COVID-19 DIARY – UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

Global Covid report: Belgium facing new lockdown as Germany takes in  patients | Belgium | The Guardian

March 14

In New South Wales a hotel quarantine worker at the Sofitel Hotel tested positive to COVID.

What was noteworthy about the case is the man had already been vaccinated.

Although let’s unpack that a little.

The security guard received his first Pfizer jab on the 2nd of March.

When he tested after most recent shifts March 5th and 6th going into the early hours of the 7th he tested negative after those shifts.

When he returned to work on the Saturday he tested positive.

That’s one jab of Pfizer less than a week earlier when he most likely became infected and the Pfizer jabs works on a basis of two jabs three weeks apart with full effectiveness reached a week after the second jab.

[This is] obviously good news, but you should be aware the antibody reaction required from vaccination doesn’t get confirmed or doesn’t achieve its maximum [until] some time after the first and second vaccination,” noted New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

Add to this is the simple fact that medicos are advising particularly with the new strains, vaccinations don’t stop you from getting COVID they stop you from hopefully coming down with a severe case with it.

As we have said all along, vaccination helps but it does not necessarily stop you getting the virus,” Hazzard said.

COVID NSW: No new cases linked to Sofitel Wentworth hotel quarantine |  Daily Telegraph

While we are still learning how the vaccines impacted transmission, what we would hope for … is if you are vaccinated, you probably don’t have such a high viral load, you are protected against severe illness. Your viral load may well be lower and, therefore, it will potentially stop you transmitting it to the same degree. But a lot of this work is still being looked at and the science is being worked through as we literally speak.,” advised New South Wales Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant.

[The vaccine is] very effective, but not 100 per cent effective” against mild and moderate disease, but it was almost 100 per cent effective against severe disease, hospitalisation and death,” said Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly.

It’s why the measures we have in place will have a part to play in our daily lives for many a while yet.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison receiving his second shot advised, “You should still try to observe the COVID-safe behaviours — I’m wearing a mask today.

One hundred and thirty hotel quarantine workers who worked the same shift with the guard on Friday March 12th going into Saturday morning were getting tested and isolating.

Contract tracing was underway for the locations the guard had hit in between his negative and postive test results.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported there had been 136,000 people go through the 14 day hotel quarantine since March 2020.

There had been 5,048 cases in New South Wales during the pandemic.

This case ended a 65 day streak of no new locally acquired cases.

Queensland COVID outbreak sparks health officials to change vaccination  policy | 7NEWS.com.au

March 16

Speaking of second shots of Pfizer.

Tuesday in Queensland nurse Zoe Park the first receipent of a Pfizer jab in Queensland received her second shot three weeks later along with several other health care workers.

Channel 9 News Australia reported 22,000 of 37,000 health care workers that came under the 1A grouping had received their first shot.

New South Wales had vaccinated 37,000 in the same time period.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath advised the state government was on track to complete 1A vaccinations in a fortnight.

Good news given the PA case.

Four hundred close contacts had been identified from that case and were getting tested. About 58% had come back negative.

Tensions between state and federal government consultation were raised.

Last week I was told these trays weren’t going to be delivered but it’s arrived in the last hour. So its changing daily,” D;Ath advised.

There were no answers yet on what caused the outbreak at the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

To our north there was growing concern of rising COVID numbers in Papua New Guinea.

Five hundred recent tests in the country had returned 250 positive results. Of 36 active cases of COVID in Queensland – 18 could be linked back to Papua New Guinea.

The Australian government moved to provide support to their neighbour with $500 million dollars worth of foreign aid.

On the 16th of March, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 2,351 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 82. There had been 26 deaths.

Having only days earlier seen the first AstraZeneca vaccinations take place in Australia, European nations were suspending the roll out of the vaccine.

Italy, Germany and France, Cyprus and Slovenia along suspended its use pending assessment from the European Medicines Agency which were meeting on Thursday.

