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The number of cases in the 6-area region today was the highest ever, at 1031. These peaks often are of no significance, but the fact now is that cases do seem to be tending upward, with doubling of daily cases now worse than every three weeks (on the basis of our exponential-fit averaging algorithm).
This statistical phenomenon comes at a time when there are reports of accelerating cases in schools, with an increasingly substantial proportion of pupils testing positive. The word-of-mouth reports that we hear suggest that the infection is normally tedious but not serious. In boarding schools, like Eton, this is having a major impact on school life, while day pupils are potentially infecting their families and other people that they may see, like music teachers.
People who work with children need to start systematic lateral flow testing if they are not already doing so, and (of course) isolating after positive tests.
Government advice is that, if you have symptoms, it’s really important that you self-isolate straight away, alongside your household, and apply for a (free) PCR test at www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or by calling 119.
As a percentage of population, Wokingham's figures over the last week amount to 0.55% of the population. Bracknell's figure was 0.37%.
Assuming that most of these cases are un-vaccinated, it shows the strength of the virus in seeking out such people. Get vaccinated if you have not been! Quickly!! And get your booster jab as soon as available!! The Waitrose vaccination centre is taking applications if your GP has not booked you in (which is quite likely, even if you are on the eligible list).
Can we be seeing the start of a 3rd wave after the Reading Festival??
The Wokingham figures show new cases of 182 - well out of the expected line. Sometimes these blips are errors, but Wokingham has several times recently had more than 100 cases per day. More generally, the 6-region area seems to have become overall fairly static just now. The trend for Bracknell Forest suggests a static situation with very slow improvement. England hospitalisation rates are rising slowly, perhaps reflecting overall case rates rising in England.
Today's results suggest that the 2nd Reading Festival peak has now been reached.
It looks very much as if we are indeed seeing the Reading Festival second wave: the first infections create still more secondary infections, and the second, bigger wave has not yet reached its peak. The Bracknell Forest 7-day average is now a little less than the 21-day average, and that's a hopeful sign.
After the encouragement of the last few days, the possibility of the second wave of cases following the Reading Festival may well be emerging. Today's significant rise in cases following a generally covid-spreading event could reflect secondary infections from people with and without symptoms after the Festival. When the 7-day average is significantly higher than 21-day average, it shows that the trend is not so good. We will see.
The encouraging picture is that Covid cases in our area and resulting UK hospitalisation have reached a stability with slow reduction in rates of cases.
Reading the graphs, both Bracknell Forest and the six Thames Valley areas will return to a trend of about 1.0 (cases roughly constant) in about two weeks time, while hospitalisation should remain slowly diminishing.
Interestingly, the Reading blip is noticeable, but has started to subside already, with Bracknell nearly stable.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 60; Doubling time: 65 days;
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 532; Doubling time: 40 days;
England hospitalisation: Average daily new cases: 755; Doubling time: -.
The particular event to report is the occurrence of the Reading Festival, an event in which anti-Covid precautions have been discarded. It is even reported that positive Lateral Flow test capsules were found on the site: that means that people were attending when they knew that they would probably be actively spreading Covid. In the diagrams, 7-day averages that are well above the 21-day average indicate the problem. It is hard to see just now what the outcome will be, but it will probably be significant. The day's cases were the highest since January!
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 50; Doubling time: -;
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 419; Doubling time: -;
England hospitalisation: Average daily new cases: 765; Doubling time: -.
In this occasional bulletin, we note that the trends for Bracknell cases, regional cases and England hospitalisations point a slow drift to a stable situation - that is, a static number of cases. The ratio change of daily cases is thus approaching 1.0 for each category of cases.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 53; Doubling time: long;
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 442; Doubling time: 84 days;
England hospitalisation: Average daily new cases: 829; Doubling time: 67 days.
In our final bulletin for now, the present situation is best represented by the 7-day averages - 42 cases per day for Bracknell Forest, and 308 cases per day for the 9-area region. The recomputation of the figures over 10 days (21 days that is the normal period that we have been using), is that cases per day are static, and possibly slightly rising. We will have to live with that situation for now, which seems to represent a stable position.
No new England hospitalisation figures have been available recently.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 44.1; Day-to-day reduction: 5.0%; Halving time: 13 days - see note above
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 321.5; Day-to-day reduction: 2.8%; Halving time: 24 days - see note above
In the graphs, the Bracknell and region measured curves continue to be straight for recent days (i.e. represent a nearly static case rate), so those plummeting trend lines will be back in about 10 days time.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 44.1; Day-to-day reduction: 5.0%; Halving time: 13 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 321.5; Day-to-day reduction: 2.8%; Halving time: 24 days
England hospitalisation: Average daily new cases: 898.3; Day-to-day increase: 2.8%; Doubling time: 25 days
We have added a 7-day average based on actual cases (not cases on the exponential as before)
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 51.6; Day-to-day reduction: 4.0%; Halving time: 17 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 402.8; Day-to-day reduction: 0.9%; Halving time: 81 days
England hospitalisation: Average daily new cases: 898.3; Day-to-day increase: 2.8%; Doubling time: 25 days
If we are looking for trends within the 21-day period, we might comment that in the last 5 days, the daily Covid case rates look quite steady at about 50 cases per day in Bracknell and about 370 cases per day in the whole region. This is the sort of level that we may have to live with for a long time. Although the cases trends are plummeting now, it will probably steady and return to near 1.0 in two or three weeks. The hospitalisation trend shows no sign yet of bottoming.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 60.4; Day-to-day reduction: 2.8%; Halving time: 25 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 402.8; Day-to-day reduction: 0.9%; Halving time: 81 days
England hospitalisation: Average daily new cases: 901.5; Day-to-day increase: 3.2%; Doubling time: 22 days
The BBC has identified four numbers to watch, and the last is interesting and difficult to measure:
1. New hospital admissions;
2. Total number of infections;
3. Double vaccination numbers;
4. Social contacts per person.
Perhaps by 'total number of infections', they mean the number of actively infectious people. If so, social contacts combine with this number to give a potential body of new cases; double vaccinations combine with this to (a) reduce new cases and (b) reduce the percentage of cases that require hospitalisation.
They provide a graph for 4, the social contacts per person, with average figures derived from a CoMix social contact survey. This figure could go wild, but, by apparently consistently staying between 3.0 and 5.0 even with lockdown removed, seems not to be doing so at present.
The conclusion is optimistic - current trends may stay on track.
Hospitalisation trends are said to 'lag' cases trends. If this is literally the case, hospitalisation should show a rising trend to match the sharp upward trend of Bracknell and the region; however, that does not seem to be happening. As the last article suggested, what is happening is baffling the scientists. It would be very encouraging to see the hospitalisation trend stay just as it is, although we would hope for better!
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 70.9; Day-to-day reduction: 1.4%; Halving time: 50 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 449.2; Day-to-day increase: 0.2%; Doubling time: -
England hospitalisation: Average daily new cases: 892.8; Day-to-day increase: 3.4%; Doubling time: 21 days
The New York Times published the following interesting assessment of UK Covid cases yesterday evening:
'New coronavirus cases have declined for six days in a row in Britain, a shift that is baffling scientists, many of whom predicted a powerful surge in cases after the government relaxed all but a handful of restrictions in England last week.
'Few experts are willing to draw definitive conclusions from the downward trend, which could reflect transient factors like the school summer break, the end of the European soccer championships or fewer people getting tested for the virus.
'But if sustained, the case numbers raise a tantalizing prospect that Prime Minister Boris Johnson bet correctly that the country could withstand a return to normalcy, even with the rapidly transmissible Delta variant widely circulating in the population. Even his own health secretary, Sajid Javid, predicted that cases could skyrocket to 100,000 a day before the country’s third wave of the pandemic ebbed.
'The government has been careful not to declare victory too soon. Mr. Johnson emerged from self-isolation himself on Tuesday, after being in close contact with Mr. Javid, who tested positive for the virus on July 17.
'“It is very, very important that we don’t allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions about this,” the prime minister told reporters on Tuesday during a visit to a police station in Surrey, southwest of London. “People have got to remain very cautious, and that remains the approach of the government.”
'On Monday, the government reported 24,950 new cases, down from a high of 54,674 on July 17. Hospital admissions and deaths are still up compared with a week ago, though both are typically lagging indicators. The Daily Telegraph reported, based on leaked data, that roughly half of all new Covid cases in people admitted to hospitals were in patients seeking care for other illnesses and found to be infected through routine testing.
'That would be another encouraging sign, experts said, since it would suggest that many such people do not even realize that they have Covid — confirmation that the vaccines have weakened the link between infection and serious illness. Just over 70 percent of adults in Britain have received both doses of a vaccine.
'In addition to the threat of soaring cases, Britain has also struggled with a cascade of people being notified, or “pinged,” by the National Health Service and told that they had been exposed to the virus and should quarantine themselves.
'Scientists said it would take several more days to form definitive conclusions about the declining case numbers.'
Looking at the Bracknell cases with 14-day averaging, the case rate is down to 14, and halving in 10 days. However. our report below is for the more conservative 21-day averaging - which is still good.
Hospitalisation remains slowing decreasing in its day-to-day ratio. On present trends, the hospitalisation rate may not stabilise to below 1.0 for two weeks or so; but with the sharp fall in cases, the fall in trend may be stronger.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 82.7; Day-to-day increase: 0.1%; Doubling time: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 500.6; Day-to-day increase: 1.4%; Doubling time: 48 days
England hospitalisation: Average daily new cases: 880.3; Day-to-day increase: 3.6%; Doubling time: 20 days
The Government Covid website has now recovered, it seems. The trend of day-to-day case ratios is plummeting, as the cases make a transition to a falling exponential, while the hopitalisation figure is gently declining, with no indication of a rise or fall in the trend. So far so good!
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 94.8; Day-to-day increase: 1.5%; Doubling time: 46 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 556.7; Day-to-day increase: 2.7%; Doubling time: 26 days
England hospitalisation: Average daily new cases: 866.6; Day-to-day increase: 3.8%; Doubling time: 19 days
The publication of data on the Government Covid website was too late, so we are moving on two days. A look at the charts show that the exponentional fit is in transition. It works better for a 10-day averaging period: for both Bracknell Forest and the 6-area region, there is as marked fall in case-rate corresponding to an R-factor significantly less than 1.0. However, the following are figures comparable to earlier computations:
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 107.1; Day-to-day increase: 3.0%; Doubling time: 24 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 606.4; Day-to-day increase: 3.9%; Doubling time: 18 days
England hospitalisation (to 21 July - no later reports available): Average daily new cases: 811.2; Day-to-day increase: 4.4%; Doubling time: 16 days
Local average cases are definitely coming down in our area, and a glance at the curves suggests that the average over the last 10 days shows that the peak seems to be passed. This change will be clearer with the averaging over 21 days which is our standard.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 130.7; Day-to-day increase: 6.0%; Doubling time: 12 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 681.1; Day-to-day increase: 6.2%; Doubling time: 11 days
England hospitalisation (to 21 July): Average daily new cases: 811.2; Day-to-day increase: 4.4%; Doubling time: 16 days
At lunchtime yesterday, the BBC gave an interview from the hospital bed of a previously-fit 28-year-old man, who had recently been struck down by Covid. He told viewers that he had never felt so ill in his whole life, and had felt at times that he was going to die.
His message was that this is a truly dreadful disease, and that everybody should get vaccinated as soon as they could be. (Side-effects of vaccination have been shown worldwide to be trivial compared with the disease with very few exceptions indeed.) Ironically, this man was due to be vaccinated the week after he contracted the disease. It does not respect good intentions!
It may not be significant, but today is the first day for several weeks that the 'Average daily new cases' for Bracknell Forest has actually gone down! (This figure represents the slope of the exponential at the end of the 21 day analysis period, and is a useful trend indicator.)
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 139.0; Day-to-day increase: 7.4%; Doubling time: 10 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 693.2; Day-to-day increase: 7.1%; Doubling time: 10 days
England hospitalisation (to 19 July): Average daily new cases: 783.1; Day-to-day increase: 4.5%; Doubling time: 16 days
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 141.9; Day-to-day increase: 8.5%; Doubling time: 8 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 683.6; Day-to-day increase: 7.6%; Doubling time: 9 days
England hospitalisation (to 19 July): Average daily new cases: 754.2; Day-to-day increase: 4.6%; Doubling time: 15 days
With official lifting of many restrictions, we are thrown onto our own resources to help control the pandemic. Loud voices have said that our freedoms were in jeopardy with the lockdown and mandatory precautions, which other loud voices have implied that we do not have the community self-discipline to keep the pandemic under control. Travel restrictions seem to 'appear out of the blue'. But everybody is aware of the rising Covid cases, particularly among the unvaccinated, so 'out of the blue' is scarcely an accurate metaphor. Predictable they could be, but its all a very tiresome component of the strange progression of the pandemic, particularly for those with foreign plans, booked with hope and confidence, but rendered impractical for many by the penalties of testing costs, self-isolation, potentially in unwelcome hotels.
With the hospitality industry slowly making progress, at least some aspect of social life are beginning to feel more normal. And for the bereaved, saying goodbye to the deceased is now part of the process.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 142.5; Day-to-day increase: 9.6%; Doubling time: 8 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 659.8; Day-to-day increase: 8.0%; Doubling time: 9 days
England hospitalisation (to 18 July): Average daily new cases: 731.5; Day-to-day increase: 4.8%; Doubling time: 15 days
Any sign of a changing trend is so often a false dawn (particularly after a weekend, when figures may be less reliable) , but we know that a dawn will come. The Bracknell daily upward rate reversed, and so did the whole area curve. However, if the England hospitalisations follow the whole-area curve-shape by a week - if so, hospitalisations could go up again in a week's time.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 138.8; Day-to-day increase: 10.4%; Doubling time: 7 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 615.0; Day-to-day increase: 7.9%; Doubling time: 9 days
England hospitalisation (to 17 July): Average daily new cases: 713.1; Day-to-day increase: 5.1%; Doubling time: 14 days
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 131.2; Day-to-day increase: 10.8%; Doubling time: 7 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 565.1; Day-to-day increase: 7.7%; Doubling time: 9 days
England hospitalisation (to 14 July): Average daily new cases: 642.4; Day-to-day increase: 5.7%; Doubling time: 12 days
The rise in Covid cases is such that within 3 months, on the current exponentials, Bracknell Forest daily cases will be nearly as many as the total Bracknell Forest population. That's clearly nonsense. With the hypothesis that most of the cases are people who have not been vaccinated, or the recently vaccinated, the implication is that the highly infectious Delta strain that is currently afflicting us is running at an increasing rate through that part of our local populations that does not have the antibodies sufficient for protection, and it will do this as fast as it can until there are no victims left that it can reach. Only then will new cases reduce to the rates of a few short weeks back.
The message is clear: get vaccinated with absolutely minimum delay, particularly the old and vulnerable. The latter must isolate as much as possible, as they are in real danger. This is not time for scruples about how much the vaccines have been tested, or any other disincentive to be vaccinated. Older and infirm people are in mortal danger, and need to be wise - and we have actively to care for them. It is true that the disease is causing less hospitalisation than before, partly because younger people are becoming infected - but this is a really unpleasant disease, frightening in its symptoms, and able to cause long-lasting symptoms that can stop those affected from enjoying normal life for months.
Needless to say, we all have reason to moderate physically close social activity and use masks, whatever the official rules will be at any time. This page is called 'STAY ALERT' and it is an important time do that, so as to take personal and social responsibility to get as many as possible of us through the dangers of this stage of Covid. This is the case because with many active cases of Covid, the vaccinated, and particularly the elderly vaccinated, are at increasing risk of break-through infection and worse.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 116.0; Day-to-day increase: 10.5%; Doubling time: 7 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 493.7; Day-to-day increase: 6.9%; Doubling time: 10 days
England hospitalisation (to 14 July): Average daily new cases: 642.4; Day-to-day increase: 5.7%; Doubling time: 12 days
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 99.0; Day-to-day increase: 9.7%; Doubling time: 8 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 420.8; Day-to-day increase: 5.7%; Doubling time: 12 days
England hospitalisation (to 14 July): Average daily new cases: 642.4; Day-to-day increase: 5.7%; Doubling time: 12 days
The higher growth rate of cases in Bracknell needs to be addressed. Why is this happening?
The USA is now suffering a huge growth in Delta Covid, and this is beginning to strike less-vaccinated areas hard. To some degree this is compensated for by lower death rates than before, explained by it being, on average, the younger age-group now being targeted by the Delta strain of the disease.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 86.9; Day-to-day increase: 9.1%; Doubling time: 8 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 368.0; Day-to-day increase: 4.8%; Doubling time: 15 days
England hospitalisation (to 13 July): Average daily new cases: 610.4; Day-to-day increase: 5.8%; Doubling time: 12 days
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 75.7; Day-to-day increase: 8.4%; Doubling time: 9 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 327.5; Day-to-day increase: 4.0%; Doubling time: 17 days
England hospitalisation (to 12 July): Average daily new cases: 579.9; Day-to-day increase: 5.9%; Doubling time: 12 days
It would be good if the government published hospitalisation statistics that reported hospitalisations in terms of those doubly-vaccinated those singly vaccinated, and those unvaccinated. This would clarify the extent to which vaccination (or lack of it) will affect the success of relaxation of rules. There are newspaper reports today that President Macron is considering compulsory vaccination, which would remove the invidious position of unvaccinated people as a potential cause of rising cases.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 65.8; Day-to-day increase: 7.6%; Doubling time: 10 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 300.6; Day-to-day increase: 3.6%; Doubling time: 20 days
England hospitalisation (to 11 July): Average daily new cases: 552.7; Day-to-day increase: 6.0%; Doubling time: 12 days
We had 3 new days on the Hospitalisation line. This being for the whole country, one would expect that the line could have a shape that, though similar to the others, could be in advance or retard relative to them. It could perhaps be that the England hospitalisation trend is a week behind the Thames Valley trend. But, of course, it is too early to say, let alone do more that ponder what (if anything) this might mean. All too often, the unexpected occurs: present trends would have been a huge surprise 3 months ago.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 59.5; Day-to-day increase: 7.2%; Doubling time: 10 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 286.8; Day-to-day increase: 3.5%; Doubling time: 20 days
England hospitalisation (to 10 July): Average daily new cases: Average daily new cases: 532.8; Day-to-day increase: 6.2%; Doubling time: 12 days
The rate of increase of daily cases seems to have stabilised a bit, although, for Bracknell Forest, case doubling in 11 days is a bit worrying
Although we are ready to show English hospitalisation by reference to local case rates, the figures seem to be held up since last Wednesday. No doubt the figures will be released in due course, but the last figures show a case rate increase comparable with local figures.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 53.7; Day-to-day increase: 6.8%; Doubling time: 11 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 274.8; Day-to-day increase: 3.5%; Doubling time: 20 days
England hospitalisation (to 7 July): Average daily new cases: 440; Day-to-day increase: 5.9%; Doubling time: 12 days
Today we have introduced some changes. We have introduced a chart for England hospitalisation, which now seems to be a key metric. Unfortunately, we do not have the hospitalisation for our Thames Valley area by itself, so this is the best that we can do. The top right chart now shows hospitalisation in England, after a convenient start date, taken as 16 June. This shows a clear exponential rise, using the same technology as the charts for the Bracknell Forest and the six Thames Valley areas.
Instead of a separate trend chart per metric, we have now combined the three metrics in terms of day-to-day daily growth ratio. 1.0 means constant rates. We have added to (1 - blue) the Covid cases for Bracknell Forest and (2 - orange ) ditto for the six areas a third - grey - line representing the hospitalisation trend. This is only a few days long, as we have only just started the exercise, but it is clear that the growth ratio is in the same 'ball-park' as the other areas representing local cases. Hospitalisation data is two or three days behind the others.
It seems that the R-factor is now not of much interest. Ours was estimated, not calculated, anyway, and we will not report it in future.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 41.6; Day-to-day increase: 6.2%; Doubling time: 11 days
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 259.4; Day-to-day increase: 4.3%; Doubling time: 17 days
England hospitalisation (to 7 July): Average daily new cases: 440; Day-to-day increase: 5.9%; Doubling time: 12 days
On 9 July, the New York Times published this article on Covid and Football:
As countless fans across England gathered on Wednesday to watch their team defeat Denmark in the European Championship semifinal, coronavirus cases have spiked across the nation and researchers have hinted at a possible link between the sudden rise and gatherings for games that have mostly ignored social distancing measures.
Research released on Thursday showed that men in England were currently 30 percent more likely to be infected with the coronavirus than women — a finding that could dampen the excitement of the legions of mostly male fans hoping to celebrate a victory in the European Championship soccer final on Sunday.
Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London who was one of the report’s authors, said the higher rates of infections among men were probably explained by changes in social behaviors like watching soccer.
The European Championship soccer tournament started on June 11 and ends on Sunday, and crowds have been gathering in London and across Britain to watch the matches in pubs, restaurants and on outdoor screens.
Researchers at Imperial College London also found that from June 24 to July 5, the number of coronavirus cases had quadrupled across England and had risen eightfold in London.
The World Health Organization warned last week that the games, held in cities across Europe, had driven a rise in coronavirus cases. The two semifinals this week were played at Wembley Stadium in London — including England’s hard-fought win against Denmark on Wednesday night — as will the final on Sunday. Attendance at each game has been about 60,000 people.
Germany’s Interior minister, Horst Seehofer, has called the decision by UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, to allow large crowds in stadiums “utterly irresponsible.” Yet the British authorities have gone ahead, filling Wembley at two-third capacity.
Although those in attendance at Wembley were required to provide proof of a full coronavirus vaccination or a negative test result taken 48 hours before the game, few people wore masks in the outdoor stadium or its inner concourses, and trains were packed tightly before and after the game.
Coronavirus infections have quadrupled in England in recent weeks, according to the study from Imperial College London, which was published on the government’s website. On Wednesday, Britain reported more than 32,500 new cases and 33 deaths.
England’s last pandemic restrictions are set to be lifted by July 19, even as public health experts said the nation could face 50,000 new daily infections later this month.
In a letter published in The Lancet on Wednesday, 122 scientists and doctors accused the British government of conducting a “dangerous and unethical experiment” by letting the virus circulate widely, while half of the population has yet to be fully vaccinated.
The authorities also said on Thursday that fully vaccinated travelers returning to England’s from countries deemed to be a mid-level risk — those on the “amber” list on its stoplight-code system — would no longer have to quarantine.
The move could prompt many in Britain to book vacations in European destinations like France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, although some countries have in return imposed new restrictions on travelers arriving from Britain.
We have been out, so missed a day.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 44.7; Day-to-day increase: 6.3%; Doubling time: 11 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.44
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 264.2; Day-to-day increase: 4.0%; Doubling time: 18 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.27
England hospitalisation: Average daily new cases: 439.5; Day-to-day increase: 5.9%; Doubling time: 12 days
The article following this one pointed out that it is LoVax sub-communities that would suffer seriously from contracting Delta Covid, and the implication is that (LoVax) cases and (all) hospitalisations would go up exponentially together. We don't have local hospitalisation figures, but it seemed pertinent to see how the trends have been for hospitalisation across England (for which figures are available), to get an idea of whether hospitalisation follows the same kind of exponential rise that local cases do; these are presumably driven by LoVax areas across the country.
We will not publish graphical results for a few days, but the early analytical evidence is that there is such an exponential rise in hospitalisation in England, with no immediate limit. This is indeed worrying in considering how the NHS will cope over the next few months unless more radical steps are taken to stem the curve, such as would persuade everybody eligible to be vaccinated.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 38.6; Day-to-day increase: 6.0%; Doubling time: 12 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.42
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 255.2; Day-to-day increase: 4.5%; Doubling time: 16 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.31
We are moving soon into a time when the population will be taking their own personal positions on combating Covid-19. It is becoming clear that we have a big divide between sub-communities that have a strong take-up of the protection of vaccination, and those subcommunities who for their own reasons do not generally take advantage of vaccination. Call these sub-communities 'HiVax' and 'LoVax'.
The logical result of the divide is that the Delta variant, with its high rate of infection, will disproportionately infect LoVax (with some low-impact spill-over into the HiVax people, perhaps), and the LoVax cases will also be more severe, with higher rates of hospitalisation and higher death rates.
In recent weeks we have observed, through the charts that we have published on this page, the virus cutting easily through the effectiveness of social distancing, etc, creating far higher case numbers all over the country, and destroying the pre-Delta equilibrium. It will eventually find its own equilibrium with a much higher case rate.
We can assert that the effect of Delta on the LoVax people is all their fault for not getting vaccinated, but that is a simplistic and rather arrogant observation.We can also note that the people leading the policy-making are all HiVax people; but they HiVaxers have, all the same, the public responsibility to do what they can, to lessen the burden of the effects of Delta on the whole population, HiVax or LoVax. Just now it looks likely that the bulk of the work to help with the plight of LoVax people will fall on NHS hospitals, who have already carried the huge pre-vaccination of Covid, particularly through a long 2020.
Today's cases were the highest since early February, but the averaging over 21 days means that the overall position doese not seem to have changed dramatically. It would be good to know in more detail the cases are still rising.
The cases reported today showed unusually high numbers in Reading (70), and also in Bracknell Forest (46).
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 30.5; Day-to-day increase: 5.1%; Doubling time: 14 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.35
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 237.6; Day-to-day increase: 5.3%; Doubling time: 13 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.36
Continuing signs of having turned the corner. It does not look just now as if the RFactor will be moving down towards 1.0 in the next two weeks, because that would require a significant reduction of cases, but the rise of RFactor has halted.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 30.5; Day-to-day increase: 5.1%; Doubling time: 14 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.35
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 237.6; Day-to-day increase: 5.3%; Doubling time: 13 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.36
Can it be that the upward trend of cases looks like coming to a peak in a few day's time? Looks quite encouraging at last!
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 30.0; Day-to-day increase: 5.4%; Doubling time: 13 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.37
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 234.8; Day-to-day increase: 5.7%; Doubling time: 13 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.39
Can it be that the upward trend of cases looks like coming to a peak in a few day's time? Perhaps we may not, after all, need to adjust the index value of the top line of the right hand chart?
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 28.5; Day-to-day increase: 5.3%; Doubling time: 13 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.37
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 223.8; Day-to-day increase: 5.7%; Doubling time: 12 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.40
A cheering trans-Atlantic report by the New York Times:
"The Delta variant, which is now responsible for most coronavirus infections in England, is not driving a surge in the rate of hospitalizations there, according to data released by Public Health England on Thursday.
"Although the number of coronavirus infections has risen sharply in recent weeks, hospitalization rates remain low. Between June 21 and June 27, the weekly hospitalization rate was 1.9 per 100,000 people, the same as it was the previous week.
"The hospitalization rate has increased slightly over the past month, rising from 1.1 admissions per 100,000 people in early June,according to the agency’s data. But it remains considerably lower than during England’s surge last winter, when the hospitalization rate peaked at more than 35 admissions per 100,000 people.
"The data suggest that countries with high vaccination rates are unlikely to see major surges in hospitalization rates from Delta. Nearly 75 percent of adults in England — including 95 percent of those who are 80 or older — have had at least one shot, according to the agency’s numbers."
Can it be that the upward trend of cases looks like coming to a peak in a few day's time? No sign yet!
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 26.5; Day-to-day increase: 5.1%; Doubling time: 14 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.35
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 209.6; Day-to-day increase: 5.6%; Doubling time: 13 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.39
A slight let-up today - the next few days will tell us what is happening.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 22.1; Day-to-day increase: 3.8%; Doubling time: 18 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.25
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 179.2; Day-to-day increase: 4.8%; Doubling time: 15 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.33
Yes, Sunday was a respite: new cases today were at a new high not seen since February, and going up.
We heard yesterday in the Andrew Marr show that it is now not uncommon for the doubly vaccinated to catch Covid, so we need to maintain our own practical defences - social distancing etc. - in order to preserve our own personal best chances of not catching the disease. Catching the disease will not be a serious matter, we gather, but could be unpleasant enough.
When will all the vaccination cut into the rising cases, we wonder?
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 20.5; Day-to-day increase: 3.4%; Doubling time: 21 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.23
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 162.6; Day-to-day increase: 4.2%; Doubling time: 17 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.29
Slightly fewer cases today, but then it's Sunday.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 18.2; Day-to-day increase: 2.3%; doubling time: 29 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.16
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 147.6; Day-to-day increase: 3.6%; Doubling time: 20 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.24
The new cases continue to be high, with appropriate results in the average case rate and estimated R-factor (which is not of much significance just now). The change in stable state cannot yet be estimated. What is surprising is the briefness of the interlude between the Delta spike and the present one - the unpredictability of the general behaviour of the virus is alarming.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 17.0; Day-to-day increase: 1.8%; Doubling time: 39 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.12
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 139.3; Day-to-day increase: 3.3%; Doubling time: 21 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.22
Can it be that the upward trend of cases looks like coming to a peak in a few day's time? We must wait and see.
Meanwhile, the emergence of the Delta strain is causing considerable concern in many countries. The New York Times carries the following article:
"A global virus surge, powered by the Delta variant
"A year and a half since it began, the pandemic is on the rise again in much of the world, driven largely by the highly contagious Delta variant and other new types. Scientists believe that variant, first identified in India, may be twice as transmissible as the original coronavirus.
"In countries like South Korea and Israel that seemed to have largely vanquished the virus, new clusters of disease have proliferated.
"Unvaccinated populations may serve as incubators of new variants that could evolve in surprising and dangerous ways, with Delta giving rise to what Indian researchers are calling Delta Plus. There are also the Gamma and Lambda variants.
"Quotable: “We’re in a race against the spread of the virus variants,” said Kim Woo-joo, an infectious disease specialist in Seoul."
How many commentators in the British press are not taking the trouble to take into account the rise of the Delta variant? The hyped-up messages that are coming out that lockdown and restrictions should cease do not seem to show awareness of what is happening. The mood is changing in Britain towards accepting that Covid-19 will not be going away soon, but living with the disease will not permit us just to ignore it.
We fear that the USA will have a nasty surprise as the Delta variant takes control, because of the ability of Delta to target un-vaccinated households. In many parts of the USA, vaccination is at a very low level, despite President Biden's urging, and these areas will suffer huge strains this autumn and winter on their ability to cope medically and in daily life.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 23.6; Day-to-day increase: 4.2%; Doubling time: 17 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.28
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 192.7; Day-to-day increase: 5.2%; Doubling time: 14 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.35
A slight let-up today - the next few days will tell us what is happening.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 22.1; Day-to-day increase: 3.8%; Doubling time: 18 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.25
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 179.2; Day-to-day increase: 4.8%; Doubling time: 15 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.33
Yes, Sunday was a respite: new cases today were at a new high not seen since February, and going up.
We heard yesterday in the Andrew Marr show that it is now not uncommon for the doubly vaccinated to catch Covid, so we need to maintain our own practical defences - social distancing etc. - in order to preserve our own personal best chances of not catching the disease. Catching the disease will not be a serious matter, we gather, but could be unpleasant enough.
When will all the vaccination cut into the rising cases, we wonder?
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 20.5; Day-to-day increase: 3.4%; Doubling time: 21 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.23
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 162.6; Day-to-day increase: 4.2%; Doubling time: 17 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.29
Slightly fewer cases today, but then it's Sunday.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 18.2; Day-to-day increase: 2.3%; doubling time: 29 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.16
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 147.6; Day-to-day increase: 3.6%; Doubling time: 20 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.24
The new cases continue to be high, with appropriate results in the average case rate and estimated R-factor (which is not of much significance just now). The change in stable state cannot yet be estimated. What is surprising is the briefness of the interlude between the Delta spike and the present one - the unpredictability of the general behaviour of the virus is alarming.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 17.0; Day-to-day increase: 1.8%; Doubling time: 39 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.12
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 139.3; Day-to-day increase: 3.3%; Doubling time: 21 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.22
Hancock has resigned, so that's the end of that story.
The new trend is certainly confirmed by today's figures - not so many new cases as yesterday, but enough to strengthen the hypothesis that Covid is seeking a new equilibrium, with more cases per day. We have to hope that the vaccination programme will in due time create a recovering picture.
However, it is noteworthy that Israel, generally regarded as 'well-vaccinated' is having a significant surge in new cases.
The low death-rate is good news for those whose primary concern is people (including oneself) not dying, but not so helpful for those whose holidays or livelihoods depend on a nearly normal life; in the international world, countries may well have to accept a level of risk of infection higher then desired, balanced by an acceptable level of containment and success in treatment. Evidently, different countries will have different views of when to accept this risk.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 15.0; Day-to-day increase: 0.6%; Doubling time: 112 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.04
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 126.3; Day-to-day increase: 2.6%; Doubling time: 27 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.17
The NYT has reported at length on the quite severe attack of Covid-19 in October 2020 that Donald Trump in fact suffered. He had low oxygen levels, was close to being put on a ventilator, and was given (among others) a treatment that had specially to be hastened through official approval.
Yesterday's small upturn in new cases turned into a disappointingly bigger upturn today. It is possible that the new relaxed restrictions will find a new equilibrium, with more cases per day. That would not be unexpected, but we have been hoping that wider-ranging vaccination will kick in beforehand. Perhaps we will lose that race for a time.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 13.0; Day-to-day reduction: 0.7%; Halving time: 99 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.96
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 116.9; Day-to-day increase: 2.0%; Doubling time: 35 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.13
Again, with no significant change in the trends. However, the estimated R-factor for the whole area needs to go down to demonstrate that the anti-Covid measures are effective. A sustained value higher than 1 is ultimately a real problem. We are patiently waiting!!
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 11.8; Day-to-day reduction: 1.7%; Halving time: 40 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.91
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 109.1; Day-to-day increase: 1.4%; Doubling time: 47 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.10
Again, with no significant change in the trends.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 11.6; Day-to-day reduction: 2.0%; Halving time: 34 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.89
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 105.5; Day-to-day increase: 1.2%; Doubling time: 55 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.08
The New York Times has recently published this interesting article on 'Antibody tests and vaccines':
Some of our readers have recently shared stories about getting antibody tests after receiving their coronavirus vaccines, only to be devastated when the tests came back negative.
In fact, experts say most people don’t need a test to confirm their vaccine’s efficacy. The test results can be misleading or useless.
Extensive clinical trials have already shown that vaccines authorized in the United States trigger a strong antibody response for just about everyone. The exceptions are people with weakened immune systems or those who take certain medications.
To get a reliable answer from testing, vaccinated people would have to get a specific kind of test at the right time. Take the test too soon, or rely on one that looks for the wrong antibodies — all too easy to do, given the befuddling array of tests now available — and you may believe yourself to still be vulnerable when you are not.
Our reporter has these takeaways.
The advice is still evolving, in part because the F.D.A. has been slow to wade in.
In May, the Federal Drug Agency recommended against the use of antibody tests for assessing immunity — a decision that has drawn criticism from some scientists — and provided only bare-bones information about testing to health care providers. As a result, many doctors are still unaware of the differences between antibody tests.
On the summer solstice, we have a 'covid-stice' - with no significant change in the trends. What does it mean? We may speculate that it represents a level of control in that there are no surprise factors, while the vaccination programme is (very slowly) chipping away at the grip that the pandemic has on us.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 12.0; Day-to-day reduction: 1.9%; Halving time: 38 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.90
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 104.5; Day-to-day increase: 1.2%; Doubling time: 54 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.09
Having corrected our error of yesterday, the day's results confirm some kind of status quo.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 12.4; Day-to-day reduction: 1.8%; Halving time: 40 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.91
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 101.6; Day-to-day increase: 1.1%; Doubling time: 60 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.08
The report on the 6-area region area was astray today 19/6/21, because a vital digit was transcribed - and the real results were much better than we published. In Bracknell Forest as in the whole area, the cases stayed within recent limits.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 12.7; Day-to-day reduction: 1.7%; Halving time: 42 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.91
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 99.7; Day-to-day increase: 1.1%; Doubling time: 59 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.08
The last day's cases were high - at a rate not seen since November last year. These results have stopped the downward trend of estimated R-factor, as the charts show, but it is likely to be a temporary situation. There was a similar blip about a week ago.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 12.9; Day-to-day reduction: 1.6%; Halving time: 46 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.92
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 97.2; Day-to-day increase: 1.0%; doubling time: 64 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.07
The adjustment to the new delta-level cases is now settling down, and both Bracknell Forest and the whole Thames Valley region should both have an R-factor of less than 1.0. Not enough to move cases in a strong downward direction yet, but encouraging.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 12.9; Day-to-day reduction: 1.6%; Halving time: 44 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.92
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 94.3; Day-to-day increase: 0.9%; Doubling time: 73 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.06
Yet again, the kind government data processors have changed the basis of some of the figures that they have been publishing, without giving details of the consequence that this will have had on the figures. But the changes are quite small, and do not seem to have altered the Bracknell Forest figures at all, so we have made what seem reasonable adjustments that do not disturb what we can make of the trend.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 13.5; Day-to-day reduction: 1.2%; Halving time: 62 days; Estimated R-factor: <1
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 94.0; Day-to-day increase: 1.0%; Doubling time: 66 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.07
The Bracknell Forest daily change of cases fell below 1.0 for the first time in this Covid wave. The whole region may do similarly within a few days.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 14.8; Day-to-day reduction: 0.2%; Halving time: - ; Estimated R-factor: <1.0
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 95.7; Day-to-day increase: 1.3%; Doubling time: 51 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.09
So, was the decision to continue with restrictions the correct one? The confusing issue is that Delta variant cases are patchy. Today, we recorded no less than 40 new cases in Reading - that is 40% of the new cases in the whole region. Overall, the new cases are coming in at a steady rate; it's much more than a month ago, but not out of control .
