the company has used the
publicly available sequence of the Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to make its own version of the shot which could be tested on humans by the end of this year.
It is the first mRNA vaccine to be designed, developed and produced at lab scale on the African continent. WHO last year picked a consortium including
Afrigen for a pilot project to give poor and middle-income countries the know-how to make COVID jabs, after Pfizer, BionTedch and Moderna declined to share
their technology and expertise. Last September Reuters said that more than three quarters of the 5.5 billion COVID-19 shots administered worldwide had gone
to high and upper-middle income countries, which make up just over a third of the world’s population.
9th February A TV programme on BBC2 this evening is called AtraZeneca: A Vaccine for the World. The BBC Medical Editor Fergus Walsh interviews key
people including Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert at Oxford and the AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot. various points came up as previously noted in this diary such as the
hiatus following the reports of blood clots and the UK politicians emphasising a great British success whereas the Oxford scientists wanted to make it a vaccine
for the world by supplying it to COVAX at cost and having a vaccine that only required simple refrigeration. One fact that was new is that the US FDA
has still not approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in America Checking this out, Reuters published the following last December:
Dec 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized the use of AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) antibody cocktail to prevent COVID-19
infections in individuals with weak immune systems or a history of severe side effects from coronavirus vaccines.
The antibody cocktail, Evusheld, is only authorized for adults and adolescents who are not currently infected with the novel coronavirus and have not recently
been exposed to an infected individual, the regulator said.
The authorization for the therapy, made up of two monoclonal antibodies tixagevimab and cilgavimab, marks a significant step for AstraZeneca, whose widely
used COVID-19 vaccine is yet to be approved by U.S. authorities.
AstraZeneca last month had agreed to supply the U.S. government with 700,000 doses of Evusheld ...
On 31 January the FDA fully approved a second COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine formerly known as Moderna COVID-19 will be marketed as ‘Spikevax’.
The FDA previously fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech branded version, Comirnaty, on August 23, 2021. Both vaccines had previously been supplied under Emergency
Use Authorisation and no change has been made to either vaccine’s formula.
12th February African Arguments website, published by the Royal Africa Society based at London University, School of Oriental
and African Studies, shows this summary map. Right click to view full-size or
Previously recorded on 18 December 2021 with the same countries with the highest vaccination rates.
19th February The New York Times publishes these graphs online. Right click to view full-size or
20th February BBC News reports the Queen (95) has tested positive for COVID-19 with only slight symptoms. Her son Prince Charles (73) had COVID
on 10 February, his second infection, and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall(74) on 14 February.
21st February 4.30pm The UK Prime Minister makes a statement in the House of Commons on ‘Living with COVID’
The legal requirements for testing, contact-tracing, self-isolation and mask-wearing will all be removed by 1st April. Medical advice seems to be divided and
the Labour Opposition in the House disagreed with the proposal calling it “reckless” and making things more difficult for clinically vulnerable people.
Thursday 24th February From today the legal requirement for people to self-isolate if testing positive for COVID-19 is ended. Also masks are not
required by law to be worn in indoor settings. However Government guidelines still recommend these measures to reduce transmaission of the virus.
The world is distracted as this morning the Russian President Vladimir Putin orders the Russian army to attack Ukraine.
1st March UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid announces that the mandatory requirement for all health workers in
contact with patients to be vaccinated against COVID which was due to come into force on 1 April has now been revoked. A survey was carried out among health
professionals and the public and the results of this together with the less severe Omicron strain being now dominant have led to this decision.
7th March An update to 16th November 2021 chart. Right click to view full-size or
The UK has improved its world ranking.
8th March The latest world figures from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland show another sad milestone - over 6 million deaths
worldwide. Right click to view the dashboard full-size or
11th March These are the Government dashboard graphs for UK hospitals today.
Monday 14th March The Guardian online reports that the UK Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, says that, although the the Office for National
Statistics Covid-19 Infections Survey shows an increase in cases across the whole of the UK, we are in a “very good position” and rising
infection rates were to be “expected’. There were 72,898 new cases of Covid-19 reported in the UK on Friday. On 24 February, when most of the
remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England ended, there were 38,933 cases reported. There are also almost 12,000 people in hospital in the UK with
18th March Widely reported today that COVID infections are 1 in 25 people in Wales, 1 in 20 people in England and 1 in 14 people in Scotland
and Northern Ireland.
All remaining COVID-19 travel restrictions were lifted today. A range of “contingency measures” may be applied if needed, to take “swift and
proportionate action” to tackle new variants, the Department for Transport said. This applies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but in Scotland the
requirement to wear a face mask while on flights is still in place.
19th March The Week magazine quotes John Rintoul in the Independent.
A new study has been published in the Lancet, Britain’s premier medical journal. It compares “excess deaths” data across 191 nations,
looking at how many more deaths occurred in each country in 2020 and 2021 than would have been expected in a non-pandemic year. Given the very different ways
in which countries have logged COVID fatalities, this is the best comparative measure we have. And on this measure the UK didn’t do too badly at all.
