COVID-19 DIARY – ROLL OUT ROLL UP – PART II

Timeline for Townsville's first COVID-19 vaccinations revealed | Townsville  Bulletin

February 22

The first Queenslander to receive a COVID vaccine in my home state was Gold Coast nurse Zoe Park. The nurse who worked in a COVID ward received a Pfizer jab on monday morning with an estimated 180 receipients following her the same day.

The nurse didn’t mince words about the impact of the disease or the relief the added safety of the vaccine could mean for frontline workers.

It’s a very serious thing – I’ve seen families being torn apart from it. It’s really, it’s really sad what it has done to the patients affected and their families,” Park said.

It’s really scary for healthcare workers to be going home and potentially exposing their family to that as well, so (the vaccine is) very exciting,” the nurse added.

It had been over one year since the 28th of January when the first case of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Queensland and the patient put into isolation at the Gold Coast University Hospital. 

On the day of the first vaccine being administered in the state there had been 1,323 cases all up, 1,912,189 tests administered and six deaths.

But now there was hope.

It was amazing to think what a difference a year makes.

Dr Jeannette Young stands smiling as she walks through Gold Coast University Hospital.

I desperately, desperately hoped this would be where we’d be. I didn’t think we’d reach it, so today is just absolutely fantastic. Just over a year to be vaccinating the first person is … I’m lost for words and I’m not often lost for words — it is just brilliant, said Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young.

This is the answer: we have five million Queenslanders here and if we want to keep five million Queenslanders safe, we need you to get vaccinated,” Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said.

One down, five million minus one to go,” added Dr Young.

Wednesday would see vaccines dispersed in Brisbane and Friday the first ones in Cairns.

The aim was for 1,000 vaccinations to be administered this first week but more like 10,000 the following week which would also include vaccinations occuring at the Townsville University Hospital, the Sunshine Coast University Hospital and my old stomping ground the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

This was the start of the roll out of category 1A to cover 125,000 peopl  which included health care workers, border and hotel quarantine staff.

There were two new cases reported in Queensland bringing the total to 7 active cases in the state.

With a population of 25 million the majority of Australian were scheduled to receive the AztraZeneca vaccine which would be producted locally by CSL Ltd by the middle of March. It was expected 4 million Australian would be vaccinated by the end of March and all by the end of October.

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In Victoria 100 frontline health care workers were vaccinated at Monash Health, the site and staff who had treated Australia’s very first COVID-19 patient.

Nurse Manager Rachel Hogben was one of those vaccinated, the woman who had been tasked with leading the care of 35 COVID patients at the height of the second wave in Victoria.

We’re now on the offensive you know we’re no longer acting defensively against this. We’re actually on the offensive and it’s an amazing day,” Nurse Hogben said.

An amazing day and an amazing person.

I have been heartened by the sights of initial vaccinations and which have shown so many of the nurses and doctors who put it on the line for their communities now being offered the first real protection we could provide them. They deserve that but they also deserve our thanks. They deserve monuments and medals and tickertape parades but most of all they deserve whatever they need because they have given us everything they have.

The World Health Organisation reported on the 22nd of February, 2021 there had been 28,9626 confirmed cases with a daily increase of six. There had been 909 deaths.

In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson set a roap map for coming out of lockdown.

It involved four steps spaced five weeks apart each, the intention was not go back on any of them but Boris allowed that they may to.

Step 1 which obviously caught my attention was on the 8th of March all schools will re-open with outdoor sports allowed. Two people could share a coffee, drink or picnic in a park too.

I obviously not happy about this, teachers I knew in England did not have a snow ball’s chance of receiving their first jab before May and the reactions by schools to COVID cases over the winter made me all too aware of the potential risk those that I cared about were facing.

The BBC reported pupils can access tests and be required to face coverings in classrooms and shared spaces like corridors.

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It was also scheduled for the 29th of March, 2021 and would allow outdoor gatherings of six people and between two households. Tennis and baseketball courts would also re-open.

Step 2 on the 12th of April, it was intended non-essential retail, shops, hairdressers, gyms, swimming pools, public libraries, caravan parks and camp sites and outdoor hospitality like zoos, beer gardens, theme parks and bottleos could re-open.

Funerals could occur with 30 people and weddings with 15.

However there would be no visits between households in doors.

The hospitality curfews woudl end and a revew of international travel restrictions would be announced.

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Step 3 on the 17th of May, two households could visit each other and gatherings of six friends in a pub could take place.

Outdoors gathering could be as large as 30 people.

Thirty was also the number allowed at weddings, funerals and wakes.

Cinemas, musuems, hotels, sporting and performance arts venues would re-open with social distance measures in place. Upt to 10,000 spectators could attend football stadiums.

As mentioned by Beetley Pete at the time there was talk of vaccine passports to help indoor venues to re-open safely. 

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Before Step 4 took place, scheduled for the 21st of June, there would be a review of long term measures like mask wearing and social distancing of one metre plus. Also to be looked at was the working from home guidelines, visitors for aged care residents, remaining restrictions for weddings and funerals and opening up of live music venues and nightclubs.

Rate of vaccinations, new cases and new variants would inform all decisions. 

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Certainly not at the rate he was going. Despite this the lockdown had been in effect for qutie some time and had not seen an immediate rush out of it following lower numbers. Some coverage here in Australia showed people living in England fatigured by it and over it. I had been very grateful for it. I believe it had saved lives.

Professor Neil Ferguson of the Imperial College London publicly stated the roadmap struck the right balance but warned re-opening schools increased the risk of further cases.

UK Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the five week gap was important and that measures such face coverings, hand washing and self isolation may be needed during the following winter.

The BBC reported there had been over 17 million first jabs administered.

The World Health Organisation reported on the 22nd of February there had been in the UK 4,122,421 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 8,050. There had been 120,580 deaths with a daily increase of 215.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – CASES WILL VARIANT

U.K. Hospitals Brace for Covid-19 Pandemic's Worst Weeks - WSJ

January 22

I watched with interest what would happen in the UK. I did not hold out hope that the schools would remain closed until all teachers been vaccinated but how close the two timeframes might land I had some interest in.

I read an article from The Evening Standard that Boris Johnson was to hold a 5pm press conference.

Two million Britons had received vaccinations in the past week alone.

That was one jab – not both.

Also the highest daily death count of 1,820 had occurred.

As these events unfolded apparently there was pressure to end the lockdown.

In the same week of the highest daily death count.

The article referred to the fact that Professor Paul Elliott leading the React study at the Imperial College London had suggested that current restrictions may not be strict enough to see a drop in infections and the reproductive rate.

On Thursday Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said, “I think it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some of the restrictions. We’re looking at that February 15 deadline, as you know, for the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advisory body) groups one to four – the elderly, the vulnerable groups that we want to vaccinate first, that 15 million people across the UK that we want to have been offered a vaccination slot by 15 February.

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I had no confidence that restrictions would stay as long or as severe as I saw necessary. Maybe it was just not possible to get to the UK to where Australia was now. If people catch and pass on COVID without becoming symptomantic then stopping the spread certainly presented many challenges.

If the most vulnerable people receive both jabs, if our health care workers could receive both jabs before re-opening then that undeniably would save lives but this was not was being discussed.

They were talking about one jab by the 15th of February, 2021.

Under consideration was a new plan to have everyone who tests positive for COVID given 500 pounds. The proposal would possibly cost 450 million pounds a week but encourage people to get tested and isolate. The payment would be made regardless of age, employment status or ability to work.

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23 January

The press conference came and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom advised, “In addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant – the variant that was first identified in London and the south east – may be associated with a higher degree of mortality. It’s largely the impact of this new variant that means the NHS is under such intense pressure.” 

The UK R number was cited as between 0.8 to 1.

Academics and researchers advised that Johnson’s suggestion of an higher mortality rate may not be be certain. Which fitted with the language the Prime Minister had employed.

I want to stress that there’s a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it, but it obviously is a concern that this has an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility,” he said.

It was reported that the UK variant spreads 30 to 70% faster and hints it could be 30 per deadlier.

An example cited where once 1,000 60 year olds infected with the old variant ten might be expected to die, now with the new variant is 13.

Another factor to consider is death rates in hospitals have per capita have gone down with improved treatment.

Call to protect hospital staff from coronavirus contamination | Society |  The Guardian

The UK variant had been first detected in Kent in September, it was now the most common form of the virus in the country and had spread to more than 50 other countries.

Sir Patrick believed the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines would work against the UK variant but was concerned about variants from Africa and South America.

They have certain features which means they might be less susceptible to vaccines. They are definitely of more concern than the one in the UK at the moment and we need to keep looking at it and studying this very carefully,” he said.

The previous week the UK government had extended a travel ban to South America, Portugal and many African countries. All international travellers now had to test negative too ahead of departure to the UK and go into quarantine on arrival. That was 10 day quarantine in a hotel with testing on day 2 and day 8 – test positive you have to quarantine longer.

While noting a downward trend with infections, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned the UK was in an “extremely precarious position.

A very small change and it could start taking off again from an extremely high base,” he said. “If that happened again, we would be in really, really deep trouble,” he said.

In Australia on the eve of  long weekend, traces of COVID were found in sewerage water in western Sydney.

“NSW Health urges everyone living or working in these suburbs to monitor for symptoms and get tested and isolate immediately if they appear,” health authorities said in a statement.

There had been six days of no new community transmissions reported in New South Wales.

-Lloyd Marken