The Prime Minister made his statement at 6pm this evening - follow the link. What he is describing is being indicated in practice by what we are seeing in local numbers, although these are not so bad as in the North East. And the exponential rises that he describes are not as pronounced in our area - fortunately for us.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 16; Day-to-day increase: 1.0%; doubling time: - days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 98.1; Day-to-day INCREASE: 1.8%; doubling time: 39 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.12
The New York Times reports on a legal challenge to mandatory vaccination for a hospital's staff.
A federal judge in Texas has dismissed a lawsuit brought by employees of Houston Methodist Hospital who had challenged the hospital’s coronavirus vaccination requirement.
U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, in the Southern District of Texas, issued a ruling on Saturday that upheld the hospital’s new policy, announced in April. The judge said that the hospital’s decision to mandate inoculations for its employees was consistent with public policy.
And he rejected a claim by Jennifer Bridges, a nurse and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, that the vaccines available for use in the United States were experimental and dangerous.
“The hospital’s employees are not participants in a human trial,” Judge Hughes wrote. “Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the Covid-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer.”
The judge’s decision appeared to be among the first to rule in favor of employer-mandated vaccinations for workers. Several major hospital systems have begun to require Covid shots, including in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
But many private employers and the federal government have not instituted mandatory immunization as they shift operations back to office settings. This year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance allowing employers to require vaccines for on-site workers.
In Houston, Ms. Bridges was among those who led a walkout on Monday, the hospital’s deadline for getting the vaccine. And on Tuesday, the hospital suspended 178 employees who refused to get a coronavirus shot.
Ms. Bridges cited the lack of full Food and Drug Administration approval for the shot as justification for refusing to get vaccinated. But the F.D.A., which has granted emergency use authorizations for three vaccines, says clinical trials and post-market study shows they are safe, as does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The judge also noted that Texas employment law only protects employees from termination for refusing to commit an act that carries criminal penalties.
“Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a Covid-19 vaccine, however if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else,” he said, also rejecting the argument that employees were being coerced.
And the judge called “reprehensible” the lawsuit’s contention that a vaccination requirement was akin to medical experimentation during the Holocaust.
In a statement late Saturday, Dr. Marc Boom, chief executive of Houston Methodist, said: “Our employees and physicians made their decisions for our patients, who are always at the center of everything we do.”
Houston Methodist said it would begin proceedings to terminate employees who were suspended if they did not get vaccinated by June 21.
A calculation of the R-factor for Bracknell over a 16-day averaging period gave a value of almost exactly 1.0, and this is promising. A similar computation for the whole Thames Valley area showed that they weill be settling down to an R-factor of perhaps 1.15. This would reflect the somewhat different demographic. We will continue to publish the 21-day-average figures.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 18.1; Day-to-day increase: 2.3%; doubling time: 30 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 100.4; Day-to-day increase: 2.2%; doubling time: 31 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.15
Today's newspapers state thet the restrictions will continue for a few weeks because of the Delta variant cases.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 20.0; Day-to-day increase: 3.8%; doubling time: 19 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 104.4; Day-to-day increase: 3.0%; doubling time: 23 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.20
Of all vexed questions, this is the most vexed - a real politician's nightmare. Sitting here, in an area that is showing some signs of the Indian variant (but not much), our inclination would be to relax restrictions as planned. But then, we do not shoulder the responsibility.
The complication is that the new cases are mostly among the unvaccinated, who are the people mainly targeted by the variant. Some of the victims have not been vaccinated when they should have been, but others have not yet been included in the vaccinated age-groups. Both categories would be affected by relaxed restrictions, and this is on the mind of the politicians, who have to take the responsibility for how we all fare in this stage of the pandemic.
Cases much as expected. Rfactor will be meaningless until the daily case rate increases stabilise, in about a week's time, we expect. The Bracknell Forest levels of daily rate increase is now visible and falling fast, but this rate of fall does not signify very much.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 22.0; Day-to-day increase: 5.4%; Doubling time: 13 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 106.1; Day-to-day increase: 3.5%; Doubling time: 20 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.24
The day's tally of cases, at 122 over the whole region, was the worst since February. However, averaged results do not show anything crazy, as the charts indicate. Glitches like this are not unusual, even if they attempt to pick away at the confidence implicit in consistent trends. We will see in a few days!
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 23.5; Day-to-day increase: 6.9%; Doubling time: 10 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 107.3; Day-to-day increase: 4.1%; Doubling time: 17 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.28
Bracknell Forest is stabilising in daily cases, and the exponential is gradually recognising this.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 24.5; Day-to-day increase: 8.5%; Doubling time: 8 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 107.0; Day-to-day increase: 4.6%; Doubling time: 15 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.32
Encouraging case numbers today, pointing towards a stabilising R-factor. We are expecting that Bracknell Forest will be back on-the-chart within a few days.
The New York Times published some interesting information about the Alpha (Kent) Covid variant:
How the Alpha variant swept the world
The Alpha variant of the coronavirus first seen in Britain fast became the dominant variant in both Britain and the U.S., leaving scientists questioning why.
A new study points to one secret to its success: Alpha disables the first line of immune defense in our bodies, giving the variant more time to multiply and temporarily silencing the immune system’s alarm bells.
Virologists at the University College London grew coronaviruses in human lung cells, comparing cells infected with Alpha with those infected with earlier variants. They found that the Alpha-infected cells made drastically less interferon, a protein that switches on a host of immune defenses.
Knock-on effects: The authors speculate that when the delayed immune response finally happens, people infected with Alpha have a more robust reaction, coughing and shedding virus-laden mucus from not only their mouths, but also from their noses — making the variant even better at spreading.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 26.7; Day-to-day increase: 10.8%; Doubling time: 7 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 109.8; day-to-day increase: 5.4%; Doubling time: 13 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.38
Continuing small apparent improvement.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 28.0; Day-to-day increase: 13.0%; Doubling time: 6 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 111.0; Day-to-day increase: 6.2%; Doubling time: 11 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.44
Continuing small apparent improvement.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 27.6; Day-to-day increase: 14.7%; Doubling time: 5 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 108.4; Day-to-day increase: 6.7%; Doubling time: 11 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.48
Same general message as yesterday!
We present the charts today for the benefit of the curious who might be wondering for what shocking reason we had been withholding them.
As in the past, the averaging time is 21 days, and the strategy is to find the best-fit exponential that would normally give a good estimate of the exponential underlying R-factor. At this point in time, for the whole region, this model is not too bad because the larger area gives smoother calculations. Of course the appearance of the Indian variant, half way through the averaging period, will reduce the meaningfulness of the estimated R-factor.
For the Bracknell Forest chart, the sudden transition between pre-Indian and post-Indian is very clear - there is a sudden kink that really does make even the 'best' exponential look uncomfortable, and exponential's growth rate is off-the-chart - but irrelevant. The estimated R-factor should be significant again in about ten days time when the kink does not occur during the averaging period.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 28.0; Day-to-day increase: 17.1%; Doubling time: 4 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 106.6; Day-to-day increase: 7.3%; Doubling time: 10 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.53
The Indian variant is still gaining ground in the area. Get vaccinated!!
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 25.4; Day-to-day increase: 18.4%; Doubling time: 4 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 101.9; Day-to-day increase: 7.5%; Doubling time: 10 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.55
Our Member of Parliament writes: "It is worth noting that 72% of those hospitalised recently hadn't had any vaccine." The Indian variant will thus be targeting people without the protection of vaccination with potentially serious illness and spread of infection. It is therefore incumbent on everybody who can be, to be vaccinated at the earliest opportunity, not only for their own sakes, but also as a social duty to the 10s of others to whom they can pass on this infectious strain, directly or indirectly, if they do become infected before vaccination.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 23.0; Day-to-day increase: 19.8%; Doubling time: 4 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 94.2; Day-to-day increase: 7.4%; Doubling time: 10 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.55
Yesterday's remarks hold - the peak over the 21-day averaging period has now been passed. Smoother waters to come?
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 21; Day-to-day increase: 21.3%; Doubling time: 4 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 89.7; Day-to-day increase: 7.6%; Doubling time: 9 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.57
We are still creating the trend graphs as we have done for 6 months, but we are not publishing them for now, because the transition between the old regime of Covid (the Kentish strain) and the new regime of the Indian strain is not complete. However, a study of the graphs shows clearly that the change of daily infection rates, for both Bracknell Forest and the whole Thames Valley region under study, occurred on one of two days - 25 or 26 May 21. There is a distinct kink in that part of the charts. To the eye looking at the chart, the Thames valley case rate suddenly doubled, while in Bracknell Forest, which had been at a low level of cases, the case rate jumped by about times 3 or 4. There is some indication that the average daily case rate is now fairly stable, suggesting that the estimated R-factor may become a more useful number of near 1.0, but with a higher case rate than before. We would hope that further vaccinations will further control a situation that, though having a significantly higher case rate, does not now seem unstable. The concentration of Bracknell cases almost completely into one area of the town (Wick Hill) suggests that the new variant is not spreading geographically, not at least for now.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 18.9; Day-to-day increase: 23.0%; Doubling time: 3 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 86.1; Day-to-day increase: 8.0%; Doubling time: 9 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.59
The NYT reports:
Most private construction sites, are closed down, placing workers like Ashok Kumar, a 36-year-old carpenter, in extremely precarious positions.
Mr. Kumar usually earns 700 rupees, about £8 per day, but has sat at home idly for the last 40 days, unable to pay rent to an increasingly impatient landlord. He hoped to be vaccinated before returning to close quarters with other workers, but hasn’t been able to secure a dose at one of the city’s public dispensaries, which have closed intermittently because of vaccine shortages.
“My first priority is my stomach,” Mr. Kumar said. “If my stomach is not filled I will die even before corona.”
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 16.2; Day-to-day increase: 23.9%; Doubling time: 3 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 80.7; Day-to-day increase: 7.9%; Doubling time: 9 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.59
Most of the Bracknell cases seem to be in the big Wick Hill area of north Bracknell. See https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/interactive-map with a postcode near RG12 2JL.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 11.4; Day-to-day increase 20.9%; Doubling time: 4 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 73.0; Day-to-day increase: 7.4%; Doubling time: 10 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Not much more to be said just now. The exponential model is not very useful until the situation stabilises again. Yesterday's notes apply still.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 8.3; Day-to-day increase: 17.2%; Doubling time: 4 days; Estimated R-factor: -
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 65.4; Day-to-day increase: 6.9%; Doubling time: 10 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.50
The behaviour of the recorded case figures is very similar to what happened ar the very beginning of the pandemic. The very sudden rise of the Bracknell R-factor curve on the graph is due in BF to the arrival of the upward surge at a later date. The primary difference between then and now, though, is that we not only have vaccination, with the overwhelming reduction in infection for vaccinated people, but also we have hugely more effective treatment for Covid. The NHS is not going to be over-stretched, we are assured.
A more realistic set of curves would need to reduce the average time to 10 days, but we are keeping the 21-day average to maintain some kind of comparability, while being aware that the real exponential will not be demonstrated for a week or so.
Now we really need to get full vaccination in place.
Should we be concerned? Yes, we should 'stay alert', but the local danger is small, and virtualy non-existent for those who have been vaccinated. For those not yet vaccinated, even in younger age-groups, do get vaccinated when possible, as the new variant is highly contagious - that is what our charts are telling us. For all those not yet vaccinated, the usual precautions of masks, social distancing, etc, should be taken seriously.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 4.1; Day-to-day increase: 7.7%; Doubling time: 9 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.57
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 55.1; Day-to-day reduction: 5.6%; Doubling time: 13 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.39
The averaged figures (below), and the charts (to right) are way behind the strong trend that has made itself apparent in the last week.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 1.6; Day-to-day reduction: 1.7%; Halving time: 42 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.91
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 46.5; Day-to-day increase: 4.3%; Doubling time: 16 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.29
'Inflencers' on public media are now an established as powerful formers of viewpoints, fake or otherwise. Some have millions of 'followers'. Influencers can be corrupted into promulgating fake news for money. For example, The New York Times reports that:
Mirko Drotschmann, a German health commentator with 1.5 million YouTube subscribers, said in a tweet that a PR agency called Fazze had asked if he wanted to be part of an 'information campaign' about Pfizer vaccine deaths in exchange for money. After doing some research, he concluded: 'Agency headquarters: London. Residence of the CEO: Moscow.
The NYT notes that: The mysterious London public relations agency sent its pitch simultaneously to social media influencers in France and Germany: Claim that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is deadly and that regulators and the mainstream media are covering it up, the message read, and earn thousands of euros in easy money in exchange.
Not very good news today, if you look at the trends.
We have altered the charts to show just the second half of the 3-week averaging period, for both Bracknell Forest and the whole region. The trend in the whole region indicates that new cases are coming in from another source, which will presumably be the Indian variant, and this trend now seems established. The Bracknell Forest trend also shows a strong upturn, but it has been later in its effect, so that the daily changes in the averages will kick instrongly over the next two weeks or so. What does this mean?
The good news is that the Indian variant is well controlled, both in terms of reducing infection, and also in terms of the major reduction of illness if infection occurs in vaccinated people. However, younger people, who are not yet vaccinated, are being targeted by the variant, which is able to spread despite the social distancing and self-isolation hitherto used, fairly successfully, to control previous forms of infection.
Vaccination is clearly going to be key tactic to control the new variant, and we would urge all unvaccinated people to be vaccinated as soon as they can be. The unvaccinated seem to be at increasing risk as the variant kicks in. For the rest of us, we need to maintain the precautions if we can, to keep the statistical control of infection in place. The few people that travel long distances, for example, the less the variant will be distributed.
People talk about mixed messaging', but the statistical control of infection is inevitably 'mixed messaging', and you can't blame the government and the scientists for a statistical fact; you can blame critics for not understanding (or pretending not to understand) the way in which statistics work, in order to make political points.
The rule is rather as for drinking alcohol, or eating junk food, - cut back on outings and close social gatherings that conceivably help infection, but there is no need to give them up completely.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 1.0; Day-to-day reduction: 5.9%; Halving time: 12 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.70
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 39.9; Day-to-day increase: 3.0%; Doubling time: 23 days; Estimated R-factor: 1.20
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 0.9; Day-to-day reduction: 7.5%; Halving time: 9 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.63
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 32.8; Day-to-day increase: 1.4%; Halving time: - ; Estimated R-factor: 1.10
The New York Times has posted this assessment of the Indian Covid variant in the UK:
Rising threat of B.1.617.2 variant in Britain
A potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus known as B.1.617.2 has begun to outpace other versions of the virus in Britain, putting pressure on the government to hasten second doses of vaccines. Government scientists said the variant was “highly likely” to be more transmissible than the one behind Britain’s devastating wintertime surge.
The new variant, which has become dominant in India since first being detected there in December, may be responsible in part for a grievous wave of infections across Southeast Asia and Nepal. It is now present in at least 49 countries.
Reassuring signs: A new study by Public Health England indicates that fully vaccinated people are about as well protected from the variant as they are from other forms of the coronavirus. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offered 88 percent protection against the variant, while the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine was 60 percent effective.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 0.9; Day-to-day reduction: 7.5%; Halving time: 9 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.63
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 32.8; Day-to-day increase: 1.4%; Halving time: - ; Estimated R-factor: 1.10
The Bracknell Forest R-factor is heading for the bottom of the chart, and this indicates that the area could perhaps even become Covid-free. The region as a whole now seems to be going in the opposite direction, although the total number of cases is not rising fast, and there is no pattern for individual area. We will just have to see how it develops, particularly as the calculated trend is quite sensitive to the empirical adjustments that we had to make a few days ago because the people who put out the figures altered their methodology. In three weeks, these adjustments will have no effect.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 1.0; Day-to-day reduction: 6.8%; Halving time: 10 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.66
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 30.4; Day-to-day increase: 0.8%; Halving time: - ; Estimated R-factor: 1.05
Bracknell Forest R-factor is still going down, but the region as a whole seems to have gone into R-Factor greater than 1.0. This amounts to only two more cases per day, and there is no cause for alarm, but we must keep an eye on the trend
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 1.3; Day-to-day reduction: 5.1%; Halving time: 13 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.74
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 28.9; Day-to-day increase: 0.3%; Halving time: - ; Estimated R-factor: 1.03
The cases for the whole region do not look as good as we would like, but it is impossible to say whether there is a real trend, or whether the results come from our poor guesswork following the only partially documented changes in the methodology of accounting for cases. We will have to plough on for about two weeks before we know what the real trends are. It's a shame that the authorities made the changes just as we were hoping for best sensitivity to help us detect whether the Indian variant is invading our area with significant changes in daily cases. No worries just now.
European cases are falling fast, but the European Director of W.H.O is quoted as saying:
“We are heading in the right direction, but need to keep a watchful eye on a virus that has claimed the lives of nearly 1.2 million people in this region,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, the W.H.O.’s European director. He added, “Vaccines may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot be blinded by that light.”
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 1.6; Day-to-day reduction: 3.6%; Halving time: 19 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.81
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 27.1; Day-to-day reduction: 0.3%; Halving time: - ; Estimated R-factor: 0.99
The government source of data still looks a little unstable, so we have made some new quite small guesses. These do not seem to impact the underlying local trend. Whether the general area trend improves with a lower R-factor will take a week or two to observe. Meanwhile, there is no sign of the Indian variant in this area.
The BBC has today provided a report on the status of the Indian variant, romantically named B.1.617.2. It is present in small numbers in 86 (out of about 213 local areas, but not spreading in general, except in hotspots like Bolton. (Over quite a lot of the country specific testing for the variant is not done, so it is hard to say what's gone on in these parts, but the areas not so tested seem unlikely to have significant cases.)
The spread of the variant is affected by local culture, it seems. The variant is probably not as infectious as feared, and the mode of infection seems to be controlled by the vaccination programme where this is well taken up.There are many questions still to be answered authoritatively, but there is little sign that this variant will have much impact over our area, and many other areas with a similar demographic. The severity of illness, still at an anecdotal level, seems well controlled by vaccination, and there is no indication that B.1.617.2 is more dangerous in the UK than other variants.
Local figures are:
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 1.7; Day-to-day reduction: 3.3%; Halving time: 21 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.83
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 25.0; Day-to-day reduction: 1.2%; Halving time: 60 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.94
The government source of data has advised that further corrections have been made today. This only seems to have affected the Bracknell Forest, figure, and we have guessed what adjustment we should apply to that figure from today.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 2.0; Day-to-day reduction: 2.4%; Halving time: 29 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.87
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 24.6; Day-to-day reduction: 1.5%; Halving time: 47 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.92
The government source of data has posted a message today:
Revision to historical case data in England.
The introduction of a new system disrupted the removal of cases where a positive rapid lateral flow test (LFD) was followed by all negative laboratory (PCR) tests taken within 3 days. Therefore 4,776 additional cases have been removed today. Regions and local authorities do not show the actual number of new cases reported. UK and England numbers of newly reported cases have been adjusted and correctly reflect new cases reported.
This, of course, means that we have had to make some guesses about corrections that we have on our trends. The data that we present for the next few days is therefore partly informed guesswork, but we hope that in due course the information will average out to some kind of 'reality'.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 2.2; Day-to-day reduction: 1.7%; Halving time: 41 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.91
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 23.9; Day-to-day reduction: 1.9%; Halving time: 37 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.90
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 2.2; Day-to-day reduction: 1.9%; Halving time: 36 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.90
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 23.4; Day-to-day reduction: 2.3%; Halving time: 30 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.88
Today we were informed on the Andrew Marr Show that the Indian variant is spreading rapidly, with new threats of general lockdown.. This, of course, a typical exaggeration by the British media that is intended to create panic, whereas the correct statement is that in certain areas (e.g. Bolton) the variant is spreading rapidly. It is NOT present, and therefore NOT spreading rapidly in this area, or in almost all other UK regions, nor are, just now, the new variant cases numerous compared with the general level of cases.
The misleadingly-reported panic problem is not restricted to the BBC. What makes things worse is that the British media seem to presume that the population is panicking, just because the media tell them that they should be doing so. This is the sort of nonsense that caused us to start this web-page 14 months ago. Ah well, journalists have to justify their existence somehow, even by writing hyped up stories. In the printed media, this causes large volumes of wasted newsprint as sane people skip the rubbish that's printed.
Looking at the overall picture for cases in England, there is no sign at present of broad spread, or even that the new cases from the variant are presently more numerous than the fall in cases resulting from the vaccination programme, particularly if you exclude Bolton. Interestingly, the number of official cases in Bolton has NOT been steadily increasing in the last few days.
It is perfectly to be expected that we should be concerned at the prospect of the variant spreading to other areas that Bolton and London, and we are. On this website we will look out for any sign of any variant with cases beyond what we would normally expect. However, we have often seen bumps that have turned out to have no significance, and to 'panic' at the trivia is (a) not sensible and (b) not what happens in practice. Worst-case scenarios need study, but action is only needed in time to be able to cope with major problem in line with a realistic probability that the worst will come about. The last 14 months have inculcated a good sense of what we can cope with.
One puzzling thing is that we (and most other regions) have a persistent low level of new cases. How much effort are local health authorities putting into detective work that would explain why we have this persistent tail, and, given this knowledge, how are they planning to use it? If they could eliminate the general tail, new dangerpoints could be recognised early enough to focus quick action.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 2.3, Day-to-day reduction: 2.2%, Halving time: 32 days, Estimated R-factor: 0.88
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 23.2; Day-to-day reduction: 2.6%; Halving time: 26 days; Estimated R-factor: 0.86
The current situation is stable, without any sign of attack by the Indian variant
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 2.3, Day-to-day reduction: 2.2%, Halving time: 32, Estimated R-factor: 0.88
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 23.7, Day-to-day reduction: 2.6%, Halving time: 27, Estimated R-factor: 0.86
NYT has posted this article:
China faces questions over vaccine!
China expected its Sinopharm vaccine to be the linchpin of its vaccine diplomacy program. The vaccine is easy to transport, making it a logical option across China and the developing world. In a bid to win good will, China donated 13.3 million Sinopharm doses to other countries.
But instead of praise, the company, which has made two varieties of coronavirus vaccine, is facing mounting questions about the inoculations. First, there was the lack of transparency with Sinopharm’s late-stage trial data. Now, Seychelles, the world’s most vaccinated nation, has had a surge in cases and had to reimpose a lockdown, despite much of its population being inoculated with Sinopharm.
Among those in Seychelles who have received two doses, 57 percent were given Sinopharm, while 43 percent were given AstraZeneca. Among new cases, 37 percent are people who are fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry, although it did not say how many had the Sinopharm shot.
Dr. Kim Mulholland, a pediatrician at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, said the initial reports from Seychelles correlated to a 50 percent efficacy rate for the vaccine, instead of the 78.1 percent rate that the company had touted. By contrast, a study has shown that the Pfizer vaccine used in Israel — the country with the second-highest vaccination coverage — is 94 percent effective.
The news is a huge setback not just for Seychelles, but also the 56 other countries counting on the Sinopharm shot. It may also deepen the vaccine access gap between rich and poor nations. If developing nations choose the Chinese vaccines, they could end up lagging behind countries that select more effective doses, which could allow the pandemic to continue in countries that have the fewest resources to fight it.
The news about the Indian variant spreading so strongly in Bolton and London underscores the need to track the data for early signs that the problem has spread to our region. We will be ready to show you the charts if there is any sign of trouble.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 2.4, Day-to-day reduction: 2.0%, Halving time: 35, Estimated R-factor: 0.89
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 24.4, Day-to-day reduction: 2.4%, Halving time: 29, Estimated R-factor: 0.87
A NYT article covers the story of why WHO and other organisations refused to acknowledge until very recently that Covid-19 (and other corona viruses) can be - and are - transmissible as airborne particles rather than just as fine droplets. The story is long and sad, and identifies how scientists latched onto 5 microns as a size of droplets that could, airborne, be transmitted over distances well over 6 feet; this incorrect limit was picked up from old, asnd as it turned out, flawed research. The error was postulated, but fed regrettable and angry scientific politics, until historical research illuminated the source of the flawed research, supported by a lot of evidence that airborne transmission was really happening. See article below: COVID analysis 7/5/21
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 2.4, Day-to-day reduction: 2.2%, Halving time: 32, Estimated R-factor: 0.88
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 24.9, Day-to-day reduction: 2.4%, Halving time: 29, Estimated R-factor: 0.87
The New York Times reports on new reports to the World Health Organisation:
The next time the world faces an outbreak of a fast-spreading and deadly new pathogen, governments must act swiftly and be ready to restrict travel or mandate masks even before anyone knows the extent of the threat, according to a pair of new reports delivered to the World Health Organization.
The studies are intended to address missteps over the past year that led to more than 3.25 million deaths, some $10 trillion in economic losses and more than 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty.
"Current institutions, public and private, failed to protect people from a devastating pandemic," concluded one of the reports, released on Wednesday, which called the Covid-19 pandemic "the 21st century's Chernobyl moment."
"Without change," it said, these institutions "will not prevent a future one."
The reviews, released in advance of this month's meeting of the W.H.O.'s governing assembly, were written by appointees who donated countless hours in the midst of their own countries' pandemic fights to interview hundreds of experts, comb through thousands of documents, gather data and seek counsel from public and private institutions around the world.
Pandemics, the authors concluded, are an existential threat on the order of a chemical or nuclear weapon, and preparing for them must be the responsibility of the highest levels of political leadership rather than only health departments, which are often among the least powerful of government agencies.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 2.5, Day-to-day reduction: 1.7%, Halving time: 41, Estimated R-factor: 0.91
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 26.3, Day-to-day reduction: 2.1%, Halving time: 34, Estimated R-factor: 0.89
As in previous days, Bracknell Forest is improving a little slower than the whole region.
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 2.7, Day-to-day reduction: 1.1%, Halving time in days: 69, Estimated R-factor: 0.95
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily new cases: 27.4, Day-to-day reduction: 1.8%, Halving time in days: 38, Estimated R-factor: 0.90
Everybody will have noticed that the regional and Bracknell Forest case graphs are not really telling us very much: they just bop up and down a bit; and we will for the time being stop posting them. However, we want to stay vigilant and we will continue to acquire the raw data from the government Covid website, and we will post the key figures as below:
Bracknell Forest (population 120,000): Average daily new cases: 2.7, Day-to-day reduction: 1.0%, Halving time 75 days, Estimated R-factor 0.95
Thames Valley region (population 1M): Average daily net cases: 28.4, Day-to-day reduction: 1.6%, Halving time 43 days, estimated R-factor 0.91
The New York Times reports on Spain, where a public figure insists that people broadly accept that freedom is necessarily limited by social responsibility:
José Luis Martínez Almeida, the mayor of Madrid, on Sunday described as “lamentable” some of the scenes witnessed overnight, particularly those showing unmasked people drinking together on the streets.
He insisted that such behavior did not correspond to the “freedom” slogan that was used by Madrid’s regional leader, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, to win a landslide re-election victory last Tuesday. Voters rewarded her for defending small businesses and keeping bars and shops in Madrid open, in defiance of the central government.
“Freedom means that we live in society,” the mayor said, adding: “Freedom does not mean that you can infringe norms, freedom does not consist in getting together to drink outdoors.”
The NYT also emphasises that reluctance to be vaccinated is likely to prevent the 'herd immunity' that can eliminate Covid in a country, even in the USA. So, extending the argument from Spain, freedom also does not mean that you can infringe the norm of being vaccinated, because vaccination is the only way to bring down the scourge of a Covid threat for ever. The more people are vaccinated, the less the chance of worse and worse variants!.
We have proved in the UK that vaccination is working well at defeating Covid, so this is a generally accepted viewpoint here. The NYT is interested in vaccination everywhere, implying that:World-wide vaccination is therefore the norm that all countries should implement as soon as possible, with richer nations helping poorer ones to 'get us all there'.
Today the whole 6-area region has only 15 new recorded Covid cases, its best total of daily cases since 20 September. To find that level happening consistently, you have to go back to August 2020. Still, although we do not yet feel truly clear of the disease yet, the memory of those relatively Covid-free days seems to be based on the brief escapes - perhaps just a short holiday - of autumn last year.
The Covid case records in our office date back to 19/3/20. The following day, the first day for which we possess daily new cases, the whole area recorded 9 of them, and it took only another ten days for cases to rise consistently higher than 15 per day. It was May - almost exactly a year ago - before the first wave receded to give new daily cases of less than 15.
Although cases stayed low right into the autumn, we were able to observe a consistent upward trend, with an R-factor greater than 1.0 that peaked in December.
We do not see that now, and with the success of vaccination, do not anticipate a new upward trend. Let us hope that vaccination. extending also to variants, better precautions, and better treatment will confirm our cautious optimism.
The US CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) has just issued (7th May) an authoritative summary of COVID-19 transmission and control. The summary is posted on this website. The table that summarises their statement is HERE, and emphasises what we know in the UK - that vaccination is the primary weapon against the disease.
This really presents few surprises, other than to draw attention to the fact that the most important form is transmission is by aerosol, and not droplets and contact.
The number of cases in Bracknell Forest has been just one for the past two days, and there is no indication just now that cases will stay at a low level, not necessarily as low as one or two.
The curves for the area are affected by the bumpiness of the past couple of weeks, although the bumpiness is really of no account at such a low level. It is a hope that the graph will be of no significance, and we will have no reason to going on reporting. That would be a milestone for the area, although we do still have to be watchful, with major dangers lurking in new variants.
Of more significance is the slow decline of cases in the whole area. The average decline is difficult to see in the graph, but we are watching another chart that projects cases into the future on the basis of the latest calculated decline figure (our estimated R-factor). This shows today the daily number of new cases falling to around 15 per day by the end of July, but (like all forecasts) this could change up or down if the current apparently smooth trend is not maintained. We will see, and we will keep computing the figures for the Thames Valley region for sometime.
Meanwhile, we have been alerted to a new website https://preventepidemics.orgthat carries stories of 'epidemics that didn't happen'. Among these are case-studies of Covid-19 being arrested in a number of countries, together with case-studies relating to Ebola and other deadly diseases. The website tries to point towards a future where potential pandemics are handled firmly and sensibly, starting as early as possible, taking account of the successes, as well as the errors, that have affected the spread of diseases like Covid-19.
Inevitably, this knowledge will feed into the hands of those who seek to cast overwhelming doubt over the competence of governments like ours in the early handling of the pandemic. We do not respect those who are so wise after the event, but undoubtedly mistakes were made, and must be learned from. Unpreparedness for a pandemic is the most obvious fault, and it is ironic that a major study in this country was undertaken some years ago to evaluate the probability of a pandemic and the kinds of way in which we should prepare for it.
However, political thinking on this (as on global warming) tends towards too little real action because preparedness is hugely expensive and hard to justify, particularly in the face, not only of confrontational politics, but also of a media and press who are only too willing to criticise and express half-baked opinions, and only too unwilling to give sustained support to long-term sense; some of them thrive on finding support and encouragement from vocal groups who are determined to undermine any government action, without carrying the burden of delivering successful outcomes.
It was this latter phenomenon that resulted in the birth of this web-page. You might have thought that:the British press would somehow develop a sense of responsibility and so support the best wisdom at a time of terrible national threat. Not a bit of it. The press and media gave such a sense of dramatic hysteria that we felt the need to set up a page that would be a little calm reflection, mixed with practical advice and important news. We hoped that this would help local people and providesome relief from what they were reading in their newspapers and seeing and hearing on their television sets and on computerised media. And we got inspiration from the New York Times, who could at least provide viewpoints that discarded the froth and looked for underlying sense.
One of our supporters said that looking at our webpage became for them a high moment of each evening
The New York Times reports on the dangerous rise of Covid-19 deniers in Germany
Germany’s domestic intelligence service said it would keep tabs on members of the coronavirus denier movement because they posed a risk of undermining the state.
The increasingly aggressive movement - fueled in part by wild conspiracy theories - has moved beyond criticizing lockdown measures and hygiene rules to taking on the state itself, its leaders, businesses, the news media and globalism, to name a few targets.
Over the past year, demonstrators have attacked police officers, defied the civil authorities and, in one widely publicized episode, scaled the steps of Parliament.
Connections: In announcing the decision, intelligence officials noted the movement’s close ties to extremists like the Reichsbuerger movement, a network of groups that refuse to accept the legitimacy of the modern German state.
In an adjacent article, the New York Times notes that 'Britain’s Electoral Commission is investigating whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson used funds from a Conservative Party donor to supplement his annual budget of 30,000 pounds ($41,600) for upgrading his official quarters, which are above the offices at 11 Downing Street.' While noting the ethical issues, NYT leaves the question as to whether it is political motivation that is seeking an investigation probably costing much more than these sums, and diverting attention away from managing Covid, and towards point-scoring in upcoming local elections. Interesting to see a view from outside the UK!
The New York Times reports on the devastating Covid death toll in India
India is experiencing a terrible outbreak of the coronavirus, with more than 300,000 new infections and 2,000 deaths per day, up from fewer than 100 deaths per day in February. Experts warn the true death toll is far higher than officially reported.
A sluggish vaccination campaign and an insidious new virus variant discovered in India may be behind the surge, which has kept crematories burning nonstop and left hospitals running out of oxygen. One crematory worker told The Times that he had never seen such an endless assembly line of death.
The Biden administration said last night that it had partially lifted a ban on the export of raw materials for vaccines and would also supply India with therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and personal protective gear.
Background: Many officials and ordinary citizens stopped taking precautions against the virus after India initially avoided the death tolls seen by other big countries. Some believed that India's low levels of obesity and low median age meant that the country was not simply on a delayed Covid timetable.
It is good to note that the UK is sending out aid to India. Eds
Daily cases are oscillating within the trend described in the previous comment. The all-six-areas case total today reach, ed its lowest point since September, and this is certainly very encouraging. As we have noted before, it is a little disappointing that a few new cases of Covid are still popping up each day, but these may diminish in a few days time.
Our overall assessment may be marginally affected by the ad hoc step-adjustment that we had to make on 9/4/21 following a change of government methodology in collecting daily case figures, but that will not significantly change the trend that we see. That day will soon not affect our computations.
Over the past few days, we have gained a rough understanding of what is going on. This can be summarised by saying that, for the whole region, the number of cases goes up and down about an average in the mid 30s. For the Bracknell Forest area, it's about 4.5. This general situation looks stable, and will therefore lead to an estimated R-factor that wobbles up and down around 1.0, These cases levels are quite low, and the public view seems to be coming round to the view that this is more-or-less what one would expect in coming to terms with the disease into the future.. The disease has found an stable equilibrium that would take possibly drastic steps to change.
However, it is just a guess that it would take drastic steps to improve the situation. We need to know what really is the case. If, for example, we really knew where and how these relatively small numbers of cases occurred, and why, we might be able to come closer to reduction the local R-factors of the places affected. Perhaps some keen detective work would pay off?
We are all aware that the variants are increasing in number, and we do not know the detailed characteristics of the variants in terms of infectiousness, vaccine control, and susceptability to treatment, so the Government is quite right to be (A) cautious and (B) alert to new infections that do not conform to the patterns that we are seeing. In a static world, the sort of work being conducted by this website would be considered finished in its present form. However, the danger of a radical new situation still exists, and if we can be helpful in detecting and reporting, these dangers, we will continue to try to be 'in there'!
It will be clear from today's charts that we are turning the corner, to go bouncing up again, both for Bracknell Forest and the wider area. A look at the last seven days' figures shows that there is a trend of rising cases that could approximately fit a straight line. A straight line corresponds to a zero change of average rates of new cases per day, and an R factor of 1. So we must expect that the day-to-day case rise - and the R-factor - will rise, and may approach 1.0 again.
Just now this is not very worrying, because the daily rates are quite low. But it does show that Covid is a persistent danger: one that won't go away quickly even when we are taken full measures to restrain it - and will come back again quickly if we stop taking these measures. Do not be surprised that the politicians and their advisers are being cautious - and regard those who say that it is high time that we just let caution go as foolish people who are just not facing the facts as they emerge day by day. There are some who blame the scientists for putting 'reliance on misleading models'. They should look at this website, or use other readily available sources of facts and figures, and then use their common sense to draw conclusions that may not support what they would have liked to see happen.
'The Week', a weekly publication that gives a broad and insightful survey of the week's news at home and abroad, has a trailing article titled 'The Last Word' on a novel topic. For the 3 April issue, the article was a slightly shortened reprint of an article 'Did I give my patients Covid?' published by the online opinion website UnHerd. It is a down-to-earth account of the daily professional life of a junior member of the medical profession, starting at the time that the pandemic ramped up; and it draws riveting attention to initial denial of unpreparedness, and to some catastrophic later decisions that seemed logical at the time. The article can be read at in its original form on the UnHerd website. We recommend it - it is not a difficult read because we are so well aware of the issues that reading about them is no longer scary - but it is a powerful and illuminating piece of writing. If the medical profession got it wrong in attitude and denial, planning, resource and treatment - right up to the top levels - we should have some grudging sympathy for the politicians who are there to steer a way with an erratic and faulty compass, and to take the blame for disasters. We are still suffering from lack of knowledge of the behaviour of this dreadful disease, particularly the way that it throws up new challenges almost week by week. Defeating it is harder, one may speculate, than defeating any previously known serious infectious disease, with the possible exception of AIDS, for which a full cure still does not exist even after decades of research. But at least AIDS medication allows patients to lead normal life. Perhaps that will be the end-game for Covid-19 and its variants?
