COVID-19 Pandemic World Updates

deaddirty

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‘This is unstoppable’: America's midwest braces itself for a Covid-19 surge

And the US has just passed 5 million cases.

Meanwhile, in the UK new cases have exceeded 1000 per day for the first time since June, and Greece has recorded its highest daily number of infections yet.
 

Frazeeme

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Oh this is just fake news - Trump absolutely knows that the pandemic is disappearing. :rolleyes1:
 

deaddirty

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:)
 

deaddirty

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Some updates - mixed news, but at least not all bad:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/11/coronavirus-in-europe-french-and-dutch-on-alert-over-rise-in-cases




The Russian vaccine is potentially very good news, both in itself and because if it works the likelihood of at least some of the other vaccines currently being trialled working is presumably increased. But it does not seem to have been properly tested, so there are real concerns about its safejy and effectiveness.
 

deaddirty

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This seems very odd to me, and the fact that he totally messed up over Western Samoa doesn't inspire confidence. The association with abattoirs and meat packing factories is certainly genuine and the cold conditions may allow the virus to survive on surfaces or in aerosols for far longer than elsewhere. And faecal transmission is certainly possible since it's now known that Covid-19 can infect the gut. But why would environmental conditions suddenly become favourable globally when they never have before? I suppose it's possible that an earlier strain, either much less infective or much less virulent, has been circulating unrecognised for a while, then mutated in the strain we all know and don't love.
Incidentally, recent work on bat viruses has indicated that the best matches for the Covid-19 source virus are in horseshoe bats from the Yunnan province (China), Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam border area, though it doesn't say whether the virus is thought to have jumped directly to humans there or via an animal intermediary.


I wonder if these 'early Covid' results from sewage could be from exposure to some of the other coronaviruses he mentions?
An interesting conversation with a friend this week. He's been having health problems since late last year (exhaustion, breathlessness, heart problems etc - very much the sort of thing we are now seeing in many Covid survivors), and his doctors have now told him he is one of a group of people in his part of the UK with similar problems following on from a flu-like illness last autumn, and the doctors are now convinced that they had either an early form of Covid-19 or a very similar coronavirus. So it now looks as if the virus may have species-jumped several years ago, presumably in Yunnan and/or adjacent areas, and spread slowly and under the radar (in China with occasional clusters elsewhere) as it adapted to humans, until it mutated into the highly-infectious viral pneumonia form presumably in the Wuhan/Hubei area late last year.
 

Frazeeme

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Some updates - mixed news, but at least not all bad:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/11/coronavirus-in-europe-french-and-dutch-on-alert-over-rise-in-cases




The Russian vaccine is potentially very good news, both in itself and because if it works the likelihood of at least some of the other vaccines currently being trialled working is presumably increased. But it does not seem to have been properly tested, so there are real concerns about its safejy and effectiveness.
Hopefully the Russian vaccine is a good one. But sadly, this Russian 'first' reminds me of the Cold War in the mid 20th century when they raced to claim first for everything. That thought worries me a bit about vaccine safety.
 

deaddirty

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Hopefully the Russian vaccine is a good one. But sadly, this Russian 'first' reminds me of the Cold War in the mid 20th century when they raced to claim first for everything. That thought worries me a bit about vaccine safety.
Yes - though to be fair we (the UK) have made more than our share of unfounded 'world-beating' claims. Like the world-beating contact-tracing app which was indeed world-beating - as a failure, it successfully detected the presence of precisely 4% of iPhones!
But concerns about the dangers of releasing under-tested vaccine are very real - it really could do more harm than good:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/12/a-poor-vaccine-is-worse-than-no-vaccine-the-challenges-faced-by-scientists

In 1977, Scott Halstead, a virologist at the University of Hawaii, was studying dengue fever when he noticed a now well-known but then unexpected feature of the disease.

Animals that had already been exposed to one of the four closely related viruses that cause dengue and produced antibodies to it, far from being protected against other versions, became sicker when infected a second time, and it was the antibodies produced by the first infection that were responsible, allowing the second infection to hitchhike into the body.