Spain had suspended use for two weeks.

Earlier Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Austria, Latvia, Sweden, Romania and Bulgaria had stopped using it too.

The side effects cited included blood clots, there had been deaths following vaccinations.

The language of the national leaders struck a tone of precaution but indicated they expected the measure was temporary.

Hospitals in Paris were almost beyond capacity, Italy was in lockdown and there was already a supply issue of getting enough vaccines across Europe that suspending the use of AstraZeneca excaberated.

“As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.

The European Medicines Agency reported as of March 10, 30 cases of blood clotting had been reported from 5 million Astra Zeneca vaccinations across 30 European countries.

Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon. More than 11 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca have now been administered across the UK, and the number of blood clots reported after having the vaccine is not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population.” said Dr Phil Bryan who was head of vaccine safety at the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

AstraZeneca itself reported out of 17 million vaccinations, 15 events of deep vein thrombosis and 22 evetns of pulomonary embolism.

Germany: Clashes erupt as parliament votes on COVID rules | Coronavirus  pandemic News | Al Jazeera

March 18

Professor Anthony Harnden who was deputy chair of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had some strong words regarding the suspension of AstraZeneca.

You cannot stop and start vaccination programs without losing some public confidence,” he told the ABC.

There will be many, many people in Europe, [who] feel now that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is second best … which is patently untrue. I have no doubt that Europeans have died because of some of these decisions. They have large portions of their vulnerable elderly population unprotected because of an incorrect decision that they made about delaying the AstraZeneca dose in the elderly population. It’s going to affect us all, ultimately, if we have a huge amount of transmission and infection within Europe.,” he said.

There were significant national politics at play here.

Britain had recently left the European Union.

Case numbers were down in the UK while rising on the continent with the dominant strain now being… you guessed it – the UK strain.

Certain poorer European countries were going to need to use AstraZeneca while a country like Italy for example was mostly vaccinating with Pfizer.

Even so the vaccine rollout in Europe had been going slower than in the UK.

In Britain 39 out of every 100 people had been vaccinated compared to 11 out of every 100 in France, Germany and Italy.

For example Italy had been averaging 200,000 vaccinations per day before the suspension, it needed to double that to get to 80 per cent of its population vaccinated by September this year.

While Pfizer/BioNTech was a Belgium-American collaboration. The Oxford-AstraZeneca jab was a British-Swiss collaboration.

East Europe hit with new COVID-19 wave as Polish, Bulgarian leaders test  positive - Global Times

March 19

The European Medicines Agency report came out and its four main findings were the benefits of getting a vaccine far outweighed the risk of side effects, there is no associated increased risk between the jab and blood clots, no problem with batches or manufacturing but the vaccine may be associated with very rare cases of blood clots.

Following this out of the 13 countries that suspended the use of AstraZeneca, Italy, France and Germany advised they would resume its use.

Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands said they would start using it again next week.

Poland had never stopped.

The Oxford jab is safe and the Pfizer jab is safe. The thing that isn’t safe is catching COVID, which is why it’s so important that we all get our jabs as soon as our turn comes,” Great Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised in a press conference where he announced he would get vaccinated tomorrow at the very hospital where he had been treated for COVID-19.

March 20

France and the UK’s Prime Ministers and Slovenia’s President rolled up their sleeves for the AstraZeneca jab to help in restoring confidence in the vaccine following the suspension of its use in Europe.

France was back in lockdown.

Bulgaria had resumed AstraZeneca vaccination, out of a population of seven million only 355,000 of its people had been vaccinated – the lowest number in the European Union.

Places like Hungary and Bosnia were also going into lockdown as case numbers surged. The former had one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe.

On the 20th of March the World Health Organisation reported there had been 122,039,807 confirmed cases globally with a daily incrase of 552,244.

There had been 2,697,760 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 10,509.

In Iceland there had been 6,097 confirmed cases with a daily increase of six. There had been 29 deaths.

In Australia there had been 29,183 with a daily increase of 17. There had been 909 deaths.

In Cyprus there had been 41,475 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 364. There had been 241 deaths.

In Ireland there had been 229,306 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 510. There had been 4,576 deaths with a daily increase of ten.

In Latvia there had been 96,524 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 622. There had been 1,811 deaths with a daily increase of ten.

In Denmark there had been 221,455 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 638. There had been 2,397 deaths.

In Slovenia there had been 204,534 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 941. There had been 4,276 deaths with a daily increase of ten.

In Norway there had been 84,553 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,034. There had been 648 deaths.

Bosnian returnees face delays, confusion over COVID-19 quarantine |  Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

In Bosnia and Herzegovina there had been 151,337 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,446. There had been 5,773 deaths with a dialy increase of 44.

In Austria there had been 504,693 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,306. There had been 8,795 deaths with a daily increase of 25.

In Canada there had been 922,848 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,609. There had been 22,590 deaths with a daily increase of 36.

In Bulgaria there had been 299,939 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,162. There had been 11,932 deaths with a daily increase of 115.

Coronavirus Manchester: How life will change under Tier 3 lockdown - Sound  Health and Lasting Wealth

In the United Kingdom there had been 4,284,547 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,458. THere had been 126,026 deaths with a daily increase of 100.

In Romania there had been 886,752 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,593. THere had been 22,020 deaths with a daily increase of 143.

In Sweden there had been 744,171 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,740. There had been 13,387 deaths with a daily increase of 18.

In the Netherlands there had been 1,186,425 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 7,355. There had been 16,238 deaths with a daily increase of 45.

In Hungary there had been 560,971 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 11,132. There had been 18,068 deaths with a daily increase of 227.

In Germany there had been 2,645,783 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 16,033. There had been 74,565 deaths with a daily increase of 207.

In Italy there had been 3,332,418 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 25,707. There had been 104,241 deaths with a daily increase of 386.

France Covid-19: Paris compulsory face-mask rule comes into force - BBC News

In France there had been 4,146,171 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 35,066. There had been 91,429 deaths with a daily increase of 267.

In India there had been 11,555,284 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 40,953. There had been 159,558 deaths with a daily increase of 188.

In the United States of America there had been 29,376,388 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 58,826. There had been 534,484 deaths with a daily increase of 1,513.

Most of Europe was not only experiencing surging case numbers but as bad as any their country had ever seen this past winter.

-Lloyd Marken

ONE YEAR EARLIER: March 19, 2020.

Italy overtook China with the most recorded deaths from COVID with 41,035 confirmed cases and a daily increase of 5,322. The death toll was 3,407 with a daily increase of 429.

In Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison annonced there all foreign travellers would be banned from entering the country.

Tasmania became the first Australian state to close its borders.

The Ruby Princess crusie ship disembarked 2,700 passengers in Sydney.

COVID-19 DIARY – ROLL OUT ROLL UP PART V

Utter disaster': Manaus fills mass graves as Covid-19 hits the Amazon |  Brazil | The Guardian

March 02

As the vaccine rolled out across America, the Director fo the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci advised the U.S. would not delay second doses of the vaccine like the UK had.

Accepting that there were risks on both sides of the arguement, Fauci advised leaving people with less protection could help encourage new variants to pop up.

He told of speaking with UK officials and that, “We both agreed that both of our approaches were quite reasonable.

He did cite another consideration was building confidence in the American people with regards to getting vaccinated and not changing policy too much to undermine that confidence.

It is worth noting that during the early days of the pandemic taking off in America, mask usage had been downplayed since there was a serious concern that supplies would run out for frontline workers.

At this point both regulators in the UK and the US had given the green light to use of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The U.S. had just approved the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The UK was also using the locally produced Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

Just this week Public Health England reported, “that a single shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines had been more than 80% effective at preventing hospitalization of people over age 80 roughly three to four weeks after one dose, though it’s unclear just how long that level of protection will last.

