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Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advice

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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri May 28, 2021 2:02 pm

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Janssen vaccine approved by UK

A single-dose Covid vaccine made by Janssen has been approved for use in the UK by the medicines regulator

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been administered to more than seven million people in the US.

The vaccine was 85% effective in stopping severe illness from Covid-19 in trials and has met expected safety standards.

Twenty million doses have been ordered for the UK and will arrive later this year.

It will be the fourth vaccine to be used in the UK to protect against Covid-19.

More than 38 million people have now received a first dose of a vaccine in the UK - nearly three-quarters of the adult population.

The vaccine can be given to people aged 18 and over and is likely to be used as a booster jab for care home residents ahead of winter because it can be easily stored and transported at fridge temperatures.

The UK's vaccine committee - the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) - will produce advice on exactly who should receive the Belgian-made jab in due course.

The single-dose option has already been authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Nadhim Zahawi, vaccine deployment minister, said the Janssen option would be "another weapon in our arsenal to beat this pandemic".

"We are doing everything we can to vaccinate all adults as quickly as possible and I encourage everybody to come forward for a jab as soon as they are eligible."

The Janssen jab uses the same technology as the Oxford-AstraZeneca one and is likely to be more suitable for older adults than younger people. Under-40s are being offered an alternative to AstraZeneca in the UK because of a potential link to a type of rare blood clot in the brain.

The US, South Africa and the European Union briefly paused the rollout of the vaccine in April - also known as Johnson & Johnson - after reports of rare blood clots in very small numbers of people after their jab.

The US is offering the vaccine to people over 18, after concluding that the benefits of using it outweighed any risks.

It is currently being tested as part of a UK study to find out whether a third dose could protect against new variants.

Dr June Raine, head of the body which approves vaccines in the UK - the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) - said information on quality, safety and effectiveness of the Janssen jab had been thoroughly reviewed.

"We now have four safe and effective vaccines approved to help protect us from Covid-19," she said, adding that their work did not end there.

"We are continually monitoring all Covid-19 vaccines in use once they have been approved to ensure that the benefits in protecting people against the disease continue to outweigh any risks.

"The safety of the public will always come first - you can be absolutely sure of our commitment to this."

The MHRA said pregnant or breast-feeding women should decide whether to have the Janssen option in consultation with a healthcare professional after considering the benefits and risks.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-57283837
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon May 31, 2021 5:12 pm

UK in early stages of third wave

Prof Ravi Gupta, from the University of Cambridge, said although new cases were "relatively low" the Indian variant had fuelled "exponential growth"

He said ending Covid restrictions in England on 21 June should be postponed.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said the government could not rule out a delay to the planned lockdown easing.

But business leaders have warned of the harmful impact of any change to the proposed dates.

On Monday, the UK reported more than 3,000 new Covid infections for a sixth day in a row.

Prior to this, the UK had not surpassed that number since 12 April.

No deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported in England, Wales or Northern Ireland - but one death was reported in Scotland.

Prof Gupta told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the UK was already in a third wave of infections and at least three quarters of cases were the variant identified in India.

He said: "Of course the numbers of cases are relatively low at the moment - all waves start with low numbers of cases that grumble in the background and then become explosive, so the key here is that what we are seeing here is the signs of an early wave."

However, he said the number of people who had been vaccinated in the UK meant this wave would probably take longer to emerge than previous ones.

"There may be a false sense of security for some time, and that's our concern."

Chart showing the number of UK infections is rising slowly

The final stage of the government's roadmap for lifting lockdown would remove all limits on how many people you can meet - either indoors or outdoors.

But Prof Gupta - a member of the government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) - said ending restrictions in June should be delayed "by a few weeks whilst we gather more intelligence".

"If you look at the costs and benefits of getting it wrong, I think it is heavily in favour of delay, so I think that's the key thing," he added.

Businesses on 'cliff edge'

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, told BBC News it would be "devastating" for the sector if they were not able to fully reopen in June, with many hospitality venues currently operating at 60% capacity because of social distancing rules.

She said some businesses were "haemorrhaging cash" and a delay would "push them closer to the cliff edge of business failure".

Greg Parmley, chief executive of live music trade association Live, said the whole sector - from festivals to small venues - was "completely geared up" for a return from 21 June after being closed for more than a year.

He said the government's series of trial events had shown "music events can be held safely, with almost no Covid impact, so there is no reason to keep us closed any longer".

Mr Eustice told the BBC the government had to take things "one step at a time".

"We can't rule anything out. We know this has been a difficult pandemic, a dynamic situation. We have to make that judgment a couple of weeks before.

"It will only be by then that we will see the impact of the latest easement we made on 17 May."

The timetable for relaxing Covid measures varies across the UK. The Scottish government hopes to lift more restrictions on 7 June, while in Wales there is due to be a review on 3 June. In Northern Ireland some measures were relaxed on 24 May - the next review is due on 10 June.

A final decision on whether restrictions will be lifted in England will be reached on 14 June.

The Indian variant - known as B.1.617.2 - is thought to spread more quickly than the Kent variant, which was responsible for the surge in cases in the UK over the winter.

In some areas of England - including in Bolton, Blackburn, and Sefton in north-west England and Bedford, Chelmsford and Canterbury in the South East - the Indian variant is causing the majority of infections.

Dr Helen Wall, senior responsible officer for the vaccine programme in Bolton, said the rise in cases in the town was slowing but many of the areas with the highest increases had very young populations, and getting more of those vaccinated would help tackle the rise.

In England, people aged over 30 are currently able to book to get the vaccine.

Twickenham Stadium in south-west London has been turned into a vaccine walk-in centre for locals for the day, in a drive to try to boost vaccinations.

Organisers announced in the afternoon that they would be offering vaccines to anyone aged over 18 until the end of the day.

    Tighter rules for travellers from the UK have come into force in France in response to the spread of the Indian variant, meaning only EU nationals, French residents, or those travelling for essential reasons can enter

    Scotland's Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has warned restrictions may not be relaxed further next week in parts of Scotland where infections are rising

    Holiday let firms in Wales are predicting a bumper summer as they are "blown away by demand" for bookings

    And the UK economy's recovery from the pandemic is set to be stronger than previously thought, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has suggested
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57304515
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jun 01, 2021 10:03 pm

Zero daily deaths in UK

The UK has announced zero daily Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test for the first time since March 2020

The latest figures also reported another 3,165 new cases, compared with 3,383 on Monday and 2,493 one week ago.

It comes amid concern over a recent small rise in cases linked to the variant first identified in India.

Reports of daily deaths are often lower at weekends and at the start of the week.

This is because less counting takes place while statisticians are off - and adding in the bank holiday weekend will make this figure less certain still.

Any deaths that happen on Tuesday will be reported in days to come.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the whole country would be "so glad" to hear the news.

He added: "The vaccines are clearly working - protecting you, those around you and your loved ones.

"But despite this undoubtedly good news we know we haven't beaten this virus yet, and with cases continuing to rise please remember hands, face, space and let in fresh air when indoors, and of course, make sure when you can you get both jabs."

Meanwhile, Public Health England's medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said the death figure was "encouraging", but echoed the health secretary's call for people to get a vaccine due to rising cases.

It is a blessed relief for the government to announce no deaths in their daily figures for the first time since the pandemic got going.

There are always ifs and buts.