The effect was called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). The reason it matters today, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, is that unexpected glitches such as ADE are the kind of problems vaccine developers look for in phase-3 testing of vaccines – testing that has yet to be carried out on Russia’s newly approved Sputnik V vaccine.

In recent weeks, as announcements on the development of scores of vaccines around the world have come in rapid succession, the still poorly understood mechanisms of ADE have been thrust into the spotlight as scientists speculate on whether vaccine-produced antibodies could trigger this effect.

ADE “is a genuine concern”, Kevin Gilligan, a virologist and senior consultant with Biologics Consulting, told Nature Biotechnology in June. “Because if the gun is jumped and a vaccine is widely distributed that is disease-enhancing, that would be worse than actually not doing any vaccination at all.”

This week, following Russia’s announcement that it is pushing ahead with mass production of Sputnik V and mass inoculation , the fears expressed by the likes of Gilligan became a chorus, underlining the concerns among scientists that Russian researchers have jumped the gun.

Russia has described claims that the vaccine is unsafe as groundless, and on Wednesday vowed to roll it out in two weeks. But criticism has continued to build.

Among those mentioning ADE as a concern was Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College. He said part of the problem was that the work behind Russia’s vaccine development had been so opaque that no one really knows how safe or even how effective it will be.

“I don’t think the Russian researchers have done anything wrong, but I think they’ve jumped the gun,” he told the Guardian. “If we are talking about safety then you have to be looking at issues like ADE, which was a concern that scuppered some efforts to develop a Sars vaccine, where it exacerbated an asthma-like response in lungs.”

It is not just the potential for issues such as ADE that concerns people like Altmann, who is optimistic that the hunt for a vaccine for Covid-19 is not “intractable”. He said the ideal approach would have been to compare 150 or so different vaccine candidates transparently, using the same testing criteria, to ensure the world gets the best vaccine, not simply the first.

“No two of these candidates is going be alike in terms of safety, how effective they are or how cheap they are to produce,” he said. “The reason we’re crying out for transparency and peer review is because those factors are very serious. There have been too many debacles in this pandemic. This is not another occasion to blunder in. You want to line up the candidates side by side.”

The lack of effective testing throws up other issues. “I think there is enough general background data … to assume the [Russian] vaccine itself will be safe at the usual doses,” Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading, said in a statement posted on the Science Media Centre website. “The bigger risk, however, is that the immunity generated is not sufficient to give protection, leading to continued virus spread even among immunised individuals.

“And although only a possibility, less than complete protection could provide a selection pressure that drives the virus to evade what antibody there is, creating strains that then evade all vaccine responses. In that sense, a poor vaccine is worse than no vaccine. Careful virus tracking will therefore need to accompany any early release.”

Even before Russia’s announcement, some were warning about accelerated vaccine development programmes in Russia and in the US. In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida, flagged up many of the same issues, adding that she would hesitate to take a vaccine that appeared to have been rushed through without proper testing.

“[The] benchmark [of phase-3 testing] is crucial because a weak vaccine might be worse than no vaccine at all,” she said. “We do not want people who are only slightly protected to behave as if they are invulnerable, which could exacerbate transmission. It is also costly to roll out a vaccine, diverting attention away from other efforts that we know work, like mask-wearing, and from testing better vaccines.”

The last thing phase-3 trials do is examine safety. Earlier trials do this too, but larger trials allow for rarer side effects to be detected. One such effect is a paradoxical phenomenon known as immune enhancement, in which a vaccinated person’s immune system overreacts to infection. Researchers can test for this by comparing the rates of disease severe enough to require hospitalisation across two groups.

“A clear signal that hospitalisation is higher among vaccinated participants would mark the end of a vaccine,” Dean said.
 