We adjusted the level of new cases by an amount that gave a similar trend to the previous few days. It is still uncertain whether we got the adjustments right, but after three days with the new figures, it looks as if we were accurate to within a few cases, so we are now publishing new graphs, with the warning that small errors may exist. The message to be learned from the figures in not obviously affected by this small uncertainty - just now we are enjoying a steady fall of average cases per day.
Just one day after the measurement change, it is hard to make any pronouncements about what's going on. To make progress, we have estimated a correction to be applied to the new data so that it continues the same pattern as before. We have gone through the motions of processing the data, but do not feel confident enough in what we have done to publish the results, but in a couple of days, we may be able to do so. So we are doing an article on a completely different area.
Despite a lot of effort to vaccinate, India is suffering very badly in the pandemic. The latest daily cases reported was 131, 968. This new level is put down to complacency based on recent successful lockdown, and running out of vaccine. With 1 billion population, it has been suggested that the practical level of control of Covid-19 in India is going to be the key to world-wide control of the virus. This is because, having a large population within which the virus spreads, the number of variants will increase all the time, and this will require continuous effort to generate new vaccines. Unfortunately, the global distribution of vaccines will be patchy. The poorer nations that do not have the vaccines will have the ever-present capability to develop epidemics of variants that will then tend to reinfect all the other countries in the world.
Unfortunately, the method of collecting case data has changed, so (since the correcting factor is unknown) the data supplied today is meaningless. So we will not compute any figures. This is the third time that those people on the computers have changed their method, Tomorrow we will begin to extrapolate from existing trends using a 7 day average, and hope that the resulting computations will gradually improve in relevance.
The New York Times published this article last night (we have retained the US spellings!)
This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines on the dangers of coronavirus infection from touching a doorknob, a subway pole, or other surface. The risk is extremely low.
The C.D.C. had warned that the virus could survive on surfaces for days, and potentially infect people who touched a contaminated surface and then touched their faces. That early guidance ushered in an era of what The Atlantic described as "hygiene theater", in which Americans obsessively scrubbed their homes, quarantined packages, and ransacked drugstores for Clorox wipes. Companies and schools closed regularly for deep cleanings, and New York City subway cars were disinfected every night.
We now know those elaborate steps did not provide much - if any - protection from the virus.
There's really no evidence that anyone has ever gotten Covid-19 by touching a contaminated surface," said an expert on airborne viruses.
In the early days of the pandemic, many experts believed the virus was spread primarily though large respiratory droplets that could theoretically fall onto surfaces, and then be picked up by touch and then passed to mucous membranes in the nose and the eyes. But we've learned over the past year that the virus spreads almost entirely through the air.
Experts now say that while it's theoretically possible to catch the virus from a surface, it requires something of a perfect storm: lots of recently deposited virus particles on a surface that are then quickly transferred to someone's hand, and then to the face. The updated guidelines from the C.D.C. say that chemical disinfectants are not needed to keep surface transmission low - just hand-washing, mask wearing and, in most cases, cleaning surfaces with regular soap and water.
At last local figures are moving down again, and we hope that the general trend through the bumps in the curves will not persist.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports a new syndrome that, according to a study, is sometimes observed in children up to teen-age who have been infected with Covid-19 but have shown none of the usual Covid-19 symptoms, or just mild ones.It is called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), and can affect multiple organs, especially the heart. It can be serious enough to cause hospitalisation. It seems to occur several weeks after infection, rather than months afterwards. So this is just a warning to parents to watch out for significant unusual symptoms in children who may have been infected, and draw attention to the potential disease if need be to your surgery or clinic.
The government yesterday published the following recent and upcoming changes:
Restrictions are easing in England.
From 12 April more businesses and venues can reopen.
Twice weekly rapid tests will be available to everyone from 9 April.
6 people or 2 households can meet outside from 29 March.
Shielding of the extremely vulnerabl ended on 31 March.
The Daily Telegraph of 5/4/21 published this article by Henry Bodkin about a tablet approach to preventing Covid-19 sufferers becoming seriously ill
A tablet taken to combat symptoms of coronavirus is the goal of a new antivirals taskforce being planned by the Government, it has been reported.
The pill would be taken as soon as someone tested positive, with the aim of preventing serious symptoms. The new body will be modelled on the Vaccines Taskforce, whose actions last year underpinned the success of the current roll out.
Its target would be to convert the latest science on anti-viral therapeutics into approved treatments available to the NHS "within months", a source told TheMail on Sunday.
Currently, the drugs used to treat Covid are given only once a patient has developed serious symptoms. These include dexamethasone, a cheap steroid found to cut deaths among those on ventilators by more than a third. Another steroid, hydrocortisone, also improved survival rates among the critically ill.
'The success of the vaccine programme has shown what our country can achieve, identifying and deploying cutting-edge medical treatments to save lives and beat the pandemic:' the source said. 'Matt [Hancock] wants to replicate those achievements with antiviral drugs. The new taskforce will be another crucial tool and is a further step towards making the UK the best place in the world for life science:'
The move comes after Pfizer announced the beginning of a phase one trial of an oral pill to be taken after symptoms begin.
The company, which is conducting the trial in the US, says the drug has already shown strong potential against the Covid-19 virus and other viruses in laboratory experiments. Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer's chief scientific officer, has said: "Given the way that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of Covid-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic:"
Whitehall mandarins are reportedly seeking senior figures from private industry to head the new task force. The set-up would follow the model of the Vaccines Taskforce, which was led by Kate Bingham, although she is not in the frame to serve on the new body, the government source said.
The New York Times had an interesting article about Chile in its international Covid coverage today:
A lesson from Chile
"Chile's fast inoculation rollout leaves it poised to be among the first countries in the world to reach herd immunity - more than one-third of its population has received at least "one vaccine dose. Yet the country is in the throes of a record-breaking surge of infections and deaths, and its health care system is overwhelmed.
"NYT correspondents on the ground write that the speedy and efficient vaccination drive has been part of the problem. It gave Chileans a false sense of security, and the "government moved too quickly to reopen its borders and ease restrictions on businesses.
"Facing the deadly new surge, the country has put in a new set of strict lockdown measures for nearly 14 million people. The country serves as a cautionary tale for other nations "looking to vaccination drives to quickly put an end to the era of sluggish economies and social distancing."
This is scarcely the same situation as we have in Britain, where the load on hospitals is going down all the time, and the rate of hospitalisation is only about 5% of what it was at the begining of January 2021. All the same, the increasing rate of new cases in Bracknell Forest over the last few days seems to be a warning sign that our local people are relaxing in their attention to the social distancing rules that should (aided by vaccination) be reducing new cases. We need to continue to follow rules and 'Stay Alert'!
It is interesting that the region as a whole has stuck the new case trend at the 1.0 level per day. But this can be explained by noting that Bracknell Forest is the 2nd best area in the region for covid case rates, and the others could well be aware that they have some catching up to do!
The over-1.0 R factor is dismaying, and a little surprising, when surrounding areas are no going over. But we are still in a better place than we were after Christmas.
The bumpiness of the two curves showing the change in the average daily rate of cases look a little alarming. In fact the changes in rates from day to day are very small - about one case per day at most for the whole area, and the change is as if it were under a microscope, with the tightness of the vertical scale of the graphs. This sort of bumpiness is the result of variations in the measurement of daily cases for various reasons, including corrections, when measuring over a relatively small population. The general level of cases nationally is static, but the outlook still looks good.
All the same, we still hear and sometimes see an ambulance, as we did yesterday, in a housing location just a few hundred yards away. No man is an island.
The following are the government's changes, verbatim as posted on this website.
Changes on 29 March
The evidence shows that it is safer for people to meet outdoors rather than indoors. And this is why from 29 March, when most schools start to break up for the Easter holidays, outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the Rule of 6) or 2 households will also be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside.
Business and activities
Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
The 'stay at home' rule will end on 29 March but many restrictions will remain in place. People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes. Travel abroad will continue to be prohibited, other than for a small number of permitted reasons. Holidays abroad will not be allowed, given it will remain important to manage the risk of imported variants and protect the vaccination programme. The government has launched a new taskforce to review global travel which will report on 12 April.
Interesting trends. Today we have included chart, courtesy of the government website from which we take our data.
This shows clearly that thre has been a halting, countrywide, in the cases averaged over a 7 day period. The current level on the chart is 57.7 per 100,000.
It is interesting to compare this figure with the corresponding figures for our 6 regions, based on the populations, based on actual cases over 7 days, averaging over each 100,000 of population:
So only Slough is significantly behind the game, and the graph for Bracknell Forest shows that it has a case rate that is falling on the average (as may be the case for some other areas).
What is the significance of the steadying up in the fall of case rates? The politicians are not concerned, as our MP states (and they have very good advice to hand, and the article of yesterday attempts to put forward a plausible and calm perspective on the matter.
We had hoped that, with vaccines biting, the ups and downs of covid case rates would have stabilised into a down-only trend, but, for some reason, cases have been taking an upward turn. So the R-factor is staying close to 1.0, which means that the case rates are not diminishing - but then, neither are they rising, on the average. We have to play a long game, and hope that Brussell's silly playing of vaccine politics will not lead to a seriously deteriorating situation in Britain. We still cannot afford to let our guards up.
Bracknell's case rate has an average of less than 5 per day, among a population of about 120,000, which means that you would have to be seriously unlucky to catch Covid, and,if you did and had been vaccinated, you would not get the disease badly enough to need hospitalisation. So our situation just now is not too bad - if you have had the Jab. The antivaxxers are still putting themselves, their families and others at risk.
So here we are a year later, locked down still. How have things changed?
When it all started, we were quite different people in our attitudes. We soon learned that this was a horrible disease which would kill many people, and was in danger of ovewhelming the NHS. which it nearly did. We were aware of the need for lockdown - survival was the incentive - survival until the whole pandemic would 'roll away in the late summer'. With closure of all but essential businesses, even food-buying was a challenge, with a new pressure to purchase food online. The supermarkets did their best, but finding delivery slots required patience, and for many people, not equipped to work the Internet, online shopping was out of the question. Many people responded to the need to support their elderly neighbours.
Building attitudes for survival as individuals and families required deep thought - and for many, this was impossible, particularly for those with families in inadequate housing. Children's education came almost to a complete halt for the time being.
Many people found their jobs had disappeared overnight, although for many, the furlough scheme was a lifeline.Her Majesty made her broadcast on 5 April, and her words were indeed cheering; she especially praised the work of the NHS on the front line.
We were all moved by the steadfast way in which the NHS somehow handled their case-load: nurses on intensive care would have the weight and mind-numbing emotion of seeing most of the people they were caring for dying, and they had to come back to this shift after shift. No wonder we clapped each Thursday. All too many of us had friends and relatives struck down by serious disease - often leading to 'long Covid' and for many there was tragedy, particularly for elderly relatives - care-homes were badly struck, and people would die without comfort from their families and loved ones. We inderstood that the disease could often be deadly for those with chronic and debilitating conditions. Having to be hospitalised for non-Covid conditions was - and still is - a nightmare.
The possibility of vaccines was just a gleam in the eye. There were many aspects of the disease to be learned to that lives could be saved; supplies for disease control were short for hospitals and care-homes, and for the general public; we railed against these intractable problems. Churches closed, but Zoom technology came to help with online services, as well as supporting a new - and for both purposes - not wholly satisfactory - way of conducting education. Sadly, scammers took to profiting from the vulnerable.
The politicians struggled with unprecedented problems of all kind. The calm scientists advised as best they could, but with an unknown and little-understood disease to cope with, mistakes were made - or were they? Should we have been locked down earlier? Voices claiming then that the government was neglectful in not acting firmly while the pandemic was in its infancy and that thousands of lives would unnecessarily be lost would not have known that we were only at the beginning of a disease outbreak that would strike many times harder later, all over the world.
This page was in part born of the hysteria and emotional writing that filled the newspapers and the media - hardly helpful for people trying hard to plot a way towards survival. We avoided the word 'death' on this page in those days, because the most disturbing thing about Covid-19 was undoubtedly the terrible death-rate, particularly for those who were hospitalised. (We need to remember still that the disease is deadly, and tragedy can and does strike, even witk better knowledge of the disease.) This page still retains the articles and other material that document how things were a year ago - fossils at the bottom of the detritus that has accumulated over the year.
Local and regional cases may have turned the corner. You will be interested in the remarks below from Mr James Sunderland, MP for Bracknell, with permission from him to pass on:
"While I share your concern of cases rising, I would hasten to add that the climb in cases is expected. Over the past two weeks millions of tests have been conducted to ensure that schools can open safety. Therefore, it is not the number of cases which should be looked at, but the percentage of COVID-19 tests which are positive. As this chart (click on the link) here shows, it has been falling consistently. Given that there is a percentage of false positives to take into account, this decrease is positive to note. It is also worth highlighting that the R Rate growing will not be of a concern as before, owing to the Vaccine protecting millions of individuals and like the Flu, the R rate is not something taken into account when vaccines are present.
"The COVID Vaccine is doing the heavy lifting in both hospitalisation and daily death metrics. In addition, initial data presented to me shows that the Virus is reducing transmissibility, although I will leave the explaining of this to a scientist at a Government Briefing!
"Please be assured that I have been paying close attention to my briefs each Friday and I am assured that both the Virus and Vaccination Rates are going in the right direction locally. While there is inevitably going to be fluctuations as we get the number of cases reduced to smaller levels, the current imperative of reducing hospitalisations and deaths is tracking downward.
"As ever, thank you for your data and for sharing your concern on this matter. I trust this email provides some reassurance on this as we begin to hopefully progress to the next stage on April 12th."
The Bracknell Forest figures went just above 1.0 yesterday, but are just below it today. The whole region just reached 1.0 today. However, there is no indication that the cases trend will rise much higher, and the small fall for Bracknell Forest today is an encouraging sign that better figures may be on the way.
The trend continues to approach the R-factor of 1, at which the virus will start to increase in cases per day. To counter this depressing situation, we are showing the performance of all six areas, and the heartening thing is that the number of daily cases is visibly less now that it was at the beginning of the period shown (way back at the begonning of November 2020).
The general pandemic situation is clear - stay alert, take all the precautions specified by the Govenrnment, and take the vaccination when offered - that will stop the spread of the virus .
The New York Times writes today:
The E.U.'s main drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, pushed back against doubts about the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Emer Cooke, the head of agency, said that regulators were still studying concerns about the possibility of rare side effects, but that there was 'no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions' and that the benefits outweighed the risks.
The pausing of use of the AstraZeneca vaccine by major European governments is weakening an already faltering rollout. No country in the E.U. is on pace to reach its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of its population by September.
Thailand, Australia and India are still using the AstraZeneca vaccine as investigations continue into concerns about possible rare side effects like blood clots and abnormal bleeding.
Analysis: The suspensions have as much to do with political considerations as scientific ones. Once Germany hit pause, pressure increased on other governments to follow suit and avoid accusations of being incautious.
The trend of the R-Factor computations make it almost a certainty that the Bracknell Forest and the whole area will revert to an R-Factor of 1 or more. This means that new cases are, on the average, not going down, and may even be increasing day by day. This is serious news. About the only consolations are that cases per day have halved in the last two or three weeks, and the rate of deaths continues to fall.
The message is clear: follow the regulations to the letter, and get vaccinated as soon as you can, if you have not yet had the vaccine. Ignore the silly fuss that EU countries are making about the Astra-Zeneca vaccine - the statistics are hugely on your side (even though there are side-effects that can last a day).
This good news must be tempered by the averaging effect over three week, which implies that the daily new cases trend has not improved much over that period. The next few days' charts will confirm this unfortunate situation, which is also applicable on the scale of the country.
A quick glance at the charts shows that, overall, there has been no improvement in the R-Factor over the last two and a half weeks. Indeed, looking at the fitting of the exponential curve to the measured data, it seems that the best fit from 25/2 to the present 14/3 is probably a flat exponential - that is, one showing that no progress is being made against the disease: the average daily number of new cases is not reducing. This is particularly worrying, since we would expect that the level of people vaccinated vaccination would have affected the curve, and created a noticeable downward trend.
What's happening?People are becoming noticeably more active. Crossing the road used to be a quick check that there were no cars, so cross without delay! Now you can encounter streams of cars on the main road into Bracknell. One can perhaps infer that people are no longer following the lockdown restrictions as strictly as they have been. But the Prime Minister has stated that relaxation of the rules will depend on the statistics and the trend; if a large percentage of people disobey the rules, we will stay locked down until the numbers improve.
Looking at the national figures, it looks as if the average cases per day on that scale also has stabilised, to about 60 cases per 100,000 in a 7-day period. (Our region of six areas has had an average of about 43 per week per 100,000, corresponding to just under a population of about 0.970M, so we are a bit below the average.)
So, stabilising in our region reflects the general situation. If the situation is not improving here, this is a general phenomenon for the country, and we can expect no major reduction in restrictions unless we all pull together to make the restrictions effective in practice. This is a statistical matter. One can say "my chances of catching the disease are small, so I will bend the rules", but if 50% of the population are acting in the same way, the numbers will catch us out.
The New York Times published this report today:
Despite being accused of 'vaccine nationalism' and protectionism, the European Union has exported 34 million doses of coronavirus vaccines in recent weeks to dozens of countries, even as it trails behind the United States, Britain and Israel in its own vaccine drive, according to internal documents seen by The New York Times.
That news, E.U. officials conceded privately, was bound to outrage European citizens in 27 nations who were still waiting for their shots while watching people in other countries race past them to reopen their economies and resume safer, more normal public lives.
By the numbers: Just 6.5 percent of people in the E.U. have received at least one shot, compared with nearly 58 percent of Israelis, 33 percent of Britons and 19 percent of Americans.
Cases both in Bracknell Forest and inthe whole area seem now to be stabilising with an approximate R-factor of about 7.0. This will sustain halving of cases every 10-14 days, and, if sustained will bring average cases per day to around 10 for the whole area. However, there are unknowns, since the relaxation of restrictions will probably lead to an R-factor higher than 0.7.
Unfortunately, any such happening may delay further loosening of restrictions, so it is still important that statutory restrictions are adhered to. Meanwhile, 50-year-olds are being vaccinated now, and the level of age-group being vaccinated is reducing week by week.
The Government is right to be doing all that it can to stop the spread of the new Amazonian P1 strain of the Covid virus, which is described as worrying, having spread to 24 other countries, according to the NYT. They write: 'Three new studies into the coronavirus variant that first arose in Brazil, known as P.1, depict it as an alarming double threat - capable of both spreading more rapidly and evading antibodies.' Fortunately the UK has had just a handful of cases. Adaptation of existing vaccines to deal with the new strain before it reaches severe proportions looks possible, but the British public must recognise the dangers of over-relaxing precautions - reasonable social distancing may be with us for some time.
Another good day's result, with just 42 cases across the 1M population region.
It is good to be able to record another new low for cases since yesterday - 51 in total across the whole 6-area region (7 for Bracknell Forest). One should never be too enheartened by a single day's good results, but we may at last be seeing the downturn created by the increasing numbers of people who have been vaccinated. This is something that should affect all areas, as well as the whole region, and that is what we are seeing.
We are only posting the two charts for regional and Bracknell Forest computed trends - the individual lines for the cases across the area are not really giving us much new information day by day. The flat progression does not give enough clues to see what is going on, in the the way that computerised curve-fitting does. We will continue to collect the raw area data, and may publish the third pair of charts periodically.
Today's cases were the lowest since early October. However. the progress towards zero cases is slow, for reasons that are not very clear. We would have expected by now clear signs that vaccination would have led to a significantly bigger fall in cases. We hope that it is not the case that people are taking less care in their precautions because of the reported success of the vaccination programme; in this case better figures will only come slowly until the vaccination programme is complete, and restrictions will last longer.
We wholly agree with Her Majesty's assessment of those refusing to be vaccinated for no good reason. They will isolate themselves as the only group in our society who will be contracting the disease. By all accounts Covid-19 is a very unpleasant disease indeed, and a nasty way to go - let's hope that their sense of self-preservation will eventually take hold.
'Taking a bath' is technical term for coming to terms with a new and different situation, washing out older assumptions. We note, from todays curves and figures, that we are not making steady progress in reducing day-today case reductions. We selected an averaging period of 21 days for calculation of figures; this was selected as about three times the period of peak infectiousness, and that seems plausible still. However, what happened at the beginning of the 21 day period is (as we compute it) as important as what happens at the end, with the admittedly simplistic averaging model and we should perhaps have give lesser weight given to old figures than to newer ones. We could quite easily do an adjustment, but alternatively we just live with the flaws, which cause variations primarily when the figures vary from the ideal curve.
Over the next few days, the bumpiness of real cases from a few weeks ago looks as if it will be less influential, but the figures will not be as good as they were a few days ago. We will recognise this new situation, and, by doing so, take a bath.
The Prime Minister and his team have every reason to be cautious. The bottom chart shows clearly that we still have a way to go to control the virus, even in our area, which is not as badly affected as others, with more than 100 cases per day. There are 145 regions in the government statistics that we follow each day, and the cases per day, averaged over a week is about 11,400 for all 145 together, so we make up nearly 1% of these.
The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the figures for Slough seem to be rising faster than others, and it's true that the R-factor for Slough is higher than the avoerage - fortunately it is still well under 1.0, so, although cases in Slough are beginning to dominate the others, the are still reflects the truth that, despite progress, we are still seeing too many cases. It will be a time before vaccination will cause figures to move right down.
Yesterday was not a good day for cases, so it is good to see a low case rate, however freakish. Bracknell Forest's cases for today were only 4 - we have not seen a figure that low since October.
In the USA, citizens are facing the fact that the death toll in their country is approaching 500,000. The New York Times has posted a graphic (to right) that is mind-boggling in its content - it has nearly 500,000 dots spread proportionately over the time-periods since the pandemic struck in the States. Only now are people all over the USA being obliged to see the reality and the scale of the tragedy that the pandemic has caused, and is continuing to cause in the USA.
We wish the new President all success in rolling out the vaccine, and bringing down the level of daily slaughter. It is astonishing to think that there are many people in the USA who regard Covid-19 as just another 'flu, and refuse to recognise the significance, importance and achievement of the vaccine programme.
Today the PM announced his plans for staged removal of restrictions, first in Parliament and then on the BBC. His speech to the Commons can be found HERE.
It is clear from the case-figures that we have analysed that we are still a long way from full control of Covid, although the PM is right to indicate that the vaccine is the systematic key to success. At present, there is no clear sign that the vaccination programme so far has had a big impact; but, with only 1/6 of the population vaccinated, 'big impact' was never expected at this stage.
We will continue to monitor signs of success or otherwise, and try to present balanced logical conclusions from what we see.
The newspapers are full of speculation about how quickly we should stop lockdown. But we can see only too clearly how quickly the statistics of disease spread can make a turn for the worse when there is any let up on social distancing. Today, we have had a good daily cases statistic compared with yesterday, with 'only' 110 new cases. The last time that we that low was just 3 months ago, in mid-October. The rate of cases across our area at the peak of the first wave of infection in April was less than it is now, and hospitalisation and deaths are only as low as they are now because of huge improvements of treatment methods. It is logical to acknowledge that the disease in itself is no more under control now than it was then, just after the first peak, even though we are seeing a systematic reduction in daily new cases.
The charts look a bit bumpy just now. This is to be expected when there are several causalities in new cases; when the actuals move significantly above or below the exponential, for whatever temporary reason, this will significantly affect the R-factor and daily reduction factors, particularly if the difference is near the start or finish of the span of curves being analysed. These diversions are not really a worry if the trend is generally down.
Also, the lower the number of cases, the lumpier is the data to which an exponential must be fitted. So getting lumpy is a good sign even if the aesthetics are not so good! Also, as is well-known, small populations do not make for accurate statistics.
The results that we are seeing seem to confirm government reports that cases among the elderly in particular are falling rapidly because of the successful vaccination programme. Who would wish to stay among the ranks of the unvaccinated, who, before long, will be almost the only people who will be catching the horrible disease?
The cases are creeping down well now. Today's total figure from the government for the 6 areas is 104. Going back to the last 3-day average that low takes us to 11 October 2020, which is very encouraging on a daye when government is indicating that the rules may be relaxed in March.
Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, and the current Gresham Professor of Physic, yesterday gave an excellent Gresham Lecture on Vaccination (follow the link to view). It is interesting and informative, and explains not only how the various forms of vaccination work (particularly against Covid-19), but also underlines the hugely important pedigree of vaccination in saving lives across the world, particularly in conquering horrible diseases such as smallpox and Ebola. And now Covid-19. It is publicly viewable and, like all other Gresham Lectures, is completely free to view.
Gresham College gives free public lectures of the highest academic standards, covering a wide variety of subjects, and is a wonderful resource for the eclectic seeker of knowledge of the highest quality. Although Gresham College is more than 400 years old, it is right up to date!
In Mexico there is a shortage of oxygen - needed to keep really ill Covid-19 victims alive. It costs about $10 to refill an oxygen cylinder - if you have one. A horrific black market has developed from the shortage, and the smallest cylinder costs about $800 - 10 times the price in the USA. Criminals have been hijacking lorries carrying oxygen cylinders, to sell the tanks at a high price to families desperate for oxygen to save their loved ones. They have even been stealing cylinders at gun-point from hospitals.
The main discussion point on Covid is about the effectiveness of existing vaccines against the South African Covid variant. It's a pity that viruses do not replicate by sexual reproduction - marriage could well give the South African/Kentish product less of a sting. The good news is that the South African variant is said not to be likely to become the dominant strain, but it will still be there and will need control; let us hope that the vaccines that we have and that we will have will stop it spreading. However, the government seem to be warning that we may need annual boosters.
A fragile relative of ours in his 80s in a care-home has tested positive for Covid - but he was given the vaccine a few weeks ago, and his symptoms are relatively mild, with no breathlessness. This, we may infer, is because of the resistance that the vaccine has given him - but we are still praying.
Today, government figures give us the lowest daily number of cases since November. Keep up the good work!!!
In the first wave of the Pandemic, case numbers were, of course far lower than in its third wave, but unfortunately the main problem was that our hospitals (as all over the world) had not the knowledge and resources to treat the disease 'properly'; so we had a disproportionate number of deaths compared with now, although we are still all too well aware that it remains a deadly disease. People were asserting last March that if lockdown had been advanced by two weeks, many lives would have been saved, but the present statistics suggest that the difference in deaths would have been eaten up by the sheer volume of the present number of people affected or killed. Looking at the time at which the first isolation occurred, in mid March 2019, Bracknell Forest's total number of cases was 3 until 27 March! Total accumulated cases in the region were 200 at that time - today, the daily number of cases has fallen below 200 for the first time for some time.
It is perhaps just as well that the cases were low in March last year - having infection rates like today's at the beginning of the Pandemic would have been horrific, in terms of medical resources and also in terms of morale and mental health.The pandemic first wave took off with a huge (by he standards of a year ago) and sudden increase in cases only at the end of March as you can see from some of the early charts on this webpage.
The news on the efficacy of vaccines continues to be good. In this country, we have some problems with confidence by BAME minorities to accept vaccination. Talking to US friends who live in Washington DC, they have similar problems of trust of vaccines, and the communities are finding that the only way to combat it is to have door-to-door meetings with these people (many of whom do not have computers that give access to the web), and this proactive work is proving very successful. Our friends are envious of the way in which our vaccination programme is going in this country, and note that each US state runs their own programme, with varying degrees of (in)competence. But at last the messages of masks and social distancing have approval from the top.
It is strange that the R-factor for Bracknell Forest is wobbling a bit - and the BF performance in R-factor reduction is significantly below the performance of the region as a whole (which is strongly affected by the Slough and Reading success in controlling case figures.
The New York Times provided the following encouraging vaccine news this morning:
With more than 15 percent of its people already inoculated against the coronavirus, Britain may be able to give the first shot of a two-dose vaccine to its entire population by the end of June.
The country hopes to vaccinate its most vulnerable by Feb. 15, including people over 70, care home residents and staff, and health and social care workers. Together, these groups have accounted for 88 percent of all Covid-19 deaths in the country, which last week totaled more than 100,000 since the start of the pandemic.
But problems with the vaccine rollout could arise. A vaccine war with the European Union may jeopardize the supply, and Britain's decision to deliver more first doses while delaying doses of the second shot could create a backlog of patients. If the current pace of vaccination in Britain were to slow down by 20 percent, it would then take until the end of July to inoculate everyone.
One of our Bullbrook characters, the one known by his stout little dog, gave great acclaim to the Waitrose Sports Hall vaccine station, saying how efficient, pleasant and competent everybody there had been when he was vaccinated. And he had persuaded an elderly friend, who was overweight and barely able to walk, to go and be vaccinated. He said that the staff were so kind, and helpful, providing a wheelchair without delay and helping by allowing the car to go very clase to the clinic doors. Well done, all the people, pros and volunteers, who are making the process such a success - our experience was also excellent. Let's roll out more stations like that!!
The New York Times provided the following vaccine news this morning:
The Sputnik V vaccine developed in Russia has been shown to be 91.6 percent effective against the coronavirus, appears safe and does not cause serious side effects, according to an analysis published in the British medical journal The Lancet. The requisite two shots of the Sputnik V vaccine cost $10 each, and they do not need deep cold storage.
AstraZeneca and Oxford University released data showing that a single dose of their vaccine provided strong protection in clinical trials when its second shots were delayed by at least three months, lending support to the strategy deployed by Britain and other countries to prioritize providing as many first doses as possible.
We were so sad to learn of the death of Col. Sir Tom Moore, who died of Covid-19 while suffering from pneumonia, and we send our sympathy and sense of deep admiration to his family. Admiration - for a courageous personality with heart so much in the right place that shone through the many years of his life! And we join in the general acclaim for Sir Tom, who inspired and touched the hearts of millions. For a brief summary of his life, see his Wikipedia entry.
Another good day for local Covid cases, and the blip is over.
Continuing good news about the roll-out of the vaccines, and the figures for today are the lowest since early December. The trend seems strong.
We hear of people in the Bracknell Area being sent to Vaccine Centres in Bucks for their vaccination. The Waitrose Centre is efficient, friendly, helpful - and local. If you are a resident of Bracknell or Ascot, and receive an invitation to have the jab out of the area, you could request your surgery to arrange an appointment for you at Waitroses's instead.
It looks as if the small blip is doing what all small blips do - reverting to the normal behaviour. It is good that (1) the vaccines seem effective enough against the South African as well as the (Kent) variant, and the vaccination of the 70s age-group seems to be progressing well.
Yes, the little blip continues, and it begins to look like the blip following Christmas. Now, what could large numbers of people be doing to generate the blip? It should be about 5 days before the peak. Looking at the significant festivals recently, 26 Jan is India's Republic Day, but it seems unlikely to have had anything to do with it.
Our remarks two days ago about the direness of the disease were all too prescient. Today two friends were reported to have died, a reminder that tragedy is all too close. Pray for those who have lost loved ones in these sad times.
Both the whole region and Bracknell Forest can be seen to have a small upward change in R-factor. This is largely to the figures of around 13 Jan, where there was a 'wobble' - when the rise of the blue line above the orange for 9-12 Jan will make the figures look a bit worse, but after that day the figures will be better than they should be. Of course, the averaging effect of finding the best-fitting exponential will curb the extent of the oscillations that we will see.
Not much to report in terms of the local situation, which shows a steady decrease in Covid cases. The small R-factor rise for Bracknell Forest is more due to what happened two to three weeks ago to any new trend. All the same, the situation remain precarious and we all need to Stay Alert. It is good that the 70-year-olds are now getting their vaccines, and the 80-year-olds are nearing or beyond the 3-week period that the vaccine needs to reach the peak of antibody producti0n. But we should never forget that this disease can strike very hard, and can and does still kill.
The BBC series of the 'Diary of Ann Frank' that has just finished is a reminder that our lockdown is a doddle to endure compared with being a large Jewish family hidden in a house in Amsterdam, in permanent fear, even from allied bombing, unable to show even any signs of existence, and ultimately suffering betrayal, concentration camps and death.
It is curious that the R-factor in Bracknell Forest hasn't moved significantly for a few days now - the rapid decline up to a week ago just stopped. Looking at the level of cases in the districts of Bracknell, one can see a reason for this. (It was pointed out to us that the link to the Interactive Map the country wasn't working - that was easy to correct, and sorting that out gave an incentive to look around thoe detailed statistics; and what was to be seen was that Central, South and South West Bracknell districts have a very significantly higher case rate than the North and North East districts.)
It's a fact of statistics that if you have two populations with quite different slopes in some measurement, with one population changing much faster than the other, if you add the two figures, together, at first the faster changing figures starting from a higher volume of cases can dominate the combined result. When the case volume figures for the two populations become similar, the combination is now dominated by the slower changing popularion. It looks as if this is what is happening here. Perhaps the country areas in Bracknell Forest have had a very significant higher decline, but the figures are now dominated by the more urban areas. But as yet we have is no detailed analysis.
The good news is that being stuck on an R-factor of about 0.94 still gives a relatively fast decay, halving cases in about 12 days on average.
Although experience shows that a day with good statistic seldom lives up to th expectation that tomorrow (and subsequent) days will be good, today's reported 203 cases only across the region warms the heart. That number is the sort of number that we had in early December, just when the Gov't decided that something more drastic would have to be done.
It makes you dream about the days of the first infection, when it took until early April for the total number of cases for the region to reach that number (see the little inset chart). We were scared enough then - and rightly so (although the situation is numerically many times worse now in terms of new cases) because the death rate back in March/April was truly appalling. We are lucky to live in a country where there have been the resources to learn how to fight the disease, with many resources available to treat even the most major symptoms. Case rates back then at the level that they are now would have been completely overwhelming for the country.
Of course this forces us to think about poorer countries that are experiencing high rates of infection without proportionate medical resources, resulting in many cases in people dying in the streets. It is important that the rich countries like us bring vaccination to poorer ones, not only because that is the proper ethical Christian thing to do, but because other countries will be sources of reinfection that bring medium and long-term peril to everybody. It is good that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will (they promise) be available at cost for poorer countries.
Some third-world countries have been targeted by China, who see their Sinovac vaccine as a way to improve their power in those countries. However, the state of testing and the production and supply chains have not been very good. It is reported that the Chinese are assuaging any embarrasment by putting fake news on the social media against the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The important thing, though, is that these lands should be attended to, politics and all.
It is interesting to see what is happening in the USA under President Biden, but we have to hope that our own vaccine supplies are not held up - bad enough to have the danger of scarce supplies being diverted to the EU. There is an interesting article about in the New York Times briefing today, based on a long interview, covering the uncomfortable time that Dr Anthony Fauci, the distinguished US virologist, had as an adviser to Donald Trump. He felt obliged to correct the President on numerous occasions, and as a result, he and his family received death threats from Trump supporters. In due course, of course, he was 'let go' by the Trump administration: something of a relief for him.
The BBC has published an interesting article on the effect that the open air has on the Covid virus, pointing out that the virus is quickly dispersed, and (if the sun is out) killed quickly by ultra-violet radiation, so there have been very much fewer cases of transmission outside. However, talking closely with someone for any length of time facilitates transmission of the virus. And, of course, at night or on a dark day, the UV will be absent, so the virus will survive, but will be diluted by the breezes. Stay alert!!
Today's charts show the R-Factor still falling fast in the region as a whole, but Bracknell Forest (which has done better than the average so far) has stalled. It will be interesting to observe whether the region as a whole overtakes Bracknhell Vorest - BFC, what are you doing to protect your position??
A few homeopathy outlets are reported as peddling untried remedies as replacement for Covid-19 vaccination. Of course there is no basis at all for the relative efficacy of these remedies, nor could there be for any medication of whatever source, without using similarly huge resources to those applied by Covid vaccine developers both to prove safety and to establish effectiveness.It is astonishing that, on the one hand, some people are claiming they don't want vaccination because the Covid vaccines now being deployed 'have not been tested enough', while others support alternative medicines as safe enough and effective enough with only a small level of systematic peer-approved testing.
Homeopathics remedies may well be adequately effective for some people, but, in virus treatment, they are just not in the same league as the Pfizers, Oxford/Astrazenecas, Modernas and others. Leaders in homeopathy have warned that "alleged 'negligent' practice [claiming Covid cure, for example] must not taint the whole profession. ... It's unrepresentative of pharmacy and the public see that it's unrepresentative." If many people take to using subsitute remedies for vaccination, this will cost lives - possibly, but not restricted to, those who do this.
How lucky we are that great scientific knowledge and experience, as well as amazing production capabilities, have been deployed to help us with this horrible affliction. One may be suspicious of the big pharmaceutical companies, but only they have the huge up-to-date human resources to accomplish the near-impossible feat that we have observed in vaccine development and production.
Looking at today's charts for local Covid case trends, our region as a whole still has strongly falling R-factor. Bracknell Forest remains stalled, but its at a good level to be stalled, with cases halving on average just now in less than two weeks.
The statistics in the diagrams shows that daily new Covid cases are continuing to fall in our region. Falling cases are the result of an R-factor below 1, and in the general 6-area region, the R-factor, which measures a stead trend in the rise or fall of cases, is continuing to diminish. In Bracknell Forest, the R factor appears to have stabilised at about 0.72. This is a good figure, if it can be maintained, as it represents halving of cases every 12 days. At this moment, the average number of daily new cases is 51. So this should go to 25.5 by 4/2/21; to 12.3 by 26/2; to 6 by 10/3 and to 3 by 22/3. Let's hope that it really will work out like that!!
We continue to hear stories about people who for some reason still do not want to be vaccinated against Covid-19, even though vaccination is now seen as the only possible way out of the grips of the truculent enemy that the pitiless pandemic virus has shown itself to be. Let's hope that they will be persuaded that they are working against their fellow human beings by not being vaccinated, anti-vaxxers will add to the death toll - each person who refuses to be vaccinated can develop the disease and pass it on, and people will die as a consequence of antivaxxer's selfish ideology.
One piece of fake news that anti-vaxxers are putting about is the notion that the vaccination can cause sterility. The February edition of the Winkfield Parish Magazine is carrying an article that explains why that's nonsense
The Prime Minister and his scientific and medical advisors gave an important speech on 22 January. Here are some major points:
An encouraging number from the daily analysis is that the time to halve cases for Bracknell Forest has fallen to 13 days. At present, the average number of cases in this area, as given by the exponential is 62 - so in two week's time, we should be down to better than 31 new cases per day, which is where we were at the beginning of December.
There was a little hesitancy in the Bracknell Forest trend today, but that may or may not be significant in any way.
Slough continues to hover at the 1.0 R-factor point. Unfortunately, Slough is the predominant source of cases in our region, with a significantly higher case rate (788 per 10.000 just now, compared with 464 per 10,000 for Bracknell Forest and 306 for West Berkshire), so they will distort the statistical picture significantly if they stay in the mix while not lowering their R-factor significantly below 1.0.
Slough has crossed the magic 1.0 line (though without great enthusiasm); but today has brought the lowest total number of new cases since Christmas Day. We do look set for a steady falling rate of new cases - which is excellent news.
Otherwise, we do not much to say over and above what we said on 16/1/21 (below),
We will be printing an article in the February Parish Mag that shows why the rumour that Covid vaccination will cause sterility in women is just conspiracy-theory blather from the USA; the article also shows the extent of testing that is done before the leading vaccines can be taken as safe!
Cases continue to fall. We included Slough as part of our region right from the start, and this was done to include in the region an area with demographics potentially more liable to Covid than others. Slough is of late mentioned in the news as a part of London that is badly affected by the present surge in cases. Yet Slough has a low daily case rise of 0.6% on average, and going down: this is encouraging. The R-factor for Slough is 1.04, and it is likely that Slough will cross the 1.0 line soon. The important thing is that the burden that Slough is likely to put on the NHS in our area is not increasing significantly.
The Bracknell News reports on vaccination in Bracknell (follow link to see pictures and associated articles):
'Almost 1,000 people in Bracknell have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in just two days.'Bracknell's MP James Sunderland has praised the 'first class' delivery of the vaccine as 975 coronavirus jabs were given to residents on earlier this week. The borough's vaccine clinic went live in Waitrose HQ's Sports and Leisure Centre on December 22 with the help of Bracknell and Ascot health services.
'The Conservative MP thanked Waitrose, East Berkshire Clinical Commissioning Group, DHSE and NHS staff for their efforts in the delivery of the vaccine. He said: "What has been achieved here is absolutely first class. We've got NHS staff, doctors nurses. We've got so many people coming in for the first time having left their home in 9 months.
"Real emotion given their first jab today, it's incredible to see. 975 jabs administered today and yesterday, thank you to Waitrose, to the East Berks CCG, DHSE, NHS staff this is just amazing, thank you."
'In light of the vaccine clinic launching, Bracknell Forest executive managing director and Covid-19 vaccinator Fiona Slevin Brown said: "This really is a momentous milestone and I am grateful to everyone who has been involved in getting today's clinic up and running, particularly our three Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and Berkshire Primary Care who I know have being working tirelessly to ensure the safe delivery of the vaccine.
'There are also plans for the vaccination process to cover wider areas and groups including care homes in the coming weeks.
'Health professionals urged people not to contact the NHS to arrange an appointment but to wait for an invite. The process is expected to take several months to complete as the UK's largest ever vaccination programme.'
We saw our first daffodils of the year on Thursday.
"This morning, Margaret-Anne and I, as 80+ year olds, were vaccinated (with the Pfizer vaccine) at the vaccination centre at the Waitrose Sports Centre in Bracknell. It was all efficiently organised, with very pleasant and helpful staff and volunteer helpers. There were four out six vaccination stations operating at that time in the morning, serving a steady stream of people. The vaccination itself was done by single operatives, professional nurses, who asked pertinent questions about identity and, relevant medical details. The injection itself was not significantly different in discomfort to any other form of injection, and Margaret-Anne and I had (and have) no side effects (which, we had been informed, affected one in 10 people, mostly only mildly; we had been issued on arrival with a printed document about this and other aspects, so we were quite prepared for side effects if they should affect us).
"On return home, we were unaffected by the vaccination, and were completely able to work together on an occasional domestic chore - scrubbing the kitchen floor as a team effort. We will celebrate with a bottle of 'bubbly' this evening!!
"The whole process is so understated and efficient that it is hard to see why people should be scared of it. As we have noted, being vaccinated with everybody else is a contribution to reducing the infection of other people, and so fighting the pandemic in a very positive way that will save many other people's lives. On a personal note. Margaret-Anne and I have been longing for this moment since the beginning of the pandemic, when the need for a vaccine was very soon identified, leading to a wonderful effort by dedicated scientists to bring them about in a fully tested state.
"On 30/12/20, we published an article on this webpage: Choice - to be or not to be vaccinated? in which we made a strong case for being vaccinated, based on the benefit to the public, as well as for oneself. We keep a tab on access to this website by what is called 'analytics', and over the next week, the steady level of website 'hits' fell by no less than 50%. Perhaps, the 50% of people who fell away as viewers were antivaxers who were offended by what we said (in a strong but very polite article)? We regard being no-platformed by antivaxers as a compliment to the clear logic of the case for vaccination. Do they deserve our respect if they do not want to listen to logical sense?"
Anthony and Margaret-Anne Hodson
The 14/1/21 government figures came through at 10:40pm last night, after a computer glitch at the processing centre. They showed a solid drop in cases in all areas, and the R-factor for the region is above the 1.0 level by a miniscule amount. Bracknell Forest was ignificantly below the 1.0 level, at 0.93. This was a moment that to be celebrated! But the job is not yet done, so we must all keep up the precautions, so that the trend will continue to be steadily downwards. The average daily number of cases in Bracknell is still more than 100, although it has reduced from 147, the level 21 days ago.
The 15/1/21 figures came through more-or-less on time, and they confirmed what was going on. The whole region results went through the 1.0 line with these results, so now we are in new territory. The days to double the number of cases now become the days to halve the number of cases, and we come back to the 'Cases projection figure, which only applies when the R-factor is less than 1.0. It is the number of cases that would accrue if the R-Factor was suddenly frozen at the current level. Of course, this is quite unrealistic, but it gives a useful indicator of where we are in terms of control of the pandemic. The fact that Bracknell's Case projection is not far off the total cases so far indicates clearly that we have a long way to go and we must stay firmly with the precautions that we are taking to curb the virus.
The Bracknell Forest local area's R-factor fell below 1.0, according to the published government figures, for the first time since early December. To indicate that this is not the end of the story, if somehow the case rate somehow stayed on average at that level for the next few months, the slow rate of fall of cases would mean that about 47 thousand more Bracknell people would catch the disease before the pandemic died away. So it us essential to keep up the precautions.
This is particularly the case because a new and different variant of the corona-virus has reached the UK, and the last thing that we want us to be hit by the new South African variant before what the French call 'The English Variant' dies away, or at least comes more under control.
So we can be pleased at the achievement, but it is too early to celebrate! Meanwhile, the more vaccinations, the better it is for all of us. It is a no-brainer to recognise that we would save many lives by having a fully-vaccinated nation.
The Vaccination Station at the Waitrose Sports Centre is now taking telephone bookings for appointments for vaccination but only for people with doctors surgeries in Bracknell and Ascot and who are 80 or over in 2021.
Further good news is that local cases continue to fall, and we we expect the R-factor to go below 1.0 this week. We must keep up the precautions to be certain to continue making progress in reducing cases - this is no time to ease up.
The curves today look encouraging, with West Berkshire having an R-factor less than 1.0 - which shows that it can be done.
The important thing now is for local inhabitants and their leaders to realise that the battle can be won, and to stay firmly determined to take all the precautions necessary to bring the rates of infection down further, and keep it there until vaccination kicks in.
The averaging effect of fitting an exponential is a powerful tool for identifying trends; it tends to downplay the result of rogue figures that are created by a temporary effect. Yet small alterations in trend could be an early warning of another factor coming into play. Today there were more total cases than yesterday - not serious - but it led us to ponder the systematic reasons for a trend to level out.
The reason worth pondering is the issue of balance between virus and the society affected. Moves in R-Factor are created by balancing the attempts of the virus to propagate itself in the environment within which it is, and the successfulness of measures taken with the area by society to stop it propagating. The flat peak of the Bracknell Forest R-factor curve in the charts shows the position of equilibrium reached in the pre-Christmas measures, as adopted by Bracknell people, while what happened after the Christmas lockdown saw the Bracknell curve move downward - towards a new equilibrium at some lower point - hopefully less than the 1.0 level. At the beginning of December, the change from rise to equilibrium changed in a few days - about five days after the new measures; so this shows how quickly stabilisation can take place.
For the 6 areas together, no equilibrium was reached before Christmas, but the lockdown had its effect, and the R-factor curve reversed. This shows very clearly that local situations can be important in terms of successfulness. Using the today;s data, East Berkshire has an R-factor of almost exactly 1.00 - the result presumably of its demographic. This compares to Reading's 1.26, which is well above the 6-area average. However, the temporary flattening of the curves just after Christmas shows clearly the shared social effect of that occasion to help the disease propagate.
If we were to splash out with optimism, we could assert that it is likely that the Bracknell Forest R-Factor will reach the critical value of 1.0 next week. But, of course, we could be so wrong, as we were when the rate of new cases stopped improving in December.
It would be good to know that everybody is pulling together by wearing their masks properly in supermarkets and public places, and by compliance with social distancing. We fear that many are bending or flouting the rules. One tweeter writes today: "I have witnessed the centre being very busy with little evidence of intervention by the marshalls to get people to keep a safe distance." to which a response came: "You should go to Morrisons. Lots of people wear their mask beneath their nose or just pull it down once inside. This makes it all pointless." Do people not want us to be clear of the disease? It costs so little to wear masks properly.
In the USA, there is great concern that the riots on Washington will have a fallout of new cases, not only among the rioters, who ignored social distancing, and, coming from many states, could spread the disease further, but also among lawmakers and employees in the Senate building who were obliged to huddle with others to keep safe. The USA has not yet come to grips with the new strain of virus, with its higher level of contagion, ccording to the New York Times.
The Bracknell News has drawn attention to a new scam which is urging people to hand over their bank details when they think that they are booking a Covid-19 vaccination appointment, and the following is passed on here with acknowledgement.
Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust has tweeted to make residents aware of a new scam.
The tweet said: "There are reports of a new scam circulating via text message to book a COVID vaccination appointment. The text takes them to a fake NHS form asking for their bank details to prove their identity. The NHS will NEVER ask for people's bank details. #StaySafeStayhome pic.twitter.com/ctfAAWl9hn "
The fake text sent to people says they have been identified as being eligible for the vaccine. It then tells them to follow a link for more information and to apply.
Neighbourhood Watch emphasised that people should "never give out your personal details", and said that cold calls regarding the vaccine are also beginning to take place, and there have been reports of scammers asking people to pay for vaccination over the phone. You should hang up if you receive one of these calls.
If you, or anyone you know, have been affected by this fraud or any other scam, you can report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.
The slow improvement trend of R-factor was maintained today, although the cases recorded were higher than yesterday's. The consistent improvement is encouraging news, and seems to demonstrate that the lockdown is having a significant effect on the disease in our area. So it helps to follow the rules.
The Bracknell News website has interesting coverage of detailed Covid-19 news, and reports that GP practices in Bracknell are beginning to roll out Covid vaccination. Let us hope that the vaccination bandwagon will begin to roll faster and faster.
The Prime Minister made another speech today about roll-out. He said, among many other things:
"By February 15th, the NHS is committed to offering a vaccination to everyone in the top four priority groups including older care home residents and staff, everyone over 70, all frontline NHS and care staff and all those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. And to help us with meeting this target we already have 595 GP-led sites providing vaccines, with a further 180 coming on stream later this week. We have 107 hospital sites - with a further 100 later this week
"So that is almost a thousand sites - vaccination sites - across the country by the end of this week. And next week we will also have 7 vaccination centres opening in places such as sports stadia and exhibition centres."
Parliament has met today to debate the fight on Covid-19. Our MP is there to take part in the debate.
The Prime Minister announced a third National Lockdown this evening. Here is a summary from the Government Website
Summary: what you can and cannot do during the national lockdown
You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
You should follow this guidance immediately. The law will be updated to reflect these new rules.
You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:
Higher Education provision will remain online until mid February for all except future critical worker courses.
If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live. You may leave your local area for a legally permitted reason, such as for work.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work
You cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).
You may exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble.
You should not meet other people you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, unless for a permitted reason.
Stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household.
Places of worship
You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. You should maintain strict social distancing at all times.
You should follow the national guidance on the safe use of places of worship.
Published 4 January 2021
The case figures for today seem to show a consistent trend towards a lower R-factor, in Bracknell Forest and the general region. The flattening of the trend of a few days ago may optimistically be put down to Christmas revelling.
However, there is still a way to go to achieva an R-factor of 1.0
Local News 3/1/21
The figures for cases have been better today than for the last few days, but there is not too much to be read into that.
One piece of good community news is that a vaccination centre has been set up in the Waitrose Warehouse, and vaccination has started. One of our parishioners was invited to take up a space left by a cancellation, and is now vaccinated, which is very good news. The report in the Bracknell News, which appears to be dated 24 December, reports:
"Patients in Bracknell have been welcomed today to the first Covid vaccine clinic set up in the town.
"Bracknell and Ascot health services joined forces to launch the clinic that will provide the vaccine to help protect locals from coronavirus.
"The clinic threw open its doors today at the Sports and Leisure Centre of Waitrose HQ.
Bracknell Forest executive managing director and Covid-19 vaccinator Fiona Slevin Brown said:
"This really is a momentous milestone and I am grateful to everyone who has been involved in getting today's clinic up and running, particularly our three Primary Care Networks and Berkshire Primary Care who I know have being working tirelessly to ensure the safe delivery of the vaccine."
This is very commendable, but for many elderly people, the question is: how do they take part in this vaccination programme? Everybody is firmly told not to contact the NHS about receiving the vaccine, even if they are in a high-priority category. Who watches to see that all such people take their proper turn.
Not so good news is a report that there vhave been Covid cases again in the Martin's Heron Tesco, although action taken to control this means that the store has not been closed.
There was no progress made in the last two day. The R-Factor stayed almost exactly the same, both for Bracknell and for the whole area.
The cases for the day show a small reduction in the R-factor, but the apparent new trend of the previous few days, which was not as strong as anybody hoped for, seems to have lost its impetus. It is still early days after the latest lockdown, but what is alarming is the fact that cases are still doubling every 12 or 13 days. The newspapers advise that the rise of cases is the result of the highly infctious new strain of Covid virus, but why is it not responding better to Tier-4 measures?
All this promises to put huge strains on the NHS to deal with numbers of very sick people who will be arriving in increasing numbers, more than doubling every fortnight. This will in turn disrupt the administration of the vaccines.
How will the numbers of vaccinated people be handled? Who will do the jabbing? What is the plan? Today's figures, dated 31/12/21 are below the next article.
The longer the pandemic lasts, the more we can see that vaccination is our only hope of restoring normal life in a timescale that will save our economy and our lifestyles to the extent possible. Should people be allowed to opt out of vaccination? We think not, except on uncommon medical grounds.
We are only too well aware of the fact that pandemic control is a matter of statistics. If 100% people wore masks in places where gatherings created a risk of infection (e.g. in shops), the research shows clearly that the ability of Covid-19 to spread is lower than if 70% wore them in the same circumstances. The wearing of masks can hardly be said to protect an individual, but it is equally a fact that community wearing of masks will protect a proportion of that community. So making everybody wear masks whenever necessary (allowing for occasions when it is not possible, e.g. to protect an individual's health) is a justifiable measure to lower infection and save lives.
Being vaccinated has three effects: (A) it confers immunity on an individual, (B) it reduces the percentage of the community who can be infected and pass the disease on to others, and (C) it reduces the percentage of the community who can catch the disease, following exposure to infected people.
By the argument in favour of wearing masks, effects (B) and (C) can justify everybody possible being vaccinated. With (B) and (C) alone the pandemic can be controlled - but only if sufficient people are vaccinated.This factor, combined with huge benefit (A) of personal immunity, should be enough to persuade everybody that everyone who can safely be vaccinated should be. However, just now it does not. Some people argue, perhaps citing personal freedom, that 'they are prepared to take the risk' - selfishly forgetting the statistical benefit to others of them being vaccinated. Other people argue that the vaccines available 'have not been sufficiently tested'. This is quite unconvincing, given the huge effort to prove safety and demonstrate effectiveness that has been put into the vaccines developed in Western countries. If you had cancer, and were told that a simple operation would hugely improve your chances of survival, would you demand huge amounts of documention from the surgeon about the safety and effectiveness of what was suggested? Or would you accept advice on the basis of reputation and experience? You'd be right to question, but you'd be balancing immediate effect with some risk against delay with possibly greater risks, perhaps accelerating your own death.
Other people argue against vaccination based on their personal, possibly religious, principles, for example the 'artificiality' of the process of creating vaccines, or the possibility that profit may be made from vaccination development. Worthy reasons, perhaps, but personal. We must allow that there are may be sound medical reasons against a small number of individuals being vaccinated, and these must be respected, but these cases will be rare, given the quality of vaccine testing that has been carried out.
All arguments that we have heard seem to contain an element of self-indulgence in taking a personal moral stance, that, when pursued by many, potentially harms many others. These 'others' may just be statistical figures, as far as these people are concerned (if they think about that aspect), but in practice they are real people, suffering and creating real tragedy. It is hard to assign any moral superiority to holders of these arguments, however much one may sympathise with the underlying principles. In short, full vaccination programs will win against the dreadful disease: are there any contrary views worth the statistical impact of losing the battle or delaying victory?This article is reprinted in the January 2021 parish magazine, at NewYear Parish Mag.
Today's figures are much better than yesterday's, but do not move much the trend shown by the R-factor analysis. Bracknell's R-factor was larger than the general region's, but has now converged to nearly the same figure. A lingering doubt is creeping in that the Tier-4 lockdown is enough to control the present rate of infection. It is possible that the downward trend for the R-factor has been affected by Christmas festivities and, as a result, some bending of the rules. The next few days will give some idea as to what is going on.
Just looking at these numbers is not enough to give an understanding as to what is going on, and therefore what is the best strategy for reducing the spread on Covid. We know that the primary mode of transmission is (or has been) airborne virus. Is this still the dominant means of transmission? The figures do not tell us.
We have to report that the new cases of the day has reached a new high of 1,041 over the whole area. This compares with 667 for the previous day.This sort of daily difference will mostly relate to practical issues of data collection - it would be far too much of a coincidence for all the local areas to have had the same level of uplift. The averaging effect of the processing means that the processed results (e.g. the R-Factor) are not much affected - and the Bracknell Forest processed results continue a downward trend (although reduced as one would expect. So this is not a moment to be over-worried.
The trend on the R-factor, both at the regional level and in the Bracknell Forest area now seems to be consistently downward. Looking at the overall picture, the daily level of new cases in the region seems to be stabilising at about 650 (in a region with about 1 million population). That isn't a good figure, but this stabilisation points to an R-factor that will reach 1.0 if it continues. With Tier-4 measures, we may expect daily cases to reduce, so we may hope for the downward R-factor trend to accelerate. However, we are in uncertain times, and the hope relies on no new factor coming into play. With vaccination programmes now under way, every million vaccinations should reduce new cases by 1.4%, and that will mount up.
It now looks like a sustained move in the right direction, with significant reductions in the daily case increase for both Bracknell Forest and the wider 6-area region. However, one should expect stumbles.
Today's case figures were not good as we had hoped, , so at least part of Christmas-day's low figure was a blip. Overall, though, the overall R-factor trend remains downwards, although Bracknell Forest's R-factor has not started to trend down significantly.
The new Tier 3/4 arrangements have been in place for 6 days, and one would expect that, knowing the gestation perioud of the Covid-19 virus, there would be signs of fall in case rates. Sure enough, there is a significant downturn in cases reported today, and one may hope that the new downward trend is real and not just a measurement blip. We will know better as days pass, but this could be a good Christmas omen.
The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the case numbers for the Covid case statistics do not seem quite to tie up. They are complely equivalent in terms of daily cases over recent weeks, but there have been occasions when the official statistics have jumped, because of some change in recording policy, and (to maintain some kind of self-consistency) we have made a simple correction. The charts with lines for all the 6 areas are closest to the current published data, with a relatively small correction resulting from change on recording policy on 16/11/20; this artificially increases the total cases over the area by 246 (just over 1%). The cases for the R-factor computations are taken as those after the spring lockdown ended on 2/7/20, at which time the 6 areas had accumulated 3,219 cases. So, taking account of the 16/11/20 correction, the case totals differ by almost exactly 3000 from official figures.
The results for today show no signs of reversal, but there is an indication that the regional R-factor may stop climbing, just as has the Bracknell Forest R-factor. However, this R-factor still represents a grim doubling of cases every 10 days. If you don't believe that, just have a look at the graphs and measure what they are telling you. The exponential shown is a remarkably good fit to the figures. You can spot a trend in the R-factor: a little blue showing below the cases curve at the beginning or end of the curve is good: a little blue showing above the cases curve at the beginning or end is bad.
The politicians were advised only last Thursday that a mutant Covid-19 strain, with 70% greater infectiousness, was now raging in the south east of England. This explains the very worrying trends that we have been reporting daily. It wasn't indulgence - it was an attack by a new enemy that could overwhelm us if ignored. Those doublings in 11 days or so had the projection of multiplication by 1000 in 110 days - striking half the Bracknell population.
It may seem odd, but it is a real relief that the truth is out and that the politicians and scientists are tightening up the Tier measures and putting us here in Tier 4. What was happening was quite unacceptable. Now we need improvements - or measurable control at the very least. We will keep up the watch on this website.
The increase from yesterday was even greater than any previous day's. We note that Bracknell Forest is cited in today's Daily Telegraph, one of only two, as an area that is rising in cases in the South. With an R-factor if more than 1.4, we probably deserve it.
This suggests that (as a whole) we in the South are getting slacker at taking anti-Covid precautions. It is tempting to think that the early-December lockdown induced a spirit of intransigence that is leading to increased danger and deaths for all of us.
Yet another record for cases. What more can be said?
Today had even more cases than yesterday, and the R-factor being substantially more than 1 means a progressively increasing growth of new cases, which is an alarming prospect.
There is a lot of news about the emergence of a new strain of Covid-19, and at worst this will put us back to the beginning of a pandemic. The number of new cases is way above the level at the start of the pandenic, and we need to worry about NHS overload and worse.
What is concerning is that the December lockdown has not caused a reduction of new cases, as the charts above show. We need some better insights into what is going on and what can be done about it, and for appropriate actin to be taken. Meanwhile, this is the time for everybody to be ultra-careful in their anti-Covid precautions, particularly social distancing.
Today had a record number of cases. What now?
Today's charts are like yesterdays, and the growth rates in cases remains shocking. But what is the underlying explanation for this growth? Is anybody trying to answer this question? Are the cases mainly confined to hot-spots; if so, what is the sociological nature of these hot-spots, if this can be identified?
Or are these cases a question just of geography? The facta that all six areas vary widely in social and industrial make-up suggests that it is primarily a matter of social factors.
The chart showing all areas together show that cases have been rising at essentially a steady rate for weeks, lockdown or not, tier rating or not.
Slough was the worst overall rating, but it today shows an R factor that is less than 1 (by a vey small amount), and this is much better than the regional average for this area.
In Bracknell Forest, the cases are increasing at an average of nearly 7% per day, which is so shocking that it needs public investigation. The rate of new cases doubles every 10 days at that rate.
It makes you wonder at what people are playing at, that they seem content to let Covid cases rise, inviting greater restrictions.
Bracknell Forest seems to be making a U-turn - but do not be deceived by this into complacency. The rate of new cases is doubling every 10 days, and it has been doubling at that rate for some days now. This corresponds to the bad R-factor of about 1.5.
People suggest that Slough is the main culprit of rising cases, but the fact of the matter is that the doubling time for the region as a whole is 39 days. So Bracknell's doubling time is nearly four times shorter than the local average. We deserve to be put into Category 3 at this rate.
The New York Times published this interesting article today about Covid-19 cases in English schools:
"Few schools in England saw confirmed outbreaks of the coronavirus over the summer, adding to evidence that children are unlikely to be superspreaders, according to a new study published on Tuesday.
"Schools closed in late March during England's first lockdown. Many of them reopened from June to mid-July, when the number of new cases in the country had fallen.
"In all, the country recorded 55 outbreaks and about 450 cases in schools during the period, according to researchers at Public Health England. A majority of infections was among staff members, while student-to-student transmission was rare. The results were published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
"Of the 55 outbreaks identified in the analysis, 27 were in elementary schools, 16 in nurseries, seven in secondary schools and five in schools of mixed age groups. This finding was surprising, because most other studies have suggested that children under 10 are least likely to become infected or to spread the virus to others.
"But many students did not attend school over the summer, and few secondary schools reopened, which may have skewed the results, the researchers said. Of the 8.9 million students in England, only 1.6 million attended school over the period covered.
"The study was limited by other factors, including a lack of testing at many schools. Most infected children don't have symptoms, which may also have led to an underestimate of the number of cases.
"Overall, there were more school outbreaks in communities with higher levels of circulating virus, a trend many other studies have reported. The risk of an outbreak rose by 72 percent for every five cases per 100,000 within the community, the study found.
"The finding underscores 'the importance of controlling transmission outside the school gates to protect educational settings,' said the study's lead author, Dr. Shamez Ladhani, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Public Health England."
It is quite a milestone that the first UK vaccinations have been delivered today - let us hope that all goes smoothly, as it should do, as delivering vaccinations is standard at th 'point of delivery'.
It is encouraging that local cases do seem to be marginally 'on the mend'.
The reduction of new cases today may be just the start of recovery of the upward trend. Of late, the general trend for new cases has been downward, but more recent news has suggested that cases may be rising again - perhaps the local pattern sugests that our area is ahead of the general country trend. A day countering the trend, like today's figures, could also be countered by tomorrows figures, but let us hope that the recent surge of cases represents a temporary phenomenon, perhaps with the cyclical period of about five days that seems to be shown by oscillations of case incidence. We will find out in a few days.
The situation continues to deteriorate for both Bracknell Forest and also for our 6-area region, which is set to go above the 1.0 R-factor boundary in the next day or so (this happened a few days ago for Bracknell Forest).
Looking at the interactive map on https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/interactive-map the mystery is that there are 'white areas' in the Bracknell Forest region that seem to have 'Suppressed' numbers of cases. What is going on?
It was worrying when a few days ago the Covid cases in our area (and the resulting statistics) took a turn for the worse. First of all, the reducing R-factor trend reversed, and the significantly below-1.0 curve of the trend suddenly decided to go back up again.
Taking a look in more detail at what was happening in Bracknell Forest showed that this Thames Valley region, which had been leading the country in lowering the R-factor was now inexorably returning to increasing daily cases. In Bracknell Forest, the R-factor is now above the 1.0 level, so we can no longer even say how many cases will occur if the current trend continues. What also is galling is that the country's R-factor is said to have firmly moved to less than one, and we here are lagging well behind that achievement.
There has to be a good reason why things are going wrong in this way, and action must be taken to counteract it. One can only sympathise with the politicians who say that we just have to tackle the disease as a pre-requisite to preserving the current state of the economy - and one can also sympathise with a growing conviction that, if the current measures are not tough enough, even tougher ones need to be applied, like putting our region into Tier 3 - not a happy pre-Christmas thought.
Only a few days ago, one could laugh at the idea that we should be on high alert, as Covid-19 seemed to be well under control. Now we see that the authorities were right, and Covid-19 is not under full control. Let us hope that our local politicians will exercise the necessary leadership and bring about some tangible achievements in our local control of the pandemic.
The possibility of the trend to improving R-factor having stalled seems a bit more solid with a small upturn. There were significantly higher cases in some regions, including Bracknell. To some degree this is countered by optimism that vaccination will start soon, but it is going to take some months for vaccination to counter the disease.
Today the PM's 3-tier system was overwhelmingly approved by Parliament, despite revolts by members of the Government and of the Opposition.
Was placement in Tier 2 justified in our case where the R-factor is significantly below 1.0? The underlying question is: is the pandemic sufficiently under control here in our Thames Valley area not to require measures that seem more appropriate to areas less under control?
We are publishing a 'Case Projection' figure each day: this calculates how many cases would occur if the situation as of this moment went on forever. This is not a prediction, but is a good figure to identify how far we still have to go, even when there is an R-factor less than one.
Today's figure comes to 4751. If only 2% of cases are fatal, that means a death toll of nearly 100. How far should this figure fall before we can be satisfied that we are under control? Perhaps 2000 or lower would be a moderate target.
Preserving the economy by loosening the controls could be an unwise option. But look at the chart for 4 October. When lockdown eased after the first phase, there was a steady and uncontrolled rise of cases, and the politicians did not have any successful means of curbing the growth, with their very natural desire to keep the economy warm. It is difficult to blame them, but, all the same, the exponential led inexorably to todays situation, with a rate of new cases that is still very much higher that at the first peak of the pandemic.
People who deny that strong measures are needed may be unaware of the documented consequences, as demonstrated by historical statistics available to us all.
The R-factor continues to fall.
Now that we are below 1.0, there is another interesting statistic, introduced yesterday, and that is 'Case projection'. This is the number of cases that would be expected to occur if the case rate for the exponential for today's date was to follow the same exponential for ever. This is (of course) not realistic, but it gives a measure of how far we have yet to go before the pandemic is collapsing in our area.
Yesterday, that number was: 10,751. Today it is only 8265. This is based on an average daily rate of cases of 173, and a day-to-day case ratio of 0.979. To bring the case projection to 1000, the daily ratio of 0.979 could fall to 0.95, and the day's case rate to 50.
Not much to comment on the technical front. But there is a question: should not the many areas that are Covid-successful (like ours) be fuelling the economy by being in a lower tier? This was the political argument for not controlling Covid cases more assiduously after the July 2020 lockdown.
To put this into perspective, and to give a partial answer, the current average daily case rise combines with the daily fall ratio to give the predicted number of further Covid-19 cases in our region, on that basis.
Today, that number is: 10,751 out of a regional population of 1 million. That is too high for comfort!!!
The Government rules that Bracknell Forest is in in Tier 2. In tier 2, the rules, in full and verbatim, are:
* You must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
* You must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people outside, including in a garden or a public space - this is called the 'rule of 6'
* Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-Secure manner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs
* Pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals
* Hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to:
* Provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol
* Close between 11pm and 5am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are exempt)
* Stop taking orders after 10pm
* Hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through
* Early closure (11pm) applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm
* Public attendance at outdoor and indoor events (performances and shows) is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
* Public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
* Places of worship remain open but you must not socialise with people from outside of your household or support bubble while you are indoors there, unless a legal exemption applies
* Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees - 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events such as wakes or stonesettings.
* Organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue
* Organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes will only be permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with). There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing
* You can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible
* If you live in a tier 2 area, you must continue to follow tier 2 rules when you travel to a tier 1 area. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities.You can travel through a tier 3 area as a part of a longer journey
* For international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list
With a more decrease more in line with expectations, the R-Factor continues to fall steadily. The R factor is about 0.92 - well below national average.
The lower chart shows how the Bracknell Forest area has been doing - and the answer is 'very well'. With a Tier 2 rating, the improvement should continue.
Rather a large number of new cases, but still below the slope at the top ond of the exonential curve, so the R-factor has crept down again. The reduction in cases 21 days ago also serves to bring the exponential to a downward curve.
With a substantial reduction in cases (although such a new low level was not an absolute requirement) the R-factor level has fallen below the magic 1.0 level - so the disease can be said to be shrinking. It has not done so for six months - although the rate of new cases was then far lower than it now is. All the same, this represents a milestone.
Case figures for today remained disappointing, but the R-factor still fell a bit, for the same reasons as applied yesterday. Looking at the chart of daily rises, averaged over 21 days, one might comment that the level and downward trend has not matched the pre-lockdown trajectory. Let us hope that things improve!
Today's case figures were not as pleasing as yesterdays, but the important thing (looking at the chart) is to keep the day's figure of total cases below the orange line that represents the exponential curve. If you mentally fit an exponential to the 10 day's figures up to today, you can see that the best fit curves down substantially, corresponding to an R-factor of about 0.65. However, 21 days gives a more prudent outlook that we will stay with. It is a sobering thought that the exponential that we show has a daily increase of 241 new cases in about 1 million people, based on the computed trend.
Today's lower case figures for the area bring the R-factor down significantly. The local areas that seem to be showing the greatest flattening off are Bracknell Forest and Windsor & Maidenhead. In fact, a computation of the Bracknell Forest R-factor puts it at 0.96 - below the magical figure of 1. On this basis, Bracknell Forest case rates will halve in 104 days, which is encouraging, even though not impressive.
The New York Times posted this article today about the heart-rending agony of U.S. health-workers in a pandemic that so many Americans down-play:
"As the pandemic rages across the United States, breaking records nearly every day for deaths and cases, some nurses and doctors are reaching a breaking point.
"Some have battled surges in their areas for months. Others have been more recently overwhelmed. Many are physically and emotionally drained and suffer from a crushing sense of inadequacy and anxiety. Experts say health care workers are ever more susceptible to post-traumatic stress. Some are closing their practices or leaving their jobs because of the toll on themselves, their families, their patients and their colleagues.
"Particularly anguishing, some health care workers say, is the cavalier attitude many Americans display toward the virus.
"'There is such a disconnect between the hospital and the surrounding communities,' one doctor wrote in an exchange later posted on Twitter. 'I don't drive home to bells, whistles and clanging pots and pans ... I drive home stunned through a college town with lines out the doors for the local bars.'
"In an attempt to break through that disconnect, about 100 of the nation's largest and best hospital groups released an ad campaign today, in print and video, that is a call to arms - or rather, a call to mask up. everymaskup.com
"'We put our lives on the line daily to keep you safe. So, do something for us. Wear. A. Mask,' a caption in the video reads.
"I reached out to Ashley Bartholomew, a registered nurse who recently resigned from her job in a Covid ward at an El Paso hospital, but stayed on for another two weeks because of the desperate need. She said identifying a single breaking point was difficult, but told me about an exchange with a patient who was improving.
"She went into his room in full P.P.E. as he was watching the national news cover El Paso's need for more mobile morgues. "'He said the news is making it a bigger deal than it really is,' she recalled. She tried to remain professional, but couldn't hold back her tears. 'I said: 'You know, I'll be brutally honest. This is my last shift and I've never seen so much death, so much sickness, in the last two weeks than I have my entire 10 years of being in health care.''
"Taken aback, the patient said he thought everyone in the ward was doing as well as he was. Of the 25 rooms she had been in that day, she told him, he was the only patient able to chat. Everyone else was too sick.
"'This is a pandemic within a pandemic,' she said. 'A pandemic of misinformation along with the Covid-19 pandemic. And health care workers, we can't fight both at the same time.'
The number of cases was up a bit since yesterday, but the averaging effect of taking the trend over 21 days means that (with overall improvement over four days ago) the R-factor trend is still downward.
After another day, we can confirm a downward trend, but there is still quite a way to go. Yesterday's message is worth repeating - fortunately no further adjustments have been needed.
"Those helpful people processing the Covid-19 cases data reset the levels of cases for West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, and Wokingham, without warning or explanation (and they do not reply to emails). In so doing they seem to have spuriously reduced the cases count for those three areas by more than 200 - the new cases for each of those three areas was recorded as negative.
"This gross change, of course, would completely throw the delicate computations that I bring you. In order to bring some kind of sense, I have had to adjust the affected areas by an amount based on the three areas left untouched by the unprofessional alterations, and this is what we show today. At least the R-factor has come down a bit in the last day, as would be expected by now."
Published figures for 16 November make no sense, so no report today
The rate of new cases slowed down a little from today to yesterday, but not enough the relieve yesterday's message. It is true that the number of new cases has fallen, but this has yet to affect the upward trend over the 21 days that we use to calculate a convincing R-factor. And today's new case figures, although better the past few days, still very significantly exceed the figures for just before the binge. The steepest part of the exponential climbed 256 cases in the last day, and it is just a little bit of encouragement that the actual measured figure was (for the first time after the binge) less than that. Let us hope that the next week will see a real improvement, with new cases significantly below pre-binge figures. If it does not, the potential of lockdown to improve the situation way well have been wasted by the irresponsible activity.
The current R factor is about 1.17, with cases rate doubling every 27 days.
Today, we have included the detailed figures for each of the local areas, and we have shortened the range of dates back to 4/10/20, when the new count measures kicked in. The blame from the binge cannot easily be shared out, and it probably isn't helpful to do so, so we leave it to our readers to assess the figures.
Below you can see what we wrote yesterday, and today's charts just confirm that too many people threw caution to the winds, and had a pre-lockdown splurge, We are all paying for it with a continuing rise in cases - and deaths too. Lockdown is a heavy and sometimes tragic imposition for us all, but too many people seem to have failed to understand the pitiless gravity of this pandemic, and the dire consequences of their actions for themselves and for the blameless people who are subsequently infected - of whom a significant proportion will have long-term disability and even death. This is a game with very high stakes but loss is not limited to those actively playing the game.
The charts to right show new cases over 21 days and the best-fitting exponential, together with the daily rate increase indicated by the exponential. When the figure on the right-hand chart reduces to 1.0, that means that the R factor has also reached the critical figure of one. To have Covid under control, the R factor must be less than 1. The current R factor is about 1.12 (1.15 on 14/11), with cases rate doubling every 36 days (30 days on 14/11).
The last three days have seen increases in the numbers of cases, and, although the numbers are within the scope of a glitch, there is also the worrying thought that the announcement on Saturday 31/10/20 of a new lockdown, starting on 5/11/20, may have sparked behaviour that has triggered many new Covid-19 cases. The delayed effect of lockdown producing lowered new case numbers will only start in the next few days, and we can only hope that future gains in control will soon outweigh any temporary losses in control. We have to wonder to what extent the Government experts may have anticipated any temporary loss of control, but the situation underlines how hard it is to form good public policies, and how easy it is to encounter the law of unintended consequences.
The six areas are: West Berkshire, Reading, Wokingham, Windsor&Maidenhead, Bracknell Forest and Slough. These have a total population of about 1 million.
The two charts in this report give the details since early July of the 6 areas that we have followed. The small gap in the curve represents the time when the accounting for cases changed. What is significant is that the slackening off of new cases over the last few days is noticeable in all areas, and so represents a general trend.
Yesterday the news broke that Pfizer/BioNTech have created and tested an effective vaccine that will be available before the end of 2020. Today's news is that two other vaccines will be available by the end of 2020, although just now no details are available.
We can thank God that human skills and dedication have brought us within sight of the end of the nightmare, all being well
Looking again at the trend in our area, the surprising news is that our local exponential is slowly flattening.
Over the last three days, Rdouble for our area has actually been improving:
30-Oct: 21.7days; 31-Oct: 25.5days; 1-Nov: 29.8days; 2-Nov: 33.6days; 3-Nov: 35.92days; 4-Nov 36.26days; 5-Nov 37.34days. That is, now doubling in about 5.5 weeks, only a few days after doubling every 3 weeks. (The improvement does seem to be stalling after 6 days - it will be very interesting to see what happens when lockdown kicks in.)
As we noted earlier, this is encouraging, but a day or two of bad results could affect the trend. And the R-factor is still more than 1, which is bad. In a day or two, we will be having 200 new cases each day in our area of 1M people, if the trend of today continues - 1 per 5000 local people.
A lot of people are bleating that their area has few cases, so why lockdown? Take a look at the 4 October article and chart, which clearly indicates that in our various areas, from July to October, the cases were consistently rising, doubling every 24 days, and at no time during that period was a successful extra effort made to control the growth and bring the R-factor less than one. This was a problem for ALL our six local areas, whatever the case level.
This failure, taken over the whole country, has landed us in today's mess. We have to regain control in lower as well as higher Covid areas.
Stay alert and observe the lockdown!!
If you catch Covid-19 and you are lucky, you will experience mild symptoms, and that will be the end of it. If you are unlucky, it can kill you: fortunately, with the better treatment now available, your chances are better, although the disease remains a killer.
Many people who survive still have serious long-term disabilities, which can be temporarily or permanently life changing. This is not rare enough to be ignored: for example, continuing breathlessness and resulting loss of energy and stamina has affected two local people that we know, despite our living in a relatively Covid-free area. Another friend was unable to get out of bed for six weeks, and still does not have the energy, more than two months after infection, to answer the phone.
Even children are reported by the Daily Mail as susceptible to long-term Covid-19 symptoms with devastating effects on their educational development.
It is therefore really surprising to find that so many people do not take Covid-19 seriously enough to avoid it by all reasonable methods, and even deny its danger of death or long-term quality of life for their children and loved ones.
Once we have a vaccine (after a vaccine emerges from its stringent testing programme), being vaccinated is a vital step towards avoiding the risk of 'long Covid'. Anti-vaccine people may well not have done their research into what this disease can do to you if you are unlucky! Indulging in wishful thinking will help neither them nor their friends and loved ones - or people in contact with them.
It is clear that all those curves previously presented show not much more than a depressing trend in cases, with the most interesting information being the relatively good performance of Bracknell Forest. So we will bring another type of chart to your attention.
This will show the cases for the previous 21 days (the blue curve), but this curve is mostly obscured by the orange curve. These cases represent the total for the six 'official' areas: Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead, Bracknell Forest, Wokingham, Reading and West Berkshire. In total, these areas have a total population of about 1M, and together give relatively good averaging and fairly smooth results, as the chart demonstrates.
This orange curve is the best-fitting exponential (the basic trend-curve in epidemic progressions) - the one that best fits the measured figures (which come from the Government website.
The chart is annotated by two numbers:
These numbers are of interest: if Rday is rising day on day, the R-factor is rising and that's bad; if Rdouble is rising day on day, the time to double the rate of new cases is increasing, and that's good. However, these factors (even averaged over 21 days) are likely to bump up and down a bit because of the bumpiness of the measured data.
Over the last three days, Rdouble for our area has actually been improving: 30-Oct: 21.7days; 31-Oct: 25.5days; 1-Nov: 29.8days; 2-Nov: 33.6days; 3-Nov: 35.92days. This is encouraging, but a day or two of bad results could affect the trend. The object is that Rdouble is negative, giving the number of days after which new cases halve.
On Saturday 31/10/20, the Prime Minister, after a presentation of scientific evidence from Chief Medical Officer Prof. Chris Whittie and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, announced a second 'lockdown' that is to commence on Thursday 5 November. The official transcript can be found HERE.
Local cases have been rising here, with new cases doubling about every 21 days, as we ourselves have been recording. This trend is reflected across the country, even in places, like our own region, that are relatively low in case incidence. It has been clear to us that only drastic action, such a lockdown, would impact the R-factor and bring it below 1 to reduce incidence of new cases.
By working together and sticking to the rules we collectively managed to keep the infection rate very low in the borough through the summer.
However, like most places across the country, the number of people testing positive is now rising sharply and so we must all do everything possible to protect our loved ones.
Data shows that we are spreading this serious virus to our friends and family, with the majority of the borough's positive cases being spread between households. In the main, people in Bracknell Forest are not catching it from restaurants, gyms, leisure facilities, shops or other facilities. They are catching it when they visit someone's home or when someone visits theirs.
We need to stop the spread, we need to do it together and we need to do it now. That means keeping your distance from your loved ones unless they are in your direct household, sticking slavishly to the rule of 6, wearing a face covering when you can't keep a safe 2 metre distance and washing your hands regularly.
Given the rate of infection, we know that tighter restrictions will be inevitable across most areas of the country. But to protect the ones we love and ourselves we have to take responsibility for our actions, that way we can slow the spread together.
To help reduce the spread it is important for all residents to follow the hands, face space rules:
It is also important to follow the rule of 6.
When seeing friends and family you do not live with (or who are not part of your support bubble), you must not meet in a group of more than 6, indoors or outdoors. In England, this limit of 6 includes children of any age.
Meeting in larger groups is against the law apart from specific exceptions where people from different households can gather in groups larger than 6 people.
When meeting friends and family you should also:
END OF ARTICLE
Today the new cases were again at a record high for the area.
Today the new cases were at a record high for the area. Although we are low compared with the North, the new cases since 1/7/20 (6156) in the 6-area region are almost what they were in total after the first wave of the pandemic, and the new case rate is actually 10 times what it was at worst during the first wave in our area. Of course, these figures are disturbed by new factors, such as testing rates, but the message is that we have to be even more careful in our precautions (hand-washing, face-touching, masks, social distancing, etc.) than we ever were at the start of the pandemic, because the virus is not far away.
STAY SUPER ALERT!!
Having recorded nearly two weeks of figure under the new Coronavirus statics regime, we can now begin to make statements about what we can see.Firstly, the trend of cases is rising steadily. We have fitted an exponential to it, and, although it's too early to talk about R factors, because the data isn't consistent enough, the rate of cases has suddenly doubled under the new regime. So this is the new reality.
The map in which you can key in by postcode has been redesigned a bit (doesn't work as well now). Cases rates in Winkfield are consistent with the 'national average' which is disappointing, as we used to be better than that.
Local measures seemed to be on top of things before the new regime, or nearly so - it now looks less encouraging. STAY ALERT!!
There are some amazing pieces of news in the NYT today.
Quite serious is the plot of a private militia to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of the State of Michigan, and start a civil war. Whitmer, a Democrat, set up strong State measures against Covid-19, and these people objected, and seriously conspired with armed rebellion. Six men have been arrested and put on trial.
Then we hear of 'puss caterpillars' in East Virginia - they look like tiny wigs sitting on twigs, but they are super-painful if a hair touches your skin. One wandered onto the leg of a lady just sitting in her car, and it felt as if her calf had been stabbed by a big knife when it touched her skin. This is the insect version of poison ivy - an innocent-looking weed, common even in peoples' gardens, that sets up a very painful allergic reaction all over your body, even if you only touch it with your fingers. We can vouch personally for this, from a miserable 2 weeks when we lived, years ago, in Connecticut, USA.
The simple explanation of the crazy behavior of new cases seems to be that the incoming test data, which was steadily increasing in volume, was stuffed into a huge Excel spreadsheet, and nobody realised that there was more information being put into the spread sheet than it could take.
Kind Microsoft did not want to cause bother to its customers by saying that the spreadsheet could not handle more data than a certain limit - so they arranged that the excess data was simply ignored. Somebody at length realised that not all the data being put in was coming out again, and the major error was found. One can blame Microsoft to a degree (and the quality of their detailed documentation about things like limits is not very good), but the problem was that (A) a bad assumption was made about the Excel software; (B) no day-by-day checking was put in to assure that data put in had indeed been put in, and (C) the extendability of the whole system to the volume of data required should have been established on dummy data well before the system went live. Limit testing is a critical part of software roll-out, and is often done inadequately, particularly when rolling out new systems in a hurry. Resulting catastrophes are quite common, particularly with when software development staff have perhaps endured the bitter experience of rollout failure due to inadequate testing. Of course bosses with tight deadlines are can be guilty of forcing inexperienced staff to take short-cuts in software validation and testing.
Today, we present the new government information, warts and all, in a double chart that will be familiar. There is a small break between the old data trends and the new data at 3/10/20.
The sudden jump in slope is all too clear, and it is possible that this increased slope is actually real. We have no solid interpretations just now as to what it all means! Time will tell.
The average new-case rate over the last 7 days (since the data problem of a week ago) is (suddenly) 3 times the rate for the previous 7 days. This can be attributed either to a step change in infection rate (possible to a degree with major policy changes) or (more likely) a systematic error in previous (or new) data generation. To say that 'cases have doubled in a week' is a naive interpretation of what we see now. R-factor case curves do not 'do' step-changes. What is going on?
On 5/10, the Editor wrote a letter for the Daily Telegraph, cc Mr Sunderland, MP for Bracknell. It had two main points:
* Cases since early July have risen steadily, doubling each 24 days, and the exponential has not been controlled;
* Recent case-recording errors have caused data available to us to be useless for statistical analysis.
Mr Sunderland was kind enough to reply.
To the first point the MP responds: 'While I would like to see the R rate decrease, the Government has to have a careful balance when considering the economy. More lives will be affected by unemployment, so we have to cut a fine line.'
To the second point, he responds that 'the Government is being transparent by adding the data of tests which were mishandled by a few Civil Servants who understandably have been under significant pressure. These things happen and I am glad this data has now been published and has been linked to local increases. ... Overall, the Government is not trying to destroy data sets by publishing a delay in testing data, but to provide a more accurate picture overall. The extra numbers were split into localities and the media, including statistical organisations were given a breakdown from Public Health England as to where these extra cases were linked too for their own databases.
The average rate of cases over 6 days) with the new data is 270% of what it was just before the new data came in.
The map of local cases accessible from the [Map cases by postcode] button above is only updated to 4/10/20. It has not changed much from its previous version.
Over the last few days, the Government website for the area shows daily cases that suddenly doubled or more. You can see this by looking at the right hand of the new charts. Just now it is impossible to say what the significance is of this data - is there really doubling of cases, or is this all a result of new testing practices? We will close down regular reporting until clarity returns.
The information from the government website is still nonsensical. So we cannot use it.
What we have done today is to add to this page's red buttons above a link to the Government map that now identifies cases in a small area. This map shows some new areas with cases, including the one reached by our own postcode. The map shows, unfortunately, that a number of local districts to Winkfield (although not Winkfield itself, as of now), have small numbers of cases.
Yesterday, for another purpose, we analysed the 6-area total cases over the 90 days from early July (post-lockdown) to early October. These approximate very well to an exponential with a doubling time of about 24 days - showing that local cases have not been under control to lessen the R-factor over the whole of the 3-month period! The real-cases and the exponential are shown on the diagram to the right.
As the Government website has pointed out, there have been major errors in the case recording system. The total new cases from today to two days ago total 219 - this could be higher than real trends by about 150-160. No plausible figures are possible from today's (or yesterday's) figures, but too much work has gone into our tracking analysis to just give up. So we will use the analytical tools that we now have to compute a correction for each area. This will initially not really be more than guesswork for a week or so, after which we may be able to match and trends before and after the glitch by a correction.
Something happened like this at the end of June, and at the time, we were obliged simply to abandon pre-glitch data.
Reports on Mr Trump's treatment show up the wealth of treatments now available for early Covid-19 as well as for controlling severe symptoms at a later stage of the disease.
The new cases today, 63 across the area, represents the worst figures since April. However, the Government site was late in being updated, because of a technical issue that had the effect of adding new cases between 24/9/20 and 1/10/20. This could account for up to 30 new cases, so no speculation let alone conclusion can be reached. It doesn't materially affect the general picture.
The Government information included a map that shows where new cases are about the local and broaded areas. You can reach the map by clicking HERE.
At the top left there is an invitation to put in a postcode to localise the data. The pale-blue regions have covid cases, and the number of and the name of the region can be found by left clicking on the region. Although most of us are in the case-free white regions, some are not. We should probably try to restrict our travels to the white bits.
The pale blue area in Bracknell is designated 'Bullbrook', but it is in fact bigger then that. It extends from the Met-Office Roundabout at north west to Martin's Heron to south west, including Harman's Water and Broad Lane to north of Lily Hill Park.
We will probably be watching this map closely from now on. Stay alert!!
Today's figures indicate that levels of new local cases, although they are present for all six areas, are not rising just now in our area. looking at more detailed maps, these are evidently located in a few subareas. In this area, Covid-19, where it exists, seems under control; that is any new cases introduced from within or outside the areas, appear to be quickly detected, and any necessary isolation/treatment introduced. There is a steady R-Factor from yesterday.
So what is happening elsewhere? Are all these added restrictions necessary? Yes, control must be restored and the likelihood of cases propagating the disease to make control possible must be achieved by social measures that hinder virus propagation.
The important thing for the majority of the country where there are low numbers of new cases. and where incidence of cases can be maintained low is to avoid measures that duplicate in their effect what is already happening in terms of effective Covid control, and also to encourage people, leaders and ordinary members of the community to live life in a more normal way, so that we preserve vital structures, social and economical, even at the risk of higher (but demonstrably controllable) levels of Covid.
Much the same as yesterday. Tracking daily R factors shows that these factors (never alarming) have stabilised. Perhaps better signs of control tomorrow?
Over the last few days, we have seen a more-or-less regular increase across the areas, led predominantly by Slough. This suggests that cases are generally under control, although it would be good to see a diminution. The R factor is less than in general'
There was again a lowering of new cases, perhaps showing that local outbreak control plans are able to handle new cases.
We mentioned our granddaughter, who is an Oxford Brookes undergrad - her flatmates all tested positive, but all have had mild symptomn, and are now looking forward to the day at wheich they will be released from Lockdown - and will celebrate! They represent the pragmatism, perhaps, that has to be used to avoid devastation to everybody's normal life.
New cases reported today are significantly less than yesterdays.
Yes, the region has now caught on to a short Covid doubling time.
Unfortunately, a lot of focus is now on university terms, which are bringing young people back into vulnerable clusters. This has happened with our younger granddaughter, who, with flatmates, is Covid-19-positive; all seem to have mild symptoms, so perhaps the virus is weakening. The NYT draws attention to a transmission sequence from younger to older people, but that possibility should be controlled by current measures. Stay alert, and follow the guidelines.
While the web statistics were delayed on the government website, we investigated a new map-based system on the same website: it provides more localised detail of web occurrences than before. Have a look at this: Cases by area map, from the 'Cases by area' part of the government website reached by the last red button above. You can see zoom in/out using buttons to top right and move it to a centre of interest (e.g. here). It tells you that there have been no cases outside the centres. (Well, less than 2 but in practice normally zero). There are few Covid-19 cases near here execpt in clearly defined hotspots.
This information emphasises the need for flexible measures for the low vs the high Covid regions.
This map is several days old. Meanwhile, the 6-area region has more new cases than yesterday, and all 6 areas are going up.
Today we have had a surge - even in just one area - and hopes look dashed that we are sailing on into our own destiny. The graphs continue to show that we are loads better than most places.From the New York Times: 'The urge to travel has prompted some people in Brunei, Taiwan, Japam an Australia to book "flights to nowhere" that depart and land in the same place.'
Today we have computed the R-factor for our six Thames Valley areas, not only up to yesterday, but for a few previous days. Contrary to country-wide trends, the R-factor has actually been decreasing, and was less than one yesterday (i.e. cases-trend shrinking). We will try to keep track of the dynamics of all this, as it seems as if our area has not yet been sucked into the mainstream mechanism. This 'phoney war' is the situation that we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, and it all happened anyway; but we have evidently had some success in Covid-control in this area, so we have cause to hope, and in any case we stayed a relatively Covid-free area.
The performance of our area has been relatively good from the R-factor viewpoint than up North. Should we have the same regulations? To make it 'fair'? to make it safe? (We have been away, but still gathered the data!)
The recent straightening of the all-areas graph has resulted in a 12% drop in the all-area's 21-day R-factor calculation up to yesterday.
The New York Times report on a monoclonal antibody developed by Eli Lilley: it is used as a drug treatment for people at the early stages of Covid-19, and reduces the need for hospitalisation from 6% to 1.7%. Unfortunately it is difficult and expensive to make. The report is based on 'ongoing trials on 450 patients, and formal trials have not yet been done. It's a start, although it seems unlikely that we will see the drug over here.+
The New York Times has a short 'What you're doing' as part of their Corona-virus briefing, and this little story comes from the UK:
'We've treated ourselves to a motion-triggered outdoor wildlife camera. So far, we've been enthralled to see our garden being used at night as a feeding ground for badgers, foxes, a family of hedgehogs and even a sika deer. Every day we look forward to viewing the previous night's activity.'
Sent in to NYT by Paul Sewart, Bolton, United Kingdom
One learns not to make too much of a change of direction in figures - all too frequently hopes of improvement are dashed. The bad news is that Windsor and Maidenhead is still in trouble; the good news is that the other five areas have had some kind of flattening.
The Oxford vaccine test have resumed after one volunteer on the meticulous and rigid testing programme had unpleasant symptoms that may or may not have bee due to the vaccine - so will it be safe to roll out? The Daily Telegraph Online carries a series of articles exploring the subject, and one article is by a volunteer, who has had no significant reaction to the vaccine, and her main complaint is that, although the testing is 100% professional, the test authorities are tight-lipped about what the facts aare bout the vaccine in general.
The non-vaxxers seem to be quite numerous, and have persuaded themselves either that Covid-19 is a giant hoax, or that vaccines in general are dangerous. Conspiracy theorists are out there in quantity, but the rhetoric is clearly more powerful for some than the truth, and these people either refuse to listen or are not open to opinions other than their own.
What is clear is that Covid-19 will be with us for ever unless its spread can be tamed; a working vaccine is our best hope, but the battle against corona-virus is mainly a numbers game = the fewer case are transmitted, the quicker the disease will die out. The tragedy is that the anti-vaxxers will contribute to the death of many people over the years if they refuse to understand how the pandemic works - perhaps they will only open their minds when tragedy strikes their own family.
Meanwhile the government computer that gives us the daily statistics has itself been struck down by a bug [now corrected!]. We are reliably informed that this particular bug cannot be caught by humans, although people do often suffer from bugs in their processing of facts.
Mark Hichens is an author of many very readable historical books, with a very approachable style born of his long career as a schoolmaster.
This poem is his laconic 'take', as a nonagenarian, on the corona virus pandemic.
The cases are still growing in our general area, and there wew 8 more cases in Bracnell Forest. Tonight's BBC news reported that the R-factor across the country now is above 1. Locally it is above that already, but, for now, we are a relatively covid-free area. Stay alert and keep safe.
A story from this morning:
"I was attending the local Brants Bridge medical centre, with facemask on, and as I went up the Up side of the two-section steps at the covered entrance to the centre, a man came down on the Down side, NOT wearing a facemask - and he started to cough drily as he passed me. I am about to have a major operation, and the possibility of catching Covid-19 is daunting. I will have a pre-op Covid-19 swab-test on Monday, and the hospital advises that I must tell them about this when I am there for the test, and they will make a decision then about cancelling the op."
People advising us to rely on their own and other people's judgements do not go down well, following an experience like that.
It is all very well for people to complain loudly about the recently tightened restrictions. They are almost as inevitable as winter.
This innocent chart shows in blue the actual Thames Valley cases that have been recorded in a 21-day period up to yesterday. The orange curve shows a perfect exponential curve - the best one to fit over the recorded data, which deviate randomly above and below the exponential, but not by very much. They fit all too well.
What can we deduce? The slope of the orange curve is steadily increasing. The slope at the beginning of the period has increased by nearly 50% by the end of the period. This is a worrying trend, although it has been present to a degree since lockdown eased on 2 July.
The success of lockdown in bringing down cases shows that the way we live is the main factor governing the restraint of the spread of the virus, and will stay so until we have effective management controls. Testing will help a bit, precautions in hospitals, businesses and the hospitality industry are clearly permitting a level of normal life, and, fortunately, treatment is improving. We are reminded that the disease even affects ordinary people - a close elderly friend has gone down with the disease in just the last few days.
The Press talks about 'panic' - but by using that word they seem to seek for panic in order to justify their stance. They say that people should be able to follow their own sense of responsibility - but that is manifestly not enough, as the chart shows only too clearly: there are sufficiently large numbers of people without a strong enough sense of responsibility to make that fail in the context of a highly infection and dangerous disease. And some people still regard Covid-19 as just another form of bad flu, when all too many sufferers are left with symptoms and long term conditions long after the acute disease has gone.Taking cautious account of the disease and taking rational precautions is the exact opposite of the Press-promoted 'panic' - beware false prophets!!
Two very disappointing developments.
1. The Government will ban by law meetings of more than 6 people, starting Monday, because of the virus still being out of control. This will have a severe effect on many plans.
2. The Oxford/AstroZeneca vaccine has encountered in their testing a participant with a severe reaction, and full scale tests have been put on hold while this is investigated. The incident is expected to be temporary, but is a formal reaction to strict rules used in formal vaccine trials.
Here is a Facebook posting of today from a musical friend of ours with a small baby:
'Small rant: It is still mandatory to wear masks in shops. And there are still one way systems in place FOR A REASON.
'Here's a situation I just encountered:
'Two young women in the co op without masks, one holding a baby waiting for her friend. I enter the shop with my baby in the pushchair. Note, these are very narrow aisles. The one waiting for her friend sees me come in. She's blocking the entrance to the first aisle, chatting. I ask her if I can get past or if it's blocked, as sometimes the co op staff unload the food and there's no way round. She lets me past and says to her friend, "babe you're gonna have to go round the one way". Her friend looks at me and says "are you serious?"
'It's people like this making cases rise. Rude, inconsiderate, selfish people. It's not that hard to follow rules is it?! I shot her a passing glare. If I had been a member of staff, I would have said something. I don't think people should be allowed in shops without masks on. But nobody working there batted an eyelid.'
Although we are still far below the UK's main hotspots, the cases in our area continue to rise exponentially. Bracknell took a leap up yesterday, with nine more cases - the biggest rise for months. It is important that our local authorities are taking this really seriously, acting on each new case, particularly with the jump coinciding with the return of the youngsters to school. Meanwhile, the press comments that the British public is not taking Covid-19 nearly seriously enough
The following article was published yesterday by the New York Times:
'RIO DE JANEIRO - The chaotic response to the coronavirus in Brazil, where it has killed more than 105,000 people, made the country's experience a cautionary tale that many around the world have watched with alarm.
'But as the country's caseload soared, vaccine researchers saw a unique opportunity.
'With sustained widespread contagion, a deep bench of immunization experts, a robust medical manufacturing infrastructure and thousands of vaccine trial volunteers, Brazil has emerged as a potentially vital player in the global scramble to end the pandemic.
'Three of the most promising and advanced vaccine studies in the world are relying on scientists and volunteers in Brazil, according to the World Health Organization's report on the progress of vaccine research.
'The embattled government hopes its citizens could be among the first in the world to be inoculated. And medical experts are imagining the possibility that Brazil could even manufacture the vaccine and export it to neighboring countries, a prospect that fills them with something that has been in short supply this year: pride.'
We have decided that this set of articles will not be added to on a daily bases. as we turn our time to other activities.
However, we will continue to update the charts on a daily basis when possible (they will mostly be where today's is), and will come up with commentary as we feel the need.
Thank you to the many people who have followed our writings over the past six months - we have had well over 1000 hits! Not much for the big-time, but pleasing for a little local website
Our mechanism for calculating R-factors on local Covid-19 data is nearly complete, so it may be worth talking about the whole subject.
The R-factor is a measure of how fast an epidemic is increasing or decreasing in an area. A value greater than 1 shows that the disease is gaining ground, and (if nothing is done), the number of cases will double in a particular time. A value of less than 1 shows that the diseases trend is being reduced.The tendency to expand is mathematically represented by an 'exponential' curve, which approximates to the real measured data. The chart to the right of this article is created from real cases data for the whole area over a 30 day period; the blue line shows actual measured figures, which go up and down randomly relative to the orange line, which is the best-fitting exponential curve. The very close relationship between the two suggests that the model is more-or-less correct. The curves show that the cases are going up at an increasing rate, and this is quite worrying.
Looking at individual areas will not give so clear an indication of the picture. It is not possible to draw conclusions from the whole-area R-factor, as a local area with significant outbreaks can predominate over low-Covid areas and give a false picture.
In fact in our six local areas, we have a range of factors, which includes just one (Slough) with a less-than-one R-factor (look at the local-area chart for the areas to see how Slough has improved), and three with higher R-factor (Windsor&Maidenhead, Wokingham and Reading). Bracknell is higher than 1, but not by very much, and has a low case rate in any case. We are also aware that the smaller the groups of cases, the more bumpy (and less accurate) the computations become. We will never publish the precise value of our computations, because they may differ from 'official' figures for reasons of which we are unaware, and we do not want to be in competition with officialdom; but we feel reasonably confident of the relative values of the figures in areas that we are studying. (These only confirm what one can see from the charts, although with greater precision and consistency.
Not much to report today other than the familiar. We have now our own mechanism for calculating R-factors for our area. It is always problematic with small samples to calculate this with any certainty, but good news is that Slough now has an R-factor less than 1. We are computing 30-day samples.
The Government Website is now back up again, and to our relief has not sustained (on average) the high cases of the previous few days. In fact, the growth rate has gone down a little, if anything, but keep fingers crossed!
There are two issues that we would like to comment on.
The first is the consequence of a vaccine giving only a limited time of protection, always a possibility, and perhaps a probability. This is only a real factor if the prospect of an endemic exists - that is, the vaccine is to be effective against a continuing risk of infection (an argument against having vaccination against seasonal diseases such as 'flu.
This is not the present game-plan. The purpose of a Covid vaccination campaign must be to eliminate the disease in the UK (and similarly in other countries),and a universal vaccine that was effective for the short time needed to suppress all new outbreaks in a would do that in less than two months.
There would still remain the risk of importing the disease from other parts of the world, but with an effective vaccine available (even with short protection time) with suitable track and trace, these new cases would easily be suppressed. There are anti-vax people, who could use a short protection time as a blanket excuse for refusing vaccination. If these people existed in any quantity, they could spoil the plan to eliminate the disease - but they would have a heavy moral - and parhaps even legal responsibility - for not helping to safeguard the population as a whole.
The other issue is the press reaction to news that there are a few cases of Covid-19 re-infection, and the implication that vaccine development could be compromised. The news has not so far reported on whether the repeat infection was of any consequence other than testing positive, and the reports are speculative, unbalanced and premature. There are suggestions that re-infection is of a new strain of virus. So far, though, we are talking about less than a handful of cases against millions of infections, so there is no case just yet to indicate that the news has any significance whatever other than its ability to sell newspapers. When the phenomenon and its consequences are better known, then is the time to be emotional about it.
The government website is still down, so we will take a break until it is available again.
Have you ever thought about boredom? Perhaps you have never had the time? Or perhaps never had the time before the pandemic? Has the pandemic created boredom? Perhaps it has even reinvented boredom?
Many of us have had to struggle to fight boredom during the pandemic. This has been taken to surprising extremes - including people in the USA giving themselves mild electric shocks - preferring that stimulus to no stimulus at all. (We might think that pretty 'way out, but for 10 or 11 year olds in the late 1950s, there was a craze for crank-operated electric shock machines that gave quite powerful tingling sensations. Days of food-rationing - an explanation?)
A article in the New York Times identifies boredom as a sensation that one is not engaged enough in meaningful or useful activities, perhaps even becoming bored with one's own thoughts, or even with job activities. Even an anaesthesiologist can fall asleep through boredom.
The article contains advice on what to do about this: but for now we will leave you with one of the possibilities that it raises: 'Make room for guilty pleasures'. Explanations may follow, for those not too ancient for such pleasures.
Today, we had more new cases in the previous day than in any day since the beginning of May. In the last week, Windsor and Maidenhead has recorded 29 new cases, Slough 18 and Reading 16. The other three areas have totalled 20, and it is clear that outbreaks are cropping up all over the place.
Meanwhile, Bracknell has had only one case in the last three days, following a rise of three cases a few days ago.
An article in the Telegraph today has pointed out that 91% of the UK population live in an area where there have been no new cases at all in the last month. They point out the true but unintuitive fact that a high R-factor in a high-outbreak area takes over the R-Factor of the zero-case areas surrounding it. The article concludes that a general lockdown is illogical, unnecessary, and harmful because of its destructive effect on already Covid-free communities - the measures have no effect as there is nothing affected anyway.
We agree with the analysis, but, all the same, measures to control outbreaks must be demonstrably successful if the pressures to have general lockdown are to be resisted. We need to maintain the pressures on our local authorities to accept nothing less than success in outbreak control: this means visibly reducing average new cases.
It has been interesting to see Covid-19 in the context of a different area, North Norfolk, while on holiday for the last week. It has not been very encouraging, at the same time, to follow worrying Covid-19 developments in our Thames Valley area. All six of the Thames Valley local areas have had local outbreaks - not huge ones, but enough to suggest that the disease is not yet under control - and recently all areas had outbreaks at the same time. The right-hand chart shows unmistakeable evidence of an increasing slope - an R-factor greater than one, and a situation that is not sustainable.
What's going on, and what can be done?
Currently we have in place relatively simple measures to try to control the virus - particularly social distancing and wearing masks. It is evident that these have been and continue to work adequately in many places. For example, an area like Bracknell Forest is stably covid free, with small controllable outbreaks. North Norfolk, which has 2/3 if the rate of cases per 100,000 of population is doing well. There are two areas of difficulty: 1) social environments where rules are habitually broken, and 2) interfaces between areas that allow transmission from area to area.
What is clear is that successful control of these is a matter of micro-management that is, controlling and eliminating outbreaks by enforcing measures and containment. This does not in itself seem to be the province of central government - rather it is local authorities that need really to take control with more authority; central government's role should then be (A) facilitating local control, (B) monitoring local management to see that it is effective, (C) regulating local authority policies, performance and behaviour, and (D) assisting in intercommunications between areas to detect and prevent or minimise transmission betwen areas, and also transmission over longer distances (including the result of air travel.
A lot of wonderful work has been done to minimise the severity of the disease for individuals, and, most strikingly, to reduce the fatality rate, but that will only be a major factor for pre-vaccination success if the tenure of the disease is sporadic rather than widespread. Unfortunately, vaccines are still in the distant future, it seems.
At the moment we are working up to the publication the September/October Winkfield Parish Mag, which is a lot of work, so we will be taking a break for a few days from maintaining this webpage. Particulary in the hot weather. The PHE website had no new statistics, so they may be scorched off, too.
The bad news today is that Slough's rising Covid-19 cases are moving out of control. To have a region that is so dangerously close to us in Bracknell Forest is potentially a disaster.
The interesting - and potentially good - news of the day is the claim by Russia to have a deployable Covid-19 vaccine. What is apparently without dispute is that the level of testing on the vaccine falls far short of what scientists would accept as deployable. So Russia is taking a major risk that serious side effects will not be found, and also (most importantly) that the vaccine acually works. In other countries, there will be considerable interest in the way in which the deployment of the Russian vaccine has effect, and we will all be interested to see calm pressure on the scientific testing outside Russia to bring their own deployability into safe waters.
The Government Corona-reporting website has not been feeling itself this afternoon, amd has no figures until tomorrow. Meanwhile, the saddest news is the failure of the track&trace system that has been deployed. It's not surprising in a way - we Brits don't like being tracked, and it is reported that too many people have treated track&trace callers as nuisance callers. One thought would be that tracking people by email would be less likely to be treated as spam - but one cannot guarantee that. In our correspondence with the MP's office, emails from the MP were marked **SPAM** by our Servce Provider, perhaps on the ground of total unlikelihood that anyone would receive an email from their MP. Email track&trace would have to be backed up by mail or physical calling.
This is a very unfortunate situation, as we will surely lose the battle in areas where casis are rising without track&trace.
Our own R-factor analysis system will be available shortly to determine how we are doing more generally in our local area. It needs calibrating against official figures, but it should be adequate and useful to determine relative R-factor performance.
After a hot weekend, there seems to be no real news. However, after s few weeks of work, we have almost finished making a software tool that analyses the government data into a smooth curve that fits the data as best it can, all of which was stimulated by desiring to know in practical terms what the R-factor value really was.The curve-fitting part is working - the conversion into R-factor will never quite match what the 'official' sources say, but what it does is to detect trends and theor strength, and most importantly, rising numbers of daily cases, viewed without the randomness of the real-life figures.This shows, all too clearly, the new cases per day is increasing, and that the Covid R factor is 1.2 by our calculation. The situation is controllable, but the message is that we in danger of the cases per day multiplying out of control.
The good news is that the Bracknell Forest figure appeared to have an R factor of 0.61, much less than 1, which is good.
There are a lot of very unhappy things happening around the globe - it is worth saying 'things aren't really too bad here.
Slough is still in a mini-outbreak.
However. our Thames Valley area is showing no general change. Some members of the National Press were predicting today another lockdown within the month. Keep an eye on our figures, and if our current stability continues, do make our MP aware that a new lockfown is NOT currently justified in our area. We will be anong the first to agree to a new lockdown if (but only if) there is a real local justification.
The PHE website from which we get our figures went down this afternoon - had Covid-19 struck again?? But, no, it was back on air by 8pm, when we start our evening stint on this webpage.
Slough is having a mini-Covid outbreak with 20 new cases in the last week. This is not enough to throw the 6-area curve off track, but it is an example, all too close to us, of the way that the the pandemic is now working - effectively as an epidemic which is striking local regions, almost randomly.
However, it isn't really random, because each new case arises from an old one, and, without some control, the R0 factor rises to above zero. However, the pattern of propagation is to a degree random. There is an element of chance in being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and there is an element of chance in the likelihood of the disease managing to propagate itself (a chance that is directly affected by use of masks and other protective equipment.
And once an outbreak starts, stopping potential carriers from being in places where they can transmit the disease is a vital tool in bringing the R0 factor down (this measures exponential rise or fall).
It's a game of chance in which everybody has to play their role. The purpose of masks and track-and-trace is to win the statistical game against the virus, far more than directly saving us as individuals from infection. Masks and tracking cannot be 100% effective, but that's not critical. If they are effective enough, we will beat the disease.
What the MP and his office assured us was that they and the local council are doing their part in setting up and actioning systems that should (with our cooperation) help the statistical battle against the virus, and we were pleased at the high level of official proactivity.