Our excess deaths of 127 per 100,000 is a shade over the global average of 120 - worse, it’s true, than Sweden (91) and Ireland (just 13), but far
better than Italy (227), Portugal (202), Belgium (147) and the US (179), and in line with France (124) and Germany (121).
23th March In the UK the second anniversary of the first COVID lockdoen is commemorated by a National Day of Reflection. There is a memorial
concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. A minute’s silence is held at midday as one of several events organised by end-of-life charity, Marie
Curie. The National Covid Memorial Wall in London is a public mural painted by volunteers to commemorate victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United
Kingdom. Started in March 2021 and stretching more than one-third mile (five hundred metres) along the South Bank of the River Thames, opposite the Palace
of Westminster, and just outside St Thomas’ Hospital, the mural consists of thousands of red and pink hearts, one heart for each of the approximately
150,000 casualties of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom at the time of the mural’s commencement.
The Express online reports that airline easyJet has said mask wearing will now be a personal choice for travellers from 27 March. Masks must still be worn
if it is a legal requirement in the departure or arrival airport. According to Which? online, face masks are still required on flights with Air Canada,
American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Emirates Airline, KLM, Ryanair, Qantas and United Airlines. British Airways, Jet2, TUI and Virgin Atlantic have relaxed
24th March Professor Chris Whitty gave the keynote speech at a conference organised by the Local Government Association and The
Association of Directors of Public Health yesterday. His words were reported in the i newspaper. He said that the rising
hospitalisations are as a result of the Omicron sub-variant BA.2 will probably continue for at least another two weeks: The pandemic is going to become over time less dominant steadily but we’re going to have a significant problem with it in multiple parts of
the world for the rest of our lives. Let’s have no illusions about that. I’m expecting it to be probably, in the UK, seasonal but interspersed, at least for the next two or three years, by new variants while it is
still evolving essentially to adapt to humans, which may occur in between seasonal peaks.
Professor Whitty pointed to Hong Kong, which is going through its worst phase of the pandemic with hospitals struggling to cope. as an example of why
COVID has a long way to run. This is a slide from his presentation. Right click to view full-size or
[Ed. The Delta variant comprises 200 different sub-variants. The Omicron variant has lineages BA.1, BA.2, BA.3 and B.1.1.529. Sub-variant BA.1 accounts for
most of the world cases but BA.2 was first detected in the Philippines in November and is spreading. While BA.1 and BA.2 are similar, they are 20 mutations apart.
Studies in Denmark indicate that BA.2 is “substantially”" more transmissible than BA.1.]
Sunday 27th March With worldwide deaths from COVID being over 6 million, there are 12 countries which have each lost over 100,000
people to the virus. They are widely spread across the globe.
Data: Center for Systems Science and Engineering, Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Maryland (subject to the accuracy of information
supplied by the various countries).
Friday 1st April At 4.22 pm today BBC News online reports: Covid: Record 4.9 million people have the virus in the UK
This is not the daily figure of new cases but an estimate of the number of infected people in the UK in each week. Week endung 19 March was
4.3 million, week ending 26th March is 4.9 million. The graph shows how the number of total infections varied from the beginning of the
pandemic. It was falling after the post-Christmas peak in early January but the number shot up since 24 February due to easing of restrictions
and the spread of the more transmissable variant. The supply of free test kits ends today except for vulnerable people. The percentage
of the population with COVID is 7.6% (1in 13) in England, 8.6% (1 in 12) in Scotland, 7.0% (1 in 14) in Wales and 6.7% (1 in 15) in Northern
Following Professor Tim Spector’s research study last year [see 8 July 2021], the NHS has revised it’s symptom list for COVID-19
infection. On the NHS website, “Symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)” it says these can include:
⬤ a high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to
touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
⬤ a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or
more coughing episodes in 24 hours
⬤ a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
⬤ shortness of breath
⬤ feeling tired or exhausted
⬤ an aching body
⬤ a headache
⬤ a sore throat
⬤ a blocked or runny nose
⬤ loss of appetite
⬤ feeling sick or being sick
The symptoms apply to adults and children. It adds “The symptoms are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu.”
10th April [Editor’s Note: Since the conference last November, the pandemic has taken attention away from the
climate change issue. And since 24th February, the war in Ukraine has taken attention away from the pandemic. The civilians are on the streets
of Mariupol, in Southern Ukraine.
An effect of the war is soaring energy prices causing the UK Consumer Prices Index, the measure of inflation, to rise by 7.0% in the 12
months to March 2022. At present Europe relies on Russian oil and gas for its energy and UK and EU sanctions on Russia may lead to threats to
cut back supplies.]
12th April Two charts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing data from the start of the pandemic.
First cases/100,000 people by state, then deaths/100,000 by state.
Alaska and North Dakota both had more than 30,000 cases per 100,000 people.
Arizona and Mississippi both had more than 400 deaths per 100,000 people.
13th April From the Government COVID website: In line with weekday only reporting, the dashboard will not be updated over
the bank holiday weekend. Following the update on Thursday 14 April, the next update will be on Tuesday 19 April.
An article by Tom Bawden in the i newspaper today draws attention to the discrepancy between the ONS graph (shown on 1
April above) and the Government daily case numbers which show infections falling. The Government figures have always underestimated the true
extent of the virus as they are based solely on reported positive tests. People who are infected but choose either not to test themselves in
minor cases or to test but not to report the infection will be left out. The number of people taking and reporting tests has dropped off
dramatically in recent weeks for three main reasons:
1. At the end of February the legal obligation for people testing positive to self-isolate was removed. People do not need to be off work
and losing pay with mild symptoms and there is no incentive to test or report an infection.
2. At the end of March, supply of free test kits stopped in England. Having to buy the kits is a disincentive to testing yourself.
3. The Omicron infection is recognised generally as only causing mild illness in most cases so there is a sense it does not matter so much if
people catch and spread it.
[Ed. Since Government daily cases figures do not now usefully relate to actual cases, the Cases graph on the UK Progress Chart (link below)
will not be updated after the Easter holiday break.]
14th April The spread of the virus shown by the rolling rate per 100,000 people in the administrative areas of the UK
updated from 23 December 2021.
The New Scientist magazine reports that the US has extended its COVID-19 public health emergency status which was initially declared in
January 2020 and has been extended every quarter since. It was due to expire on April 16. The renewal allows people continued access to
free COVID-19 tests, vaccinations and treatments for at least another three months.
The UK MHRA Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
has approved the Valneva vaccine (based on a whole inactivated form of the SARS-Cov-2A virus) for people aged 18 to 50 years.
The vaccine can be stored for up to a year in a standard fridge.
Friday 15th April Start of Easter weekend in the UK.
16th April The UK Department of Health and Social Care posted this on Twitter today.
In the i newspaper today there is an interview with Professor Tim Spector of Kings College, London, who
runs the ZOE COVID study app. which now has around 4.5 million users in the UK, Sweden and the US. Among the points he makes are: * It may take five or six years for the pandemic to subside to a level of severity similar to current
influenza infections. * He expects COVID infections to drop to around 50,000 per day through the summer but to rise in the autumn
when children go back to school after the summer holidays. * Because the virus will be able to mutate more rapidly as so many people are infected, he anticipates
that a new variant will appear, able to evade our immune system response, and replace Omicron as the dominant strain. * He says that we are not talking about the risk of ‘Long COVID’ any more and it is a serious
concern for the NHS and businesses who have staff off work because of its effects.
The Government should say to the public ‘it’s
your civic duty to stay at home when you’ve got cold-like symptoms and not infect people. Just because it might be like a
cold for you, it’s not going to be like a cold for everyone. It could end up with someone being off work for a year’.
18th April [Ed. Since Government daily cases figures do not now usefully relate to actual cases, the Cases graphs on
the Herefordshire and Ledbury Progress Charts (links below) will not be updated after the Easter holiday break.]
Her Majesty the Queen is 96 today.
29th April An ONS table showing estimated infections as percentages of the populations in England, Scotland, Wales and
Northern Ireland for 2022. Now considered more useful that NHS figures and shows rise and fall of infection levels. Right click to view full-size or
30th April A Matt Pritchett cartoon quoted in The Week magazine today.
9th May Johns Hopkins University reports the total number of US COVID-related deaths is close to a million people. The figure they
give is 997,539. The US CDC figure is 995,023. The New York Times has 996,283. With deaths per day at around 350 people the 1 million mark may be
reached in about two weeks.
BBC Online introduces another measure to show the effect of COVID on the countries of the world. “There’s no international standard for
measuring deaths or their causes, and countries record deaths in different ways, which makes comparison difficult. But experts say one of the most
accurate measures is how many extra deaths are recorded in a country above the number that would have been expected to die in an average year. Many
countries publish excess death data, but some poorer nations don’t or do it far less frequently. The WHO has published a report calculating
every country’s excess death count for 2020 and 2021. This measure takes into account deaths not directly due to Covid, but as a consequence
of the pandemic, such as people being unable to access hospitals for the care they needed.” The excess deaths in the 13 worst-hit countries are shown
on this BBC chart.
CTV News reports that World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a media briefing today
that China’s zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy is not sustainable given what is now known of the virus, in rare public comments by the UN agency
on a government’s handling of the pandemic. He says they they have discussed this issue with Chinese experts. He also noted that China has
registered 15,000 deaths since the virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019 - a relatively low number compared with nearly 1 million
in the United States, more than 664,000 in Brazil and over 524,000 in India.
Reuters News Agency reports that China’s zero-COVID policy has led to a cycle of lockdowns of many millions of people. Shanghai’s
lockdown began on 28th March. The day before the city had recorded 3,450 asymptomatic cases, 70% of the nationwide total that day, as well as another
50 symptomatic cases. Shanghai’'s measures, affecting 26 million people, have been particularly strict Residents are allowed out of compounds only
for exceptional reasons, such as a medical emergency. According to social media posts and local government notices circulating online, in several parts
of the city entire appartment blocks have been deemed a health risk, with all occupants forced from their homes and placed into quarantine on the back
of one positive case.
15th May My wife and I had our fourth coronavirus jab (spring booster) at the pharmacy in a nearby town, Bromyard. We tested ourselves
to ensure we were free of the virus before going.