Frazeeme

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An interesting conversation with a friend this week. He's been having health problems since late last year (exhaustion, breathlessness, heart problems etc - very much the sort of thing we are now seeing in many Covid survivors), and his doctors have now told him he is one of a group of people in his part of the UK with similar problems following on from a flu-like illness last autumn, and the doctors are now convinced that they had either an early form of Covid-19 or a very similar coronavirus. So it now looks as if the virus may have species-jumped several years ago, presumably in Yunnan and/or adjacent areas, and spread slowly and under the radar (in China with occasional clusters elsewhere) as it adapted to humans, until it mutated into the highly-infectious viral pneumonia form presumably in the Wuhan/Hubei area late last year.
Interesting thoughts and certainly a probability. I wonder though about how this may dilute perception of the seriousness of covid19. In the US we are now seeing internet postings about the 99 (ninety-nine) !!!! after effects of the virus. To me that begins to just sound silly and belittling rather than alarming.
 

deaddirty

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Current situation here in the UK is unclear. At first sight it is bad, with the number of cases rising steadily and spreading mainly in the younger (under 40) age groups. But the random testing area-by-area to assess the frequency shows a static picture after a rise last month, and hospital admissions are broadly stable, so it may be that what we are really seeing is improved contact-tracing and testing around the confirmed outbreaks/cases picking up large numbers of asymptomatic and very mild cases which have always been there but weren't previously detected.
 

deaddirty

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Interesting thoughts and certainly a probability. I wonder though about how this may dilute perception of the seriousness of covid19. In the US we are now seeing internet postings about the 99 (ninety-nine) !!!! after effects of the virus. To me that begins to just sound silly and belittling rather than alarming.
To me it's the opposite, though 99 after-effects does seem over the top! The picture we're seeing is of an increasing number of odd symptoms and after-effects, some of them serious, and sometimes after a relatively mild initial illness though they are certainly more common after a serious case. Certainly a neighbour who had a mild case (dry cough or a few days, no more) had a persistent cough for weeks after.
What I'm not sure though is how far the longer-term effects are developing from more recent cases rather than from the peak of the UK outbreak - in other words, is the use of dexamethasone and remdesivir preventing most of them ,or not?
 

deaddirty

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Current situation here in the UK is unclear. At first sight it is bad, with the number of cases rising steadily and spreading mainly in the younger (under 40) age groups. But the random testing area-by-area to assess the frequency shows a static picture after a rise last month, and hospital admissions are broadly stable, so it may be that what we are really seeing is improved contact-tracing and testing around the confirmed outbreaks/cases picking up large numbers of asymptomatic and very mild cases which have always been there but weren't previously detected.
And I forgot to say - we had some 'good' news last week - 5,400 people un-died from Covid-19. :rocksss: (not)
But this isn't actually a miracle, it is an example of our world-class ability to get things wrong. :(
What happened was that in England (not the rest of the UK), 'deaths after testing positive for Covid-19' meant precisely that - if you tested positive with a mild case of Covid in February, and got run over by a bus last week, that was a Covid death. So now the figures have been changed to only count deaths within 28 days of positive test - which errs the other way, since testing is now normally soon after symptoms start, and it can easily be more than a month until a serious case finally dies. The most reliable figures, though always a couple of weeks in arrears, are for deaths with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate - currently over 57,000.
Actually, I suspect there re problems with the recorded numbers of cases and deaths in many countries - we may not even be particularly bad?
 

deaddirty

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deaddirty

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And from the Department of Couldn't Make It Up:

Trump calls out New Zealand’s 'terrible' Covid surge, on day it records nine new cases
US president’s discordant comments fail to reflect that 22 people have died from coronavirus in New Zealand, versus 170,000 in US


 

deaddirty

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And another:



With his hands clenched and gaze fixed, it was a picture likely intended to show the education secretary’s steely determination to fix the exams fiasco.
But the image of Gavin Williamson, taken in his office after he announced a major reversal on A-level and GCSE grades, only served to trigger bewilderment – because of the whip positioned on the desk in front of him.
Williamson, who has faced calls to resign over the results crisis, confirmed on Monday that pupils in England could be graded on teacher assessments rather than a computer algorithm, two days after he had pledged “no U-turn, no change”.
….
The whip in question is understood to have been a gift from a friend of Williamson to mark his time as chief whip and was said to typically sit on his desk rather than having been placed there specifically for the purposes of the photo.
It’s not the only unexpected object kept by Williamson; he previously housed his pet tarantula in a glass tank on his desk.


Now am I the only person to be concerned at an Education Secretary who has a whip and a tarantula on his desk?
Though compared to the absolute cock-up he has made of our school exams and university entry, perhaps this is pretty minor.
 

deaddirty

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A couple of updates:

And from the live newsfeed:
Coronavirus cases in Russia pass 1m
Russia’s coronavirus case tally passed the 1 million mark on Tuesday as schools and educational institutions reopened across the world’s largest country with new mandatory safety precautions in place.
Russia has the fourth highest case tally in the world after the US, Brazil and India, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the virus since it was discovered.
But officials say more than 800,000 people have recovered from the disease, and that with just over 17,000 deaths, the death toll is lower than in many other European countries.
The coronavirus crisis centre said on Tuesday that the overall case tally stood at 1,000,048 after 4,729 new infections were reported. It said 123 new deaths had been confirmed in the last 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 17,299.
President Vladimir Putin, in a nationwide TV address, told school children and students to observe virus safety rules.
It is mandatory for teachers to wear masks in schools in Moscow, which has been harder hit by the virus than other parts of Russia. Teachers are allowed to take off their masks in classrooms when teaching however, provided they keep a safe distance from children.
Moscow schoolchildren are not required to wear masks in schools. But traditional ceremonies at the start of the school year were cancelled on Tuesday and the use of different classrooms will be limited to reduce infection risks.
“I’m not afraid of Covid of course, but I follow restrictions,” Daniil Ivanenko, a 9th-grade student, told Reuters TV at his school in western Moscow on Tuesday.
Russia said that 167,044 people are infected with the virus.

Interesting graph in this one (or some reason it's not pasting in) - since early July cases in France and Spain have skyrocketed, whereas in UK, Italy and Germany there has only been a slow rise though the Italian graph for the last week or so is looking a bit ominous. In the UK (and using info from BBC news items as well as the Guardian article), there are still questions over how much of the increase is real as opposed to increased identification of mild and asymptomatic cases - the rate per 100,000 shown by random testing is still fairly static overall despite the rise shown by the targetted testing ( https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopula...ectionsurveypilot/englandandwales28august2020 ) . And hospital admissions and deaths are remaining low - this is probably because so many of the infections are mild and in young people, and an expert on the BBC has suggested a sort of virtuous circle - with infections levels lows and mainly mild, and social distancing and mask-wearing reducing the amount of virus transmitted, most new infections are with a low viral load so tend to be mild!
And it also occurs to me that at this time of year, and particularly with many of us still trying to be outdoors as much as possible, Vitamin D levels should be high - in a normal year 39% of Brits are Vitamin D deficient by the end of winter, and there was strong empirical evidence during the March-April peak of Covid that D deficiency was strongly linked to bad outcomes.
 

Frazeeme

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Now TRUMP's COVIDIOTS are telling the USA that 90% of covid-19 deaths were from other causes. Talk about taking facts and twisting into fake news.
 

deaddirty

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Bolivian families turn to makeshift graves as cemeteries fill during pandemic

