Day: 7 June 2021

Hospital Admissions For Covid Continue to Fall in Scariant “Hotspot” Bolton

The number of people being admitted to hospital to be treated for Covid continues to fall in the former Indian Delta variant “hotspot” Bolton. The MailOnline has the story.

[The] latest NHS figures show there were 42 people in hospital in the Royal Bolton Hospital with the virus on June 1st, last Tuesday, down from 49 at the peak of the new variant scare a week earlier.

The number of people being admitted to hospital each day has tumbled, too, to just three on May 30 compared to 14 five days before. The numbers are trailing a decline in cases which appears to show a spike in new variant cases has come under control.

The same pattern is hopefully beginning to unfold in neighbouring Blackburn, the U.K.’s current hotspot which has also been hit by the Indian “Delta” strain, where infection numbers among over-60s have started to fall following a rise.

Although the borough’s infection rate was still rising at the end of May, a decline in infections among older people should help officials to keep hospital admissions and deaths under control.

More than 12,000 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant have been spotted so far in the U.K. and Public Health England last week admitted for the first time that it has become the most common variant in Britain. Almost one in five officially recorded cases – 2,149 – have been in Bolton, with another 724 in Blackburn with Darwen.

But the fact that Bolton has turned the tide of the super-infectious strain suggests it can be successfully controlled without lockdowns, instead using testing, contact tracing and vaccinations.

Covid hospital admissions started rising in Bolton in the first week of May around 10 days after cases began to rise – it can take several weeks for infected patients to become ill enough to need medical care…

Its coronavirus infection rate spiked 10-fold from just 44 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending April 22nd to a peak of 453 per 100,000 a month later on May 21st.

Cases have been most common in under-55s, who are least likely to have had two doses of a vaccine, but hospital admissions rose in the wake of the rocketing cases. Only a small fraction of patients had been fully vaccinated.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week admitted the link between infections and hospital admissions, which vaccines should separate, has so far been “broken but not completely severed”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: According to the Prime Minister’s spokesman, quoted in the Guardian, “[it] still remains that there is nothing in the data currently to suggest step four [of the lockdown roadmap] can’t go ahead at the earliest date”.

But we do need to look very closely at the data over this coming week, which will be crucial to decide and really to get a sense of the data, particularly on hospitalisations and whether or not the excellent vaccine rollout programme has sufficiently severed that link between the increase in cases, which we always expected to happen, particularly after step three, and that subsequently leading to hospitalisations and deaths.

Worth reading in full.

Vaccines Available For People Aged 25 and Over From Tuesday

England’s vaccine roll-out will extend to people aged 25-29 from Tuesday morning, the Health Secretary has announced. Sky News has the story.

“From this week we will start offering vaccinations to people under 30, bringing us ever closer to the goal of offering a vaccine to all adults in the U.K. by the end of next month,” [Matt Hancock] said.

“From tomorrow morning, we will open up vaccination to people aged 25 to 29.

“Over the remainder of this week, the NHS will send texts to people in these age groups and GPs will be inviting people on their lists to come forward.”

A total of 40,333,231 people in the U.K. have so far received their first jab, while 27,661,353 second vaccines have been administered.

A survey published last month suggested that nearly nine out of 10 young adults want to be vaccinated, giving an indication of how many people in the 25-29 age bracket will accept their vaccine invitations over the next few weeks.

Worth reading in full.

Dating Apps Partner with Government to Enable Users to Swipe Past Unvaccinated Singles

Some of Britain’s leading dating apps are encouraging their users to display a badge on their profile to show they’ve been vaccinated against Covid in a new partnership with the Government aimed at boosting vaccine uptake. Badges will enable users to quickly reject those who, whether out of medical necessity or personal choice, have not been vaccinated. Some platforms have also developed a new feature allowing users to display their preferences regarding social distancing and mask-wearing when meeting in person. The Gov.uk website has the details.

From today (June 7th, 2021), the country’s leading dating brands will add new features to their apps and websites to support the Government’s “every vaccination gives us hope” campaign. The campaign encourages younger people to get their vaccine in the second phase of the rollout, and join the millions who have already received their jabs.

The new features will allow users to show their support for the vaccine on their dating profiles and give in-app bonuses to those who say they are vaccinated.

Features will include vaccination badges and stickers to display on dating profiles, free “super likes” and other boost-type features.

Users will also start seeing adverts and banners for the “every vaccination gives us hope” campaign.

Although providing vaccination status on these apps is optional, data has shown that people are more likely to date someone who has received a Covid vaccination.

A recent YouGov poll conducted on May 21st also shows 31% of adults would prefer to date someone who was vaccinated and a further 28% would not date someone unless they had received the jab.

The website features some example of how dating platforms will encourage users to get vaccinated.