All the same, we have all to be aware that, just now, we are NOT winning agains the virus. This is the reality, and we cannot and must not avoid it. Putting it bluntly, as a large community we are not supporting the measures that should be bringing cases down. Here in Bracknell Forest we are much better off than some, but the cases graph for our area continues steadily upwards. We are not safe until those cases start to diminish, and that means supporting the weapons of the statistical war: masks, social distancing, avoiding being in the wrong place, and also cheerful participation in the track-and-trace process.
It is true that there will be occasions when following the rules will not affect the statistical war directly, but the more we can set high standards of compliance, the better the chances of ur communities being motivated to participate in the war. And to help keep us safe, particularly the old and vulnerable.
We like the range of information provided by the new Government website on Covid-19 statistics. The website can be found by pressing the last of the red buttons above. We have copied a small part of its chart on daily cases for the four nations (England is, of course, blue), which shows that new cases across the country (and the UK) have been rising over the month of July and early August. The good news for us is that the number of cases in our six areas has NOT risen, also, we seem to have, area by area, a much-less-than average rise. In England, the daily cases rose from 523 on 2/7/20 to 796 on 7/8/20; our 6 cases per day average prorates to about 50 times 6, which is better than half the average.
We have been in touch with our MP, Mr James Sunderland MP, saying that we are pleased that Bracknell Forest (and the other 5 areas) have excellent and well-defined Outbreak Control Plans, but noting that, with these in place, we are still not reducing the average rate of new cases. We also recommend that the Plans identify that a single case should constitute an outbreak, not two, as currently recorded in the plan. After all, any recorded case may be related to other asymptomatic cases, and a single super-infectious recorded case can result in many subsequent cases, as the news reports only too clearly.
He and Mr Gerry Barber have been good enough to respond, the latest communication saying 'Please be assured that I am in regular contact with the council. The council are managing to their plan and have regular contact with Public Health England. The outbreak in Martins Heron was managed well by the council and Tesco. All involved followed the agreed protocols and advice from PHE who take the lead in these issues.'
This is good news, although we do all need to be aware that, for people who are accountable, saying that that they were following established practice is not a full excuse if things go wrong. Only success equals success!
The news from Beirut is terrible, with a monster-explosion on top of Covid-19. Pity the people of Lebanon, and please be prepared to support them. British Red Cross have a special appeal.
My own encounter with Lebanon was in the late 60's. I was working in New York for a management consultancy company, and they had identified the regime in Lebanon as a model - a real exemplar - of communities working tolerantly and productively together - these communities were predominantly the Muslims, the Christians and the Jews.
I had the pleasure of visiting Beirut in the early 70s, and my hotel on the fringes of the city was a beautiful place, although building work to expand the city meant night-time working - let in the noise and the cool - or bear the heat. The people of Lebanon were friendly and cosmopolitan - the Lebanese had a world-wide reputation as traders and entrepreneurs. Even with this brief encounter, I felt that there was a special atmosphere in the city, that resonated with what I had heard about the country.
Only a year or two later catastrophe struck as refugees from Syria poured in, and Lebanon was sucked into Middle Eastern political conflicts and instability, leading to a terrible civil war. Recovery from that has been retarded by a corrupt and incompetent government, with collapse of the currency. The ordinary people of Lebanon have had to put up with so much, and now an explosion that has taken many lives, and destroyed the port that was at the centre of being a trading nation. My heart goes out to them, as the lives of so many Lebanese people have yet again been lost or shattered.
Anthony Hodson, Webmaster
With just two more cases yesterday over our whole TV area, we are taking a small break by providing this interesting (although not obviously helpful) article from the New York Times:
'Novavax, the little-known Maryland company that received $1.6 billion from the federal government to produce an experimental coronavirus vaccine, announced encouraging results in two preliminary studies on Tuesday.
'In one study, 56 volunteers produced a high level of antibodies against the virus without any dangerous side effects. In the other, researchers found that the vaccine strongly protected monkeys from coronavirus infections.
'There are other vaccines that are further along with clinical trials, but Novavax's stands out because it is protein-based - the same proven technology used for existing vaccines against diseases like shingles - which could make it safer and easier to manufacture in large amounts.
'Our NYT colleague Carl Zimmer, a science writer and author of "A Planet of Viruses," thinks there will be a number of coronavirus vaccines that will turn out to be safe and effective. "I think that there will be a patchwork," he told us. India, China, and Russia, could all end up with their own successful vaccines, he said, and "there may be vaccines that are better for old people and other groups."
'Despite the promising initial results, it won't be possible to say whether the Novavax vaccine is safe and effective until the company conducts a large-scale study - known as Phase 3 - comparing people who get vaccinated to people who get a placebo.' [The UK Oxford Group are in the early days of this phase.]
'The NYT's Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker monitors vaccines that have reached trials in humans, along with a selection that are still being tested in cells or animals.'
Six more cases in our areas. It has been a little anxious a time, as Public Health England have said that they would close down the website used since lockdown; they promised to supply the information, but in a different form. The last time they changed the system, on 2 July, the form was the same but the information was completely different, which is why our chart had to be divided in two! Anyway, bless their hearts, the new information is accessible under a slightly different guise, and it is clearly a smooth continuation of what was supplied before! (Famous last words??) So our charts continue as usual. The PHE website on a button on this page still works.
Talking of scams, we learn of elderly people receiving letters saying that they are defaulting on their new charges for television licenses, and pay up at once, or there will be consequences. Needless to say, the funds go straight into a fraudster's pocket. Beware of this and related scams.
Six more cases in our areas. On the positive side, it is good to read of 'rapid tests' that can be applied on a large scale to city populations to help identify and control infectious sources. "Starting next week, the tests will be routinely used to check hospital and care home staff and patients, but there are plans for more than a million tests a day by the time winter arrives," (Daily Telegraph). Good news but not before time, and let's hope after all this time that 'they' can deliver!! Now, of course, we are facing widespread hazards from people on beaches, at sports venues and in big cities, ignoring the dangers and failing to take sensible precautions in the kind of locations where a lot of infection remains.
Covid throws up some good things. The American composer Eric Whitacre has produced a virtual choir to sing a beautiful new song. Hear it by following this link: Sing Gently. If you follow the credits for the 17,572 singers from 129 countries, you will find at least one local person - our daughter. We have put up a special button above.
We learn of people who received an email purporting to be from a generous Bill Gates: 'Pay $1000 into this Bitcoin account, and I will send you $2000 to double your money, as part of my Covid give-back!' Some people fell for it, it seems. As they say, 'If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!' Beware scams!!
Today the first service was held in St Mary's Church for nearly four months. The planning for this was complex, and not without misgivings, but, in the event, the congregation was there - generally one pew per family - and covered a wide age-range. Next week we have Family Matins in St Mary's, and with growing confidence born of real experience in dealing with a stackful of regulations and advice, it will go smoothly.
Meanwhile, we look at the spike in the North of England with some anxiety. It is clear now that Government policy is now focused on localised policies for disease control, so that in the relatively low case-incidence in our area, we can be less concerned than most about new lockdown measures, while acknowledging that lockdown anywhere hurts us all.
The newspapers report that in the North, the disease has not 'really gone away'. Unfortunately, the data that we publish day by day indicates with its steady rise in cases, the disease has not 'really gone away' here either. However, we do have the advantage that new outbreaks, marked by local rises of new cases, are small enough in size and geographical scope not to join up and create a real spike - but we must add 'YET' and urge care and vigilance.
There was a big article in the newspaper today about rich countries taking all the vaccines (when they are available) for themselves, leaving poorer countries without the resources to purchase vaccines to continue to be stricken. We may reflect on the fact that smallpox and poliomyelitis were ultimately defeated by worldwide efforts. It isn't yet clear just how Covid-19 will evolve - and we also remember that the SARS epidemic of 2003 somehow died away; but if Covid-19 looks like a long-term survivor, we can expect to have to support vaccination in poor countries - for our long-term benefit in not having a time-bomb lurking in a third-world country.
Yesterday we mentioned Gresham College, of which Prof Whitty is the Professor of Physic - medicine and biology in today's terms. We have been notified that the schedule of free public lectures for the academic year 2020/2021 is now ready, and there are launch links on the social media, which will be of interest to all existing or would-be followers of Gresham College - for now all lectures are on line for this ancient but very modern institution:
Seven more cases in our 1M Thames Valley area, and further lockdown in the North.
A letter to a newspaper today by two FRCSs seems to show people with letters after their names setting themselves up as experts on the statistical value of facemasks for infection control. They point out that masks for surgeons were discarded years ago, and assert, without justification, that the use of surgical masks is 'not dissimilar' to the use of masks to assist Covid-19 control. They miss the point - the situation is grossly dissimilar.
If a surgeon took a precaution when operating that was 80% effective, the 20% of situations in which it was ineffective would quite properly make it unsuitable for that purpose. A patient suffering infection might well sue a surgeon for relying on a precaution that was known to be flawed. Also, the asymmetry of the patient/surgeon relationship is a modelling factor, as is the length of time spent in contact.
However. an 80% success rate for masks in countering infection for random encounters with infections people would be fantastic. Even 50% would be immensely valuable. This little thought-experiment shows the major flaw in the FRCSs' argument. Here we are, trying to reduce R0 reproduction factors that are above 1, and struggling to bring them below one. In the charts for our area, we are showing more than 150 new cases in 30 days - on average 5 per day. The R0 factor is very close to the neutral 1 value, and could go either way. An 20% reduction would quite noticeably reduce the R0 factor; save 30 new cases in the first month, and probably several lives. We read of several formal tests that do show a statistical effect of masks in Covid infection.
A failure by the surgeons to recognise the value of statistical effectiveness of masks seems to show an uninformed narrowness of viewpoint.
Nobody likes wearing masks, and there are social drawbacks, but let's take the risk that masks will help. We prefer to take advice from Prof Whitty, whom we know as the Gresham Professor of Physic, and whose measured advice is apolitical and deeply informed. He would not otherwise have been appointed to this distinguished post.
The 10 new cases in the area, and that gruesomely steady rise of local cases remind us that we are on a knife edge. We do not have the numbers of new cases that are plaguing those northern towns, causing renewed lockdown, thank goodness, but we have to be in control.
We can only hope that the local 'Outbreak Control Plans' filed by local authorities are not only in place but also being energetically activated. Please, Local Authorities, tell us that these are in hand!
The immediacy of Covid control is underlined by the self-isolation required of people waiting for significant surgery at this time in this region. No leaving the house, barring emergencies, and no contact within the house with family members, including separate bedrooms and feeding, unless they are all self-isolating.
Today, no new cases were reported in the area. While this does emphasise our assertion that, in this area, we are relatively Covid-free, particilarly in Bracknell Forest (where we have had no new cases reported for several days), the curve in the right hand chart still a steady rise, that is not being brought under control, because small local outbreaks keep popping up almost at random.
It is good to see control and treatment methods being systematically deployed, with increasing success. Today our newspaper has reported on the contact tracing work (see the Government's contact-tracing diagram), and this should be an effective tool in helping to control local outbreaks. Although this is the season for people being wise after the event, today's reports include some very useful and encouraging lessons and developments that will increasingly help the country to recover.
We need to stay alert and take all the sensible precautions that affect not only our personal safety, but also that contribute percentage point by percentage point to the edge that we have on the disease.
No great pieces of news today, which is just as well. Superficially, things seem to be coming to normal. On a hospital visit to Windsor today, the Ascot/Windsor traffic was heavy enough to make us have to wait for a hole in the traffic at the Loch Fyne T-junction. Yet the restaurant car park was almost empty. There were quite a few people enjoying the Great Park. Yet, at the hospital, masked men were showing cars containing people with appointments into individual traffic-cone-protected parking places. Waiting in a social-distancing queue at a side-entrance to the hospital, bright sunlight was the sole cheering-up factor. It's going to be a strange world for the foreseeable future.
The Corona crisis has thrown up some horrible behaviour, such as the disability-hate-crime reported by Thames Valley Alert. It feeds a 'don't care' attitude in parts of the community, and in lockdown there is little to counter such mind-sets. It has brought terrible hardship that can only get worse, with a toll of mental disability to heighten the problems. Charities are struggling because traditional fund-raising has become nearly impossible. Church funding has already had some shocking consequences, with not only our big cathedrals running towards insolvency, but our parishes too.Our personal charity budgets face so many calls of distress that they are impossible to reconcile with demands. Saving for our old age looks increasingly difficult, for those who haven't reached retirement, and for those who have, savings do not look as secure as they did only a year ago.
It has, however, been heartwarming to see people rising out of the gloom with new forms of success and new ideas. For example, we were charmed by the news of 6-year-old Faith, editor-in-chief of 'Cocoa Girl', a new magazine to 'empower' young black children, which has touched on a human need, made prominent by Black Lives Matter, that could be turned from resentment into something much more positive.
And, talking of faith, in our parish and church life we have and share an important resource that can bring us courage, resilience, love, and generosity (including the hospitality so eloquently referred to by Rev'd Patrick last Sunday), and that is our Christian faith.
With just two more cases reported today, it would seem that the 'panic is over'. This is not the case at all. Every case needs to be tracked down and followed up, as each case, particularly when several have happened at the same time and place, can multiply into many more, although that will have a delayed effect. It might be fanciful, but the local case lines appear to go in bursts of a week (although that could be a quirk of the week-related method of collecting data). The Reading authorities have to keep watching Reading cases. We have put out a query to those authorities, but they will probably be as unresponsive as all the other authorities that we have written to.
Interesting news comes from the USA: large vaccine trials started yesterday on the Moderna/NIH vaccine. This will enrol 30,000 people at 89 sites around the USA: half of the volunteers will be getting a placebo as reference, as is standard for formal drug testing. Participants will be tracked to see whether or not they contract the disease,and, if they do, researchers will measure whether they have reduced effects. Pfizer is also starting a 30,000 person trial, with test populations in Brazil, Argentina and Germany as well as in the USA.
Moderna say that they expect to be able to deliver 500,000 doses this year.
The NYT also picks up on Boris Johnson's quest to reduce obesity - a venture born of his own obesity and near-death from Covid-19. They also comment on another issue that has also hit the news over here: there are many migrants from other countries - including from the poorer parts of Europe - who work in richer countries and regularly send a major part of their earnings back home, often supporting elderly relatives. The devastating effect of Covid-19 on the lower-paid people in our communities is exporting poverty to those countries that depended heavily on income from migrants. The transfer of money in this way has been much greater than foreign aid from richer countries, and this points to the need for these countries (including the UK) NOT to reduce foreign aid, even though with, our damaged economies, it is tempting to do so. We all live in the same world, and we are all connected economically as well as in many other ways, so in the long term support could be less expensive than lack of support.
There are 8 more cases today, and the left hand curve shows Reading to have a curve of rising slope. Thy have accumulated 12 more cases in the last 6 days, and that seems significant
The main news, of course, is Dominic Raab's impositions on tourists returnibg from Spain. This issue epitomises the tensions between acting on a country as a whole, or just on parts of a country that have significant outbreaks. As we have written, we in the UK are really on a knife-edge, as we have not achieved a steady reduction in cases in England. This fragment of the official cases bar-chart published by PHE shows clearly that UK cases are not reducing just now. We note that Scotland is following the British lead here on foreign travel. It is hugely disappointing for travellers and the travel-industry, but we would do well not to be over-confident.
Meanwhile, we do not yet see very clear signs that local areas are taking firm steps to control their new cases. Bracknell Forest seems to have gone to ground following their much-followed venture onto Facebook for the Martins Heron mini-outbreak.
With 11 more cases, it is a good moment to look for really good Covid-19 news. Today there isn't any really good news that we have seen. But first of all, you can see that the new cases do not seem to push us outside the trend shown by the right-hand chart. It's the same trend that we have been pointing out for days, and nothing worse.
Recent newspaper articles are pointing to the good news that there has been some solid advances in the reatment of Covid-19 cases, both at an early stage and at a later one. Just now the survival rate is much better than back in March, and new drugs are coming forward - that is, established safe drugs that were developed for other purposes, but that show trial evidence that they really do contribute to the treatment of the effects of Covid-19. And the news from Australia (where it is winter) is that the virus is not flourishing in the cooler system as much as conventional wisdom said it would.
Ah well, lets keep cheerful! Tomorrow is another week.
The occurrence of five more cases in the region pushes the line of new cases steadily upward. It is good that, just now, with the country opening up, there is no worsening of the incidence of Covid-19 here, and this seems to be the overall England picture, too. All the same, there is no improvement, and we cannot say that we can open up much more unless we win clear battles against the disease.
All this will be evident to the Government, and their decision to make us all wear masks in shops etc. seems a measure that (if accepted by almost everybody), should give a statistical advantage over the disease. Nobody can say that masks are guaranteed to stop people catching Covid-19, but if it reduces the chances by as little as 30%. it will give us an edge. People arguing that masks are useless without the guarantee of success are quite missing the point. The epidemiologists are absolutely clear that beating an epidemic is a matter of winning a statistical battle - and, of course, they are right.
All the same, proactive tackling of cases as they arise is not only important, it is also confidence building (if successful) in a way that jiggling statistics cannot achieve.
There were six new cases recorded for today. Looking at the lab-confirmed cases for England as a whole, this seems to be a general pattern. It is true that there is not much Covid-19 out there in our own general area, but we still do not know where, and detection and correction must be used to keep Covid incidence actively going down while the country is opening up.
There was an interesting article yesterday, 23/7/20)in the New York Times, entitled 'Can You Get Covid-19 Again? It's Very Unlikely, Experts Say' (their capitalisation).
Quite a lot of people appear to have had symptoms long after a first infection, but the conclusion aappears to be that this is an appearance of long-term symptoms, not a new infection, particularly as such people appear not to be infectious.
The lowering of antibody level after a period following infection has scared people, but this is classic behaviour even for viruses for which there is lasting immunity. The body cannot sustain the high initial level of plasmablasts that create antibodies, so the level goes down when the antibodies are no longer needed in such quantities. The body also has other defences, such as T-cells and B cells, that help keep further infection at bay.
The availability of a vaccine looks more and more likely. Although 'no vaccine is perfect.', the article quotes the Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health "We achieve herd immunity all the time with less-than-perfect vaccines."
This is reassuring, but still substantially anecdotal, and we need to keep an eye out for strong research results.
With another five cases recorded for today, it is very good to have received a letter from James Sunderland, MP for Bracknell, in response to a letter that we had sent him earlier.
In his helpful letter, Mr Sunderland thanks us for our earlier letter, referring with pleasure to the zero infection rate that we had been able to report for the first time since the start of the pandemic in that letter. He writes "We have been particularly lucky in the Bracknell area compared to many others. However we must always be on our guard. This virus can spread easily and, as we know, the old and infirm are highly susceptible to infection. We have been particularly lucky in the Bracknell compared to many others. One of the observations for the Thames Valley is the high mobility of residents across the region and so the continuation of social distancing is of great importance."
He continues by saying that he is guided by the medical and scientific advice that the Government receives, but invites ideas that he can forward to his colleagues.
We have responded, and the following article represents our reply today to him:
Thank you very much for your kind response to our message, and for saying that you could could take ideas to your colleagues in government. We here are guided not only by generally-available medical and scientific advice, but also by direct practical observations of the situation in our region.
We continue to maintain daily graphs pertaining to our 6-UTLA Thames Valley region. You can see them directly on www.fosmw.com/fosmw-stayalert.html#start and all you need do is glance at the right hand chart and note that the region has a steady rise of cases that continues upwards at a more-or-less even rate. (The six UTLAs are Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead, Bracknell Forest, Wokingham, Reading and West Berkshire.
From this it is clear that WE ARE NOT CURRENTLY MAKING ANY SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE AVERAGE DAILY RATE OF NEW CASES IN OUR REGION. New little outbreaks keep cropping up at different points in the area.
Of course, social distancing is important, but it is evidently not enough.
The Government now correctly recognises the importance of Local Authorities in tackling outbreaks, and all the 6 UTLAs have Outbreak Control Plans. We have recently seen Facebook interaction on the Bracknell Forest Council about the recent Martin's Heron outbreak, and that was good to see.
There are three managerial recommendations for the UTLAs that seem vitally important:
These measures, effectively applied, should reduce the disease and help control more serious outbreaks. Also, confidence will be built in our communities: confidence that the practical control of Covid-19 is being taken seriously and is effective in our area.
Government's job is to ensure that UTLAS know what they have to do, to ensure that they have the tools and the knowledge to use them, and so can reduce the rate of new cases in a region - in each region.... we will be carefully monitoring progress. We can see where outbreaks are, and we need to know what is happening about them.
Five more cases in the area - which we hope will be taken seriously by Local Authorities.
One newspaper carried an article on 17/7/20 headlined 'Mixed messages aren't helping nation already scared of its wits.' It used as its primary evidence for the causation of 'witless scare' the inflated story about two ministers coming out of a Pret a Manger, one with a mask on and one not, painting that as a serious incident. The same trivial story appeared on BBC prime time.
The media too often cause Britain international embarrassment by dwelling obsessively on such insubstantial incidents.We believe that the country is not scared out of its wits, even in the face of scaremongering. People are increasingly realising that, geographically by far the greatest part of the country is Covid-19-free, but we need to be proactive as the disease is still out there. People are recognising that detailed handling of Covid-19 avoidance, detection and treatment, including identifying where the disease remains dangerously active, is becoming a matter for local authorities, hand in hand with local people. Central government support is still critically needed in terms of resources and policies that have to be handled nationwide in order to support Outbreak Control Plans already in place in local authorities.
The press has a duty to help this process, and not foist tittle-tattle on us as serious Covid news.
Zero cases across the region, including -1 case for Reading. It looks as if the case migrated over the border to West Berkshire - but, in any case, a total of zero is warming news for us as we hear of local outbreaks popping up all over the place - largely the result of fairly obvious failures to control the spread. Let our own people, who seem to be doing relatively well, not become complacent!
But today we have some solid news about the Oxford Vaccine and its verified success so far. The vaccine is based on modifying a harmless adenovirus, and has two weapons: to stimulate the T-cells that are the primary body defence against infected cells, as well as stimulating the body's production of antibodies against Covid-18. After initial sccessful trials on chimpanzees, and safety trials, a large-scale trial was launched. Because numbers of cases were diminishing in the UK, the full scale test has had to move to another country - South Africa - to achieve a sound experimental basis. The results of the South African trials will take some time to carry out and evaluate, but the indications are that the vaccine is both safe and effective. Just now the level of effectiveness in control of the disease in a population is not known. It is not known how long immunity is inferred, but we have seen that with passive avoidance we can reduce incidence, and with a few months of effective extermination of the virus, a fully controlled status should be achieved, even if vaccine-created immunity then diminishes.
It is thought that, if the trials are as successful as is hoped, the vaccine could be ready to be rolled out in December. The first people in the general population to be vaccinated may well be be front-line workers and the elderly and others at high risk.
Another development reported today is the results of early trials in the treatment of Covid-19 by the administration of Interferon Beta spray, by which severe symptoms were avoided in nearly 80% of cases tested. Like other drugs tried out for their use with Covid-19, the circumstances in which success occurs is not fully known, although the drug is well established, e.g. in the treatment of MS. The formula for Interferon Beta is C908H1408N246O252S7 so it is not easy to make in your kitchen.
Only three new cases today, but it is doubtful whether this is significant reduction.
Meanwhile, we hope that all those cases are being traced and under scrutiny.
"A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding."
(Media philosopher Marsall McLuhan, quoted by Forbes and The Week.)
At a time when a point of view can be reduced to a Tweet, or to group-think, such as woke-ness, we universally need more insight and understanding. It was Marshall McLuhan who coined the insightful remark "The medium is the message".
Today's charts show, yet again, that our Thames Valley Upper Tier Local Athorities have not been making any impact on the steady progression of the number of cases. To make real impact, the ULTAs need the details of local cases, as we have been saying for weeks. Bracknell Forest achieved this recently, evidently with difficulty. But now progress is possible.
The Observer reports: 'The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has bowed to pressure from councils, which demanded full access to the names and data of people in their areas who tested positive for Covid-19, and those with whom they have been in contact, in another major government U-turn.
'Local authorities and public health officials have been complaining for weeks that they are being hampered in efforts to combat and prevent local outbreaks by lack of access to "named patient data" which would allow them to get straight to the sources of local outbreaks.
'Now the Observer has been told that Hancock, who has insisted repeatedly that local authorities have all the information they need from the track and trace system, is set to give way and allow access to the named data as well other information already provided, such as postcodes, so long as strict data protection rules and conditions are followed.'
Matt Hancock today was said to have made this 'U-turn'. Is making a U-turn a good or a bad thing for a minister or government to do? It depends on the circumstances.
It is unsettling when a minister or government keeps changing their mind. On the other hand, if the circumstances have changed, it is accepted wisdom is that it is silly to 'throw good money after bad': better (and more courageous) to recognise that a U-Turn is necessary when the new position is best for all, and then change resolutely to the new position.
Who would want a government to stick stubbornly to a policy that is no longer the best, just in order to save face? Rather than being judgmental, try to understand the background. Having done that, you are in a much stronger and ethically sounder position as a critic to state that the U-Turn was a bad thing.
Personal privacy issues seemed to have been underlying Government issues - and that has its merits. Does this kind of issue stack up against matters of life and death - and not just through disease? But then, how satisfactory is the Chinese model?
Each of the new cases in Reading, Windsor and Maidenhead - even single infections - need to be investigated and further precuations taking. With this level of cases it shouldn't be difficult, but it is worth the resources. So long as the whole-region level of cases marches up at the same average rate (as the right-hand chart clearly indicates) we cannot say that we are tackling the disease effectively in the region.
Having said that, the truth is that we hardly have any Covid-19 in our area. Now all we need is to sure about where it isn't present.
Every one of the 6 local areas has an Outbreak Control Plan, and reports in the newspapers today indicate that devolution of outbreak control local authorities will increasingly be taking the strain. What we now need is for local authorities to open in their handling of the matter. Bracknell Forest Council has a Facebook page, but this does not seem to be attended to on a daily basis with regard to local cases (e.g. the aftermath of the Martins Heron mini-outbreak).
The Daily Telegraph today reports a decline of death-rates per case to about 5.5%, and attributes this to better treatment of the disease with anti-virals such as remdesevir, Vitamin C, zic-treatmenst and blood thinning. PHE does not attempt to give per-case death rates in England, but one can get an idea by dividing a 3-day average of reported deaths for 17/7/2007 (73) by the corresponding new-case figure for 27/6/20 (20 days earlier) (517), with a ratio of 14.5% - probably +/- 5%. So we probably have some way to go in the UK. Survival is much better than in those dark early days.
We can take great amusement from our observation of the US people wrestling with the rights/wrongs of mask wearing, while being appalled at the level of cases and deaths in the USA, and the disarray of federal government and many states in terms of policies and hospital support.
People who don't like wearing masks (who does?) use the notion of 'constitutional rights' and inflate this flimsy argument by fierce position-taking (the only way known to them in the absence of logic). The New York Times reports: "Public health officials say wearing a simple cloth mask is one of the most basic ways to prevent the spread of the virus. But the issue became increasingly partisan after President Trump eschewed them and downplayed their benefits. In many surveys, there is a 20-point partisan split, with Republicans much less likely to wear masks. A recent study found that your political affiliation is the best predictor of whether you wear a mask, even more than your age or where you live.
"Even so, self-reported mask use in the U.S. is high: About 80 percent of Americans said they wore masks frequently or always when they were close to other people - a higher rate than in France, Canada or Australia."
The Public Health England also publishes the rate of cases per 100,000 of population, and this gives the overall COVID-19 prevalence in each area. In our 6 areas, the figures in order are:
Bracknell Forest: 313.9
West Berkshire: 301.5
Windsor and Maidenhead: 271.7
Let us be clear about this: the total number of cases in the area is rising just as fast now as it was rising two or three weeks ago. The chart on the right shows that since 2/7/20 the number of new cases amount to about the same as reported for the whole of the Covid-19 infections in this region before it took off here on 26/3/20.
This is the time for our local authorities to use their 'whack-a-mole' tactics to better effect. Otherwise we will never get rid of this horrible disease, at any rate before we have an effective vaccine.
The good news today is that the Oxford team have a research direction that looks very promising, creating antibodies and also stimulating T-cells. The full report is expected on Monday.
The New York Times has today published a moving article, with tragic cases, about the plight of 'women of colour' in the UK. The journal writes:
Black and other ethnic minority women in Britain are being disproportionately affected by the financial and psychological toll from the coronavirus outbreak, even as the economy reopens. Their experiences are highlighting the racial inequalities that already existed in Britain. Experts say people of color there are more likely to be in precarious work situations or to become unemployed. That has made it harder for them to qualify for government support and to protect themselves from the virus.
We think that most of us understand only too well, not only that many BME people are at the low end of the economic spectrum, but also that their plight, for various reasons, feeds into propagation of the virus. It will be to the advantage of all if, when the vaccine arises, it can be focused, as a priority, onto disadvantaged communities. Tha will help us all, particularly if supported by other supportive measures at that end of the economic spectrum.
So that reduces the 10-day average, which is encouraging.
We would expect the rates for each area with new infections to reduce to zero and stay there. Instead, we find a systematic increase in cases in four out of six of the areas, with only West Berkshire and Bracknell Forest stable for the last few days.
Of course it doesn't, and no savvy person ever said that it does. The point about wearing masks is that it reduces the risk of an infectious person that you encounter passing it on to you. A 10% reduction of risk could make the difference between the disease being self-sustaining in a local area (local R0 factor greater than 1), or for it not to be self-sustaining (local R0 factor less than 1).
Each day we learn more about the disease, and its terrible effects. We are threatened by a major second outbreak with many more deaths. Wearing a mask in places where it is just possible that there is an infectious person - and just now that is almost everywhere in public places where there is not 100% success in tracing - will help to control the infection.
True, it's tiresome and unglamorous; true, one's glasses steam up: if there is a chance that it will help stem the disease, we must cheerfully accept it.
Talk on the TV (and some newspapers) about 'mixed messaging' because one cabinet minister today emerged from Pret a Manger with a mask, while another had been maskless is just a silly attempt to confuse people - surely our public broadcaster can pursue more substantial issues than this kind of tittle-tattle?
Not much to say about today's figures, which, in the up-and-down of semi-random events, are down today. The overall trend is about 5 new cases per day on average over our 1M population in the 6 Thames Valley areas. This is about twice the rate for this area just before 'take-off' on 26/3/20. No reason for complacency!
We note that Wokingham's Outbreak Control Plan can be found as a download by following THIS LINK.
What is a little depressing is that it is undated and posted on a page dated 1 July - in a fast-moving situation, real news is important. Wokingham published their situation report on 25 June - just under three weeks ago. However, we expect that their work will have been complicated by the seismic shift in the PHE database at the beginning of July.
Amnesty International have published a report on global death-rate for health-care workers, accessible HERE.
We are delighted to see Bracknell Forest Council's Outbreak Control Plan!
We are hoping that the other Thames Valley areas that we are monitoring have similar plans: Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead, Wokingham, Reading and W Berkshire.
However, we might note that the Wokingham cases are showing an upward curving trend. It is unwise to make too much of this but that sort of curve is indicative of an R0 factor that is above 1 and sustaining it - perhaps a hotspot somewhere in Wokingham - are the Wokingham Council people following the trend?
We are pleased that the government is moving to tackle quickly local outbreaks, and thereby avoid restrictions on people who are away from the infected areas. However, that will engender the confidence we need only if we are informed about by PHE where these outbreaks are, so that we can can avoid them. Tactical avoidance by locals may sound a bit harsh on people and businesses who are affected, but, equally, people can quickly stop avoidance when they know that the infection has successfully been tackled.
We note the article on news.sky.com (Covid-19 can be worse than we thought), which highlights not just the potential short term severity of the disease, but also the possibility of chronic effects on organs throughout the body, including the brain. So we have to continue to take all the practical precautions that we can not to catch the disease and pass it on, and we have also to get going again as an economically viable nation that is wealthy enough to help the survivors of the disease with long-term complications. This will be a long-term ongoing task for the NHS, and also for the researchers in the UK and all over the world who can help to find cures for these horrible afflictions.
No uncomfortable spikes in the Covid figures today. Time to relax and enjoy a pleasant English summer's day - with a touch of inspiration and deep enjoyment brought by the remarkable young musicians of the Kanneh-Mason family, who were on BBC1 from 6 to 7pm this evening (and will, no doubt, be on IPlayer tomorrow for all who missed them today).
Meanwhile, here are a few notes on Covid news today:
Four out of the six areas have had small increases in cases. If you look at the cumulative total, this shows a rising rate of cases.
It is too soon to draw any conclusions from this, and the levels of new cases are low. Let's keep watching.
And, meanwhile we can hope that local bodies can worry about where their local hotspots may be, and PHE gives them more specific information.
We have posted this on the Bracknell Forest Facebook page:
"It is excellent that you managed to get detailed information out of PHE - we have asked, but with no response. In an area in which we have relatively few cases, it is clear that cases can only significantly develop if a hotspot gives a very local R0 factor higher than 1; if we know where this happens, the local people can take quick evasive action without involving the politicians, who have enough on their plates just now."
No more Bracknell cases today, but a small persistent rise continues in the six areas as a whole. To make it clearer what is happening in the six individual areas, we have separated the strands by 10 cases each, starting from the 'reset time' of 2/7/20. In the cumulative total to the right, you can see that the left hand part before 'take-off' is 8 days with 25 cases: the right hand part shows 8 days with 32 cases, so the average rate of new cases is higher than it was before 'take-off'. We were lucky here in that take-off in the country as a whole started a week earlier, at any rate as judged by the statistics available then.
Bracknell Forest Council have made a statement, given in full below, about Covid-19 cases at Tesco, Martin's Heron.
We have known that local cases would tend be clustered, and the statement by Bracknell Forest Council essentially confirms that this is the case.
We have also felt that, given a known cluster, we should avoid it. So best, for now, to avoid Tesco at Martins Heron.
Yesterday there were 3 new cases of Covid-19 in the Bracknell Forest area (just visible in our chart). Bracknell Forest Council posted the following statement on their Facebook page:
'UPDATE - Martins Heron Tesco
'We know our residents have been waiting for an official update from Public Health England regarding coronavirus cases at Martins Heron Tesco. 'Thank you for your patience, we now have an update we can share with you from PHE. Please note, PHE's advice is the risk to the public is minimal and people should go about their normal business, paying attention to health and safety guidance
'Specialists from Public Health England (PHE) South East are providing expert advice and support to the Tesco Superstore in Bracknell, following a significantly small number of cases of COVID-19. Staff identified as close contacts of cases are self-isolating at home.Dr Conall Watson, Consultant in Health Protection at PHE South East, said:
"We are working closely with Tesco and Bracknell Forest Council and NHS partners to provide public health advice and help prevent the spread of the virus. Having assessed the available evidence around these case we have concluded that the risk to the wider public is minimal and people should go about their normal business but continue to pay attention to public health guidance and any in-store instructions to help keep everyone safe and well.
"Workplaces are following national guidance and ensure that anyone with symptoms self isolates for 7 days, and their household members isolate for 14 days. Close contacts of confirmed cases are asked to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
"Employers have been asked to take certain measures to help reduce the spread of the virus, including ensuring staff can maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible, employees wash their hands more often than usual for 20 seconds with soap and water and frequently touched surfaces are cleaned regularly."
'PHE will advise on appropriate public health measures to ensure it is safe for staff and public to attend as normal. However, if anyone does develop symptoms, which include a new continuous cough, high temperature or loss or change to their sense of taste or smell, they should self-isolate straight away arrange a COVID-19 test by clicking here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/ask-for-a-test-to-check-if-you-have-coronavirus/ .'
It is time for to watch charts again. So this is a brand new series, like what we had before, but with a few differences.
The left hand chart takes the individual areas (UTLAs - Upper Tier Local Areas) that we are following: Slough, Wokingham, Reading, Windsor & Maidenhead, Bracknell Forest and West Berkshire, which together have about 1M inhabitants. The right hand chart gives the total of all areas.
The left hand side of each chart shows what happened at the start, from 19/3/20 to 30/3/20, by which time the pandemic really lifted off in the UK, with a very sudden and steep rise of cases.
The right hand side of each chart shows what happened since 2/7/20, which is the day that the PHE source of our statistics went to a new database. The levels of cases for each UTLA are reset to zero for 2/7/20, so that the figures relate to new cases after that day.
The thing that is most striking is that the current quite modest slope for the right hans side is curiously similar to the slope at the beginning of the early days before 'lift-off'. What we hope will NOT happen is the same upward rush that we had before.
From now on until further notice we will keep a daily plot going. If there is a sudden surge, are our testing and hospital arrangements in a position in this area to deal with it?
Whatever the problems that we have and continue to have in our country, the 'lockdown' and social distancing has had a very creditable effect on the incidence of cases, with many places having very few new cases in recent days. It is interesting (and an object lesson) to look at what has happened in Sweden where there has been no lockdown, and now cases are soaring. NYT reports:
'Sweden is a cautionary case study for places hoping for an economic revival as they reopen prematurely or trying to avoid another shutdown despite surging new cases. The Swedish economy is expected to shrink 4.5 percent this year, compared to 4.1 percent in Denmark and 3.9 percent in Norway. Unemployment has also increased. "They literally gained nothing," one researcher said.