Today's deaths tell us what was happening with infections a month ago and, right now, it looks like the virus is on the rise again from its current low base.

And the daily count isn't a perfect picture: some people who died over the bank holiday may have their passing reported on Wednesday.

In fact, according to the UK's current definition, deaths within four weeks of a positive test, there was a day with no reportable deaths last summer - on 30 July.

But the government did announce some deaths on that day as they were using a different definition at the time.

The pandemic is far from over, but this is a unique day in its history to date.

We can celebrate it and hope that we'll see more like it in the near future.

Coronavirus in the UK

The UK's daily death rate, the number of people being admitted to hospital and those catching the virus have fallen from a peak reached in January.

This comes against the backdrop of the increasing numbers of people receiving the first or second dose of a vaccine.

More than a third of the adult population have now received both doses.

The latest figures show 25,734,719 people in the UK have had two jabs, while 39,477,158 - some 74.9% of the adult population - have received a first dose.

However, the success of the UK's vaccination programme does not mean that the battle with Covid is over, a scientist advising the government has said.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57320320
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jun 06, 2021 8:18 pm

Only Had First Vaccine Dose?

More than 147 million Americans and more than 34 million Britons have received their first dose of a two-shot COVID-19 vaccine

The US has authorized vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, while the UK has authorized Pfizer's shot as well as one made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The US has also authorized Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, which is a single dose.

The UK is delaying the second dose of the vaccines for up to 12 weeks to prioritize giving people their first shot. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended giving second doses of Pfizer's vaccine 21 days after the first, and 28 days after the first for Moderna, with an interval of up to six weeks in "unavoidable" situations.

The data for how well the vaccines work after one dose isn't always clear cut – it depends on what you're measuring, and when you're measuring it. Stephen Evans, a professor of medical statistics at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a former drug-safety committee member at the European Medicines Agency, helped Insider break down the data.

Evans said the Food and Drug Administration presentation of the data from late-stage trials of each vaccine was generally the best data available. This is how much protection one shot of each vaccine gives you, based on that data.

Pfizer-BioNTech: at least 80 percent

Pfizer's shot was 52.4 percent effective at protecting against COVID-19 with symptoms between the first and second dose, according to the FDA documents. But the 52.4 percent figure includes the 11 days before protection kicks in after the first dose, so the real percentage could well be higher.

The true value lies between 29.5 percent and 84.5 percent, according to the FDA documents. There was a wide range because not many people caught COVID-19 in the trial during this time period.

Pfizer's shot was 100 percent effective at protecting against hospitalization and death. This was based on a small number though – only four people got severe COVID-19 in the trial after receiving placebo rather than the vaccine.

Evans said there was "pretty clear evidence" that you get at least 80 percent protection – and "probably" better than 90 percent – for Pfizer's vaccine against COVID-19 with symptoms after a single dose. He said you couldn't be absolutely sure what happens after 21 days because it hadn't been fully tested.

Evans said this was based on his overall reading of the trial data used by the FDA in their briefing document before authorization.

Moderna: at least 80 percent

Moderna's vaccine was 69.5 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms between the first and second dose, with a true value between 43.5 percent and 84.5 percent. There was a fairly wide range because the number of people that caught COVID-19 in the trial during this time period was low.

The 69.5 percent figure includes the 13 days before protection starts, so the real percentage could be higher.

There were a small number of people in Moderna's trial – about 7 percent – that didn't get their second dose for unknown reasons. In this group, the shot was 50.8 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms for up to 14 days after the first dose and 92.1 percent effective after 14 days.

It is unclear how well one shot of the vaccine protects against hospitalization and death because not many people got severe COVID-19 – two in the vaccine group and four in placebo.

Evans said that you get at least 80 percent protection – and probably better than 90 percent – for Moderna's vaccine against COVID-19 with symptoms after a single dose for 28 days. After 28 days it was unclear because it hadn't been tested. Again, this was based on his overall reading of the FDA data, he said.

AstraZeneca: more than 70 percent

Evans said it was harder to ascertain a figure for AstraZeneca's vaccine because late-stage trials used differing study designs, and a large US study was ongoing. The FDA also has not yet presented the data for the shot in the same way it has done for other vaccines.

A single dose of AstraZeneca's shot was 76 percent effective at protecting against COVID-19 with symptoms for at least 90 days, according to late-stage-trial data published in The Lancet on February 19. The study authors also reported that one dose provided 100 percent protection against hospitalization, but the numbers were small.

Based on his reading of existing studies, Evans said the single-dose efficacy for AstraZeneca's vaccine was probably at least 70 percent against COVID-19 with symptoms for the first 90 days. After this time period, it's unclear, he said.

Johnson & Johnson: 66 percent

J&J looked at protection against moderate to severe COVID-19 in trials, rather than symptomatic COVID-19, like Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.

Protection kicked in at 14 days and was 66.1 percent effective at 28 days. The vaccine's efficacy varied depending on the country it was used in – it was 72 percent effective in the US but 64 percent and 68 percent effective in South Africa and Brazil, respectively. These countries both have coronavirus variants circulating that could partially evade antibodies.
What percentage efficacy means

Percentage efficacy for vaccines refers to the proportion of people that get full protection after a vaccine. With 80 percent efficacy, 80 percent of people have full protection, and 20 percent don't.

For those who get full protection the first time around, the second shot improves the quality of the immune response and its durability.

For the people who don't get full protection with the first shot, some will get full protection after the second dose. Some people won't ever get full protection from a vaccine because their immune system doesn't respond at all.

Real-world data: One dose significantly reduces infections and transmission

Real-world data from a survey of about 375,000 people in the UK, posted as a pre-print study on April 23, found that either Pfizer or AstraZeneca's vaccine cut COVID-19 infections with symptoms by 72 percent. Protection from a single dose probably holds up for at least 10 weeks, based on measurements of antibody levels, the study said.

The study authors said the data supported the UK strategy of delaying the second dose, but that people must get their second dose. Protection from Pfizer's vaccine rose to 90 percent after two doses. There's not enough data yet to draw any conclusions on the AstraZeneca shot.

Another real-world study from Scotland published in the Lancet on April 23 found that a single dose of Pfizer's vaccine was 91 percent effective against hospitalization at 28 to 34 days following vaccination. One dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine was 88 percent effective against hospital admissions after the same time period, the study found.

A real-world study from England posted as a pre-print on April 28 found a single dose of either Pfizer of AstraZeneca's vaccine cut spread of symptomatic COVID-19 within a household by up to 50 percent.

South Korean health officials said on Twitter on May 5 that real-world data showed one dose of Pfizer's vaccine was 89.7 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 in South Koreans aged over 60, at least two weeks after vaccination.

AstraZeneca's vaccine was 86 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 after one dose, it said. The agency didn't provide a breakdown of how many people received each shot or the severity of illness – COVID-19 vaccines are generally more effective at preventing COVID-19 infections that cause hospitalization or death.

Newest data: Second dose provides better protection against variants

Real-word data from the UK posted Sunday May 23 by Public Health England showed that Pfizer's and AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccines worked better against the variants when two doses were given rather than just one. Both vaccines were 30 percent effective against COVID-19 with symptoms caused by the variant first identified in India, three weeks after the first dose.