Tinder: members will be able to add a variety of stickers to their profile including “I’m vaccinated” or “Vaccines save lives”, with Tinder giving those who support the campaign a free “super like” to help them stand out among potential matches. Tinder will also launch a “vaccine centre” with a suite of resources to educate and connect members with their nearest vaccination site.

Match and Ourtime: members will be able to add a new badge to their profile to display their vaccine status, with those who participate in the campaign receiving a free “boost” to help them stand out on the app. Match’s AI-enabled dating coach, Lara, will also encourage Match users to get their vaccination badge…

Bumble: the popular women-first dating app will enable people in the U.K. to add a “vaccinated” badge to their profiles. For those who apply the badge, Bumble will offer complimentary credits for premium features such as Spotlights and Superswipes. People on Bumble will also be able to share Covid preferences, letting them easily communicate how they are comfortable dating: outdoors or indoors, how they feel about crowded spaces, and their expectations about masks and social distancing. Bumble will also leverage their social media channels to amplify the need to get vaccinated.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: “Another reason to get the jab,” says Matt Hancock.

Chaos as Tourists Scramble to Return to Britain Before Portugal is Demoted to the “Amber List”

There are reports of chaos in Portugal as Brits make a dash to book PCR tests and flights home before the country they were hoping to spend more time in is demoted to the Government’s “Amber List” on Tuesday at 4am. The MailOnline has the story.

Cabinet ministers destroyed the holiday plans of millions of families after abruptly downgrading Portugal from green to amber status on its travel list, citing fears over the so-called Nepal variant – even though just one case of the strain was detected in Portugal when the decision was announced on Thursday.

The move instantly wiped £2 billion off the value of airlines, while furious travel chiefs warned that it risked creating a jobs bloodbath and further wrecking a sector already devastated by successive lockdowns. 

Passengers have until 4am tomorrow to return to the U.K. or quarantine for 10 days, and must have proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than three days before their departure or face a £500. However, testing centres in Portugal were reportedly overwhelmed by the spike in demand.

There are an estimated 112,000 Britons currently in Portugal and airlines have been laying on extra flights or larger aircraft to get people home. Some 100 flights departed Faro on Saturday and there were lengthy queues snaking around the building of passengers trying to leave yesterday.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, vaccine centre volunteer Angela Mantana said she got news of the sudden decision just one day after getting to Portugal and now has to quarantine for 10 days at home because she was unable to get PCR tests or “suitable” flights back to the East Midlands. It means she cannot provide jabs at her local centre, or provide her aunt – who is shielding – her daily medication…

Another British traveller, Mike Indian described “chaotic” scenes at Faro Airport and having to push past other travellers after officials told him he would need to run to make his flight to London Luton. He told Radio 4’s Today programme he managed to board the plane with just five minutes to spare. 

Some 20,000 passengers departing from Faro at the weekend had to pay exorbitant prices to buy PCR tests so they can fly back from Portugal ahead of the 10-day quarantine deadline…

And testing labs are facing an “overwhelming” surge in demand for PCR testing which is causing holidaymakers to miss flights as test results are delayed or lost. According to Ross Tomkins, Managing Director of PCR test provider Salutaris People, testing capacity is on the “verge of collapse”. …

Yet official data now shows that just 1.5% of British travellers tested positive for coronavirus over two weeks in a sample – just three positive cases spotted out of 200 people coming from Portugal in mid-May.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdowns Had a Large Negative Impact on Economic Activity in Chile

Some commentators maintain that lockdowns have little or no impact on the economy. They argue it is fear of the virus, rather than government restrictions per se, that causes people to stay at home and stop spending money.

Such commentators tend to rely on studies from the first half of 2020. Because there was a dramatic decline in mobility at the start of the pandemic – when people everywhere stayed at home out of fear – these studies typically find that lockdowns had a small effect on the economy. 

However, once the characteristics of the virus became better understood (e.g. that the death rate for those younger than 40 is extremely low), people in jurisdictions not under lockdown began venturing out again. As a result, the damaging effects of lockdown on the economy are only apparent when you examine several months of data.

In a study published in the Journal of Global Health, Chilean researchers examined the economic impact of localised lockdowns in Chile. They exploited variation in the timing and duration of lockdowns across 170 municipalities, comprising 89% of the country’s population.

As a measure of economic activity, the authors used the year-on-year change in monthly VAT receipts, which previous research has shown is strongly related to GDP. 

They began by plotting monthly VAT receipts in municipalities that were and were not under lockdown in May of 2020 (see chart below). The blue line corresponds to those that were, and the red line to those that were not.

The two series follow similar paths between 2014 and 2019. However, in 2020, the blue line falls substantially further than the red, indicating that lockdowns reduced economic activity over and above the effect of voluntary behavioural change. 