Covid in Scotland: Mass vaccination of health and care staff begins - BBC  News

In Great Britain, during an interview with BBC Radio 4, Oxford University Professor Andrew Pollard who was in charge of running trials of the university’s vaccines advised that booster jabs will take of noticeably new dangerous variants of COVID. He expected a necessary one would be ready from AstraZeneca by August.

These variants from Kent, Brazil, South Africa had been able to reinfect people that had had COVID.

Director of the variant tracking COG UK Institute, Professor Sharon Peacock, had also hopefully said the virus was showing signs of “convergent evolution.” Less mutations were developing and unconnected variants appeared the same.

A comforting thought but for now the Brazillian strain for example was getting a lot of attention. Conservative estimates suggested it was 50 per cent more transmissible and may reinfect anywhere from 25 to 61 pere cent who are already immune. A study today revealed the Brazilian variant discovered in the UK over the weekend is around 50 per cent more transmissible than the original version of the coronavirus.

A published study by the Imperial College London had researched the P1 variant in the Brazillian city of Manaus. Blood testing had suggested 67 per cent of the city’s population had had COVID by October 2020.

A subsequent wave hit the city hard in early 2021, the study found that the number of COVID cases in Manaus with the P1 variant grew from zero to 87 per cent in eight weeks.

A city in Brazil where covid-19 ran amok may be a 'sentinel' for the rest  of the world | MIT Technology Review

The report found that P! was anywhere between 1.4 to 2.2 times more transmissible and evaded 25 to 61 per cent immunity given from previous infection.

P1 had arrived in the United Kingdom over the weekend.

“If 100 people were infected in Manaus last year, somewhere between 25 and 61 of them are susceptible to reinfection with P1,” Dr Nuno Faria of the Imperial College London told.

The P1 variant has also caused more deaths in Manaus but this was not necessarily due to the severity of the illness but the rate of hospitalisations leading to a lack of supplies and care that could be adminsitered by a health care system that had reached breaking point.

The main mutations that had people’s attention was the N501Y, E484K and K417. The mutations are on the virus’s external spike protein which is used to latch onto the body allowing the virus to spread faster and leading to them becoming the dominant form of the disease. N501Y is found in the Kent strain known globally as the UK strain. E484K and K417 are found in the Brazil and South Africa strains. These latter two mutations make the virus less susceptible to immune cells making previous infections or vaccines less effective against them. However the expectation was the vaccines were likely to still prevent serious illness or death from these new strains.

Brazil Doesn't Seem to Have a Coronavirus Plan, and Results Are Grim

It is difficult because we’re very focused on what we’re seeing today and of course the nature of this virus is that it will continue to throw out new mutations in time. And so, to some extent, we’ve got to start moving away from an obsession with each variant as it appears [and] try to rely on the excellent sequencing that is being run nationally to pick up variants so that new designs of vaccines can be made as and when they are needed,” said Professor Pollard.

Certainly at the moment there are some similarities between the P.1 Brazil variant and the B.1351 South African variant. So the work at the moment is partly to understand whether a vaccine for one of them might actually protect against both. There’s a lot more that we don’t know yet about this, but all the developers are working on new vaccines to make sure we are ready if we need to be.

Professor Peacock was pretty confident that with the new P1 variant being found in Britain that the UK’s own horrible strain would remain the variant to combat with no disturbance to coming out of lockdown or the roll out of the vaccine.

The majority of disease in the UK is caused by the B117 [Kent] variant which we can vaccinate against using the vaccines that we have available to us at the moment. The numbers of cases [of P1] in the UK are very low at the moment and I don’t think there is any threat to our vaccination strategy or effectiveness,” said Professor Peacock.

More importantly AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna were all working on new jabs for variants.

It could be there’s a point at which the virus has optimal fitness in terms of transmission and immunity… what we don’t know is what happens after that. I don’t anticipate that things are going to get worse from this point. We seem to have reached a relative plateau in terms of what the virus is doing in terms of evolution. But we need to keep our eye on it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t predict what’s going to happen next,” she said.

The Brazillian variant has been found in 15 countries that are not on the UK’s Red List of banned international travel.

Covid-19: First travellers arrive in UK for hotel quarantine stay - BBC News

The first arrival of UK residents that needed to quarantine in hotels for ten days after returning from 33 countries where variants of concern were currently had arrived on the 15th of February, 2021. That was  almost a year after a similar policy had been made by Australia on the 27th fo March, 2020 for all international travel from all countries.

Restricting international travel from red-listed countries may slow down the introduction of new variants from elsewhere, but eventually, such variants will likely spread to non-red-listed countries from red-listed countries – then to the UK from there – if different countries have different red lists,” Dr Julian Tang, a virologist from University of Leicester, said.

It was also reported by the BBC that capturing variants before the spread further through the community is a hope.

Professor Jeffrey Barrett, a researcher at the Sanger Institute and in charge of Britain’s Covid-19 genome sequencing programme told, “We’re still sequencing on the minority, maybe 20 per cent of the infections that happen.

“But when we do see examples of – in this case – P.1 that information can then be used to detect specific kinds of interventions such as the ones we’re seeing now to try to keep the onward transmissions as low as possible. The hope being that as the case numbers continue to go down and our capacity for sequencing continues to go up we can be capturing a larger and larger fraction of all of these infections,” he said.

Covid: New Oxford vaccine 'ready by the autumn' to tackle mutations - BBC  News

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and expert at the University of Bristol, said on BBC Breakfast today: ‘At the moment, the evidence we have suggests that certainly the South African variant, and potentially this Brazilian variant – which is somewhat similar – the vaccines that we have at the moment are less effective at reducing at least mild disease and possibly transmission. We’re optimistic that the vaccines will continue to prevent severe disease but the evidence for that is still fairly limited. But for the moment the vaccines that we’re using are very effective against the strains that are predominantly circulating in the UK and it’s important that people understand that that’s still the case because we do need people to get immunised as fast as possible to get things under control.” said Professor Adam Finn who was a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Imperial College London immunoligist Professor Danny Altmann told Times Radio, “When I look at the data on how well this variant gets neutralised, it’s not that all immunity is gone, it’s that the vaccines look so much less potent, so there’ll be more people who have low antibody responses where it can break through and get affected. It all comes back much harder.

Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium COVID Vaccine Super Site in 13 Photographs |

March 03

In America as the vaccine rollout continued there were troubling patterns emerging.

Take for example in Los Angeles where in Vernon one in 27 people had been vaccinated. Over the past year one in five residents had contracted COVID. Yet in Bel Air one in four had been vaccinated and one in 27 had contracted the virus in the past year. The income of Bel Air residents on average was five times the amount of money made by Verson residents.

Across LA County, we’re seeing that the vaccines are going to more affluent areas, and it is not necessarily those who are hit hardest by the pandemic,” nurse Anita Zamora, deputy director of community health service Venice Family Clinic, said.

The disparties reflected race and wealth in those areas but there were other factors at play.

Maybe it’s not a volume question as much as it is a value question to get to those communities,” Zamora said.

Homelessness can be a factor, the elderley or anyone needing a car to be driven to a mass vaccination site and people with limited internet access and time to book an appointment including shift workers at grocery stores.

Then there is also the factor of those hesitant in communities to get vaccinated. Some recent polls suggested a third of Americans intended to not get vaccinated.

For Nurse Zamora though the need was to get more vaccines. Her clinic get a couple of hundred Moderna vials each week but she believed a larger allocation to centres like the Venice Family Clinic which has deep connections to the local community would lead to more vaccinations.

More people dying and in a disproportionate way,” she said.

Just another hero trying to make a difference in the City of Angels.

-Lloyd Marken

A mobile clinic brings vaccine to Vernon workers - Los Angeles Times