We were given this spring booster guide leaflet (PDF) and the Moderna Spikevax
package leaflet (PDF). As people over 75 years of age, we have now had two AZ (adenoviral vector), one Pfizer-Comirnaty (mRNA) and one Moderna Spikevax
18th May The Northern Ireland Dept. of Health announces it will not be publishing a daily dashboard of COVID statistics after Friday 20th May.
The NI decision to stop publishing COVID data means UK headline figures for these topics will not be updated. From today the UK daily totals of cases and
deaths are not being published on the gov.uk dashboard. Healthcare data is problematical. For ‘Patients admitted to hospital’ a note says: Data
are not updated every day by all 4 nations (England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland). Figures are not comparable as Wales includes suspected COVID-19
patients while the other nations include only confirmed cases. For ‘Patients in hospital’ a note says: Data from England, Northern Ireland,
Wales and Scotland may not be directly comparable as data about COVID-19 patients in hospitals are collected differently. Data are not reported by each
nation every day.
[Ed. From today my UK charts are discontinued.]
22nd May Our World in Data has this graph for daily confirmed cases in China. The Shanghai lockdown seems to have worked and the government
has said that restrictions will be eased in June.
27th May yahoo!sport website publishes this ONS data graph for etimated COVID infections in the UK population showing the number falling
to 1.1 million in the week to 21 May.
The proportion of the populations in the parts of the UK in the week to 21 May are:
England 1 in 60 people
Scotland 1 in 40
Wales 1 in 55
Northern Ireland 1 in 80.
1st June The UK ONS Office for National Statistics reports that
around 2 milllion people (3% of the UK population) have ‘Long COVID’. This is defined as having COVID-19 symptoms more than four weeks from
recovering from the infection, the symptoms not being explained by something else. The number has been increasing steadily since this time last year as
shown on this graph.
The figure is based on a survey of nearly 300,000 people who reported having COVID at various times over the last two years. Of the most common symptoms
55% of people reported fatigue, 32% shortness of breath, 23% a cough and 23% muscle ache. Altogether around three-quarters reported that it was affecting
their day-to-day activities.
Public Health Scotland (PHS) announces it will move to weekly COVID-19 reporting from Wednesday 08 June 2022. This follows changes to testing policy in
Scotland that came into effect from 01 May 2022. The reduction in the quantity and quality of available daily data limits the utility of daily reporting.
As a result, PHS is moving to weekly COVID-19 reporting, which is more typical for respiratory infection surveillance and more appropriate as Scotland
transitions from the emergency response phase of the pandemic to living with endemic COVID-19. PHS will also cease reporting of COVID-19 deaths within 28
days of a first positive test, instead signposting to NRS National Records of Scotland
death certificate data as the single data source for COVID-19 deaths data in Scotland.
2nd June The ONS reports that the estimated percentage of the community population (those not in hospitals, care homes or other
institutional settings) that had COVID-19 in the week to 2 June are:
797,500 (1 in 70 people) in England
124,100 (1 in 40 people) in Scotland
40,500 (1 in 75 people) in Wales
27,700 (1 in 65 people) in Northern Ireland
Right click to enlarge or
The ONS reports that COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in 2021 for all people and was the second leading cause of death for males and females
separately. Males had slightly more deaths from Ischaemic heart diseases and the third cause was Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, females had
definitely most deaths from Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and the third cause was Ischaemic heart diseases.
These are the UK Government dashboard graphs for UK hospitals today.
The UK Guardian newspaper reports that after the Omicron variant BA.1 emerged last November, variant BA.2 arrived in April this year. It is now declining
and two more transmissable variants, BA.4 and BA.5, are on the rise. BA.5 is spreading around the world, particularly in Portugal and Germany, and at
the end of May made up 14% of COVID virus genomes analysed in England. In the US, the Providence Journal reports today that the latest weekly CDC report
says that 7.2% of new COVID cases in New England involve the latest two variants.
USA Today makes general points from ‘experts’ that the US is undergoing a sixth wave of COVID cases. Many people who avoided the virus are
getting it for the first time because pandemic fatigue has set in and more people are socialising and not wearing masks. With vaccinations, many cases are
mild but at intervals a severe case appears in the most vunerable individuals. Herd immunity has not been reached as the variants show some ability to
evade the immune system and cause reinfection.
The Indian Express reports that “the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants are making their presence felt across various areas in the country with
the daily Covid tally now showing a rise in the country. When contacted, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, told The Indian Express that it could
be the start of a mini wave. The sub-variants that are emerging are more transmissible than the original Omicron BA.1 and there is a likelihood of waning
immunity. It is a possibility that there could be mini waves every four-six months or so and hence, apart from all Covid-appropriate precautionary measures
that need to be taken, it is important to also track the variants Dr Swaminathan said.
UK Parliamenmt website reports today that the Government accepts or partially accepts majority of MPs’ recommendations contained in the report of
the joint parliamentary inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The Government response published today says that the Government accepts or
partially accepts the majority of the inquiry’s 38 recommendations.
Sunday 12th June
Simon Calder in the UK Independent newspaper last Friday reported that, from 12:01am EDT (5:01am BST) today, the US
health regulator, the CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is
allowing the requirement for a negative pre-departure COVID test for international travellers entering the country by air to expire. However travellers
must have had “all recommended doses in their primary series of Covid-19 vaccine”. There is no requirement to have had a third booster jab.
African Arguments website, published by the Royal Africa Society based at London University, School of Oriental
and African Studies, shows this summary map. Right click to view full-size or
Previously recorded on 12 February with the same countries with the highest vaccination rates. Still the Congo appears the worst country with around 15
vaccinations per 100 people and the WHO World Health Organisation reports that as
of 29 May 2022, a total of 831,318 vaccine doses have been administered.
Previous issues show Africa vaccinations slowly increasing: 28 Sept. 149M, 18 Dec. 280M, 12 Feb. 367M, 12 June 518M.
16th June UK Parliament website reports that in its response, published today, the Government accepts or partially accepts the majority of
38 recommendations made in the Report “Coronavirus: lessons learned to date” published in October 2021.
In a joint statement, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, and Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Chair of the Science and
Technology Committee, said: “It will now be vital for the Government to put its words of acceptance into actions to ensure that our scientific, health
and care sectors are better prepared to meet any future threats.”
In the Report this timeline of the pandemic is given up to August 2021.
17th June The ONS reports that the estimated percentage of the community population (those not in hospitals, care homes or other
institutional settings) that had COVID-19 in the week to 11 June are:
1,131,000 (1 in 50 people) in England
176,900 (1 in 30 people) in Scotland
64,800 (1 in 45 people) in Wales
42,999 (1 in 45 people) in Northern Ireland
This is a substantial incease on the figures on 2 June. The week follows on from the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend when over 60k people registered
to host Big Jubilee Lunches, and many social events were held.
18th June Our World in Data gives this graph comparing two of the worst hit countries, the US and UK.
PBS News Hour reports that in the US most states and cities dropped their masking requirements in February and early March following new guidelines from the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that put less focus on case counts and more on hospital capacity. The CDC said at that time that with the
virus in retreat, most Americans could safely take off their masks. However on 18 April Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate
its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, with the city’s health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole,
saying she wanted to forestall a potential new wave driven by an omicron subvariant.
Radio Havana Cuba online reports that the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) gives a figure of 9,969,774 Cubans as being fully
vaccinated against COVID-19 (90% of the population) and in Cuba 8,529 people have died from complications associated with the disease.
Last September it was reported in this diary that, despite American sanctions causing production difficulties, Cuba had developed two vaccines in Havana.
Both Soberana 02 and Abdala are similar to the US Novavax consisting of nanoparticles generating spike-protein specific antibodies. Vaccinations of adults had
begun last May and children aged 2 to 18 in September. The Washington Post today gives details of the vaccines.
Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus were developed by Vicente Vérez, head of the Finlay Vaccine Institute in Havana. This vaccine is now also being produced at
the Pasteur Institue of Iran in Tehran under the name PasteurCoVac having been approved by Iranian regulators. A course of Soberana vaccine requires two
doses of Soberana 02 followed by a booster of Soberana Plus. In the Plus version the spike protein is not attached to tetanus toxoid.
Abdala was developed by a team from the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana led by Gerardo Guillén, director of Biomedical Research.
It requires two doses and is used for adults. Both vaccines do not need ultra-low temperature storage making distribution easier.
At the BioHabana 2022 Congress in April 2022, Guillén announced that he is also working on a single-dose nasally administered vaccine named
is a combination of two recombinant proteins: the RBD of the SARS-CoV-2 spike and the nucleocapsid of the hepatitis B virus.
27th June Figures from statista.com for COVID-19 deaths by countries having over 100,000 deaths recorded.
29th June The New York Times coronavirus tracker shows this chart for deaths per 100,000 in local areas of England and Scotland. Wales and
Northern Ireland stopped publishing figures in May. Right click to enlarge or
On More or Less on BBC Radio 4 this morning Tim Harford spoke to Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter who gives his view of the ongoing pandemic.
29th June The UK ONS has this graph for deaths registered where COVID is stated on the death certificate as contributing to the death.
30th June yahoo!sport website publishes this ONS data graph for estimated COVID infections in the UK population showing the number rising to
2.3 million in the week to 25 June.
The Serum Institute of India is seeking Government approval to export 32.4 lakh doses of the Covid-19 jab Covovax under the brand name Nuvaxovid to the US,
which will be the first vaccine to be exported to the country by any Indian manufacturer, official sources said on Thursday.
According to a communication sent to the government by Prakash Kumar Singh, Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs at the SII, the shipment is likely
to be dispatched on July 3 if due approval come in time, an official source told PTI Press Trust of India .
In August 2020, the US-based vaccine maker Novavax Inc had announced a licence agreement with SII for the development and commercialisation of NVX-CoV2373,
its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, in India and low and middle-income countries.
Elsewhere a total of over 5 lakh (525,116) coronavirus-linked deaths have been reported so far in the country. [The Indian numbering system is 1 lakh = 100,000.
1 crore = 1,00,00,000 or 10 million]
On the UK Government dashboard this message appears: “From Friday 1 July 2022, the COVID-19 Dashboard will move to weekly reporting. The last daily update of the
Dashboard will be on Friday 1 July 2022. Weekly updates will be published every Wednesday at 4pm commencing on 6 July 2022.”
Using the ONS population estimates for mid-2020, the death rate from COVID-19 in the countries of the UK are:
Total Deaths to date
Deaths per 100,000 people
4th July In the online journal, The Conversation, today Professor Adrian Esterman of the University of South Australia summarises the situation in Australia. Australia is heading for its third Omicron wave in the coming weeks, as BA.4 and BA.5 become the dominant COVID strains. BA.4 and BA.5 are more infectious than previous
COVID variants and subvariants, and are better able to evade immunity from vaccines and previous infections. So we’re likely to see a rise in case numbers. ... We measure how
contagious a disease is by the basic reproduction number (R0). This is the average number of people an initial case infects in a population with no immunity (from vaccines
or previous infection). New mutations give the virus an advantage if they can increase transmissibility:
the original Wuhan strain has an R0 of 3.3
Delta has an R0 of 5.1
Omicron BA.1 has an R0 of 9.5
BA.2, which is the dominant subvariant in Australia at the moment, is 1.4 times more transmissible than BA.1, and so has an R0 of about 13.3
a pre-print publication from South Africa suggests BA.4/5 has a growth advantage over BA.2 similar to the growth advantage of BA.2 over BA.1. That would give it an R0 of 18.6.
This is similar to measles, which was until now was our most infectious viral disease. ... BA.4/BA.5 appear to be masters at evading immunity. This increases the chance of
reinfection which is is defined as a new infection at least 12 weeks after the first. This gap is in place because many infected people still shed virus particles many weeks
after recovery. Likely, there are now tens of thousands of Australians into their second or third infections, and this number will only get bigger with BA.4/5. ... If things
get bad enough, state and territory governments might be forced to reintroduce face mask mandates in many settings – in my opinion, not such a bad thing.
UK Health & Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, resigns from the Government and is replaced by Steve Barclay, formerly Chief of Staff at
No. 10 Downing Street.
In his letter of resignation reproduced on Twitter Sajid Javid said that he had lost confidence in the Prime Minister. This follows a recent
Conservative Party Vote of Confidence where 211 MP’s voted for him, but 148 voted against him. [This loss of confidence in his
leadership was a reaction to illegal parties being held at Downing Street during COVID lockdowns involving individuals being fined, including the
PM, and his misleading Parliament by lying in the House of Commons on various subjects - most recently his denial of any knowledge of MP Chris
Pincher’s sexual improprieties when he appointed him Deputy Chief Whip for the Conservative Party. This was proved to be untrue.]
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, also resigned today citing loss of confidence in the PMs integrity. He is replaced by Nadhim Zahawi,
the Education Secretary and former Minister for Vaccine Deployment.
5th July A further 22 government ministers (all Conservative MPs) resign today:
Stuart Andrew - Housing Minister
Edward Argar - Health Minister
Victoria Atkins - Justice Minister
Kemi Badenoch - Equalities and Local Government Minister
Jo Churchill - Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food a& Rural Affairs
Alex Burghart - Apprenticeship & Skills Minister
James Cartlidge - Courts Minister
Mims Davies - Work and Pensions Minister
George Freeman - Scence Minister
Mike Freer - Under-Secretary of State for Exports at the Department for International Trade
John Glen - Minister of State at the Treasury
Simon Hart - Secretary of State for Wales
Damian Hinds - Security Minister
Julia Lopez - Minister of State at the Department for Digital Infrastructure, Culture, Media and Sport
Rachel Maclean - Home Office Minister
Neil O’Brien - Minister for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution
Guy Opperman - Pensions Minister
Chris Philp - Minister for Technology and Digital Economy
Will Quince - Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families at the Department of Education
Lee Rowley - Minister for Industry
Robin Walker - Schools Minister
Helen Whately - Treasury Minister
7th July Following 50 resignations of ministers, Personal Private Secretaries and trade envoys yesterday, the
Daily Express online tweets this picture this morning.
Boris Johnson resigns as leader of the Conservative Party. In his resignation speech at 12.30pm today outside No 10 Downing
Street Boris Johnson blames the “herd instinct’ in Parliament and said he would stay on in office until a new Prime
Minister is appointed. About 30 MPs stood in Downing Street to support him.
The Zoe COVID Study has identified the six most common symptoms after 2 vaccinations, given in order are: Runny nose, Headache,
Sneezing, Sore throat, Persistent cough and Loss of smell. Additional new symptoms includes mouth ulcers, coated tongue and
rashes on the body and fingers and toes.
The Daily Telegraph reports that four key figures in public health in the time of the pandemic received honours given to them
in the 2022 New Year Honours list from Prince William at Buckingham Palace yesterday. Professor Sir Paul Nurse, geneticist and
Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute, was made a Companion of Honour, Dr. Jenny Harries, Chief Executive
of the UK Health Security Agency received an OBE, Professor Kevin Fenton, Regional Director, Office for Health Improvement and
Disparities, Department for Health and Social Care, and Regional Director, Public Health, NHS London received a CBE and Professor
Jonathan Nguyen-Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, was knighted.