'How could this happen in a country that remained open? The virus seems to be the real enemy of economic prosperity, not stay-at-home orders. Sweden's manufacturing sector has been shut down by holes in the supply chain. And while stores and restaurants can continue to welcome consumers, many people have been scared off. Credit data from one of the largest banks in Scandinavia shows that Swedes cut back on spending by 25 percent from mid-March to April - nearly as much as Danes during the same period.'
NYT also comments on the terrible situation in their own country, where supplies of testing kits are running short, even as cases soar, noting:
'Experts say that fast, widely available testing is critical for stamping out the virus, but officials in some areas of the USA have had to return to former restrictions, limiting tests to only those with symptoms.
'Researchers around the world are racing to develop reliable "point-of-care" tests that give results in under an hour and could be done in a doctor's office or even at home. The rapid tests on the market today are often inaccurate, and the new ones are still months away from being in clinics.'
The same lesson needs to be learned here.
The one new case in Slough does not signify very much, but the article below implies that a single event can create a big local infection. If, as we do, we live in a Covid-free area, we can in theory party all we like - provided that there is not an infectious outsider. If an infection with a number of people did occur, rapid local action would be needed to neutralise the consequence. Are there local plans to handle such an incident? What are our local Members of Parliament doing about it to ensure that the necessary resources are to hand?
The New York Times (NYT) has just published this important article (noting also that "the USA is still knee-deep in the first wave of the pandemic"):
'Elected officials in the United States are beginning to acknowledge that the rush to reopen was a mistake, as many of the hardest-hit areas in recent weeks have been places that lifted lockdown restrictions fastest. And one factor seems to be playing an outsize role in the uptick: indoor transmission from businesses like bars and restaurants.
'More than 239 scientists from 32 countries are now warning that airborne transmission of the virus indoors should be taken more seriously and are calling on the World Health Organization to revise its recommendations, which they say underestimate the dangers of transmission by tiny, viral particles that linger in the air indoors.
'Our colleague Donald G. McNeil Jr., who covers science for the NYT, told The Daily podcast that when people talk or laugh, they create an "invisible mist" or a "droplet cloud" of tiny particles that floats around near their head. That fog can hold enough virus to transmit the disease; walking into it is akin to someone "spitting on your face."
'Indoors, without a breeze, the cloud can drift across a room, like in a bar or at a cocktail party, at more or less head level, he said, to be inhaled by revelers until 20, 30 or 40 people are infected.
'Evidence is also mounting, Donald said, that Covid-19 is more of a blood vessel disease than a respiratory disease. While the virus enters the body through the lungs, it seems to do its damage by attaching to the insides of blood vessels, infecting organs, like the kidneys and the brain, with lots of fine blood vessels.
'"When they do autopsies, they find thousands of tiny little blood clots all over the body," Donald said. That explains why some patients may experience strokes, dementia and disorientation - and why children and young adults have experienced so-called Covid toe.
'Ancient history meets modern disease. A gene segment inherited from Neanderthals around 60,000 years ago increases the risk of severe illness from the coronavirus, according to a new study. The variant is common in Bangladesh, which may explain why patients of Bangladeshi descent are dying at a higher rate in Britain.'
But not much to report that is formative news. A number of countries are still in deep trouble, including the USA. Friends in Washington DC are firmlyin self-imposed isolation, and we have to hope that they are safe. We may gain a perspective this weekend. We ourselves are taking a rest now!
The 6-area region of the Thames Valley that we have been studying had zero new cases since yesterday, on the basis of the new official figures. This useful total was made up of 1 new case in Bracknell Forest and -1 new case in Reading. Perhaps this oddity was created by a quick drive by a newly diagnosed person across the boarder between the regions?
I suppose that the authorities are trying to make the best of unstable information gathering, but it is increasingly clear that close attention to every single new case is going to be the essential basis for both control of the disease and confidence by everybody that we can trust this control to keep us safe. Please may our MPs ensure that all this happens?
The new statistics show an additional 8 Covid cases - it's not at all clear whether this is a result of the database redesign or a real increase in cases. What a time to change things, just at the time that we need good figures to assess what's going on!
However, it is time to rejoice at the tendrils of normal life shooting up around us.
Golf is going - and now cricket. Sport is alive in a new form that we must learn to love and accept.Pubs open and restaurants will follow; hotels are opening up. Prince Charles has made a public address on behalf of the hospitality industry, appreciating its struggles and sorrows in times that have taken a horrible toll. Find it HERE.
We now need to develop confidence in our ordinary life, learning wher and how we can feel increasingly safe. The time when both work and non-work life will not require eternal precautions will come, and we are probably safer here in East Berkshire than we permit ourselves to think.
The reason that the statistics were not available yesterday is that the kind people at NHE were still preparing figures; for not fully explained reasons, they changed all their figures, with values quite incompatible with what we had previously recorded so carefully. There have been 5 new cases in our area (none in Bracknell Forest and Windsor and Maidenhead) but as the new figures have big holes and omissions, it will be a time before we have a reasonable perspective comparable with what we seemed to have before. The Daily Telegraph has posted local figures that are not compatible (though not too different) with ours. In the next day or so we may be able to get some more control back.
We have received an email claiming to know passwords and have access to our private files, and they are demanding 500USD to pay them not to use the info to our detriment. Any person whose email is public can be targeted. If you receive anything like this, ignore it, and on no account access any website that the email might suggest that you access to verify their claim. You should have an established system (e.g. Norton or McAfee) installed to help keep you computer safe from attack, and you then know that they are just trying it on.
For some reason the daily outflow of statistics from the government has ceased today. In the other news is the cornering by the USA of the anti-viral drug remdesevir, although with some availability. Of more impact, perhaps, is the news that low infections make it difficult to test the efficacy of the Oxford vaccine work, requiring testing in places like Brazil. making it unlikely that a vaccine would be available before 2001.
It is now becoming clear that we may indeed have parts of the UK in which there is no Covid-19, and this is likely to include our own Thames Valley area. The need to treat different places differently is now becoming apparent, and this can only become the most prudent strategy if monitoring and testing of Covid can target cases to the individual level. The government has been slow to deploy proactive testing, but the time is coming when it is the primary counter to targeted lockdowns that will seem unfair and harmful to the economy.At least people in senior places are now realising that R-factor fixation is not productive.
It is interesting that, as yet, we have not seen any very obvious repercussions of the BLM protesters in Reading, although is is still early days. We can hope that those protesting in Reading were local people - and you can not spread Covid or any other disease when you live in an area where there are no cases. We are deeply sympathetic with the people of Leicester as they face the postponement of normal life.
We have been pointing out the misleading nature of the R-factor, and the newspapers report today that we have been right all along, although they never pronted out letters.
Not much more to say about that.
So let's take another line on yesterday's theme. The ratio of total deaths to total UK cases today is 22.19%.
This means that 22% of people who were tested have already died, and the toll of today's cases has not yet come to an end.
For those actually hospitalised, the situation is more intense. Not everybody who was registered as a case was hospitalised: we would expect that at least perhaps 20% of positive test patients were discharged after out-patient treatment. So the percentage of deaths for hospitalised patients would be overall at about 30%+, on average over the past three months.
Matching cohorts of cases and deaths shows an overall death-rate of around 27% of cases. Looking at individual cohorts shows a percentage that has actually risen to nearly 40% in recent weeks. Removing the non-hospitalised, at the peak of the disease about 35% or more of hospitalised patients died - more than one in three. Absolutely horrendous and even worse of late. The later figures are only ameliorated in recent weeks by the general fall in death rate - currently more than 85% from the peak.
We knew of the emotional stress and strain on hospital staff at the peak of the pandemic, who found so high a proportion of their patients dying on them, and these figures, based on official statistics, bring their plight into perspective, in addition to the massive level of sorrow brought by so many deaths to so many families around the country. And so many families were unable to say goodbye to their loved ones. We bless the NHS staff who found it a need to ensure that patients in their care did not die alone.
We must take NHS people right into our hearts in sympathy for what they had to go through, day after day, and we should remember the deep traumatic stress suffered by so many NHS workers.
As of now, the total number of lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK is 311,965, of which 160,391 are in England. The total number of Covid-19 deaths in England is 39,035. This paage hasn't mentioned deaths much, but now things are on the mend, it's perhaps OK to consider this as ascientific factor.
This mean that the mortality rate dividing the two numbers is 24%. That is, for every 100 lab-confirmed case, there have been 24 deaths.
Now, the estimated death rate of Covid-19 has been estimated at about 1%. If this is the case, then to get those 24 deaths would require 2400 cases, including very mild infections.
So potentially we must multiply the confirmed cases by 24 to get the real number of actual cases. We had expected a factor of 4 or 5, but that expectation is perhaps out by a factor of 4 or 5! It really is important to get widely-used testing in place!!
The good news is that, if you do catch Covid-19, you have a very good chance that it will be too mild to report under the provisions of today.
Four more cases recorded today in our area, including three in Reading (this was, we know the scene of the terrible attack that took place in the Forbury Gardens, when people were enjoying a lovely summer evening). It is difficult to make anything of these cases, but we could have the country-wide figure stabilising at about 100 cases per day as the easing of precautions allows a few more cases to slip in.Please may we all help to report on and control new cases when testing and contact-reporting becomes the norm, as we hope and pray that it will.
No new cases recorded today in our area.
The German R-factor has risen to 2. Have a tiny infected area in a Covid-free area, and the whole area inherits the R-Factor of the tiny area - distorting the apparent truth for people who do not understand statistics. We think that some R-factor-influenced political planners may not want to recognise this mathematical fact.
There will be local outbreaks, as currently in Germany and elsewhere: the overwhelming need is to detect them early, find out and attack the location of infection, and so stop uncontrolled spread.
Again the local cases are dominated by Windsor and Maidenhead, so it is time for a chart.
This chart shows our 6 local areas, at the beginning of the lockdown period and also over the last few weeks. Windsor and Maidenhead is the red dotted line, and you can see that, with a few ups and downs, the number of cases have been rising more-or-less steadily over the latter period, while the other 5 areas are now flat - no cases, or perhaps the odd case.
Now, a steady rise signifies an R-factor that is above 1 but falling (otherwise it would be expanding exponentially). But what is so special about Windsor and Maidenhead that gives it that characteristic? It cannot just be Her Majesty's presence. Perhaps both areas possess Thames river banks that are used for recreational purposes? Any other ideas?
Looking back to the period with the huge case-rise at the start of the epidemic, it was Windsor and Maidenhead that really took off - why? You cannot blame that on the river-banks!
The New York Times reports: The town of Verkhoyansk in Northern Siberia topped 100 Fahrenheit last Saturday, possibly the hottest temperature ever recorded above the Arctic Circle. Verkhoyansk had been best known as a place of exile that shared the Northern Hemisphere's cold temperature record - 90 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
This was way outside the experience of the bodies of the people of that area, and they are suffering heat problems, exacerbated by smoke from fild-fires.
Bracknell Forest had a reported case that was 'cancelled', so we also are on the same number of reported cases after 11 days! The W Berks case was the only one reported today in our 6-area region.
Newly reported cases across England are unstable at not far below 100. The instability seems to be due to unreliable or late reporting, so it is not possible to assess this as a short term trend: there seems to be no jump yet as a result of people ignoring social isolation rules. Our view is that there is ample reason to take these rules seriously. Our worry is that the unwise behaviour of some regions may adversely affect 'well-behaved' regions like ours in the minds of the politicians.
Vaccines targeted at other viruses could be useful in stimulating peoples' immune systems to deal with new threats, according to a New York Times article based on historical virus experience.
Again, nothing much to report on the disease here. England wide new confirmed cases were 23/6:15, 22/6:77, 21/6:26, 20/6:120.
In Germany, a pork-processing plant reported 1550 new cases - suggesting that local explosions of infection can still happen.
There is lots going on with regard to opening up, but it is pointless to report it here.
Again, nothing much to report on the disease here.
Bad news from States-side. NYT reports: As the pace of the pandemic speeds up, the U.S. continues to play an outsize role, now contributing 20 percent of all new coronavirus cases worldwide - even with just 4 percent of the global population. The surges in states that reopened early show no signs of stopping, despite President Trump's continued assertions that the virus would "fade away."
"I think this is more like a forest fire," one infectious disease expert said. "I think that wherever there's wood to burn, this fire is going to burn it."
It is certainly encouraging that there are no more new cases reported today in our 6-area region. The number of new cases for England for 20/6/20 (the published figure lags by a day or two) was down again to 57 after a steep fall in the preceding days.
People have been complaining that, with the lack of social distancing in events taking place in the last two weeks, new cases would start to emerge. It is going to be something of a socially self-generated experiment on whether social distancing at these events really makes a difference. But it is far too soon to draw any conclusions from local or country-wide figures.
The following useful article was published today by the New York Times.
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way.
The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus - whether it's surface transmission or close human contact - is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
No more cases today. Of course, that is no consolation to anybody, compared with the horror of the knife attack in the Forbury Gardens last night. One of the people killed was teacher James Furlong, who taught at the Holt School, Wokingham. He was a 'wonderfully talented and inspirational Head of History and Government and Politics' at the school. Our thoughts are with his family, as with his colleagues - and pupils - at the school. It is a sad thought that the effects of Covid-19 lockdown may have added to the instability of the killer of a person who loved humanity, although the alleged perpetrator was said to be known to MI5 for undisclosed activities. The proximity of all this to our seemingly protected community is shocking.
Today brought Prof Piot's advice on TV, to be cautious right out into the future, because Covid-19 is not going to go away 'anytime soon'. Piot was an earlier victim of the disease, which he survived only with oxygen treatment, and he still has symptomatic effects after three months. Today also brought the observation that infections are diminishing in intensity on average, with 80-year-olds who would have been dead in intensive care sitting up as they recover. The disease is a 'wildcat' now and not a raging tiger. This is significantly due to great improvements in the treatment of the disease - no doubted aided by the great fall in workload and emotional stress in our hospitals. Our grandson went for an MRI scan in a Croydon hospital late last week - and it was nearly empty - none of the usual bustle and hurry.
So new we all need to think carefully about the meaning of risks. A recent newspaper article introduced the unit of 'micrimorts' - the chance per million of dying as aresult of some action. You accumulate 4 micromorts when driving 250 miles - many times more that you would have in going to a supermarket for provisions at the peak of UK cases.
Four more cases in the area. Three of them are in the Slough UTLA, and one more was in (adjacent) Windsor and Maidenhead.
It is a whole week since there was a case for West Berkshire, which has show 3.2 cases in June per 100,000 inhabitants. The highest two areas were Slough and Windsor&Maidenhead with 9 cases per 100,000 - and here the difference in demographics (mostly country vs light industry + residential) seems to be coming through.
Just two more cases in the last day for our 6-area region. The two week average of new cases has fallen again to 2.6, which is half what it was on 1/6/20.
Some further snippets - watch your cats and dogs as they can spread the disease, and put the lid down when you flush the loo - but not, of course, too much of a worry in an area like ours where there is so little infection.
There is quite a lot of news about Hancock's failed tracking app. Based on hard past IT experience, pushing out a difficult product in a hurry is a well-known recipe for disaster, as there is no substitute for careful testing on a very small scale of operation, and then very gradually increasing the scale. This is vary difficult to do when everybody is pushing iresistably for you to 'go with it'. The New York Times report contained evidence that there was a known lack of testing capacity.
It is far better, if you are in a hurry (we were and still are) to stick with something already in existence that is adequately near what you want and carefully adapt it if and when possible. It was so easy to be wise before the event - as, no doubt, many people were, but then have wisdom overturned by Serco marketing executives pie-eyed with the thought of a contract worth £108M. Those executives should be fired for their ignorant optimism. Unfortunately ignorant optimism is all too easy to find. particularly when large sums of potentially bonus-generating money is involved.
Anybody who would enjoy a musical treat can have it by listening to this Youtube of Shenandoah (click on the link), sung by the alumni of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain in a virtual performance created over the last few days. Among the performers is Lucy Head, who ran St Mary's Music and Merriment concerts for nine years. Singing with the NYCGB as a young woman was a seminal experience for Lucy, musically and socially. Shenandoah is a favourite of the alumni when they enjoy reunions, and at a time when physical getting together was made impossible by the pandemic, its virtual performance is a wonderful way to overcome adversity!
What a pleasing story that Marcus persuaded the Government to U-turn and continue with free school meals!
Norman Smith of the BBC yesterday described doing U-turns as 'bad', but it is better for a government to U-turn than to pursue a failing policy. It can be a sign of strength to be able to change one's mind and go in a better direction, even with 'egg on your face'! In fact, if you think about it U-turns are absolutely inevitable in order to progress in a complex frequently-changing situation, when a plan becomes unexpectedly obsolete. Conversely, it is weakness to hold on to a policy when it becomes clearly the wrong policy. The Media should applaud the courage to U-turn, not turn it into a political flaw!
The Daily Telegraph writes: 'Rashford is raising awareness after raising funds and is using the power he possesses in a progressive, thoughtful way and with a maturity that puts others to shame.' He is clearly a remarkable young man, and we will, no doubt, be well aware of him in future politics.
What an amazing person! She came from a humble background, nurtured her wonderful talent, became a star, and brought it to the service of many people, particularly contributing so much to the armed forces in the dirty, hot and unpleasant conflict in the Far East during the 2nd World War. She was very properly honoured by the Queen, who made her a Dame, and we were all proud to be able to appreciate her as a wonderful public persona at the VE Day celebrations, even in her 104th year, as we all struggled to cope with the covid pandemic. She will have some great obituaries.
The New York Times posted this article today
'Prime Minister Boris Johnson is betting he can safely reopen a country hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than any other in Europe.
'But he has fielded criticism over a botched school reopening plan, a controversial 14-day quarantine and an inconsistent contact-tracing operation that may risk a second wave of deaths.
'The 'world-beating' operation was supposed to trace people who had been exposed to the virus, bridging the time between lockdown and a vaccine. But more than a dozen public health officials, local government leaders and contact tracers told NYT reporters the system was begun on May 28 before it was ready.
'Details: Since the operation began, some contact tracers have failed to reach a single person. Many, paid barely above minimum wage, began the work with little to no training. Call handlers have mistakenly tried to send patients in England to testing sites in Northern Ireland. And a government minister threatened to stop coordinating with local leaders if they publicly revealed the operation's failings, three officials said.
'Context: While the virus is cooling in London, infection rates remain high in parts of England, notably the northwest. Other European nations are building systems to pinpoint infection clusters for years to come. Germany, for instance, has hired contact tracers in 375 public health authorities, with doctors on hand to administer tests.'
We note here that there were just three more local cases today in our 6-area Thames Valley region - these would be of trivial concern if we had a working tracing method. As it is, we remain frightened of the unknown.
This is certainly an achievement - to have had the first day with no new Covid-19 cases in our Thames Valley area.
Surely this is a prima facie reason for confident relaxation of activity in our area? Yesterday's new cases across England were down to only 32.
The Mexamethasone story has dominated the news, so we will leave it at that.
A calmer day, with new relaxations in confinement, and some good news.
But first some doubtful news comes from Beijing, where 79 new cases have shaken the Chinese government. They claim that the infection came from imported salmon, so have fired the manager of the big market where the fish were sold. This is the first time fish have been mentioned as carriers. It's in any case an unwelcome instance of a new breakout in a big area after a period where infection had apparently been eliminated.
Now for the good news. The widely-available drug Mexamethasone seems to be effective in reducing the severity of corona-virus cases, and this would have saved many lives if this had been know earlier. There is a major-scale testing evaluation under way. Prof Chris Whitty has said: "this is the most important trial result for Covid-19 so far."
All good things come to an end, and this is the case with our 'corona-journalism'. Is the time coming when we should simply be the working website for the Friends of St Mary's Winkfield - and allow ourselves more time for usual activities?
Like most websites, we have 'analytics' to tell us how we are doing. We installed our current arrangements in mid-April, as we needed reassurance that it was all worthwhile. The information that we found indicated that we were the small-time players that we knew ourselves to be, but with good enough support to keep going. Since we started measurement, we have had close to 1000 hits, of which the corona-page hits have been much the largest in number.
The chart shows us our 'active users' over 1, 7 and 30 days, and the interesting thing is that we peaked in mid-May (at about 160 users). Since then, the trend has been downward. There has been stuff to report, but the news has broadened in scope and multiplied in content, and (with some exceptions) lessened in interest. We have wanted to avoid politics, particularly issues of party-political significance, but have allowed ourselves to comment on issues of general significance, without offending too many people too much (we hope). It is importat We have studied the New Your Times reports (which came to our notice through a friend of ours who lives in Phoenix, Arizona), and these have shown the kind of intelligently detached journalism that we aspired to.
The times from now on are going to comprise millions of small problems, so we will stay with the big picture, good news and bad, but will stop our corona-journalism when the analytics tell us that we have little more, in practice, that is useful to say to our community.
Do write to us (at email@example.com) to give us advice on this matter!
One question - should we stay with Pictures of the Day? We can go on for some time with our own stock, but others' (holiday?) pictures could give as much pleasure. Our rules do demand high technical and subject-matter quality overall (e.g. focus both optical and in subject, composition and general interest). Not much more than 1% of our own pictures get through the filter! We do not accept pictures with copyright issues (actual or potential).
We will keep watching the cases for a bit, in the hope that we will have nothing of significance to report. Meanwhile we are living in a period of unsettling and confusing happenings, just as the Garth children march up the road to school in a forerunner of normality, and lockdown eases a bit.
The appalling news of George Floyd's death was a shocking reminder of how far the USA still has to go on race relations, but the demonstrations in the UK were a reminder of how much we have settled down - too much? - to a comforting feeling about our British tolerance and our support of racial equality. Our back-of-the-mind sense of guilt has been triggered.
For all that, the demonstrators represented for many people an approach to public protest that was unacceptible in its actions, ambiguous in the roots of its support, and inconsistent in its motivations.
Its iconoclastic approach to memorials showed that it was much more fun to push a statue off its plinth than to form a balanced view of the life that the statue celebrated, thereby negating the impact of any offence having truly been given by its existence.
Taking offence in this way was shown to give offence in turn - where is the balance? Who adjudicates between opposing offended parties? Is the party with firm and intolerant (but potentially misguided) sense of its moral superiority always to win against the party that is tolerant and recognises past faults?
As many people have pointed out, our history has not always been creditable, nor have our heroes been unflawed, but recognising that is no reason to destroy the artifacts that history has thrown up. These artifacts can be used to remind ourselves of future paths that must not be followed. It seems absurd to want to destroy everything that could give offence, since taking offence in a way that many people can understand, rationally justify, and use to shape a better future can only be a good thing if based on a balanced view of the past, warts and all. For the sake of our communities, the country, and even worldwide, we must not be complacent about the issues in this country.
One can hardly call it an 'upsurge', but 9 more cases recorded today alerts us to some kind of a possible increase of cases again in our 1M population area. We really urgently need to have mechanisms in place locally to track where these new cases are coming from and why. Going back to the beginning, we see exactly the same number of new cases as when we started - and then, even then, the numbers fell back. Let us hope that they fall back in the next few days. It is annoying to have the website spoiling past data, as we wanted to keep broader tabs on the impact of the BLM unrest.
The figures for UK and local Covid-19 cases come from a GOV.UK website that is accessible on the last button above. Of late, we have been recording the recent history. But we have become aware that not only does the website give the latest UK figures, it also changes those for previous days. That is normally referred to as rewriting history! What is going on?? It make our efforts to understand the past impossible, since we cannot rely on the past figures being stable!
If you really want excitement, look at the Eton College lockdown version of Mambo!. This is Eton's virtual celebration of the great '4th of June' school holiday. Please read these notes.
The video runs initially as a portion of a Facebook page. Click anywhere on the black area of the video if it is not running. You may need to turn on the sound and expand the video, using the icons at the bottom right of the video window: . Click the loudspeaker icon to turn the sound on. Also click the two-arrow icon to make the show use a larger window. When it is running, there are more icons at the bottom right of the video window: . Clicking the square four-arrow icon will make the video run at full-screen.
The impetus is now on to help get families together, at least minimally, by the use of 'bubbles', and by allowing businesses to open again if they have plans compatible with reduced social distancing.
A figure published today suggested that 0.06% of UK people are suffering from Covid-19. Presumably only a very small percentage of these people are in a position to spread the virus, so across an area like Winkfield, the likelihood of infection is very small indeed. The problem that we are all facing, particularly those with school-age children, and the 'walking elderly', is the confidence to realise that the risk of Covid-19 infection is becoming lower than that of serious domestic accident - or even, as one commentator put it, as likely as being struck by lightning.
Low statistics are notoriously difficult to sell as motivators to action when it comes to contemplation of a horrible consequence of being the one-in-a-million person struck down.
All the BLM protesters are carrying out a useful social infection experiment for us. Will the Covid-19 cases increase significantly as a result of their failure to social-distance? To spread the disease, a protester must have been in contact with an infectious person. Are the protesters statistically likely to have had such contact, by virtue of where they live and what their existing social habits are? We will find out in a few days time, but we would be unsurprised to find few new resulting cases.
There has been discussion about the need to identify centres of infection - this is welcome, and very much in line with the views that we have expressed on this page.
Two less cases than as thought yesterday, presumably because of a recording error.
The news is dominated by the Black Lives Matter rallies, on which we do not want to comment, except to hope that the raw sentiments currently being exposed will come to create a calm and positive outcome. Re-writing history is a problem, since it is harder to learn from it if it is tampered with, but sanitising the darker areas of our history seems to be a dangerous game-plan, reminiscent of Mr Trump's bleach for curing Covid-19.
Meanwhile, unlocking the components of lockdown life is a messy matter, and there are no good answers. The matters for which this webpage will stay active are to follow positive advances in detection, control and cure, and also to monitor the numbers of cases in our area so that we can understand whether or not the disease is contained, and, if not, look for and report on information that will help us understand where the problem areas are, and how they affect us.
The New York Times article reprinted below, with acknowledgements, has some good news.
As the world anxiously awaits a vaccine, doctors and researchers are making headway on potential treatments for Covid-19 and the damage it causes to the body.
The pharmaceutical company Regeneron announced today that it was starting a clinical trial of an antibody cocktail that may one day treat and even prevent Covid-19. The treatment, similar to one shown to be effective for Ebola, would work like the antibodies that people naturally make when they're infected. If testing is successful, thousands of doses could be produced by the end of the summer.
For the most critically ill, surgery may now be an option. Last week, a woman in her 20s whose lungs were destroyed by the virus received a double lung transplant, the first known operation of its kind in the U.S. for the virus.
The patient had no serious underlying medical conditions, and the transplant was her only chance for survival, said Dr. Ankit Bharat, who performed the surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He said future transplants could help young, otherwise healthy people whose lungs were permanently damaged by the virus and require a ventilator.
There is also new hope for patients whose immune systems set off "cytokine storms", causing the body to turn on itself as it fights the virus. At least a dozen treatments and several blood-purifying devices are being tested to calm the potentially fatal reaction. One promising drug from Roche is in several clinical trials, including a late-stage trial in combination with the antiviral drug remdesivir.
Two more cases - over the whole region approximately the same number of new cases on average. theoretically this means that the R-Factor is about 1, even though there are so few cases. What is the significance of the R-factor? If the numbers used related to cases of common-cold, would we be worried about the explosive spread of common cold cases? The R-Factor is just part of the story.
Just one new case, but the 6-area 10-day sliding average of new cases stays the same at 3.3 in the 1M population.
Meanwhile the rules in England and many other places are relaxing, with chaotic debate about the detail (which is just what was expected). Not worth reacting to.
It is now a time to look forward constructively, not recriminate on the past, for political or any other reasons, as this is fruitless, distracting and therefore contrary to the public interest. Let's wait do to that until the job is done.
It is good that we are settling in to a quiet time for Covid. The average new cases over 10 days in total in the 6 areas that we have been monotored went down to 3.2 on average.
Looking around the world, we note that New Zealand has declared itself Covid free, Now a colleague who has been stranded there since March can return back home - but I rather suspect that he would really prefer to stay there - and his wife is a Kiwi anyway.
Even New York, so badly hit by the virus, seems to be moving quickly to recovery. Unfortunately, WHO, the World Health Organisation reports that, globally, cases are still rising, with more than 7 million cases in total.
Although the world economy will be badly hit, a few useful changes may come out of this, as a modified life-style and work-style is likely to emerge; but with change comes failure for those who cannot change, and we will need kindness and generosity to be upgraded, perhaps embodied in new charitable causes and ventures that will help those who cannot cope, and particularly those with mental health issues.
It is 5 days since any new cases were reported in Bracknell Forest - and only one new case 6 days ago. Can it be said that we are Covid-free in our local area?
Today's chart takes a retrospective look at the new cases per day since we started recording cases on 20 March. The whole case-per-day explosion took off - almost without warning - on 27 March. I remember thinking before that happened that this must be a very safe place to live, and had a nasty shock when cases soared. But we ourselves started self-isolating on 16 March, and lockdown started a week later.
It doesn't seem realistic for the politicians to have felt the urgent need to call for lockdown a week earlier, a 'mistake' pointed out by the wise-after-the-event complainers, since the level of numbers of cases was in most places was still very small even on 23 March, but, as we now know, the virus had done a lot of spreading by that stage.
Over much of April, the recorded numbers of new cases from the government database were jumping all over the place, probably for technical reasons, but if we smooth the measurements we can surmise that the real daily new recorded cases would have been approaching a peak of 100 on about 16 April. (Of course, we realise that the actual number of asymptomatic and low-impact symptomatic Covid-19 infections would probably have doubled these figures, but this would probably not have affected the trends that were the objective of our work in curve-plotting.)
Currently, the average daily rate for our 6 areas, covering 1M people, is 3.5 cases per day for an average over the last 10 days (to 8 June). That is more than 95% lower than daily cases at peak.
It will be interesting to see how cases in London move following the demonstrations in London. If they do not move up much, it will indicate that sources of infection are very low among the communities that supply the demonstrators.
There were 2 new recorded cases today - renews confidence.
The R-factor was under discussion today, starting with Andrew Marr.
The discussion is clear - the R-Factor varies from place to place, and that is recognised as important. BUT!! People do not seem to be taking into account how big the 'places' are that need to be taken into account for assessing the impact of R-Factor variability, and just seem to assume that it is 'regions' or perhaps Upper or Lower Tier local authorities (ULTAs or LTLAs).
The figure that we have been studying here show that the size of the places that give real significance to R-Factor study are much smaller than ULTAs, perhaps smaller than a town, and perhaps the size of a village, centred around an environment that gives a plausible capability for the virus to spread. The Government Coronavirus website has the information to decide how big an area of interest for useful R-Factor analysis should be - why not let it be used fo this purpose?
This New York Times article about international air travel from the USA was interesting (with acknowledgements to NYT!):
Lara Takenaga writes: Over the last month, my Swedish partner and I have had to travel from New York to London to Sweden. Each of our three flights was a vastly different experience but gave a preview of what to expect as countries begin to reopen their borders as coronavirus lockdowns ease.
For our first flight, we arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport to find a virtual ghost town. Only 36 of us were scheduled to take off on the 318-seat Boeing 787 Dreamliner to London, so we were allowed to choose whatever seats - or entire rows - we wanted. We wore masks, as many airlines have required, and food service was reduced.
Three weeks later, we left for my partner's home in Gothenburg, Sweden, but because of lower demand, there were no direct routes. Our connecting flight to Stockholm was packed and social distancing was impossible. On our last flight, there were enough empty seats to have a little extra space, but every cough and sneeze still made me nervous.
Though we would not have traveled if we did not have to, we still wondered: How much risk were we incurring?
You can't be completely protected from the virus on a commercial flight, according to the Times science reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., but if everyone is wearing a mask and there aren't too many people, a plane can be fairly safe.
"The biggest factor is luck," he told us. "Did you get on one of the dozens of planes on any given day that are just fine? Or did you get on the plane that has a virus-spewing superspreader -- who may not even be feeling sick -- aboard?"
A whole new world: Tourist-dependent countries are searching for creative ways to bring back international visitors without importing the virus. New Zealand and Australia, for example, are planning for a "travel bubble" to allow unrestricted flights between the two countries, which have largely tamped down their outbreaks.
But for higher-risk travelers, a study this month hopes to figure out whether the current 14-day [US] quarantine can be shortened. Volunteers will fly from San Francisco to Taipei, Taiwan, and be tested for the virus before boarding and then three, five, seven, 10 and 14 days after arrival. The aim is to determine the latest day a positive test could emerge.
There were 11 new recorded cases today - more than in the last few days.
The newspapers were on today about the dangers of the R-factor being higher than one. It is perfectly correct that an R-Factor higher than one does means more than one new infection per existing infection, and it is also true that if there were an indefinite number of people that could catch infections at this rate, then the expansion would be exponential. However, that is a false assumption. In our area, we have some isolated subcommunities within which you can get rising cases, but these cases would not spread into other areas where infection is controlled (e.g. by self-isolating and social distancing), because they might as well hardly exist for the virus - there is an effective wall. So the rise must be temporary and limited to the subcommunity itself, with perhaps a small number of cases 'escaping' from it.
The touting of the fear of exponential rise is therefore fake news.
Thee crucial thing for the Government is to identify, measure, understand and control these subcommunities. Why are they not doing this? NHS England does not respond to our queries.
In the charts that we have been producing, you can see the slope of new cases staying more-or-less the same, and occasionally increasing, but then coming back into line. The temporary increase of new cases per day does not systematically lead to exponentially increasing rates of new cases, although at the start of the rise of local cases on about 35/3/20 there was a large spurt.
The exponential growth does not materialise. Fake news.
Only 3 more cases recorded in our 1M Thames Valley area, and it really looks as if we ought to open up in our localities to the extent that we have the courage to do so. There isn't anybody - well, hardly anybody - around here to catch the disease from. What is particularly good is that since 10/5/20, when we started to 'stay alert' things have improved steadily. (Some poeple have postulated that this indicates that lockdown was unnecessary anyway, but some people would say that, wouldn't they?) However, we do still have the fear of importing the disease from the few spots, regions or countries where it is still active.
The world view is part encouraging and part not so. Of the 100 odd countries that have been affected, about a third are having more cases, a few (including the UK) are having fewer, and about a third are up-and-down or static. Interestingly, there is just now a global rise in cases per day, while the number of deaths overall per day is going down. But not nearly fast enough for it to be generally under control, or burning itself out.
There is still no authenticated statement that a vaccine has been produced that will work, but the developers are still very busily working on it, and there is optimism in wellinformed places. It is also very clear that the organisations that are to be involved in vaccine production have spent a lot of time getting prepared.
Unlike dentists, it seems, who, having waited for some months to be back in business, say they cannot open because they are unprepared. What have they being doing with themselves when loocked down?
In view of imminent compulsory use of facemasks on public transport, this Which advice may be useful.
Not much more to say about the disease. What is coming more into focus are the grim problems that will be faced by many people in this country as we struggle to recover the economy. One insight is that the rising prominence of women in the workplace is likely to be impacted under cultural pressures to stay home and look after the house and family. We have also begun to see the catastrophic effect of the lack of pupils on the private educational sector (including universities). not least because foreign students have in recent years been a major source of funds. As schools close, this will put increased burdens on state education, as well as increasing the damage to the education of many children and university students.
Alan Burdick, a Science Editor on the New York Times, wrote a long article about Covid-19, whch he regards a "microscopic photocopy machine, model SARS-CoV-2". Here are a few of his remarks, selected by New York Times (and some of them are not very encouraging), with acknowlegements to the NYT:
"Unlike previous SARS viruses, which tended to settle deeper in the respiratory system, this one tends to settle in the upper respiratory system - in your nose and throat. That means that it tends to spread with your voice, in addition to coughs and sneezes. And when you look at where a lot of the major super-spreader events have occurred, it's places like churches where folks are singing. It's meatpacking plants where people have to talk really loud. It's sports arenas. It's call centers. And I realized, holy cow, this is a virus that is ideally adapted to human conversation.
"All viruses make mistakes when they make copies of themselves, but this one doesn't make as many mistakes, or mutations - around two a month on average. Which is good for us because we are working really hard to make vaccines and drugs that would target specific aspects of this virus. And we can be pretty confident that whatever we cook up won't be outdated six months from now because the virus has mutated again and become resistant.
"Scientists have managed to learn a lot about the coronavirus in six months, but much remains a mystery. Our colleagues on the health and science desk have rounded up what we know and still don't know about the virus.
"One insight: Even when a vaccine becomes available, it may not lead to herd immunity. That's because antibodies for viruses that infect mucosal surfaces, as the coronavirus does, tend to be short-lived. Historically, vaccines against respiratory illnesses have not been very effective - hence why we still catch the flu, despite widespread vaccination."
Not a significant enough number to comment further,.
The charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK. They have a 'feedback' email address that is unresponsive.
As there was, again, only one more case in our 6 areas, we have nothing more to say. However, setbacks in the form of cases among the staff of schools in other parts of the UK that were to be reopened remind us that in some areas in the UK, Covid-19 is still active. We need to be cautious as we open up.
We will not post new charts of local cases until therE is more information that needs to be shown.
As expected, the five competitors were superb, with some amazing string playing on 'cello and violin, and with a young harpist who really showed what can be done with an instrument that places numerous hurdles in the quest for virtuosity while delivering real music.