Desperate families in Bolivia are turning to makeshift graves to bury their loved ones, with cemetery space at a premium as the coronavirus pandemic keeps the South American nation in its grip.
Local officials said families were creating clandestine graveyards or sneaking into the cemeteries of the capital, La Paz, in early morning or overnight hours to dig unofficial graves for their relatives.
"They want to bury on top of other graves. For example, they uncover the grave and want to put the body a metre (3 feet) deep, not even 2 or 3 metres," said Omar Arce, president of a local council, adding that police were forced to move the bodies later.
Bolivia, which has one of the highest regional rates of extreme poverty, has struggled to free itself from the weight of the pandemic as political tensions simmer ahead of a general election.
Government officials said in August that cases accelerated among the population of 11.6 million after protests linked to the postponement of the election until Oct. 18 due to the spread of the virus.
Cemeteries in La Paz are now struggling to accommodate a 580% increase in demand for new burials, according to Rene Sahonero, a Health Ministry official.
Dealing with the clandestine graves is a heartbreaking dilemma for local authorities, who said many families had no other options for giving their loved ones a proper burial.
"Seeing the pain of the family, we cannot prevent the burial," said police officer Rene Tambo, adding that police do not typically launch criminal investigations. "We have to think about what is within people's reach. We can't force them to go to a cemetery."
Bolivia has 117,926 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with an official death toll of 5,200, although critics have argued that the government is underreporting deaths.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic to today, there has been an excess in the number of deaths (in comparison with official statistics)," said public policy expert Andres Uzin.
With little more than 2,500 coronavirus tests daily, according to Uzin, the official numbers do not paint a full picture. He said an excess of more than 14,000 deaths had been registered by the Civil Registry Service.
"The government's record is not reflecting the reality of the country," Uzin said.

 

deaddirty

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Arizona university prevents potential Covid outbreak by testing feces
Experts are analyzing sewage from student dorms twice weekly, which recently led to identifying two coronavirus cases early

It might not sound pretty, but a new method for early Covid-19 detection is proving pretty promising – and it involves analyzing people’s poop.
At the University of Arizona, experts are analyzing the sewage coming from student dorms twice weekly, across all of its halls of residence, to search for traces of the virus.
And it seems to be working. In a video, Dr Robert Robbins, the president of the university explains how he was contacted by one of the researchers at the university just last week, to notify him of a potential outbreak about to happen in one of its dorms.
“I got a call night before last to say Dr Pepper has picked up a signal in one of the dorms … We went over, we tested all of the students and staff that worked there and we found two positive cases which we turned over to isolation,” said Dr Robert Robbins. Those students were put into quarantine for two weeks, receiving all lessons virtually.
“Nobody would have known otherwise, but with this early detection, we jumped on it right away tested those youngsters and got them the appropriate isolation where they needed to be,” responds Dr Richard Carmona, who is also involved in the universities waste detection program.
But why analyze feces rather than just using a nasal swab? Experts believe that waste-water analysis can provide an early detection of the virus before a potential outbreak hits.
The benefit of analyzing waste water rather than using individual swabs is that it allows researchers to test for infection in a whole population of people. If signs of the disease are found in sewage, individuals can then be tested to identify the source of the contamination.
It also provides the added benefit of sourcing out asymptomatic carriers – who may not check themselves in for a test, but can be identified for additional testing if there seems to be traces of the virus in their sewage.
As pointed out by Dr Carmona, “If we had waited until they were symptomatic and they stayed in their dorm for days or a week or the whole incubation period, how many other people would have been infected?”

 

deaddirty

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Well, I guess someone has to do it :(
 

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Interesting graph in this one (or some reason it's not pasting in) - since early July cases in France and Spain have skyrocketed, whereas in UK, Italy and Germany there has only been a slow rise though the Italian graph for the last week or so is looking a bit ominous. In the UK (and using info from BBC news items as well as the Guardian article), there are still questions over how much of the increase is real as opposed to increased identification of mild and asymptomatic cases - the rate per 100,000 shown by random testing is still fairly static overall despite the rise shown by the targetted testing ( https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopula...ectionsurveypilot/englandandwales28august2020 ) . And hospital admissions and deaths are remaining low - this is probably because so many of the infections are mild and in young people, and an expert on the BBC has suggested a sort of virtuous circle - with infections levels lows and mainly mild, and social distancing and mask-wearing reducing the amount of virus transmitted, most new infections are with a low viral load so tend to be mild!
And it also occurs to me that at this time of year, and particularly with many of us still trying to be outdoors as much as possible, Vitamin D levels should be high - in a normal year 39% of Brits are Vitamin D deficient by the end of winter, and there was strong empirical evidence during the March-April peak of Covid that D deficiency was strongly linked to bad outcomes.
How quickly things change! Since I posted this a week ago, our new infection rate has doubled, and the rate of hospital admissions has stated to creep up. :(
 
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