This was boosted to between 60 percent and 88 percent effectiveness two weeks after the second dose. The two vaccines were 50 percent effective against COVID-19 with symptoms against the variant first found in the UK, B.1.1.7, three weeks after the first dose. This increased to between 66 percent and 93 percent two weeks after the second dose.

https://www.sciencealert.com/only-have- ... obal-en-GB
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jun 08, 2021 8:28 pm

Possible four-week delay to end restrictions

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak, is willing to accept a delay of up to four weeks to the final stage of England’s reopening roadmap, the Guardian understands, as the government considers extending restrictions beyond 21 June

Ministers will continue to scrutinise data on cases and hospitalisations over the coming days, with a final decision set to be announced by the prime minister on Monday. From 21 June nightclubs are due to reopen, with the cap on wedding numbers, large-scale events and indoor mixing lifted and guidance on working from home and mask-wearing dropped.

A delay in all these changes would infuriate many Conservative backbenchers. On Tuesday the former Tory minister Steve Baker pressed for the date dubbed “freedom day” to go ahead, calling it the “last chance” to save industries such as hospitality, which is calling for the 2-metre distancing rule to be scrapped.

Sunak, the chancellor, has in the past been regarded as more keen to lift lockdown constraints than some cabinet colleagues. But a Whitehall source said he was not fixated on the 21 June date and was more concerned that when restrictions are lifted, the move can be permanent. “The Treasury’s main thing is that freedoms are irreversible and businesses have clarity,” the source said.

Economic support measures including the furlough scheme are set to taper off gradually, helping to cushion the impact of any delay. “This is exactly why we went long,” the source said.

The Treasury is understood to prefer a clean delay to the 21 June reopening rather than a confusing “halfway house” where some measures are lifted but others kept in place. A two-week delay is also thought to be under consideration.

A delay of up to four weeks would allow second vaccine doses for all over-50s to have been administered and taken effect before reopening, under government plans. It would also coincide with the end of the school summer term, reducing the extent to which outbreaks can be fuelled by children passing the virus on to one another in the classroom. One government source pointed out that many cases of the Delta variant have been among children, who are not yet being vaccinated.

More than 6,000 people were reported on Tuesday to have tested positive for coronavirus, with 126 people admitted to hospital.

Nearly 500,000 jabs were booked in a “Glastonbury-style” rush after the vaccine rollout was expanded to 25 to 29-year-olds in England, the NHS said. NHS England said the National Booking Service had seen 493,000 appointments reserved by midday on Tuesday, five hours after eligibility was widened to the over-25s.

Key scientific modelling committees Spi-B and Spi-M are expected to provide fresh analysis in the coming days about the potential impact of the rapid spread of the Delta variant, which was identified in India.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said earlier this week that of 12,383 cases of the Delta variant as of 3 June, 126 were admitted to hospital. Of those, 83 were unvaccinated, 28 had had one dose of vaccine and only three had both doses.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Johnson told colleagues: “While the relationship between cases and hospitalisations has changed, we must continue to look at the data carefully ahead of making a decision on step four.”

The government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, and the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, briefed cabinet ministers about the latest data earlier this week. One person with knowledge of the meeting said the pair were “at the optimistic end of Sage”. Some members of the advisory committee have publicly cautioned against further reopening. The source added that Whitty and Vallance had “reserved judgment” and suggested more critical data would be available by the weekend.

Tory backbenchers will put intense pressure on the prime minister to go ahead with the final stage of reopening, despite the rise in cases. Baker, vice-chair of the Covid Recovery Group of backbench MPs, said 21 June represented a “last chance” for industries including hospitality and tourism, that “make life worth living”, and it was time to allow the public to “reconnect with family and friends and regain our mental health”.

He claimed that by that date, all over-50s and vulnerable younger adults should have been given the opportunity to receive two doses of Covid vaccine.

“These groups represent about 99% of Covid deaths and about 80% of hospitalisations,” he said. “As of today, according to announcements made by the government, these groups should all have been offered a chance to have had a second dose. It would be helpful for the government to clarify that this has been achieved.

“If this brilliant milestone isn’t enough to convince ministers that we need to lift all remaining restrictions – especially social distancing requirements – on 21 June, nothing will ever get us out of this.”

Ministers have been encouraged by progress in Bolton, a hotspot for the Delta variant. Surge testing and a rapid vaccine push were put in place four weeks ago, and cases have begun to flatten off. Hancock announced on Tuesday that a similar approach will now be taken across Greater Manchester and Lancashire, with local people also advised to take extra care.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/ ... in-england
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Jun 30, 2021 9:36 pm

UK no face masks from 19 July

No face masks rule from 19 July: Mouth guards will become voluntary as Covid curbs are axed.... and even nightclubs can reopen with NO testing

Boris Johnson is pushing for the lifting of mask laws in almost all settings to help return life to 'as near normal as possible'.

Key social distancing measures, including the one-metre rule, the rule of six and the 30-person limit on the size of outdoor gatherings, are also set to be scrapped on the new 'Freedom Day'.

The Mail revealed today that ministers have shelved plans to require mass events such as festivals to use Covid passports to control entry.

And last night it emerged that even nightclubs may be allowed to reopen on July 19 without the need to test customers at the door, as part of a new 'freedom plan' that could be published by the Prime Minister as soon as next week. The proposals reflect growing confidence in Government that the vaccination rollout has severely weakened the link between infections, and hospitalisations and deaths.

Covid cases are continuing to surge across the country.

Yesterday, 26,068 new cases were recorded – a rise of almost 70 per cent in a week, and the highest figure since late January.

By contrast, daily hospitalisations due to Covid were running at 263, up by just 6.4 per cent in the last week and far below the January peak of 4,579 in a single day.

Covid-related deaths have also risen slightly, but averaged at just 16 per day over the last week, with 14 yesterday.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty told the Cabinet this week that the rise in Covid cases was not putting unsustainable pressure on hospitals in England.

A source said Professor Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had suggested 'we should get as much open this summer as possible before winter, which will be much more difficult'. Professor Whitty, one of the architects of lockdown, was said to be 'cautiously optimistic' that rules could now go – but warned that the winter would be 'challenging' for the NHS.

Government sources said 'final decisions' had not been made, but acknowledged that Mr Johnson is pushing to scrap as many rules as possible

The Prime Minister has ordered officials to prioritise the removal of the one-metre rule, which affects hospitality and is viewed as the most economically damaging measure still in place.

But ministers are also increasingly confident that face masks will not be required in shops and on public transport, although they may remain mandatory in hospitals. Sources said it was possible that travellers could still be encouraged to voluntarily wear masks on public transport even after the legal restrictions have been lifted.

Asked whether the requirement to wear a mask in shops and offices would go on July 19, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: 'We aim to remove as many restrictions as is safe to do so.'

Government sources said 'final decisions' had not been made, but acknowledged that Mr Johnson is pushing to scrap as many rules as possible.

Some officials remain cautious about scrapping mask laws at a time when new infections are soaring, and Sir Patrick has previously warned that the rules may be needed again this winter, even if they are ditched next month.

A review of social distancing rules by Michael Gove is said to have concluded that even nightclubs, which are deemed so high risk they have been unable to open since March last year, would get the green light to open their doors without restrictions.

A source said Mr Gove had decided it would be 'too much hassle' to ask late-night customers to take a Covid test to go dancing.

But Sage committee scientist Professor Stephen Reicher warned that ministers were in danger of making 'the same mistakes as last summer' when indoor hospitality was reopened in July, accompanied by a big back to work push, leading to rocketing infections.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/articl ... ly-19.html
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jul 10, 2021 11:18 pm

Boris Johnson’s plan for freedom day

Boris Johnson faces a growing revolt over plans to end most Covid restrictions on 19 July – including the mandatory wearing of face masks on public transport and in hospitals – as half of the public now say they want “freedom day” to be delayed

Last night, as doctors and other NHS workers demanded that mask-wearing continue in hospitals, regional political leaders broke ranks, saying they would override the national government on the issue and strongly advise people to continue wearing masks on public transport.

Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, told the Observer that with Covid cases rising rapidly again, “freedom day” risked becoming “anxiety day” for huge numbers of vulnerable people, because the government was making unwise decisions.

“The government is simply wrong to frame everything from here as a matter of pure personal choice. It is not,” said Burnham. “Many people who are vulnerable to the virus have to use public transport and do their food shopping in person. That is why the wearing of face coverings in these settings should have remained mandatory. I will be strongly encouraging the people of Greater Manchester to continue to wear masks on public transport out of respect for others.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan is also involved in urgent talks with the government, Transport for London (TfL), private train operators, and trade unions as support grows for the wearing of face masks to remain mandatory on the capital’s transport network.

It is understood that Khan believes keeping the mask requirement for all transport modes would be the simplest and safest measure. He said last week that the use of face coverings reduces the spread of Covid “and crucially gives Londoners confidence to travel on the network, which is vital to our economic recovery”.
Public support for mask wearing

An Opinium poll for the Observer found that 73% of people now believe wearing masks on public transport should continue while 50% said that “freedom day”, when the vast majority of other controls are due to end, should be pushed back again beyond 19 July. This compared with just under a third (31%) who think the government should go ahead as planned. Only 10% think restrictions should have been lifted earlier.

Johnson and health secretary Sajid Javid are expected to confirm their plans for a mass lifting of government controls on Monday, ending social distancing, allowing all venues to open with no restrictions on numbers and drawing to a close the “work from home if you can” advice – despite Covid infections having risen last Friday to their highest level since early February.

But there are growing fears that the move will cause chaos, confusion and anger as more organisations and business go their own way and impose rules out of line with the new relaxed government regime. Last week it emerged that several restaurant and pub chains, including Rare Restaurants and City Pub Group, were planning to insist on mask-wearing and social distancing after 19 July.

Senior NHS figures are raising fears over the impact of ending mask-wearing in hospitals, saying it will mean more infections, including those among staff, and worsen the backlog of non-Covid-related operations, which now stands at more than five million.

Government officials are already examining whether fully vaccinated NHS workers should be allowed to avoid self-isolation to ease pressures.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, chief executive of Birmingham women’s and children’s NHS trust who served as director of testing at the government’s test and trace programme, said: “We are all worrying about how we will ensure members of the public wear any mask at all on our sites post the 19th. We are already facing huge challenges with adherence and have no real means to enforce it. It’s a legal requirement now but people are increasingly refusing and getting very assertive with it.”

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said a combination of self-isolation, growing pressures from infections and accumulated staff leave since the start of the pandemic was likely to create problems this summer. “One trust [is] predicting a 20% overall absence rate in three weeks resulting in 900 lost operations,” he said. “The Delta variant, now the dominant variant, is 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, first identified in Kent. The risk of nosocomial infection – patients and staff acquiring Covid-19 in healthcare settings – is therefore correspondingly higher.”

Ministers have also been contacted by unions representing shop workers about the threat to their health from the end of mask-wearing rules, with concerns that key workers, often in low-paying jobs, will be the ones placed at greatest risk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is becoming increasingly vocal about the dangers of the government’s plans. While not referring to the prime minister by name, Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said that allowing the disease to spread and infect others “by not implementing consistently proven actions that prevent infections, reduce spread, prevent disease and save lives is immoral, unethical and non-scientific”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/ ... reedom-day
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jul 12, 2021 10:17 pm

Kurdistan highest daily cases in 2021

Kurdistan recorded over 1,300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday - the highest daily figure in 2021

The ministry said in a statement on Monday afternoon that 1,368 people tested positive within 24 hours. Four patients had died and 797 recovered during this period. It recorded 898 cases on Sunday.

Monday’s record is the highest since October last year when the daily figure reached 1,600 cases. The second-highest record in 2021 was on April 19 when 1,277 cases of the virus were recorded.

    Kurdistan Region has recorded a total of 196,073 cases, including 181,472 recoveries and 4,544 deaths
This new record comes eight days before Eid al-Adha during which Muslims visit one another, making social contacts through kissing and hugging - things that should be avoided to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

Aso Hawezy, the spokesperson for Kurdistan Region’s health ministry, told Rudaw English on Monday that it is unclear whether there will be a lockdown during Eid but advised everyone to take preventative measures.

“We have to follow preventative measures,” he said, adding that the vaccination process does not mean people should ignore the measure “because vaccination is not a substitute.”

He also said that the Region is yet to reach a level where a sufficient percentage of the population is vaccinated.

Iraq has also made new records in cases in recent days. It recorded 9,149 cases of the virus and 44 deaths. This number includes the Kurdistan Region as well.

https://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/120720215
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jul 13, 2021 3:38 am

Iraq: Hospital fire in Covid ward kills dozens

More than 50 people have died after a fire broke out in a coronavirus isolation ward at a hospital in Iraq

The blaze at the Al-Hussein hospital in the southern city of Nasiriya was brought under control late on Monday.

The cause of the fire is unclear, but initial reports suggest it began after an oxygen tank exploded.

Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhemi ordered the arrest of the head of the hospital. Relatives of patients have been protesting outside the building.

Reuters news agency reported clashes with police and two police vehicles set ablaze.

The new ward had space for 70 beds and was built just three months ago, medical officials told the Associated Press news agency. A regional health official said that at least 63 people were inside when the fire began.

"I heard a big explosion inside the coronavirus wards and then fire had erupted very quickly," a hospital guard told Reuters news agency. A search operation is continuing.

Iraq's parliament speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi tweeted that the blaze was "clear proof of the failure to protect Iraqi lives, and it is time to put an end to this catastrophic failure".

In April, an exploding oxygen tank started a fire that killed at least 82 people at a hospital in the capital Baghdad. Health minister Hassan al-Tamimi resigned after that fire.

The coronavirus pandemic has severely strained Iraq's health service, already suffering from years of war, neglect and corruption.

Iraq has recorded 1.4 million infections and reported more than 17,000 deaths from coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The country has given at least one dose of a vaccine against Covid to just over one million of its roughly 40 million citizens, the World Health Organization says.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-57814954
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Jul 16, 2021 11:19 pm

A summary of recent developments

The World Health Organization proposed a second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus in China, including audits of laboratories and markets in Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities. The initial investigation and report faced criticism for lacking transparency and access, and for not evaluating the lab-leak theory more deeply - a mere 440 words of the report were dedicated to discussing and dismissing it

    Mexico City’s government will speed up Covid-19 vaccinations to its more than nine million inhabitants starting next week as infections and hospitalisations have risen significantly, mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said.

    People arriving in England from France must continue to quarantine for 10 days at home or in other accommodation, even if they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the government said.

    Scott Morrison has been accused of misrepresenting advice from the UK's government’s immunisation advisers, Atagi, who he has sought to blame for the slow rollout of Australia’s vaccination program. The prime minister has incorrectly claimed that Atagi made an “assumption” in its vaccine approval planning that Covid-19 cases would remain low – when their advice on AstraZeneca vaccines in fact warned the opposite.

    Spain’s two-week coronavirus contagion rate rose to 537 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Friday, according to health ministry data, as the country struggled to cope with a surge in Covid-19 cases, Reuters reports.

    France reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases again as the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant led to a jump in new infections, but hospital numbers continued a sustained fall.

    Canada is set to open its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from all countries by September, prime minister Justin Trudeau said, if current trends continue. The plans are likely to cause some controversy after Trudeau said unvaccinated travellers from abroad entering Canada was a scenario “that’s not going to happen for quite a while”, with the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, saying it would “further exacerbate inequities”.

    New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said discussions between Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations have “moved us beyond vaccine nationalism”, which she blamed for helping the development of the fast-spreading virus variants which are now fuelling the pandemic.

    Covid-19 cases are rising in every US state, with some states seeing as much as double the number of cases as last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Public health experts point to the more transmissible Delta variant, a slowdown in vaccinations and surges from the Fourth of July weekend as the main factors behind the surge.

    Barcelona and the surrounding north-east corner of Spain is to impose a curfew from 1am to 6am again amid rising Covid cases. Regional authorities received judicial approval for their request to restore a nightly curfew, their latest effort to ratchet up restrictions and discourage gatherings.

    Irish families with young children were finally told they will be free to travel without PCR tests when the border re-opens for non-essential travel on 19 July. Vaccinated adults would not have to provide a PCR test or quarantine on entry.

    Senegal’s president Macky Sall threatened to close the borders and re-impose a state of emergency after the country registered a new record number of daily Covid-19 cases for the third time in a week.

    Hungary is to make vaccines mandatory for all health workers, after similar moves by France and a few other European countries, but prime minister Victor Orban said the country was otherwise “not in favour of coercion”.

    Boris Johnson’s plan to lift virtually all of England’s pandemic restrictions on Monday is a threat to the world and provides fertile ground for the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants, international experts say.

    The mayor of Moscow suggested that measures compelling people to present a QR code demonstrating they have been vaccinated against Covid, or have immunity, to sit inside cafes were sticks to encourage people to get vaccinated after the restrictions were dropped.

    Senegal’s president Macky Sall threatened to close the borders and re-impose a state of emergency after the country registered a new record number of daily Covid-19 cases for the third time in a week.

    The health ministry reported 738 new cases on Friday, more than the previous records of 733 on Wednesday and 529 on Sunday.

    “I would like to say very clearly that if the numbers continue to rise, I will take all necessary measures including if it means returning to a state of emergency or closing the borders or banning movements,” Sall said in a televised address.

    There have been 49,008 infections and 1,209 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Senegal since the pandemic began, Reuters reports.

    A spokesman for Abta - The Travel Association responded to the news that fully vaccinated holidaymakers returning to England from France must quarantine, saying: “While we understand that public health must come first, this announcement will undoubtedly dent consumer confidence in overseas travel just as we are about to see many amber-listed countries opening up for UK visitors in time for the summer holidays.

    “Continuing changes to travel restrictions will delay any meaningful recovery for the industry and this news is just the latest example of why a tailored package of financial support for the travel and tourism sector must be introduced.”

    US president Joe Biden said social media platforms like Facebook “are killing people” for allowing misinformation about coronavirus vaccines to be posted on its platform.

    “They’re killing people. ... Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people,” Biden told reporters at the White House when asked about misinformation and what his message was to social media platforms such as Facebook Inc’s.

    The company has introduced rules against making specific false claims about coronavirus and vaccines for it, and says it provides people reliable information on these topics, Reuters reports.

    “We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” Facebook spokesman Kevin McAlister said.

    “The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about Covid-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet.

    “More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period,” he said.

    Brazil registered 1,456 Covid-19 deaths on Friday and 45,591 additional cases, according to data released by the country’s health ministry.
    The South American country has now registered a total of 540,398 coronavirus deaths and 19,308,109 total cases, Reuters reports.

    UK travellers in France have described their “frustration” after discovering they will need to quarantine when returning home from Monday despite being fully vaccinated.

    Georgina Thomas, a nurse from Buckinghamshire, has been visiting her parents in the countryside between La Rochelle and Bordeaux for the last three weeks with her baby daughter.

    “I’m frustrated with the inconsistent approach the Government are taking, it doesn’t all appear logical,” the 32-year-old told PA.

    “If a quarantine is necessary then so be it but I’m confident that my risk will be higher when I return to the UK.”

    Graham McLeod, from Bolton, is staying in his holiday home in Charente Maritime on France’s Atlantic coast with his partner.

    “In terms of government messaging, we’d say it’s inconsistent, irregular, unclear and frankly unworkable,” the 63-year-old retiree said.

    The US sent two million doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine to Ukraine via the COVAX international vaccine-sharing program on Friday, a White House official said, and plans to send 3.5 million Moderna doses to Bangladesh over the weekend.

    The doses for Bangladesh will arrive on Monday, the official said.

    The doses are part of President Joe Biden’s promise to share doses of US vaccine with other countries around the world, via COVAX or directly, Reuters reports.

    Scott Morrison has been accused of misrepresenting advice from the government’s immunisation advisers, Atagi, who he has sought to blame for the slow rollout of Australia’s vaccination program.

    The prime minister has incorrectly claimed that Atagi made an “assumption” in its vaccine approval planning that Covid-19 cases would remain low – when their advice on AstraZeneca vaccines in fact warned the opposite.

    Morrison made the comments on Thursday, doubling down on an earlier attempt to blame the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation for the botched rollout.

    Oman’s civil aviation authority said it has removed Singapore and Brunei from its entry-ban list of countries.

    The UK, Tunisia, India, Iran and Pakistan are among those to stay on the banned countries list, Reuters reports. The authority added that exceptions for citizens, diplomatic personas and health workers and their families are still in place.

    As countries look for a post-pandemic pathway back to “normal”, New Zealand is making no promises – and its population seems startlingly happy with that.

    Around the world, some governments are hitting full throttle with rhetoric about a “return to normal” and the freedoms of a pre-pandemic world. New Zealand’s approach has been cautious by contrast. The government has made no assurances of a return to normal anytime soon, announced no multi-step “pathway out”, and put forward no timeline for re-opening borders even to vaccinated travellers.

    For the population, that messaging seems to have sunk in: the vast majority of New Zealanders – 91% – do not expect life to return to normal, even once they are vaccinated.

    In recent speeches and media interviews, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has likened the Covid-19 pandemic to the 9/11 terror attacks in the US – in the sense that even after the immediate damage was cleared, the experience continued to transform the way countries approached security, travel and immigration. “After 9/11 our borders changed forever, and our borders are likely to change quite permanently as a result of Covid-19,” Ardern said.

    The World Health Organization proposed a second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus in China, including audits of laboratories and markets in Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities. The initial investigation and report faced criticism for lacking transparency and access, and for not evaluating the lab-leak theory more deeply - a mere 440 words of the report were dedicated to discussing and dismissing it.

    Mexico City’s government will speed up Covid-19 vaccinations to its more than nine million inhabitants starting next week as infections and hospitalisations have risen significantly, mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said.

    People arriving in England from France must continue to quarantine for 10 days at home or in other accommodation, even if they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the government said.

    Spain’s two-week coronavirus contagion rate rose to 537 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Friday, according to health ministry data, as the country struggled to cope with a surge in Covid-19 cases, Reuters reports.

    France reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases again as the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant led to a jump in new infections, but hospital numbers continued a sustained fall.

    Canada is set to open its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from all countries by September, prime minister Justin Trudeau said, if current trends continue. The plans are likely to cause some controversy after Trudeau said unvaccinated travellers from abroad entering Canada was a scenario “that’s not going to happen for quite a while”, with the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, saying it would “further exacerbate inequities”.

    New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said discussions between Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations have “moved us beyond vaccine nationalism”, which she blamed for helping the development of the fast-spreading virus variants which are now fuelling the pandemic.

    Covid-19 cases are rising in every US state, with some states seeing as much as double the number of cases as last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Public health experts point to the more transmissible Delta variant, a slowdown in vaccinations and surges from the Fourth of July weekend as the main factors behind the surge.

    Barcelona and the surrounding north-east corner of Spain is to impose a curfew from 1am to 6am again amid rising Covid cases. Regional authorities received judicial approval for their request to restore a nightly curfew, their latest effort to ratchet up restrictions and discourage gatherings.

    Irish families with young children were finally told they will be free to travel without PCR tests when the border re-opens for non-essential travel on 19 July. Vaccinated adults would not have to provide a PCR test or quarantine on entry.

    Hungary is to make vaccines mandatory for all health workers, after similar moves by France and a few other European countries, but prime minister Victor Orban said the country was otherwise “not in favour of coercion”.

    Boris Johnson’s plan to lift virtually all of England’s pandemic restrictions on Monday is a threat to the world and provides fertile ground for the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants, international experts say.

    The mayor of Moscow suggested that measures compelling people to present a QR code demonstrating they have been vaccinated against Covid, or have immunity, to sit inside cafes were sticks to encourage people to get vaccinated after the restrictions were dropped.

    Mexico City’s government will speed up Covid-19 vaccinations to its more than nine million inhabitants starting next week as infections and hospitalisations have risen significantly, mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said.

    The number of people in Mexico City hospitalised with Covid-19 rose by 650 from last week to 1,871. Infections are hitting 18- to 39-year-olds, many of them unvaccinated, Reuters reports.

    “This increase we’re seeing in hospitalisations, the only way to reduce it is getting vaccinated and being mindful of sanitary measures,” said Sheinbaum.
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Jul 22, 2021 1:51 am

Kurdistan has highest cases

The Kurdistan’s Ministry of Health is warning of the severity of the current spike in coronavirus infections as it records the highest daily number of cases since the start of the pandemic. Iraq has also recorded its highest count yet

The region has recorded 1,985 coronavirus cases, “the highest rate since the start of the pandemic,” Minister of Health Saman Barzinji said at a press conference on Monday.

“This wave is serious, and this new variant spreads fast and it affects all the ages,” Barzinji added.

The record a day before Eid al-Adha during which Muslims customarily visit one another, often greeting with hugs, kisses, and handshakes. No lockdown will be imposed during the holiday.

The Kurdistan Government's Ministry of Interior on Monday closed down wedding halls and cinemas across all cities and towns again.

Tourists visiting from Iraqi provinces are required to conduct a PCR test at least 72 hours before their arrival and present it at the checkpoints.

It also urged all government employees to get vaccinated, otherwise “administrative procedures will be taken against them.”

Barzinji urged the people to stay home, adhere to safety measurements, wear masks and practice social distance. He also urged imams at mosques and media outlets to encourage people to comply with the rules.

The safety measurements “are the only way to stay protected from this wave,” consultant physician Omer Surchi said at the conference.

The Kurdistan Region is seeing a third wave of the virus, recording over a thousand cases daily in the past few days.

If “we don’t reduce direct contact, a disaster is imminent,” spokesperson for health ministry Aso Hawezy said on Sunday.

The first case of the highly-contagious Delta variant was detected in the region on Thursday. It is expected to become the dominant strain worldwide in the coming months.

Iraq has also reached record-high virus numbers in recent days. It recorded 9,883 new cases in the past 24 hours. The number includes the Kurdistan Region.

https://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/190720213
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jul 24, 2021 12:00 pm

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The poor Iraqis no one cares about

“I was walking among people, going right up in their faces and asking, ‘What happened?’ No one replied. I kept walking and watching the half-charred ground. I heard screams, wailing, ambulance. I was in shock. My mind could not process the horrifying scene.”

In a calm voice tinged with sorrow, Marwan Kadhim, 21, recounted snippets he could remember of the night fire ripped through a hospital ward for coronavirus patients in Nasiriyah, southern Iraq on July 12. Sixty people were killed in the fire at al-Hussein hospital according to the health ministry, though provincial authorities put the death toll much higher. Seven of them were members of Marwan’s family.

The fire, on the heels of another deadly hospital blaze in Baghdad in April, has left the nation furious, raging at a political class and system that holds little regard for the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

The night of the fire began as a calm summer evening. At around 10:10 pm, Marwan was picking up some dinner for his relatives at the hospital. His grandmother, Ketbah Fajir, and his uncle, Salam Rashid Jasseb, were both diagnosed with coronavirus a week earlier. They had no idea that the hospital they entered to save their lives would become a death trap.

Marwan visited the hospital every evening to deliver dinner to his relatives. He had done that for a week and never expected that Monday night would be the last time.

At 10:30 pm, Marwan received a call from an uncle telling him that his uncle and grandmother had just passed away.

“I couldn’t actually believe what I heard. I thought my uncle was telling me that my grandmother and my uncle died because of corona. I had no idea about the fire so when I arrived there, I was in complete shock,” Marwan said.

“When I arrived at the hospital, I saw a huge fire for the first time in my life.”

Marwan had nine relatives at the hospital that night. His uncle, Alaa Resan, with his sister, his wife, and four of his cousins, were visiting the two patients. Only two of them survived the blaze. Alaa had stepped outside before the fire started, along with one of his cousins, Ahmed.

Nine members of Marwan Kadhim's family were at Nasiriyah's al-Hussein hospital the night fire broke out. Only two survived. From left: Alaa Resan survived. Hazem Ressan, Salam Rashid, Mohamed Rashid, and Nassem Rashid all died. Photos: submitted

When the fire broke out, Alaa tried to save his wife and other family members. He ran into the raging fire, but his lungs filled with smoke and he passed out, Marwan said. Alaa is still sick from the smoke inhalation.

The fire was still burning when Marwan arrived. He called it the most difficult night of his life, as he wandered through the corpses, hearing the screams of the wounded and the families of the dead. He spent two hours in a state of confusion and horror, not knowing what to do before he recovered somewhat from the shock and started searching for his loved ones in nearby hospitals, hoping they might be among the injured.

"I searched five different hospitals and didn’t find any of them. I felt like I would never find them. Then I received a call from one of my relatives at two o'clock in the morning telling me to go to the morgue, hoping to find their bodies there. I was with my uncle Alaa at the time, who insisted on leaving the hospital and joining me,” he recalled.

A crowd was gathering in front of the morgue. One person was crying for his father, others stood in stunned silence, Marwan said before pausing for a moment. His voice trembled when he picked up the story again. "I recognized my grandmother by her braids and the henna painted on her feet. Alaa recognized his sister by the necklace she was wearing.”

They also identified the bodies of four other relatives.

One person was still missing, Alaa’s wife Ibtihal al-Rikabi, a young woman in her early thirties and a mother of four children, the youngest just five years old.

The family returned home in silence with six bodies. The next morning they went to the holy city of Najaf where six graves were dug next to the burial place of Marwan’s cousin, Ahmed Falih, 31, a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) who was killed in an Islamic State (ISIS) ambush in the Hamrin mountains in June 2020.

The body of Ibtihal was not identified until Sunday by DNA testing.

What happened?

The fire was "caused by the failure to properly handle oxygen bottles,” said the province’s health directorate spokesperson Ammar al-Zamili.

Authorities acted swiftly. Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council issued arrest warrants for 13 officials in Dhi Qar governorate’s health directorate. The head of the health department, Ahmed al-Tawell, resigned and Saad al-Majidi was immediately appointed as his successor.

Majidi was a candidate for the al-Fatih alliance in Nasiriyah, representing the Iranian-backed Badr organization in the 2018 elections. He had held the position of director general of the Dhi Qar Health Department from July 2020 until February this year, when he resigned reportedly because he was upset about irresponsible actions by people in his department.

Over the past year, including time when Majidi was at the health department, several coronavirus wards were constructed, among them the one at al-Hussein.

In June of last year, the Dhi Qar health department announced the opening of 50-bed Karvani hospital to treat people with coronavirus in Nasiriyah’s Shuyukh market. It was a gift from the "Islamic Resistance, Kataib Hezbollah." Several similar health centres were constructed by the Imam Hussein shrine.

In October 2020, in a video clip shared on his Facebook page, Majidi talked about the construction of a coronavirus isolation ward affiliated with the Shifa Center at al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in Nasiriyah, promising to build it within two months.

On June 29, 2021 another COVID-19 ward was opened beside al-Hussein hospital, built with the same sandwich panel construction method. Two weeks later, fire broke out.

The Ministry of Health and the governor of Dhi Qar suggested the fire may have been intentional. Survivors said that the emergency exit to the coronavirus ward was shut and locked a few minutes before the disaster, state media reported. The official results of the investigation have not yet been released.

‘A time bomb’

Engineer Hassanein Khalil told Rudaw English that the sandwich panel material used to build isolation and recovery rooms for coronavirus patients is of poor quality. The panels are two pieces of aluminum with a filling made of materials derived from petrochemicals. They insulate against sound, but not heat.

"These materials are very dangerous, especially in a hospital where many electrical devices are used, in addition to oxygen tanks. At temperatures exceeding fifty degrees in southern Iraq, these recovery rooms are considered a time bomb," Khalil said.

He has worked in several hospitals in Basra, Nasiriyah, and Baghdad where he observed the increasing use of secondary ceilings and wall coverings made of materials like plastic without following safety precautions or installing firefighting systems.

"The fire system does not cost more than $200 per floor and there are many private Iraqi companies that can implement it. I do not know the reason for the great neglect of the health sector in Iraq and making a mockery of people's lives," he said.

People search the rubble at the coronavirus isolation ward of Nasiriyah's al-Hussein hospital on July 13, 2021. Photo: Asaad Niazi/AFP

In the 1950s, Iraq began major development of its health care sector, financed from the state budget. In the 1960s, new, modern hospitals were built in cities. This development continued in the 1970s with more hospitals and health centers built, including in villages and rural areas, until the Iraqi health system became one of the best in the Middle East.

However, in the beginning of 1990s, the health sector entered a dark era as a result of international sanctions, which led to shortages of medicines and medical equipment. Death rates among children and women notably grew and the fragile health infrastructure could not accommodate a rapidly increasing population.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the ruling political class tried to develop the health system. However, it collapsed as a result of corruption, lack of political will, and the deteriorating security situation.

In 2008, the Ministry of Health signed a $750 million contract with the Turkish company Universal to build five hospitals in Babylon, Karbala, Maysan, Basra and Dhi Qar. Work on the facilities, however, stopped and started over the years because of the security situation and money problems.

Former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki opened the Turkish Hospital in Babylon on April 27, 2014, just three days before parliamentary elections. The hospital was not finished or ready to receive patients and it was closed after the vote. It reopened in 2016.

Current Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi opened the Turkish Hospital in Nasiriyah in June and it began receiving patients in July.

Under pressure from protests, the Turkish Hospital in Karbala was opened last week and began receiving patients on Thursday. The hospitals in Maysan and Basra have not opened yet.

‘The tragedy will happen again’

Al-Hussein was not the first deadly hospital fire this year and people fear it won’t be the last.

Two and a half months earlier, a fire in Ibn al-Khatib Hospital in Baghdad killed around 130 people and injured many others. Rudaw English interviewed Murtadha al-Musawy, who lost three family members in the blaze and he was still looking for their blackened bodies.

"People around me were screaming and running. I could not believe the scene," Murtadha said in April, telling his story as he rushed through al-Kindi hospital, stepping over the injured and dead splayed on the floor. He searched the faces of burned bodies, hoping desperately that his loved ones were not among them.

He found their charred remains three weeks later, identifying his family members through DNA testing.

A report released following a fact-finding mission by the government-funded Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) found that the Ibn al-Khatib fire started after an oxygen cylinder exploded in a patient wing crowded with visitors. The simplest safety standards did not exist in the hospital. There was no sprinkler system and fire extinguishers were not properly stored or located.

The Parliamentary Health and Safety Committee issued statements listing measures that should be taken to prevent a recurrence of the Ibn al-Khatib tragedy, including providing fire extinguishers and fire-fighting systems in hospitals and preventing crowded visitors in isolation wards. But after the al-Hussein fire, these measures seem to be nothing more than ink on paper.

“Our stories are similar, we the Iraqis, the poor Iraqis that no one cares about. The tragedy will happen tomorrow again, then next month, then next year. It won’t stop,” Murtadha said on Thursday.

https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/230720214
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jul 25, 2021 11:58 am

Most deaths in England in the vaccinated

More vaccinated people are dying of COVID than unvaccinated people, according to a recent report from Public Health England (PHE). The report shows that 163 of the 257 people (63.4%) who died of the delta variant within 28 days of a positive COVID test between February 1 and June 21, had received at least one dose of the vaccine. At first glance, this may seem alarming, but it is exactly as would be expected

Here’s a simple thought experiment: imagine everyone is now fully vaccinated with COVID vaccines – which are excellent but can’t save all lives. Some people who get infected with COVID will still die. All of these people will be fully vaccinated – 100%. That doesn’t mean vaccines aren’t effective at reducing death.

The risk of dying from COVID doubles roughly every seven years older a patient is. The 35-year difference between a 35-year-old and a 70-year-old means the risk of death between the two patients has doubled five times – equivalently it has increased by a factor of 32.

An unvaccinated 70-year-old might be 32 times more likely to die of COVID than an unvaccinated 35-year-old. This dramatic variation of the risk profile with age means that even excellent vaccines don’t reduce the risk of death for older people to below the risk for some younger demographics.

PHE data suggests that being double vaccinated reduces the risk of being hospitalised with the now-dominant delta variant by around 96%. Even conservatively assuming the vaccines are no more effective at preventing death than hospitalisation (actually they are likely to be more effective at preventing death) this means the risk of death for double vaccinated people has been cut to less than one-twentieth of the value for unvaccinated people with the same underlying risk profile.

However, the 20-fold decrease in risk afforded by the vaccine isn’t enough to offset the 32-fold increase in underlying risk of death of an 70-year-old over a 35-year-old. Given the same risk of infection, we would still expect to see more double-vaccinated 70-year-olds die from COVID than unvaccinated 35-year-olds. There are caveats to that simple calculation. The risk of infection is not the same for all age groups. Currently, infections are highest in the youngest and lower in older age groups.

Think of it as ball-bearing rain

One way to imagine the risk is as a rain of differently sized ball bearings falling from the sky, where the ball bearings are the people that get infected with COVID. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume there are roughly equal numbers of ball bearings in each age group. In each age category, there is also a variation in the size of the balls. The balls representing the older groups are smaller, representing a higher risk of death.

Now imagine there’s a sieve that catches many of the balls. Most people who get COVID will not die (most balls get caught in the sieve). But some of the smaller balls fall through. The older you are, the more likely you are to fall through the holes. The balls that make it through the first sieve are hugely skewed towards older age ranges, represented by the smaller ball bearings. Before COVID vaccines came along, the people that fell through the holes represented the people who would die of COVID. The risk was massively skewed towards older people.

Vaccination provides a second sieve underneath the first, to prevent people from dying. This time, because we haven’t vaccinated everyone, it’s the holes in the sieve that are of different sizes. For older people who’ve had both doses, the holes are smaller, so many ball-bearings are stopped. The vaccines will save many of those who would previously have died.

For younger people the holes in the vaccine sieve are currently bigger as they are less likely to have received both doses and so more likely to fall through the sieve.

If all the filtering were just done by the second sieve (with no skew in risk of death by age, represented by the first sieve), then we might expect younger unvaccinated people to account for a larger proportion of the deaths. But it isn’t. The first sieve is so hugely biased towards older people that even with vaccination, more of them slip through the second sieve than the younger unvaccinated people.

Given the UK’s vaccination strategy (vaccinate older, more vulnerable people first), you would expect high proportions of the people who die from COVID to have been vaccinated. And that is exactly what we see in the data.

The fact that more vaccinated people are dying than unvaccinated people does nothing to undermine vaccine safety or effectiveness. In fact, it’s exactly what we’d expect from the excellent vaccines, which have already saved tens of thousands of lives.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated: “The report shows that 163 of the 257 people (63.4%) who died within 28 days of a positive COVID test between February 1 and June 21, had received at least one dose of the vaccine.” It should have read: “The report shows that 163 of the 257 people (63.4%) who died of the delta variant within 28 days of a positive COVID test between February 1 and June 21, had received at least one dose of the vaccine”.

https://theconversation.com/most-covid- ... obal-en-GB
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jul 25, 2021 7:49 pm

Infections continue to fall in UK

The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 has continued to fall in the UK, the latest daily figures show

The UK recorded 29,173 new cases on Sunday - down from 48,161 logged a week earlier on 18 July.

The number of new infections by date reported has fallen for five days in a row for the first time since February.

It is also the first time since the start of the pandemic that a sustained drop in cases has not coincided with a national lockdown.

"The data at present is looking good for at least the summer," said Prof Paul Hunter from the University of East Anglia.

"Today's figures do not of course include any impact of last Monday's end of restrictions. It will not be until about next Friday before the data includes the impact of this change."

What could be causing the fall in cases?

Public Health England tweeted the daily figures for Sunday, saying there had been a delay in updating the government's coronavirus dashboard.

It said 46,563,452 people had now had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, while 37,160,659 had received a second dose.

The dashboard later updated to show there have been a further 28 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

The seven-day average of cases, which smooths out daily fluctuations, is showing a 15.4% decline compared with the week before.

In Scotland, case numbers started falling earlier than in England, with some evidence the decline may have been triggered by the football team's exit from the Euro 2020 tournament, although the downward trend has continued since then.

"There has been a lot of conversation about a football-related bounce in infections and whether we were seeing a wave-within-a-wave," said Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

"In Scotland though it's now starting to look like it's a longer-term trend. We haven't seen any sign of cases picking up [since the football finished]".

The figures show the number of people taking Covid tests has fallen over the past fortnight, which scientists say could explain some of the drop in reported case numbers but is very unlikely to be the only factor.

Better weather over the past fortnight across much of the country may also have helped as more socialising took place outside.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest 92% of adults in the UK now have antibodies to the virus in their blood, either through a previous infection or at least one vaccination dose.

Real world data shows one dose of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines is around 35% effective at preventing a Covid infection with the dominant Delta variant.

After two doses that rises to 88% for the Pfizer jab and 67% for the AstraZeneca jab. Both jabs are even more effective against hospitalisation and death.

The vaccines can never offer 100% protection but as more of the population is jabbed so there is less opportunity for the virus to infect and spread.

What impact could the 19 July unlocking have?

Covid rules in England were relaxed on 19 July, removing social distancing restrictions in bars and restaurants and allowing nightclubs to reopen.

Any rise in infections linked to that unlocking is unlikely to show up in the daily case numbers for some days to come.

In other countries, such as the Netherlands and Spain, the reopening of nightclubs has been followed by a sharp rise in infections, and in some areas the policy was quickly reversed.

Some scientists say the impact of unlocking in England is extremely hard to predict but could be offset by a reduction in younger children mixing as schools close for the summer holidays.

"If I was a betting man, I would now say that the impact of 19 July will not be sufficient to start case numbers increasing again, but I cannot be certain," said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia.

Others are more cautious. Prof Woolhouse from Edinburgh University said there "may well" be another rise in cases this summer.

"There are at least eight million adults who have had no vaccination at all, plus most children under 18. That is still a lot of material for the virus to work with... and if the change in behaviour is dramatic enough [after 19 July], then we could see cases increase again."

What about the impact on hospitals?

Since the start of the pandemic a rise in infections has always led, some weeks later, to a corresponding increase in hospitalisations and deaths.

The vaccine rollout has significantly weakened that relationship but has not broken it completely.

As of 22 July there were 5,001 Covid patients in hospital across the UK, up from a low of 871 on 27 May but still well below the 39,254 in hospital at the height of the winter wave in January.

The time lag between infections and hospital admissions means that number is likely to continue to rise over at least the next week, even if infections continue to fall.

Trying to predict what will happen in the longer term is a much more difficult task for data scientists and epidemiologists.

Most agree that there is unlikely to be a defined end-point to this pandemic. Instead the disease may become endemic - meaning it continues to circulate at a lower level in pockets of the population with smaller spikes driven by changes to behaviour and seasonal effects.

Scientists serving on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended 30 million of the most vulnerable should receive a third dose. They will include all adults aged 50 and over and anyone over 16 who qualifies for a flu jab.

"This is a very difficult phase of epidemic to predict and very careful surveillance and monitoring will remain important for weeks and months to come," said Prof Woolhouse.

"There is nothing yet that undermines the government's decision to unlock on 19 July but [we will] have to continue to watch."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-57962995
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