Sunday 10th July
For comparison with the UK figures for 30th June, here are today’s figures for Australia (from covidlive.com.au).
Total Deaths to date
Deaths per 100,000 people
New South Wales
Australian Capital Terrritory
The situation in New Zealand (2021 population estimate from StatsNZ).
Total Deaths to date
Deaths per 100,000 people
The NZHerald online is reporting that the WHO World Health Organisation is
monitoring a new COVID sub-variant. Officially named BA.2.75 and nicknamed “centaurus”. Found mainly in India, it has also been reported
in nine other countries including Austalia and New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Germany, the US and the UK. It has eight mutations beyond BA.5.
The US death rate by state published by the CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
on Friday 8th July. Their webpage reports that “Beginning July 4, 2022, COVID Data Tracker will discontinue daily data refreshes 7 days per week, and will instead refresh
data Monday through Friday.”
14th July At Prime Minister’s Question Time today the Prime Minister fails to answer two questions from Sir Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition, and
instead defends his record in government. [Ed. Parliament is in recess (on holiday) from 21 July to 5 September so it is unlikely any health policies will change during this
14th July In an interview with the i newspaper, Professor Karl Friston of University College of London, Queen Square Institute of
Neurology reports that the effectiveness of COVID jabs is falling more quickly with the latest variants. The current peak in prevalence is quite remarkable. Our modelling
points to immune escape as one of the key factors in the current resurgence: particularly, a declining protection against getting infected. The efficacy of vaccines in
preventing infection has declined sharply in the past months. Crucially, the protection against getting seriously ill or dying does not appear to be falling in the same way,
which means we might expect to see a lots of infections but a less marked increase in hospital admissions or fatalities. As a result, vaccinations remain key.
Tim Spector, the King’s College London professor who runs the ZOE app agrees and told the i last week There is very little lasting immunity,
past a couple of months. So they [BA.4 and BA.5] can just infect people who have already been infected with other variants much better. It’s quite rare, although not unheard
of, to be getting infections every two months. But quite a lot of people are now getting them every three or four months. It’s not offering the protection that we thought
it would do. Vaccines available in the UK are ineffective at preventing infection because they were based on the early strains of Covid. The Government is planning an autumn
2022 booster campaign using vaccines developed to handle the omicron variants.
15th July Released today the UK infection estimate according to ONS is still rising.
Sunday 17th July ITV weather forecast at 1:34pm today.
The link to coronavirus is that pressure on hospitals from patients with heatstroke will add to hospitalisations due to COVID-19 which are increasing in the UK. Also
ambulances are having increased waiting times outside A&E units over recent weeks due to shortage of available hospital beds.
19th Julyindie_SAGE Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies
publishes “A seven point plan to suppress covid infections and reduce disruptions” in the British Medical Journal. The seven points are:
1. Clear and consistent messaging concerning covid risk and risk mitigation, reinforced by public statements by those in positions of authority.
2. Increased efforts to promote vaccine uptake, among all age groups, and with particular emphasis on groups among whom uptake has been low, in
particular ethnic minority communities. This should be coupled with a clear long term plan to address waning immunity and immune escape by new variants.
3. Installing and/or upgrading ventilation/air filtration in all public buildings, with schools an urgent priority over the summer holidays.
4. Provision of free lateral-flow tests to enable everyone to follow existing public health guidelines.
5. Financial and other support for all workers to self-isolate if infected.
6. Systematic promotion of the use of FFP2/FFP3 masks in indoor public spaces and public transport when infection rates are high.
7. Increased support for the equitable global provision of vaccines and anti-virals.
If implemented, these measures will make it possible for people to make informed decisions that will reduce the risk of illness to them, their
families, and the communities in which they live and work. By reducing infections they will also reduce the disruption to the lives of individuals and society.
Independent SAGE was set up in May 2020. The chair is Deenan Pillay, Professor of Virology at University College London and the eighteen members include
Professor Karl Friston FRS (see 14 July).
Wednesday 20th July The day after temperatures of 41oC are recorded at UK London Heathrow Airport, these are the temperature readings in Ledbury.
21st July US President Joe Biden tests positive for COVID. The Daily Mail Online reports that he is isolating at the White House and has started a
course of Pfizer Paxlovid antiviral. This new drug was approved by the FDA last December to be prescribed by physicians but was only made
available from pharmacists two weeks ago. Studies have showed it decreased both deaths and hospitalizations in unvaccinated COVID patients by nearly 90 per cent.
Despite those strong numbers the drug was found to be less effective in treating vaccinated patients - which Biden is three times over - and doctor’s have
reported symptoms returning in some patients after Paxlovid treatment.
Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine and the Co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for
Vaccine Development is interviewed by Chiara Giordano. He is asked about a new sub-variant, B.A.2.75, called Centaur.
Metro online newspaper reports President Joe Biden has tested negative for the coronavirus after five days of isolation. Speaking in the Rose Garden of the
White House on Wednesday morning, Biden says: Here’s the bottom line – when my predecessor got Covid, he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed medical center. He was severely ill. Thankfully he
recovered. When I got Covid, I worked from upstairs of the White House, in the offices upstairs, for the five-day period. Biden, who walked up to the podium wearing a mask which he then took off, said vaccinations in the past year have made a difference. But also three new tools, free to all and widely available. You don’t need to be president to get these tools to use for your defense. In fact,
the same booster shots, the same at-home test, the same treatment that I got is available to you. My administration has made sure that all Americans across
the country, all walks of life, have free access to those tools. Covid was killing thousands of Americans when I got here. You can live without fear by doing
what I did – get boosted, get tests and get treatment.
He posts this Tweet today:
In an editorial on the BMJ British Medical Journal website headed
‘Intended for healthcare professionals’ and entitled ‘Smell and taste dysfunction after covid-19’, Professor P. Boscolo-Rizzo of the
Department of Medicine, Surgery and Health Sciences at the University of Trieste makes the following points based on his research:
1. The sense of smell is an ancient and vital perception in mammals, with the olfactory receptor gene family making up 1% of the mammalian genome ... However,
people only realise the importance of smell when it is lost. The covid-19 pandemic has put both smell and taste disturbances in the spotlight because of the
functional impact and severe distress caused by the loss of these senses, their fundamental diagnostic value, and, more recently, the high rate of long term
dysfunction. About 5% of people report smell and taste dysfunction six months after covid-19, and, given that an estimated 550 million cases of covid-19 have
been reported worldwide as of July 2022, large numbers of patients will be seeking care for these disabling morbidities.
2. Loss of smell and taste adversely affects quality of life by depriving those affected of several everyday pleasures and social bonds. People can also
experience anorexia, food aversions, malnutrition, anxiety, and depression. Parosmia, a distorted smell perception is a common symptom ... arising on average
three months after SARS-CoV-2 infection. For the overwhelming majority, parosmia transforms a pleasant odour into an unpleasant one, and daily activities such
as smelling coffee and sensing the flavour of food can become disgusting and emotionally distressing.
3. In a recent case-control study of patients one year after covid-19, we observed that participants who self-reported complete resolution of their loss of smell
had statistically significant lower psychophysical olfactory scores than people with no history of covid-19 matched on sex and age. Although an unconscious
alteration of sense of smell may not impact quality of life, it exposes people to possible risks. In addition to eating behaviour, nutrition, and social
communication, both smell and taste are crucial for vital functions such as warning against environmental hazards, including fires, poisonous fumes, leaking gas,
and spoiled food.
4. Olfactory training, started as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms, is the only disease specific intervention with evidence of efficacy for the treatment
of post-infectious olfactory dysfunction. First proposed by Thomas Hummel in 2009, olfactory training exploits the unique regenerative capabilities of the olfactory
neuroepithelium. Patients are advised to sniff and try to identify a sequence of four strong smelling scents — usually rose, eucalyptus, lemon, and clove — for
15 seconds twice a day over the course of several months.
28th July The Guardian newspaper reports that the rapid spread of Covid-19 infections in the past month has sent the number of workers taking sick
leave soaring, according to official figures, making staff shortages even worse and forcing many employers to shut down parts of their business. Undermining hopes
that the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants spreading across the UK would mimic the relatively mild Omicron variant of the virus, employers have reported staff
being “knocked out” and too ill to work from home. Figures from the ONS show that 1.1%, or more than 300,000 workers, took time off sick due to Covid in June.
Saturday 30th July yahoo!sport website publishes this ONS data graph for estimated COVID infections in the UK population showing the number falling to
3.2 million in the week to 20 July down from 3.8 million the previous week.
The ONS reports that the latest estimated numbers and proportions of the community population (those not in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings)
that had COVID-19 in the week to 20 July are:
2,600,000 (1 in 20) in England
272,000 (1 in 19) in Scotland
156,200 (1 in 19) in Wales
113,400 (1 in 16) in Northern Ireland
All well above the levels reported on 2 June.
US President Joe Biden tweets this afternoon;
The viral treatment Paxlovid as reported in the diary on 21 June is a twice-a-day dose of anti-viral tablets and the course of treatment lasts five days. The dose
is two pink nirmatrelvir tablets and one white ritonavir tablet.
Fox News online says that White House Doctor Dr. Kevin O’Connor confirms
that the President tested negative for COVID-19 on Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, and Friday morning, but tested positive on Saturday morning. Biden
has not experienced a reemergence of symptoms, and there’s no need to restart treatment. Dr. Marc Siegel, Fox News medical analyst and professor of medicine at New York
University Langone Medical Center says that Paxlovid rebound for Biden is not a surprise. I was surprised when he ended quarantine after 5 days even with two negative
tests because he still clearly had mild symptoms including nasal congestion. What I think happens is that the Paxlovid stops the virus from reproducing but when it wears off
there may still be some particles left and they then start to reproduce again and the test turns positive. I think the FDA should consider extending the course to 7-8 days
in higher risk cases like the president.
Sunday 6th August President Biden is signed off by his doctors to come out of isolation as he recovers from COVID following a second negative test today.