Cases rise in France

The COVID Diaries -132 8th August

Will France be next on the quarantine list? The French tourist industry is on a knife-edge as the country may be next on United Kingdom quarantine list.

Covid-19 cases are rising quickly in France quickly: 2,288 were reported on Friday, a steep rise from Thursday’s 1,604, following a 33% week-on-week increase between 27 July and 2 August.

The French health ministry warned last week that the country could lose control of the virus “at any time”.

R rate over 1?

The COVID Diaries – 131 7th August

The R rate for the spread of coronavirus could be above 1.0 for three regions across England according to new government figures.

The R value is estimated to be as high as 1.1 for London, the north west and the south west.

Disaster in Beirut

The COVID Diaries – 130 6th August

An explosion in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, on Tuesday has left behind a huge 200 metre crater. More than 135 people have died and several thousand injured as a result of the explosion in the city’s port, where warehouses were housing high explosive material.

Across Beirut, bewildered residents looked for loved ones, friends, and belongings as they picked their way through the mangled remains of their homes evaporated in the blast.

Back in the Uk another example of government incompetence has been revealed. The government has confirmed that fifty million masks that were meant to be used in the NHS cannot be worn by staff because of safety issues.

The FFP2 masks ordered by the government have ear loops instead of head loops, meaning there is a risk they would not be secure enough.

The masks were supplied by Ayanda Capital, which was awarded a £252m contract to supply personal protective equipment.

Do Children Transmit the Virus?

The COVID diaries – 129 5th August

The Guardian newspaper has a concerning report from the United States:

“Coronavirus may be more easily transmitted in school and summer camp settings than previously understood, after the emergence of new details of outbreaks in the US state of Georgia and in Israel that have underscored the risks of school reopenings.

“A report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into an outbreak at a summer camp in Georgia suggests children – even asymptomatic cases – may play an important role in community transmission of Covid-19.

“The claim contradicts a number of earlier studies where the consensus appeared to be that children rarely transmit the virus between themselves or to other people.”

Trump’s car crash

The COVID Diaries – 128 4th August

Donald Trump has given a car crash interview to Axios correspondent Jonathan Swift during which he claimed the United States has the coronavirus pandemic “under control”.

He denied that the US was dealing poorly with Covid-19, despite averaging around 60,000 new cases and more than 1,000 deaths per day.

“Take a look at some of these charts,” Trump said, pulling out a stack of papers. “Here’s one, right here, United States is lowest in numerous categories. We’re lower than the world.”

The chart Trump was referring to was deaths as a proportion of cases, rather than the more relevant statistic of deaths as a proportion of population which shows the US as the ninth worst-performing country in the world, ahead of other countries with high numbers of total deaths like Brazil, Russia and India.

Over 18M cases and no silver bullet

The COVID Diaries – 127 3rd August

According to records being kept by Johns Hopkins University in the United States, confirmed cases of coronavirus have now passed 18 million. The university’s coronavirus resource centre has counted 18,147,574 cases at with 690,573 deaths. The worst affected countries by caseload were the United States, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa.

In depressing news, the World Health Organisation warned there might never be a “silver bullet” for Covid-19 in the form of a perfect vaccine, and the road to normality could be long. The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and the emergencies chief, Mike Ryan, exhorted nations to rigorously enforce health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing and testing.

“Shroud of Secrecy”

The COVID Diaries – 126 2nd August

Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute in London, has criticised government for the “shroud of secrecy” drawn over major decisions in the coronavirus crisis and urged ministers to be more open about the reasons behind their policies.

Prof Nurse said: “Decisions are too often shrouded in secrecy. They need challenge and we need processes to ensure that happens. If they are going to keep the trust of the nation, they need to make those discussions more public.”

“It sometimes seems like a ‘black box’ made up of scientists, civil servants and politicians are coming up with the decisions,” Nurse added. “It needs to be more open. We need greater transparency, greater scrutiny and greater challenge to get the best results.”

Zero Covid?

The COVID Diaries – 125 1st August

Professor Susan Mitchie, a member of the Independent Sage group if scientific experts, has said that indoor venues like pubs and gyms should shut in an effort to reach “zero Covid”.

The call came after Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, warned that England was now “near the limit” of the restrictions which can be relaxed without losing control of the virus, telling a Downing Street press conference: “If we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things.”

And another member of Sage, the government’s official group of scientific advisers, said pubs and other leisure venues may have to close in order to allow children to return safely to school in September.

New freedoms paused

The COVID Diaries – 124 31st July

The Guardian reported:

“Boris Johnson raised the threat of a new national lockdown as he paused new freedoms due this weekend amid fears any further reopening of the economy could trigger a full-blown resurgence of the coronavirus.

The surprise move came with a warning from Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, that the country now appears to be “at the outer edge” of how far society can safely reopen in the age of the pandemic

“If we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things,” he said. “The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong.”

His stark assessment comes just weeks before schools across England are due to reopen, raising questions about what else might have to be restricted to allow them to do so.