MERS Coronavirus warning

At my trust we've just had the weekly Covid briefing which included a mention that we're not currently being expected to make any arrangements for increased hospitalisations due to Omicron.

Given that we usually get 7-10 days warning to reallocate wards, shed non-critical services etc.
 
Yes, agreed. It occurs to me that the reports of mild symptoms may actually apply only to those who have been vaccinated.
As you say, it is too early to draw firm conclusions.
The cases that we are seeing outside of Africa are vaccinated because most of them are travellers who have to be vaccinated anyway. So we can't tell much other than that the vaccines seem to be working.

One of the news stories I linked said that most of the people being hospitalized in South Africa are not vaccinated. But we don't know how much of that is omicron and how much is delta.

Also, South Africa have a relatively high rate of previous infections with other variants, but people with previous infections are coming down sick with omicron. But perhaps previous infection provides a bit of protection against omicron rather than none at all (this would make sense). So what proportion of people being described as having "mild symptoms" had recovered from a previous infection?

And again, there are reports of a lot of younger people, including very young children being hospitalized. Normally they have milder cases. Having them hospitalized in significant numbers though is unusual enough to make me wonder what is going on? How is a virus that is supposedly "milder" putting larger numbers of younger people in hospital?

All of this makes me wonder WTF is going on? I don't think we'll know the answer to that until the hospital data has been given a really good going over by public health experts rather than just anecdotes from clinical doctors.
 

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At my trust we've just had the weekly Covid briefing which included a mention that we're not currently being expected to make any arrangements for increased hospitalisations due to Omicron.

Given that we usually get 7-10 days warning to reallocate wards, shed non-critical services etc.

Our Risk teams are well tapped into US and UK "official" sources and a lot of "at present there is no evidence/reason to..." noises.

All the BS is coming from panicking politicians and MSM looking for next Doomed l Tell Ye clickbait story.

And it shows

 
Yes, agreed. It occurs to me that the reports of mild symptoms may actually apply only to those who have been vaccinated.
As you say, it is too early to draw firm conclusions.

I thought that came from early reports based on a very small number of cases? So yes, it's too early to know.
 
Spain reckons the Omicron virus is showing a pattern of increased infection but mild, affects the double vaccinated and does not require hospitalisation.

Saying that, the number of cases have risen greatly over the last week, from a couple of thousand up to over 12,000 today. Deaths still comparatively low as are hospitalisations and ICU admittances.

Accumulated cases have risen from very low at under 50 per 100,000 just a month ago to 235 today (compared to UK at 949, Ireland at 1,245 and the worst of the lot in Belgium at 2,172. Germany and the Netherlands creeping up as well.

Our local hospital was a private/public health consortium but has now been taken over by the public health. Complaints of delayed procedures, 16 hour waits in A&E due to lack of doctors and so on has brought calls to sack the entire management staff. They reckon the civil servants who have now taken over are fine in tax offices or town halls but are ballsing up the medical procedures as they have no experience in that field. Apparently, just one doctor was available for the whole A&E department last weekend instead of the mandate four that should be in place.

Also calling on Chrimble celebrations to be limited in numbers and a couple of regions have reported community infections of the Omicron strain where no contacts have travelled to or come in contact with anyone who has travelled to Africa.

Still reporting the number of patients in ICU are over 90% of unvaxxed. Highest rise in accumulated cases are kids under 12 which has risen to 390 per 100,000 but this comes on the day they announce the 5 to 11 age groups will be eligible for jabs in a fortnights time.

Benidorm, one of the most infected places with over 670 per 100,000, now complaining that many cancellations have taken place over next week (big holidays next week where Monday and Wednesday are public holidays and lots of places will close Tuesday to give them a big break) and, from an almost fully booked status have gone to around 80%. They are worried this trend will extend over the Christmas period when hotels are traditionally at full capacity.

Our local tourist town of Torrevieja has also gone to extreme risk today with 314 per 100,000 and they sending people to other A&E departments in the area due to the problems listed above. Some 40% of those attending are foreign tourists (compared to Benidorm where 58% are foreign tourists).

Covid passports in 6 regions from tomorrow, some a bit more lax than others. For example, our region of Valencia just for hostelry with more than 50 capacity indoors and visiting hospitals and residential homes but others requiring them for all bars and restaurants and cinemas etc.

Booster vaccine rollout for the 60 to 69 age group starts Tuesday and will be offered to all over 40s as from the new year.

Plus your stupid Storm Arwen hit hard this week and temps down to 14C during the day (back to 17C today) and high winds.
 