To gauge the impact of lockdowns more precisely, the authors ran a statistical model of year-on-year change in monthly VAT receipts, with days under lockdown as a predictor. The model controlled for a variety of factors, including both case and death numbers. 

They found that one month of lockdown reduced VAT receipts by 12.5%. Since municipalities without a lockdown saw VAT receipts fall by 15%, this means that lockdowns explain almost half the decline in economic activity. 

“Our estimates”, the authors note, “suggest that a three-to-four-month lockdown would reduce economic activity by approximately the same amount” as one year of the 2009 Great Recession. So much for the claim that lockdowns don’t harm the economy.

News Round-Up

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the fourth of the weekly round-ups of Covid vaccine safety reports and news compiled by a group of medical doctors who are monitoring developments but prefer to remain anonymous in the current climate (find the third one here). By no means is this part of an effort to generate alarm about the vaccines or dissuade anyone from getting inoculated. It should be read in conjunction with Lockdown Sceptics‘ other posts on vaccines, which include both encouraging and not so encouraging developments. At Lockdown Sceptics we report all news about the vaccines whether positive or negative and give no one advice about whether they should or should not take them. Unlike with lockdowns, we are neither pro-vaccine nor anti-vaccine; we see our job as to report the facts, not advocate for or against a particular policy. The vaccine technology is novel and the vaccines have not yet fully completed their trials, which is why they’re in use under temporary and not full market authorisation. This has been done on account of the emergency situation and the trial data was largely encouraging on both efficacy and safety. For a summary of that data, see this preamble to the Government’s page on the Yellow Card reporting system. We publish information and opinion to inform public debate and help readers reach their own conclusions about what is best for them, based on the available data.

  • A new study from the Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice on adverse events among Japanese women receiving the Pfizer vaccine (known in the study as tozinameran), in particular cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and intracranial haemorrhage (ICH), finds a “disproportionately high incidence of death by ICH in Japanese women who received tozinameran, suggesting a potential association of ICH with the vaccine”.
  • Dr Andreas Greinacher, Head of the Institute of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine at University Hospital Greifswald in Germany, has proposed a mechanism to explain the blood clotting adverse events connected with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Scottish physician Dr Malcolm Kendrick has published an article exploring the connection between the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2 and blood clotting. The UK Medical Freedom Alliance has produced a document looking into the relationship between the spike protein, cellular fusion and tissue damage.     
  • The Sun highlights the emerging link between the Pfizer vaccine and heart condition symptoms, advising people on five key symptoms to look out for post-vaccination.
  • The journal Paediatrics has an article entitled “Symptomatic Acute Myocarditis in Seven Adolescents Following Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccination“. 
  • The MHRA has cleared the use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12-15 year-olds in the UK. The regulator says the benefits outweigh the risks, though its analysis supporting this is awaited. In the U.S., the FDA has released its guidance on using the Pfizer vaccine in this age group. There is a petition on the Parliament website asking the U.K. Government to stop Covid vaccination in children for reasons discussed by HART’s Dr Ros Jones on the TalkRadio Mark Dolan Show (1hr 10 mins). Further petitions started this week: “Reform the VDPA 1979 to improve support for those harmed by COVID-19 vaccines“; “Do not mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for British soldiers under 25“.
  • Dr Byram Bridle, a Viral Immunologist and Associate Professor at the University of Guelph, Ontario has drawn attention to the findings of a Japanese study on the biodistribution of the Pfizer vaccine in the body, highlighting the presence of the spike protein in several organs, including the brain, liver and ovaries. (More information on this here.)  
  • International Vaccine Injury Awareness Day was marked on June 3rd with a peaceful vigil in London (close to BBC Broadcasting House) remembering the victims of all vaccine injury, including those damaged by COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • VAERS – the American version of the Yellow Card reporting system – released new data on June 4th bringing the total to 294,801 reports of adverse events following Covid vaccines, including 5,165 deaths and 25,359 serious injuries between December 14th 2020 and May 28th 2021.
  • Suspected adverse events in the U.K. as reported in the media: Tanya Smith (43).

Summary of Adverse Events UK

According to an updated report published on June 3rd (covering the period up to May 26th), the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 888,196 events, based on 256,224 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,253.

  • Pfizer (14 million first doses, 10.6 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 382 doses, 2.9 adverse reactions (i.e., symptoms) per card, one fatal reaction in 62,121 doses. 
  • AstraZeneca (24.3 million first doses, 13.4 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 200 doses, 3.7 adverse reactions per card, one fatal reaction in 45,637 doses.
  • Moderna (0.4 million first doses) has one Yellow Card in 162 doses, 2.8 adverse reactions per card, one fatal reaction in 100,000 doses.

Key events analysis: