Day: 28 July 2021

Unvaccinated French Pupils Will Be Sent Home if Classmate Tests Positive for Covid

As if plans to separate vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens in France didn’t already go far enough, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has announced that children as young as 12 who have not been vaccinated will be booted out of school if a classmate tests positive for Covid while those who have been ‘jabbed’ will be allowed to stay. Connexion has the story.

Vaccinated students will continue to go to school in person if a Covid case is discovered in their class while unvaccinated students will have to study from home for seven days, Blanquer said [on Wednesday].

The minister was discussing new health rules to be put in place in schools from September.

This rule will apply to students aged 12 and over, who are currently eligible for Covid vaccines. 

Primary schools will follow the same rules as in the last school year, meaning if a Covid case is detected in a class all students in the class will then study from home for seven days. 

However, Mr Blanquer added that he was “fairly sure that there would be less disruption in the coming school year”.

In order to boost vaccination rates among secondary school students 6,000-7,000 vaccination centres will be opened from September “in or next to” schools, the Education Minister added.

Four health scenarios (“Green”, “Yellow”, “Orange” and “Red”) have also been planned for the coming academic year, depending on the health situation.

“In the lightest [Green] scenario there will be no masks in primary schools – but I fear that this will not be the case in September,” Mr Blanquer said.

The Education Ministry website says that, at the Green level, masks would still be required indoors for secondary school pupils in colleges and lycées.

At the Yellow level, primary school children would also have to wear masks indoors, and at the Orange and Red levels students of all ages would have to wear masks indoors and outdoors. …

The Health Ministry rejected the idea of using health passes to allow entry into schools for staff and students who are eligible for vaccines.

It also rejected the idea of making vaccination mandatory for teachers [*]for the moment[*].

Worth reading in full.

Google Mobility Data Suggest That ‘Freedom Day’ Will Not Cause a Rebound in Cases

New daily infections have fallen by 31% over the last seven days, causing some consternation and head-scratching in the epidemiological modelling community.

Neil Ferguson, for example, had claimed only ten days ago that cases reaching 100,000 per day was “almost inevitable”. Yesterday he backtracked, noting that “the equation has fundamentally changed”. (One hopes he was referring to the equations in his model.)

As to why daily infections have been falling, some epidemiologists have said the full effects of ‘Freedom Day’ are yet to appear in the data. ‘Freedom Day’, you will recall, was when some remaining lockdown measures were lifted on the 19th of July.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister told reporters, “Step Four of the opening-up only took place a few days ago, people have got to remain very cautious and that remains the approach of the Government.”

Aside from the fact that ‘Freedom Day’ was nine days ago, and you’d expect any effects to show up by now, there’s another indicator suggesting that a rebound in cases is unlikely – the Google mobility index.

Google publishes regular reports on the level of mobility in most of the world’s countries, based on smartphone data. Looking at the latest U.K. numbers, there is no evidence of any change in behaviour caused by ‘Freedom Day’.

The chart below shows the retail mobility index. (Numbers are percentage changes relative to the baseline; ‘Freedom Day’ is marked with a red line.) As you can see, there was no sudden increase on the 19th of July.

The next chart the residential mobility index. Once again, there was no sudden decrease on the 19th of July. (And the other four sub-indices show the same pattern.)

Of course, the Google mobility index isn’t a perfect guide to behaviour. And given that rapid decreases in case numbers have occurred in the absence of mobility changes, it’s possible that rapid increases could too. Nonetheless, these figures suggest that daily infections aren’t about to rebound, and we don’t need to “remain very cautious”.

Tottenham Hotspur to Trial Vaccine Passports Ahead of New Premier League Season

Tottenham Hotspur has become the first Premier League football club to announce they will be trialling the use of vaccine passports ahead of the new season. Supporters attending upcoming matches will be instructed to show Covid passes, but unlike the vaccine passport scheme the Government hopes to introduce later this year, proof of a negative test will be sufficient. As such, these ‘trials’ won’t be much different from the 10 trial events already carried out by the Government earlier this year which identified only 28 positive Covid test results among 58,000 participants.

The decision by Spurs comes amid reports that Premier League fans, players and staff could all need to have received two doses of a Covid vaccine for matches to go ahead later this year. MailOnline has more.

Spurs have told supporters that all adults will have to show a pass before entering the stadium ahead of their men’s and women’s teams playing Arsenal on Sunday August 8th.

The Covid pass – generated by the NHS app – confirms a person has had two doses of vaccine, has obtained a negative test for the virus or has natural immunity stemming from a previous infection.

The move comes after Government issued advice for event organisers encouraging them to use Covid passports where large crowds are in attendance, including at sports events.

However, while the Premier League is working on plans, it does not expect all clubs to have a Covid certification scheme in place by the first round of matches starting on August 13th and Spurs are the first to unveil its arrangements.

A number of top flight clubs spoken to by Sportsmail have no plans to use Covid certification in pre-season friendlies despite large attendances, and they are still awaiting advice on what is expected when the league matches begin. …

The Premier League is supportive of establishing plans for some form of passport if it enables clubs to maintain full capacity, even if Covid surges in the autumn and winter.

Spurs said their trial was part of preparations for October.

“This follows recent Government announcements and the necessity for the Club to begin preparations for the potential of full vaccination against Covid being a condition of entry to large events from October 1st.”

“It also further ensures the safety and comfort of our supporters, players and staff as we begin hosting capacity crowds for the first time since March, 2020,” the club added.

Worth reading in full.

CDC U-Turns on Face Masks – Tells Vaccinated Americans to Put Coverings Back On

“Look, we’ve gotten this far. Please protect yourself until you get to the finish line.” With these words, spoken in May, President Joe Biden instructed unvaccinated Americans to continue wearing face masks indoors but echoed advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated Americans could ditch their coverings. On Twitter, he said: “The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.”

It turns out the rule wasn’t as simple as he made out.

The CDC has told vaccinated Americans that they must put their face masks back on when indoors, less than three months after announcing that it was safe to remove them, citing fears over the Delta Covid variant. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters: “The Delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it.” The Washington Post has more.

On Tuesday… the CDC announced it had again changed its guidance on masks, recommending once more that all Americans wear masks indoors in public spaces. The game-changer for the agency was data showing that vaccinated people infected with the highly infectious delta variant carry the same viral load as unvaccinated people who are infected, the Washington Post reported.

Whiplash recommendations carry downsides. “Once you’ve let the genie out of the bottle, it’s really hard to put it back in,” said Lawrence Gostin, a Professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University. Americans who have set aside their masks might not be persuaded to don them again.

Last year, the CDC was not alone in its scepticism. The World Health Organisation (WHO) did not publish global guidance supporting masks until June 5th, more than two months after the United States did. The lack of mask availability early in the pandemic made recommending them difficult.

The WHO currently advises all people, vaccinated or not, to continue wearing masks when around others.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said Tuesday that the global health body advises governments to continue emphasising proven public health and social measures, including masks, “as long as there is community spread”.

There was community spread when the CDC issued its May 13th guidance. The United States that day recorded almost 50,000 new Covid cases. But vaccination rates were dipping. The message about masks appeared to be an attempt to incentivise the shots.

That gambit may have failed: the number of Covid vaccine doses given out this week across the United States is less than half of what it was the week of May 13th. Many unvaccinated Americans appear to have ditched their masks anyway. …

Reinstating mask rules that have been lifted can be difficult. Israel has struggled with mask compliance since June 25th [when the mask mandate was reimposed just 10 days after it was lifted].

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Reporters had to be handed face masks at a White House event on Tuesday evening, minutes after the CDC updated its advice, according to MailOnline.

Hospitalisations and Deaths Can “Increase” Simply Due to Higher Transmission

The Telegraph reported on Monday that more than half of patients counted in the COVID hospitalisation numbers did not test positive until they were admitted. (Everyone must take a COVID test before entering a hospital in England.) Only 44% tested positive prior to being admitted.

The data seen by The Telegraph correspond to 22nd July. On that date, 827 “COVID-19 patients” were admitted to hospital, according to the Government’s coronavirus dashboard. However, the true number of people hospitalised because of COVID-19 may be far lower.

Crucially, the hospitalisations numbers do not exclude people who were admitted for non-COVID reasons (say, a broken leg) but simply happened to test positive upon admission.

Given that tests are now widely available, it seems likely that someone who had symptoms resembling those of COVID-19 would take one before going to hospital. Consequently, many of those who only test positive upon arrival may be suffering from other ailments. The true number of “COVID-19 patients” admitted to hospital last Thursday could be as low as 363 (i.e., 44% of 827).

The Telegraph story highlights an important point, which lockdown sceptics have made over and over again during the pandemic. Testing positive on a PCR or lateral flow test is not the same thing as having the disease COVID-19. (It would be more accurate to describe a positive test result as “an instance of SARS-Cov-2”.)

One important implication is that the number of hospitalisations and deaths – indicators that supposedly capture the impact of the pandemic on public health – can increase simply due to higher transmission.

According to the ONS’s Coronavirus Infection Survey, the percentage of people in England infected with the virus went from 0.22% in the week ending 19th June to 1.36% in the week ending 17th July – an increase of 1.1 percentage points.

In July of 2019, there were 1.3 million inpatients admissions, or 42,000 per day. If the percentage of inpatients testing positive rose by 1.1 percentage points due to a general increase in transmission, that would yield an additional 462 “COVID-19 patients” by the end of the month.

Now this calculation isn’t an exact representation of what’s going on at the moment. We know that infections are concentrated among people in their 20s and 30s, who are unlikely to be hospitalised for any reason. But it illustrates the point that even the hospitalisation numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. 

As I’ve noted many times, the only truly reliable indicator of the pandemic’s impact is excess mortality. And going by that measure, the pandemic has been over since March.  

News Round-Up