Here is the COVID-19 summary for Friday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday

The WHO said that while we need to be prepared for the omicron variant, we shouldn't panic over it.
While the new coronavirus variant omicron appeared to be very transmissible, the right response was to be prepared, cautious and not panic, the World Health Organization's (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said Friday.

Ireland have tightened pandemic control measures, affecting the hospitality industry and private gatherings.
In Ireland, the government on Friday announced strict new limits on the hospitality sector and home visits after officials warned the new omicron variant was likely to add to pressure on the health service.

South African reported 16,055 new cases, an increase on 11,535 from the day before. They also reported 25 deaths.
In Africa, the health ministry in South Africa on Friday reported 16,055 new cases and 25 deaths, up from 11,535 new cases of COVID-19 and 44 deaths a day earlier. The country, which raised the alarm about the new variant now named omicron, has seen a surge in cases.

In Russia, more provinces are making vaccination mandatory for people at 60 and older.
In Europe, more regions of Russia have made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for those 60 and over as the country tries to control infections and keep the omicron variant at bay.

The US announced new measures for incoming international air travel. Starting Monday arrivals must provide a negative test within a day of travel.
In the Americas, the Biden administration announced more measures meant to curb the spread of the new variant. Starting Monday, international air travellers arriving in the United States must provide a negative COVID-19 test within a day of travel.

India reported their first case of omicron.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India reported its first omicron cases but the government said it had no immediate plan to authorize booster vaccine shots despite demands from legislators.

In Canada, the national vaccination committee NACI have recommended booster shots for everyone age 50 or older as well as certain other groups. Some provinces have already announced this policy.
Canadians 50 and over should get COVID-19 booster shot, national immunization committee says
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is now "strongly recommending" that all Canadians over the age of 50 and other vulnerable individuals — such as health care workers, Indigenous people and those living in congregate care settings — get a third dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

The Canadian junior women's field hockey team are stuck in South Africa because of conflicting travel requirements from Germany and Canada. Canada says they have to get a negative COVID-19 test in a third country (somewhere other than South Africa), and Germany, where they booked their flight through, won't let them board unless Canada pre-clears them for onward travel to Canada. The team wants a special exemption from travel regulations. The Canadian government's advice to all Canadians to not do any unnecessary international travel during the pandemic is still in effect, and they have repeatedly warned that travellers may find themselves stranded abroad if circumstances change.
Field Hockey Canada seeks travel exemption for team stranded in South Africa
Field Hockey Canada is asking for an exemption from the federal government to help bring its junior women's team home from South Africa.

The team is currently stuck in Potchefstroom, about 120 kilometres southwest of Johannesburg, because of shifting COVID-19 travel restrictions.
There's a team pic in the story - "only if you're desperate".
 
The UK have done an extensive study on which booster shots are most effective. They looked at both anti-bodies and T-cells.
U.K. study finds mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provide biggest booster impact

They looked at situations where the first two primary jabs were either Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-Biontech. This bit is important to remember when reading about the boosters. The assumption in each case is that you had Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-Biontech for your first two jabs.


A full or half dose of Pfizer-Biontech or Moderna was very effective as a booster to primary jabs of either Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-Biontech.

When AstraZeneca, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson or Curevac were used as boosters, they boosted anti-bodies, but to a lesser degree.

When Valneva was used as a booster, it was effective when Oxford-AstraZeneca was the primary but not Pfizer-Biontech.

They also found that T-cell immune response was good against the beta or delta variants. T-cell immunity is longer lasting than anti-bodies and so forms an important part of long term immunity.
 
I will make the general observation that in my opinion the countries that aren't reporting cases of omicron are probably countries that aren't looking very hard for it. It has undoubtedly spread much more widely than is currently reported.

It's reached Wales, so if Mordor can get Omicron it's probably global
 
Here is the COVID-19 summary for Saturday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday

South Korea set new records for infections with 5,352 new cases. They reported 70 deaths and there are currently 752 patients in ICU. They also reported 3 new cases of omicron.
In Asia, South Korea again broke its daily records for coronavirus infections and deaths and confirmed three more cases of the new omicron variant as officials scramble to tighten social distancing and border controls.

The 5,352 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Saturday marked the third time this week the daily tally exceeded 5,000. The country's death toll was at 3,809 after a record 70 virus patients died in the past 24 hours, while the 752 patients in serious or critical condition were also an all-time high.

Dutch anti-vaxxers marched in Utrecht.
In Europe, thousands of people marched peacefully through the Dutch city of Utrecht on Saturday to protest the government's coronavirus lockdown measures.

Also in the Netherlands, Princess Beatrix, the 83 year old former queen, tested positive.
Meanwhile, Princess Beatrix, the country's 83-year-old former queen, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the royal house announced Saturday.

In Brazil, Rio de Janeiro have cancelled their New Year's Eve party.
In the Americas, Rio de Janeiro cancelled its famed New Year's Eve party, becoming the latest Brazilian city — after Sao Paulo and Salvador — to halt holiday celebrations due to omicron fears.

South African are apparently being hit hard by a fourth wave driven by omicron. There were no numbers or other details.
In Africa, South Africa is being hit by a fourth wave of infections driven by the new variant that has been detected in seven of the country's nine provinces, its health minister said.
 

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The Economist's view of Omicron variant:

 
Here is the COVID-19 summary for Sunday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday

Anti-vaxxers protested in Brussels. Protests threw crap at the police who responded with tear gas and water cannon.
In Europe, Belgian police used water cannon and tear gas on Sunday to disperse some rowdy protesters in Brussels after most demonstrators marched peacefully to protest tightened COVID-19 restrictions that aim to counter a surge of coronavirus infections.

Senegal and Tunisia both confirmed their first cases of omicron.
In Africa, both Senegal and Tunisia confirmed their first case of the omicron coronavirus variant.

Australia approved the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine for ages 5 to 11. They except to start jabbing in early January.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia's medicine regulator provisionally approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11, with the health minister saying the rollout could begin beginning Jan. 10.

In the US, a cruise ship docked in New Orleans with at least 10 infected passengers and crew. Health officials are trying to figure out how to disembark people without spreading the infection further.
In the Americas, a Norwegian Cruise Line ship with at least 10 passengers and crew members infected with COVID-19 docked Sunday in the U.S. city of New Orleans, where health officials said they were trying to disembark people without worsening the spread of the coronavirus illness.
 
The cause of the rare blood clots caused by the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may have been discovered.
Covid: Trigger of rare blood clots with AstraZeneca jab found by scientists

The short version is that if the vaccine gets into the blood stream (it normally doesn't) it can sometimes react with something called platelet factor 4, which sticks to the vaccine. In a few rare cases the immune system mistakes the combination for a virus and attacks platelet factor 4, causing blood clots as the antibodies cling to it.

_121921025_blood_clots_azvaccine2-nc.png


There are apparently still a number of unanswered questions with this, but they appear to have made a significant step in getting to the bottom of the problem.

The story also contains the interesting tit bit that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is estimated to have saved a million lives so far.
 
This one's a bit heavy going, but as I understand it people who have severe COVID-19 but recover are still twice as likely to die in the next 12 months as people who had milder cases. The damage caused to the heart, lungs, and other internal organs increases the risk of mortality such that a significant number of the people who survive the COVID-19 infection die within the next year of other causes.

COVID-19 Post-acute Sequelae Among Adults: 12 Month Mortality Risk
 
It's reached Wales, so if Mordor can get Omicron it's probably global
The Mordor orcs are short tubby pink angry version of the south African Uraks both to be avoided if possible luckily the level of Uraks infesting the southern counties is still relatively low .
 
The cause of the rare blood clots caused by the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may have been discovered.
Covid: Trigger of rare blood clots with AstraZeneca jab found by scientists

The short version is that if the vaccine gets into the blood stream (it normally doesn't) it can sometimes react with something called platelet factor 4, which sticks to the vaccine. In a few rare cases the immune system mistakes the combination for a virus and attacks platelet factor 4, causing blood clots as the antibodies cling to it.

_121921025_blood_clots_azvaccine2-nc.png


There are apparently still a number of unanswered questions with this, but they appear to have made a significant step in getting to the bottom of the problem.

The story also contains the interesting tit bit that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is estimated to have saved a million lives so far.
Dr John Campbell has been talking about this for months and recommending aspiration. His view was that although the theory had yet to be proven months ago there was absolutely no risk in taking the precaution of aspirating the syringe in case of accidental insertion in to the bloodstream. Although research has been rapid, acceptance of such ideas and the suggestion of such a simple precaution seems to have been glacially slow. There seems an attitude that this is the way we do things. There is some anecdotal evidence that aspiration has been used but why isn't it standard?

 
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Here is the COVID-19 summary for Monday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday

In the US, the city of New York will require all private employers to have their employees vaccinated. The current vaccination rate is 84 per cent for all people 18 years of age or older.
All private employers in New York City will have to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the mayor announced Monday, imposing one of the most aggressive vaccine rules in the United States.

The move by Mayor Bill de Blasio comes as cases are climbing again in the U.S., and the worrisome but little-understood omicron variant is gaining a toehold in New York and elsewhere around the country.

Businesses in New York are pleased with this, as small businesses took a kicking during the pandemic and they see this as the way forward in terms of reviving the economy.
The Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, which includes some 30,000 businesses big and small, said it supports the tightened measures.

The group's executive director, Helana Natt, said businesses have been hurting since the pandemic closed restaurants, bars and other places and turned busy spots like Times Square into ghost towns.

"Now things are turning around and we want to make sure that we don't go backward," Natt said.

In Italy, unvaccinated people are now not allowed into indoor restaurants, theatres, and museums.
In Europe, Italy is making life more uncomfortable for unvaccinated people this holiday season, excluding them from indoor restaurants, theatres and museums starting Monday to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and encourage those who are vaccine hesitant to get their shots.

In Vietnam, schools in Hanoi are now taking students back into classrooms for the first time in 6 months.
In Asia, high school seniors are returning to their classrooms in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, for the first time in more than six months as the city eases coronavirus restrictions.

Argentina have detected their first case of omicron. It was in someone who had travelled from South Africa.
In the Americas, Argentina detected its first case of omicron, in a person who had travelled from South Africa, the Health Ministry said.

Nigeria are not happy with the new UK travel. I will add that the majority of Canada's cases of omicron appear to have come from Nigeria, so the variant seems to be pretty common there.
In Africa, a Nigerian official on Monday criticized a travel ban imposed on the West African nation by the British government amid fears about the new variant as "punitive, indefensible and discriminatory."

The WHO say that convalescent plasma, extracted from the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19 and given as a treatment to the sick, does not appear to work and they do not advise using it. This was a much heralded experimental treatment that was tried out during the first year of the pandemic. However, it does not appear to help in terms of patient survival or reduce the need for ventilators. The plasma contains antibodies from people who had recovered from COVID-19 and it was hoped that these anti-bodies would help people who were sick with COVID-19. Apparently it doesn't.
WHO advises against using blood plasma of recovered patients as COVID-19 treatment
The World Health Organization on Monday advised against using the blood plasma of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat those who are ill, saying current evidence shows it neither improves survival nor reduces the need for ventilators.

The hypothesis for using plasma is that the antibodies it contains could neutralize the novel coronavirus, stopping it from replicating and halting tissue damage.

In Canada, Merck plan to have their antiviral drug molnupiravir made at a subcontractor near Toronto. The drug will be made by Thermo Fisher Scientific in Whitby and distributed internationally from there. The drug is not a vaccine, but is a treatment for people who are already infected. Trials show that it reduces risk of hospitalization and death by 30 per cent provided it is taken within 5 days of being infected.
Merck plans to manufacture COVID-19 antiviral drug in Canada
Merck Canada announced Monday it plans to manufacture its oral antiviral COVID-19 drug in Canada, making the country a global hub for the production of the potentially game-changing treatment.

The drug company has invested $19 million to scale up production of its antiviral drug, molnupiravir, at Thermo Fisher Scientific's facility in Whitby, Ont.

The drug — one of the first treatments for non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients — is currently pending Health Canada approval. The antiviral works by blocking the enzyme essential for viral replication.
 
Here is the COVID-19 summary for Tuesday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday

In Brazil, president Bolsonaro appears to intend to block plans to stop flights from southern Africa while the omicron situation is looked into.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday criticized Brazil's health regulator, Anvisa, for proposing a vaccination requirement for travellers arriving in the country to help prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants.

"Anvisa wants to close the country's airspace now. Not again, damn it," Bolsonaro said at a business event in Brasilia.


In Europe, the WHO reported that children age 5 to 14 are now the group with the highest rate of COVID-19 infections.
Also on Tuesday, the World Health Organization's office for Europe said children in the five to 14 age group now account for the highest rates of reported COVID-19 infection in the region.

Anti-vaxxers protested again in Brussels, this time over mandatory vaccination for health care workers. Police used pepper spray on them.
In Europe, thousands of Belgian health-care workers rallied Tuesday in Brussels to oppose mandatory COVID-19 vaccines and to demand better working conditions as a surge in new cases weighs heavily on hospitals.

Sweden will tighten pandemic control measures.
Meanwhile, Sweden is set to reintroduce a raft of measures on Wednesday to curb rising COVID-19 infections and urge renewed physical distancing and the use of masks on public transit, the government said on Tuesday.

Norway also tightened controls.
The Norwegian government introduced stricter rules on Tuesday to slow the spread of the illness amid a surge of infections in recent weeks.

Poland will close nightclubs starting from the 15th of December, except for New Year's Eve.
In Poland, nightclubs will be closed from Dec. 15, except for New Year's Eve, the country's health minister said.

In the US, a judge has blocked the federal government's mandatory vaccination plans for companies doing business with the federal government.
In the Americas, a federal judge in Savannah, Ga., on Tuesday blocked the last of the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandates for businesses, saying the government exceeded its authority with a requirement that millions of employees of federal contractors be inoculated.

Uganda reported their first 7 cases of omicron. These were in travellers from South Africa and Nigeria.
In Africa, Uganda has its first seven cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, a health official confirmed Tuesday. The director of clinical services, Charles Olaro, said the variant was detected in travellers from South Africa and Nigeria who arrived in Uganda on Nov. 29.

Thailand reported their first case of omicron, this one in a US traveller. All the people who came in potential contact with this case tested negative. They also reported 3,525 new cases of all types and 31 deaths.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Thailand on Tuesday reported 3,525 new COVID-19 cases and 31 additional deaths. The update came as health officials reported that the people who came into close contact with the country's first confirmed omicron case — a U.S. traveller — had now tested negative for COVID-19, according to local media.
 
Here are two stories on vaccine development in Canada.

The first is that the Medicago vaccine has shown an efficacy of 71 per cent against all variants, and 75 per cent efficacy against the delta variant in particular. When comparing these numbers to other vaccines keep in mind that the numbers for most other vaccines are with respect to the original version of the COVID-19 virus, which is no longer circulating to any significant degree.
Canada's first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine shows high efficacy

These numbers are with respect to protection against symptoms of any severity. Any symptoms were mild to moderate and lasted on average only 1 to 3 days. There were no serious cases or deaths among the people who were vaccinated in the trial, but there were too few in the unvaccinated placebo group for any firm conclusions to be drawn. However, with 75 per cent protection against infection protection against severe disease is expected to be very strong.

It was 89 per cent effective against the gamma variant, and there were no alpha or mu cases observed in the vaccinated group (there were 12 in the placebo group).

The Medicago vaccine uses a different technology than used in other COVID-19 vaccines so far. The vaccine is a type called "virus like particle" and is grown in plants, rather than in animal cells in a vat. The vaccine uses GSK's adjuvant to increase the immune response. Medicago are based in Quebec City.


In another story, McMaster University in Hamilton (west of Toronto) are working on 2 different vaccines which are inhaled rather than injected.
Human trials for 2 inhaled COVID-19 vaccines to start in Hamilton in 2022
They will be starting human trials within a couple of weeks.

The vaccines use an adenovirus as a carrier, much as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine does. One version is based on a human adenovirus, while the other is based on a chimpanzee adenovirus.

Unlike the Oxford vaccine however, the vaccine is inhaled into the lungs. By administering the vaccine in this manner it is expected to be particularly effective against respiratory viruses.

Canadian authorities have authorized trials on 30 volunteers for this early phase 1 study. If this trial is successful than larger trials would be conducted before coming to any conclusions.
 
This story is about the vaccine situation in Africa.
Vaccine inequity only partially to blame for Africa's low vaccination rates, experts say

There is a lot of talk in the news about "vaccine equity", and the vaccination rate in Africa is only 7.5 per cent. However, there is much more to the situation than just a shortage of supply.

Vaccine supplies to Africa are ramping up rapidly. However, about 40 per cent of the supplies which have arrived so far have not been used.

Indeed some countries have been destroying thousands of doses which they have not been able to use. For example, on Monday Namibia said they had destroyed 150,000 expired doses.

Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have all asked Pfizer to stop further shipments because they haven't been able to use the supplies they already have.

Part of the problem is that while vaccines in general are fairly widely established in Africa, COVID-19 vaccines have been the subject of a lot of misinformation with the result that people have been reluctant to get jabbed.

Some of the problem is logistical. Many countries simply don't have the infrastructure and administration required to effectively distribute vaccines which are required to be stored at very low temperatures, particularly in rural areas.

Some countries such as South Sudan and Congo have had to send vaccines back because they were not able to distribute them in time.

Another problem has been countries donating vaccines at short notice that were approaching their expiry dates. The sporadic and unplanned arrival of these vaccines makes it difficult to use them before the remaining life has run out.

The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and COVAX recently issued a statement saying that the majority of donations so far have been "ad hoc" and "provided with little notice and short shelf lives." This makes it very difficult to make use of them.


Overall the story is quite good and I would recommend reading it to get all the details.
 

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