The judges give no explanation of their choice, but the last soloist to play was 18-year-old Japanese-born Coco Tomita, a student at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey. Her first piece was Sonata no. 2 by Ysaye that was exciting in exploring the tonality possibilities of the violin, moving from one kind of sound to another with expression and control, while delivering plenty of demanding double-stopping and other challenges. Her second piece, 'Beau soir' by Debussy, arranged by Heifetz lived up to its name, with pure expressive lyricism.
Coco's final piece was a huge fantasy by Hubay on Bizet's Carmen, and she reached into every corner of this music, which combined lyricism with huge technical demands. She showed herself as a master of the demands of the instrument as well as being a musician who really held the attention of the audience, as well as that of the judges, all the way through this and her other pieces.
She won the prize, with this performance still ringing in the ears of her listeners.
There was just one new case recorded for the 6 areas that we have been monitoring. What does this mean?
The indication is now really strong that Covid-19 is barely present in our Thames valley area. The number of infectious cases on the basis of the figures that we have worked with is likely to be less than 50 people among the total local poulation of 1M. Even taking account of under-reporting, the infectious case figure is looking less than 100, that is, one in 10,000 people.
We can also surmise that mose of the active cases will be in places or communities that have allowed the virus to spread more easily. This could be care homes and hospitals, although these are becoming more virus-free. We may make an assumption that most people will not go to such places, or, that if they do, there will be extra precautions to minimise the risk of infection.
So, IF life were to return to normal today for all people that work locally, there is a good chance that very few new cases if any would arise.
The IF is a big one, as there is a risk that people from other less-safe areas - or even from other countries that are unsafe - could bring in new sources of infection. Without lockdown, or at least social distancing, the virus could and would pick up again - perhaps not fast, but with a local R-factor of greater than one.
The primary control of that, if lockdown were not to be applied again. and until availability of a vaccine, would have to be active tracing of new cases to limit the R-factor within the environment around the infectious person. We would perhaps have a few weeks to set up these defences, but we have to have the test and trace armoury ready for deployment.
On a personal basis, maintaining social distancing should ensure safety, even if there were any new outbreaks.
Meanwhile, we can sympathise with Ian Cadell (as expressed in his article below).
The Woodley Concert Band, which has supplied music and musicians for our Music and Merriment Christmas Concert at St Mary's church for quite a few years, proudly presents its counter to lockdown blues with its virtual performance of 'Over the Rainbow', arranged by Rob Wiffin.
M&M concert-goers may recognise some familiar faces among the performers, including Gregor Spowart, the technical mastermind - thanks Gregor! And thank you to the whole band for a splendid venture, attacked with enthusiasm and skill! You can enjoy Over the Rainbow by following the link!
Bandmembers recorded their individual parts while listening to a recording that established the speed and dynamics, and sent their recordings in to Gregor, who then synchronised them and blended them together. Tricky, but successful and now a familiar technology! Stay with the YouTube for more examples, including the King's Singers 'Stay at home' Choir.
There were only two new cases recorded for the 6 areas that we have been monitoring.
Looks good - and it is certainly a boost in confidence for those planning to visit in the next few days or weeks!
Ian Cadell writes: "Lazing in the wonderful sunshine (and the east wind!) we've been directly overflown by a goodly number of incoming aircraft in the past few days. Nothing like as many as in normal times but I reckon at least 50 a day.
"I decided to check Heathrow's informative web site and was amazed by the origins of the flights. Nothing from Australia or NZ but one or two from every other corner of the globe. As we know, arrivals are not tested let alone quarantined (at least not yet). Jolly odd in a pandemic I think - and just one of the frankly very dubious inconsistencies presided over by our 'protectors'. Do they, or their expert advisors, know what they are doing? Probably not!"We will wait a while before putting our heads over the parapet."
Editor writes: "There is unnecessary ignorance in high places. A big local dignitary in a Northern city was cross with the Government for not publishing R-factor data for localities - yet the charts published on this web-page give just this kind of information for anybody anywhere to record and easily identify whether the R-factor is 1, or more or less. The Telegraph have had yet another letter from me."
On Sunday evening at 7pm 31/5/19 the last category finals of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, for string players, will be broadcast, in the form of 'highlights'. This will include some interviews, excerpts from the performance of each player, and the final adjudication. it will certainly present some amazing musicianship and musical personality, just have done the three category finals already completed (piano/keyboard, brass, woodwind and percussion).
The String Category Final 'highlights' will be accessible online after the end of the 7-8pm hour-long programme. The BBC webpage is HERE. The 'highlights' do not include the full programmes of each of the finalists, but these full individual programmes will be accessible on the web at the same time as the replay of the highlights; you will find the necessary links on the link given earlier. If in doubt, you can Google 'BBC Young Musician 2020'.
The total length of play of the 5 individual programmes will probably be about 1.5hrs.
According to the BBC website, 'The competitors are violinists Mio Takahashi, Ilai Avni and Coco Tomita, who are all 18, cellist Ellen Baumring-Gledhill, who is also 18, and 17-year-old harpist Huw Boucher. They perform works by composers including Debussy, Saint-Saëns and Kreisler.'
Last week were the percussion finals, and, even if not everybody's cup of tea, they displayed some amazing talent, amazingly listenable-to pieces, and a lot of visual virtuosity - a real spectacle, whatever it sounds like (which is often highly entertaining). The finalist winner was a Chinese boy, 16-year old Fang Zhang.
It is hard not to be totally shocked by the news of a brutal police killing of a black man in Minneapolis, and the widespread violent aftermath. Speaking today to American friends, decent-minded people there are appalled at the huge social cracks emerging in the USA's Covid-19 crisis, 60 years after the first serious steps towards giving black (and other ethnic groups) the quality of citizenship they deserve as birthright.
Compare that horror with the news that occupied the British press for a whole week, based on the shocking report that a senior government official had driven 250 miles to sort out a family problem caused by Covid infection, and, even more appalling, that he had been seen a few days later 30 miles from the place where he was staying, sitting by himself in his car.
Do you not get the impression that some of the British media, including the BBC, lack a sense of proportion? And lack an understanding of what news is really important, and of how to report it in a balanced way?
Yes, any rational person would get that impression. And yet it is an appalling fact that the war on that official was evidently fuelled across communities by strong personal dislike of the man, red shirt and all: a dislike amounting to hatred. He just wasn't 'their kind of person'.
What sort of people have we become when some of our most influential media reporting is fuelled by public hatred?
Local cases within our six areas continue to rise, at about 7 per day, making about 50 poeple in 1M actively infectious and able to infect within our area. Not severe odds.The charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK. They have a 'feedback' email address that is unresponsive.
Music will come through! Many people (including myself) have been involved with 'virtual' choirs and ensembles to produce some amazing music.
We have been pointed at a superb virtual performance of Parry's 'I was glad' (click on the link) presented by the Eton College Chapel choirs, under the direction of Tim Johnson, Precentor, and with David Goode at the organ. Local boy Harvey Lin may be one of the boys singing. Thank you, Lesley, for passing this on.
If you stay with the recording, it will then lead to another recording of the Headmaster of Eton explaining 'Eton 2020 A New Social Vision'. Eton College is a great educational establishment, and the vision is to spread the value of Eton education in various ways to wider sections of our community. This will involve spending £100M over 5 years, and has four strands: (1) increase means-tested bursaries, with at least 140 pupils on 100% fee remission; (2) Extend Eton's online education venture Eton-X, and make it more widely available, including free of charge to the maintained (State) sector of education; (3) Grow social outreach and open Eton facilities, including giving summer-schools to broaden access; (4) Work with government to aid 6th forms. All of this will be funded in part from endowment, but as much again by donations, and by income from non-State Eton-X users.
As a one-time Eton scholarship boy (KS) of 70 years ago this year (having taken the competitive scholarship exam in June 1950, and from a non-wealthy family), I fully support the Eton 2020 vision.
Anthony Hodson, webmaster and editor
Today we joined in the last Thursday clap for NHS and other essential workers.
We should all be truly thankful for the way in which lockdown life, illness and (alas) death has been supported so conscientiously by the NHS and by other essential workers, and I record our own sincere thanks now.
South East Water has brought potential water-supply problems to our attention - they are having difficulty just now in pumping enough of it up - see the chart to right!
We need to be careful not to use water excessively.
Allison Pearson of the Daily Telegraph wrote yesterday under this headline: I don't want Cummings to go, but I did expect him to at least say sorry
Let's leave it at that!
Let's face facts: the number of local cases within our six areas continues to rise, although not at the rate of early April. We are averaging about 10 new recorded cases each day. As we have surmised, these are expected to be in 'hot-spots' that are not identifiable from the data available. A routine visit to our surgery and an informal question did not shed more light on it other than that they are probably in the care-homes. How to bring this to the attention of the authorities?
The charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK. They have a 'feedback' email address that is unresponsive.
If you could help an injured man escape a burning car, would you do it, in spite of having flagrantly to break social isolation rules? Some people seem to think that the latter are more important.
Many people seem to feel that all the Covid-regulations are arbitrary restrictions that have morally to apply to everybody equally, without querying parity or necessity. Somehow, those who break the rules (even if there are zero practical consequences, and the rule-breakers are well within the strategy implemented by the rules they infringed) are 'cheats' (whatever that may mean). They are not playing by the rules. The police should see that they are punished. If they have a senior government job, they should be fired without compunction regardless of the consequences.
There was a time when the police used common sense to turn a blind eye to situations where the letter of the law was stretched or broken, but there were no ill consequences. I remember once the police asking me to drive with them to the police station to record details after my new wife's suitcase had been stolen from my father's borrowed car one evening in London. When we arrived at the police station, the police officer said: "Even if you are following a police car, you should have your lights on." And that was it. We were upset by the theft, and failed to turn the lights on.
Now police officiousness has taken over. And is not public officiousness gaining ground as a consequence? Be very careful when you support Change not to play into the hands of excessive public officiousness!!
Somehow, pedants take driving 250 miles as endangering lives and the NHS as much as infection risks by breaking isolation with a sick patient or by breaking social isolation by attendance of a loved one's funeral. Many of us have suffered the tragedy and sorrow of the latter, but is it not pure officiousness to compare the two as equal?
Rules are in place to restrict Covid and its horrible consequences. Following particular rules to the letter under certain circumstances may have no effect - not even a statistical effect - on Covid, but generally we follow the rules anyway. Everybody knows that some rules can be stretched without breaking the objectives, and many (perhaps most?) people are stretching or even breaking the rules in a small way while being 100% responsible within the objectives. Because the rules are overwhelmingly being followed well where they positively support 'Stay Alert! Save the NHS!! Save lives!!!' we are making good progress in slowing Covid, and we need not be over-officious. Officiousness is a form of power-grabbing, for good or ill.
People who are officious for political reasons particularly run the risk of being hypocrites, but we should be careful not to be judgmental of them. They may be right. They may be wrong.
How should we judge people who follow a rule in the face of a family emergency just because it is a rule even if breaking would have no outside effect?? How should we judge them against people who, in the same circumstance, would prefer to pay a police fine because they knew that that was a less important factor than doing the best for their family?
The daily number of new cases has dropped a little in the last two days (the previous posting of the charts was 2 days ago). This continues to reinforce the case that hotspot sections of the community have an R of about 1, while there is no significant infection elsewhere.
But where are the hotspots? The general sense is that one would really have to be unlucky to catch covid-19 in the area, but that isn't quite good enough.
The total number of cases since 10/5/20 has now risen to 2,387 and that means that 1 in 20 cases have been reported in the last 12 days. This underlines the outstanding need to identify and neutralise the hotspots by tracing and measurement in fine detail.The charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.
The balanced and detached headline from the NYT was: Johnson's aide says sorry-not-sorry for breaching U.K. lockdown rules
The subtext is that the British and the British media are completely crazy to get carried away by a peripheral issue, when there are far more important things to be of concern.
The article continues, verbatim:
"In an unusual news conference on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's closest aide, Dominic Cummings, sought the public's sympathy but did not apologize for breaking Britain's lockdown rules by driving hundreds of miles outside London with his son and ailing wife in March.
"Mr. Cummings defended his actions as "reasonable under the circumstances," saying he went to his parents' home in Durham to ensure his son would receive care should he and his wife both fall ill.
"The scandal has consumed the British news media for days, and most prime ministers might have cut Mr. Cummings loose by now. But Mr. Johnson is still supporting him, illustrating what analysts see as his deep reliance on the mercurial adviser.
"Mr. Johnson announced on Monday the relaxing of more restrictions, with outdoor markets and car dealerships to reopen on June 1, and department stores and small shops on June 15.
"The death toll in British nursing homes - 14,000, official figures say, with thousands more dying indirectly because of the virus - is becoming a defining scandal for Mr. Johnson. In one Scottish nursing home, nearly all residents were infected and more than a quarter of them died."
Editor's letter to the Public Health England Tracker Site
"I have been tracking 6 UTLA cases representing the Thames Valley either side of Maidenhead since 19/3/20, and have published the results daily on a webpage www.fosmw.com/fosmw-stayalert.html#covidcases
"For the last two weeks or so, the number of new cases has been steadily increasing at about 10 per day.
"The steadiness of the rise, the relatively small number of infectious cases, and generally good adherence to social isolation implies that:
"(A) New cases-in balance old ones out (i.e. recoveries + deaths)
"(B) There is no geographic spread going on
"(C) Cases are concentrated in 'hot-spots'.
"Please acknowledge and advise where these hot-spots are in the 6 UTLAs: Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead, Reading, Bracknell Forest and Wokingham.
Before I go quiet on the matter, let me, as editor, share my email to Victoria Derbyshire of the BBC. (She invited comment!)
"I am outraged by this insanity over Cummings.
"Whipped up outrage caused Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus Christ. Whipping up outrage is a murder weapon. The British press and media have blood on their hands if anyone dies as a result of their actions over Cummings.
"As a locked-down but very active 83-year old, I use my common sense to support my community and myself by isolation, social distancing and by undertaking corona-journalism on a local website. What Cummings did/didn't do, why and what people think about it makes zero difference to how I and most other people behave in these strange times, because there are far more important community things to worry about. I don't like Cummings, either, but if everybody went crazy with outrage every time someone found an emotionally convincing reason to attack someone they didn't like, civilised life could be distorted and endangered. Most people have the sense to live with the fact that there exist other people that they don't like, even if they have to work with them or live with the consequences of their existence.
"Calm it and save lives!
We will await sanity to return to UK government and others before making any furthere general comment. The charts for local cases will be updated every other day.
The good news about the local cases is that today (25/5/20) only 3 new cases in total were reported in the 6 areas that we have been following (and will continue to follow)
The daily number of new cases seems yet again to be close to static at 10 per day. This continues to reinforce the case that hotspot sections of the community have an R of about 1, while there is no significant infection elsewhere.
But where are the hotspots? The general sense is that one would really have to be unlucky to catch covid-19 in the area, but that isn't quite good enough.
The total number of cases since 10/5/20 has now risen to 2,377 and that means that 1 in 20 cases have been reported in the last 12 days. So if the trend were to remain for 240 days, half of the cases woud have been recorded since the 10/5/20 day of policy change. This underlines the outstanding need to identify and neutralise the hotspots by tracing and measurement in fine detail.The charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.
To join this week's virtual service for Winkfield, press HERE. this will take you to the relevant page on the Parish website. This week, the service will be Holy Communion in the St Mary's tradition. The children of St Mary's church have provided the story of the Ascension in the form of a playlet - click on the image to access the Youtube!
Thank you to all the organisers and technical support - and to the children, too!
We liked this article in the Daily Telegraph of22/5/20, which we reprint with acknowledgements:
Dolphins take presents to "reward visitors" as virus clears Australian beaches
Kindly gesture shows how much the friendly sea creatures miss their daily routine, say researchers. By Giovanni Torre in Perth
DOLPHINS on Queensland's Cooloola Coast in Australia have reacted to the decline of human visitors to the tourist hot spot by lavishing those who do come with gifts.
One 29-year-old male humpback called "Mystique" was already known for taking occasional items to the shore, but in recent weeks he has become dramatically more generous.
Mystique has taken to bringing the volunteers at Barnacles Cafe and Dolphin Feeding Centre an array of items every day, including timber, shells, wood, and bottles.
Feeding volunteer Lyn McPherson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Mystique's activity had increased while the dolphin feeding centre was closed to tourists.
"He brings in objects on his rostrum, or beak, and then he carefully presents them to us," she said. "What we have to do is give him a fish in return. We haven't trained him, but he has trained us to do this.
"We swear he has a collection waiting to bring to us. Sometimes he will bring 10, one at a time, and he will line them up as he has to get fish.
Locals say other humpback dolphins are also bringing gifts, such as sponges, barnacle-covered bottles and fragments of coral to the feeding centre. "Nothing surprises me with dolphins and their behaviour anymore,"
Barry McGovern, a dolphin expert and PhD student at the University of Queensland, told 7News. "They do everything - they use tools, they have culture, they have something similar to names in signature whistles."
"In all likelihood, they probably don't miss humans per se ... They probably miss a free meal and the routine;" he added.
In 2017 researchers at the University of Western Australia (UWA) captured footage of male dolphins presenting females with marine gifts. They joined teams from the University of Zurich and Murdoch University in Australia in a decade-long study off the north-eastern coastline and found, for the first time, that the adult male humpback dolphins gave marine sponges to females Dolphins including a humpback called Mystique have dropped off dozens of presents in the hope of being rewarded with a fish supper. They also performed visual and acoustic displays, to impress potential mates.
Lead author Dr Simon Allen from UWA's School of Biological Sciences said the findings suggest an as yet unrecognised level of social complexity in humpback dolphins."We were at first perplexed to witness these intriguing behavioural displays by humpback dolphins, but as we undertook successive field trips over the years, the evidence mounted.
"Here we have some of the most socially complex animals on the planet using sponges, not as a foraging tool, but as a gift," he said.
The daily number of new cases seems yet again to be close to static at 10 per day. This continues to reinforce the case that hotspot sections of the community have an R of about 1, while there is no significant infection elsewhere.
But where are the hotspots?
Tha total number of cases since 10/5/20 has now risen to 2,351 and that means that 1 in 20 cases have been reported in the last 12 days. So if the trend were to remain for 240 days, half of the cases woud have been recorded since the 10/5/20 day of policy change. This underlines the outstanding need to identify and neutralise the hotspots by tracing and measurement in fine detail.The charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.
Meticulously recording the official number of cases in a group of 6 contiguous Upper Tier Local Authorities, population 1M, in the Thames Valley area shows a very low proportion of active cases, but a steady rise of new cases, on average about 9 new cases per day just now. This persistent rise indicates an R-factor of about 1 on average in small subsets or 'hot-spots' of the community, scattered around the 6 Upper Tier Local Authorities, but perhaps centred around hospitals and care-homes. The implication is that (outside these community hot-spots) the whole area is Covid-19 free, or nearly so. Unfortunately, the publicly available source of data https://coronavirus-data.gov.uk gives no data that would give any clues as to where these subsets are located, or what their makeup is, which is a pity, as contact with them implies much heightened risk.
The worrying aspect of this is that there is little sign of the rate of rise of hotspot cases actually diminishing - the numbers just go up all the time just now. Thia suggests that the hotspots are in 'steady state' - generating as many new cases as cases leading to recovery - or death. This is not encouraging at all.
Publishing the locality information would be very helpful to public confidence in safety as lock-down measures are relaxed. Why cannot the information be made available, so that this public confidence can be based on sound knowledge? You do not need testing to obtain the data, although testing has to be a more powerful tool to control the spread.
The Daily Telegraph Online has published an interesting article HERE on unexpected symptoms and longer term effects of Covid-19.
Not very cheering reading for people who (like us) have a longer-term sufferer, hopefully slowly recovering, among family and friends.
The daily number of new cases seems to be close to static at 10 per day. This continues to reinforce the case that hotspot sections of the community have an R of about 1, while there is no significant infection elsewhere.
But where are the hotspots?
The charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.
The diminishing number of cases is encouraging.
The charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.
The Rodolphus Choir, with Ralph Allwood (Musical Director) performed (virtually) a truly memorable Choral Evensong yesterday evening. It can be heard on YouTube HERE, after a short intro of music, bluebells and birdsong; but it is good to step back for the whole presentation including links to the service, description of items, etc., and this can be found HERE. Some familiar faces take part in the service.
Ralph Allwood will be known to many as the director of the Windsor and Eton Choral Society when he was Precentor of Eton College some years ago.
A useful web article can be found HERE.
The New York Times corona briefing today carries a useful article on Covid-19 vaccine progress, which can be found HERE. This reports on early testing on human volunteers of the experimental vaccine by a company called Moderna, in which (A) the vaccine seems safe, and (B) the volunteers produces antibodies that prevent the virus from replicating. All this is good, but not yet good enough.
The article lists but does not comment on the Oxford vaccine. The current state there suggests that it may be good at preventing severe effects of the diseases, but rhesus monkey tests showed that the virus remained undestroyed in the nasal passages of the monkeys, so they remain infectious. So patients treated with the virus may still be able to pass it on, which is disappointing.
The careful wording of the Moderna tests does not indicate explicitly that their vaccine would have improved on the situation in a similar experiment, but even amelioration of the disease seems a step forward. Nobody really knows the facts about Covid-19 immunity after recovery or taking a vaccine.
Perhaps we need a combination of vaccines? Treatment by blood-thinning drugs seems a useful foil against lung-cell damage by mini-clots caused by the virus.
Nothing new to add, except the bad news that the Oxford vaccine tests on rhesus monkeys have not been successful in preventing infection. Some human testing of the vaccine, with the hope at least that the vaccine may prevent deep virus infection. The most promising news so far is that treatment with blood-thinning drugs such as heparin could greatly reduce the severity of bad infections. We have to be patient.
The charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.
Yesterday evening the Brass category final for the BBC Young Musician series was screened. The winner was Annemarie Federle on the French horn, who made an impeccable performance of Schumann's very difficult Allegro for Horn and Piano, Op. 70., with other pieces.
The complete set of performances (two trombones, two French horns and a tuba) can all be seen on BBC iPlayer.
Next Sunday is the Percussion category final, which will be an amazing show of rhythm and dexterity.
You can see that the rate if increase of new cases now is significantly higher than it was in March, but less than it was when the infection took off in April. This shows that there are hotspots with an R-factor of about 1 while the remainder of the whole area is almost Covid free. Government statistics need to indicate more clearly what is going on in these hotspots, and must locate them clearly in geography and function.
Interesting research shows that blood-thinning drugs such as heparin help in reducing the damaging effect of the corona-virus on lung-function, by reducing the ability of the virus to create micro-clots in lung tissue.
The continuing fall of cases means that Covid-19 is not present in most places. Clearly, where Covid is completely absent, provided that there is no external source of Covid-19 (e.g. by infected people travelling into a Covid-free area), activity can be freer. Unfortunately we do not know the boundaries of areas with Covid-infection sources, nor do we fully restrict travel, so risks exist. Such areas, though small, may be numerous.
Pragmatic opening up is now in play. Golf and golf centres are open; you can now fly your light aircraft, and sail your yacht (there are marinas in our area), and there will be further openings.
School opening is hotly debated - the children may nearly all have no symptoms, or very minor ones, but they can infect households, some say, and for many families with children that are financially finely balanced this is a great concern. If we could better understand where Covid-19 isn't present, we could perhaps use the knowledge to have safe opening of some schools.
The statistics available are too coarse-grained to help very much. Care-homes and hospitals may (we learn) be the primary drivers for infected mini-areas with persistently-high R-factors. Unfortunately care-homes and hospitals are widely distributed, so the 'most-places' that do not have Covid are like swiss cheeses - full of holes.
It is good to see tracking beginning to take place, and also to learn about dogs that can detect Covid sufferers before they have symptoms. Vaccine development is hopeful, although politicians are saying 'don't count on it', perhaps to make a successful development even more of a joy to have.
Easy - acquire a hug-time-screen, complete with arm-gloves.
This great idea (which came from a Chattanooga, USA, news channel - WTVC-TV) was publicised in a video posted on Facebook. It could only happen in the USA!
Today we are continuing with a new format. The two graphs will each be divided into two parts - the left hand part tables the first 12 days that we recorded, and the right hand part tables new cases since the PM's speech on 10/5/20.
The new cases since 10/5/20 are currently rising at a slow rate since the start of the sequence. Note that at the start of our new measuring period (10/5/20), the number of cases is reset to zero. The total number of cases for the first day was 2226.
These charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.
The day started with the good news that the Public Health England reported there were only 24 new cases in the London area. However, the suggestions that the Covid-19 outbreak in London is over seems rather fanciful.
Confusion about what is locked down and what isn't remains confused. Boris called for common sense, but that seems in short supply. We are sure that Sir Keir Starmer, with his keen lawyer's mind, could sort out all the combinations of people and organisation circumstances in no time at all - perhaps he could volunteer to the Government to do that and be helpful? It isn't yet clear with him and the unions whose side he is on. Balancing risk and necessity, and gaining everybody's confidence is the key issue, and everybody needs to be onside to get that right.
Antibody testing reliability is within sight, but nobody yet knows whether having antibodies means that one cannot catch the disease again. Knowledge here and on dozens of unknowns with the virus will be very useful, but progress seems painfully slow.
Cold calls and spam are said officially to be down. However, one day this week, the total value of lost inheritance that we were offered by (rather pathetically inept) spammers totalled more than $100,000,000!!! Yes, 100 million dollars! One had the cheek to ask us to send $475 in advance to get the money.
Useful testing startegies are being evolved for the Oxford University vaccine team.
(We are retaining this post for reference only, and it will go tomorrow.) Today we are experimenting with a new format. The two graphs will each be divided into two parts - the left hand part tables the first 12 days that we recorded, and the right hand part tables new cases since the PM's speech on 10/5/20.
The new cases since 10/5/20 are currently rising at a relatively low rate. If the outbreak in our area is under control, the slope of new cases will remain comparable to what it is at present, or flatter.
From past experience there will be variations in slope from day to day, so anomalous daily changes in slope will not be very significant.
Of course, we still have new cases, but note that at the start of our new measuring period (10/5/20), the number of cases is reset to zero. The total recorded number of cases for the first day was 2226,
These charts are created from local information on the government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.
As a nation we are, or should be, at a turning point, where each of us needs to come to terms with a new revised world. This is to a large degree a matter of regaining confidence, step by step, that we can regain some semblance of normal life, and help restore our fortunes as a country. This does mean taking personal risks, but not much more than the risks of daily life and its hazards.
If a politician complained that it was awful that more than 1% of the population died in the last year, some people would listen to him/her and complain about the performance of the government! Does that make sense?
That's the kind of line that the Opposition and too many others in the Press seem to be doing, when the job of all responsible commentators is to restore confidence, while not playing down the problems nor ignoring the mistakes made.
With further reduction of new cases in the area, yesterday's assessment seems solid.
Boris Johnson's speech (which can be found HERE) seems to be a valid plan, particularly for our area, and almost certainly for a great proportion of comparable parts of the country. The statistics that we have published each day shows how the Covid cases have gradually been contained. Today, in the 1M population of the Thames Valley area in which we live, just 6 new cases have been reported today, and it is reasonable to infer from the figures that (A) the number of contagious people among those 1M is likely to be less than 75 and (B) that the shape of the statistics indicates that those 75 are likely mostly to be clustered in small areas (otherwise the historic R would not be as observed). So that, taking sensible precautions, the chance of catching Covid-19 in this area is likely to be tiny. For the unlucky few the consequences are indeed serious, but, as we are advised, the virus could be with us for years, so we have to take the risks, while being sensible with our precautions, particularly if we are elderly/vulnerable.
It is difficult to understand the sense of the people in London who took to the Underground to go to work, the morning after Boris' speech. One can understand the desperation of those thousands of people otherwise unemployed, but restarting is not an instant job, and you need to be sure that you arrive at a functional place of work.
OK, it has been a bit muddly so far, but it is early days. We must realise that we have to get going again, and that, with the virus now essentially under control, not even counting as an 'epidemic', the job of influential people is, not to pick holes in how we try to move forward, in completely unprecedented circumstances, but, rather, to help build up confidence and to support our moving forward productively.
Here are good rules for newspaper articles relating to the pandemic:
We have no time for journalism that is prolix, waffle, illogical, opinionated or wise after the event. We regret to say that all the main newspapers are guilty of poor Covid journalism that wastes paper and time, and disseminates unnecessary fear and loss of confidence.
The competition can be seen on BBC iPlayer. It was an evening of huge talent from a flautist, a clarinettist, Ewan on his oboe, an amazing young recorder player and a bassoonist (an ex-pupil of Ewan's mum). They were all brilliant in their own ways.
Pianists are limited to the notes on the piano - the woodwind players showed how their instruments can be used to make notes and other effects that are off the scale, literally.
Photo with acknowledgments to BBC and the Young Musician programmes.
Today, 10/5, gives us the category final for woodwind, and we are 'rooting for' brilliant young oboist Ewan Millar, whose mother Catherine is Head of Woodwind with the Berkshire Maestros. Ewan's sister Madeleine was a soloist performer at our Music and Merriment concert in 2012, before studying at the Royal College of Music. The bassoonist category finalist, Alice Gore, is a former pupil of Catherine Millar, who has a well-deserved reputation for top-quality bassoon tuition.
The category final competitions are available on BBC iPlayer.
The first of the 'category final' competitions, for pianists, took place take place on Sunday 3/5/20 7-8pm on BBC4, including local boy Harvey Lin. It was a very exciting contest, between two girls and three boys, and the very varied repertoire ranged from Scarlatti to a study from the late 20th century with some formidable pieces from the romantic repertoire in between. The young performers showed great sensitivity and virtuosic technique. The competition was won by 16-year-old Thomas Luke from the Isle of Wight, whose excellent performance was described by the adjudicators as 'poetic' throughout. Harvey put up a performance that was highly musical as well as virtuosic. He has a stellar technique and he has a great musical career ahead. He is an organist and violinist as well as pianist.
The youngest performer was aged just 11, and put up a performance that was astonishing for one so young. A talent to watch out for.
Here is some interesting information on immunity from the New York Times:
'Promising news on the immunity front
'A new study of 1,343 people in the New York area found that nearly everyone who has had the coronavirus - even those who experienced only mild symptoms - makes antibodies at levels that may confer future protection against the disease.
'There had been worries that some patients seemed to have few or no antibodies, but the new study suggests that it's a matter of when the test is administered: People with meager results in the first few days after recovery often developed healthy amounts of antibodies later on. The researchers recommended waiting three weeks after the onset of symptoms.
'Scientists don't yet know for certain whether the antibodies confer immunity. But if they do, the new study suggests that nearly everyone who recovers from Covid-19 will have immunity.
'Killing the virus with light:
'Special ultraviolet light fixtures installed on walls or ceilings could play a role in reducing the spread of the virus. The technology, known as "upper-room ultraviolet germicidal irradiation," is already used to disinfect the air in hospitals, but stores and restaurants could do the same to reassure jittery customers.'
The news of the USA's general handling of the pandemic is dire, both for spread of the disease and for the US economy. There is a lot of good sense about that is made use of by many people. Unfortunately many people are unable or unwilling to take social distancing seriously enough in conditions where it is essential to control the virus. Measures to control contagion are being limited for political reasons or because of 'people's rights' (e.g. in faith communities). However, some of the objectors to tough measures are right in condemning officiousness and unjustified inconsistency in rules.
Her Majesty's moving speech can be viewed on this BBC web page.
The full text of Her Majesty's speech is HERE as a pdf, with acknowledgment to The Independent.
The Red Arrows flew over Buckingham Palace, and a few minutes later passed over Winkfield Plain. We could not see it, in Bracknell, with large trees in the way, but we heard it all right! Those of us in Maidens Green and Winkfield had a good view, we understand.
The Daily Mail has published several videos and some splendid photos - here is the LINK to these resources.
Closer to home, many people followed the programme of observances prepared by the Royal British Legion and the Parish held its own live service over Zoom as part of the activities. Thanks to all who decorated St Martin's church (right).
When war broke out in 1939, my mother and father looked at each other, with terrible forebodings. They thought that the end of the world was coming, as it so nearly did, but for the heroism, sacrifice and devotion to duty of the generation that won the war. We now know all too well what hell England under the Nazis would have been - a hell already suffered by so many by the time the war ended.
I was 2 years old when the war started, and we, our parents and two boys, lived in a flat near Paddington station. My godmother and her family lived in Oxfordshire. and they invited us to move out of London and live with them in their large house. One of my earliest memories is of their son John showing me his rifle. All too soon he was killed in action, and my godmother's husband was killed by a bomb later in the war. My father worked for the government in London, and later in India, where for a time we all lived. Returning from India by slow convoy in 1942, under U-boat attack at one point (we were lucky), even at that age, we caught a sense of the wartime perils at sea, for the Merchant Navy as well as the Royal Navy, barely understood until much later. On return to England, my father worked (by day) for the Ministry of Production for the remainder of the war. At night, he was a volunteer air-raid warden and that brought him some terrible experiences. My mother was a volunteer nurse. Air raids and nights in the basement were all too common, although then much less frequent than during the blitz: from these I became fascinated by aeroplanes, as well as the sea, and these flowed into my later career.
The war ended 8 days after my 8th birthday. We were lucky as a family to have mainly missed the loss of life, and the fathomlessless fears, traumas, and concerns of combatants and their families, but, living in post-war London, it was impossible not to see the devastation of Hitler's bombs, with all the implied tragedies that they had brought. Later I had a school friend whose father had been involved in the war-crimes tribunals. What he told me cannot be talked about, but was seared into my mind: a permanent warning against the power of hatred.
Today we have heard many many well-deserved and moving tributes to combatants and non-combatants. We all of us must sincerely express our own 'Thank Yous' to this wonderful generation, on behalf of ourselves and our families, some of whom may not fully understand why. Everybody must recognise that these people made it possible to lay the foundations of the economically successful war-free Europe in which we live today. Covid-19 will have profound consequences, but we can overcome these. We know that we have the will and determination as a united people, as well as the skills and technology born of the peace created by defeating Hitler.
(Article provided by Anthony Hodson)
At a time when the Corona-virus pandemic in the UK reaches a new phase, life doesn't just go on, it starts anew.
Congratulations to fellow-parishioner Anni Dixon, who announced today that her great-grandson Reuben had recently been born.
And we like this story of rapport between James (6) and his new brother Sam, as told by a fellow-musician friend:
Bringing the Resurrection up to date. Humour is God-given particularly at difficult times like these!
The New York Times reports some serious side-effects of Avigan today. Although it could prove effective (the results are said so far to be 'anecdotal'), it is reported to have some serious side-effects, including birth defects. Don't use for pregnant women - but news may turn up in UK trials for practical usefulness. Thorough safety testing is essential.
The following article is reprinted from the New York Times, which publishes detached, balanced and interesting articles on Covid-19 worldwide.
'The Isle of Wight, off England's southern coast, is renowned for a beautiful coastline and balmy climate, drawing crowds of summer tourists from across Britain.
'And it is now at the forefront of national attention for a different reason: The British government is preparing to begin a trial there this week of a mobile app that will track the contacts of people infected with the coronavirus.
'The app uses Bluetooth to 'alert people if they have been near somebody who is later diagnosed with having coronavirus,' Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said on Sunday. The tracking system will be rolled out by the National Health Service, and if the trials are successful, it will be available this month throughout the country.
'Other countries, like South Korea and more recently Turkey, have used such technology to curb the spread of the virus, and France is preparing to begin its own trial soon. But the apps have raised questions about whether privacy should be sacrificed in order to stem the spread of the virus.
'The program in Britain is voluntary. Mr. Shapps said the government would encourage as many people as possible to take it up, but experts question how effective an app can be if it relies on self-reported data.'
It was good to see so many people in our three congregations 'attending' this morning's communion service using Zoom. Thank you, Revd Tracey Williams, for organising and leading, and thank you, Revd Roy Burgess for your inspiring post-Easter sermon.
It was also good to have the story of the disciples after the crucifixion, as they came to the realisation that Jesus was still alive, told by the children of St Mary's Family Praise service under the firm eye of Lesley Philpot.
As a friend wrote, we are so lucky to have the help of Social Media in this respect at least - which we would not have had if the pandemic had struck 20 years ago.
We learn from a recently published Evening Standard article (transcript here) that the drug Avigan (favipiravir) that we mentioned in articles below on 30/4 and 28/4 is currently being trialled in three London hospitals, including the Chelsea and Westminster, with which we have very strong personal connections.
Professor Shah, who is in charge of the formal testing, is cautiously optimistic.
The Chelsea and Westminster charity CW+ is supporting the trials. If you feel you would like to contribute, as we have done, please go to their website HERE.
On 30/4/20 'AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford announced an agreement for the global development and distribution of the University's potential recombinant adenovirus vaccine aimed at preventing COVID-19 infection from SARS-CoV-2.
'The collaboration aims to bring to patients the potential vaccine known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, being developed by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, at the University of Oxford. Under the agreement, AstraZeneca would be responsible for development and worldwide manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine.'
While the pandemic lasts, the cost of the vaccine (e.g. to the NHS) would be limited to costs of production.
The Serum Institute of India, worldwide the largest manufacturer of serums, also said, on Tuesday, that it plans this year to produce up to 60 million doses of 'a potential vaccine against the new coronavirus that is under clinical trial in Britain [by the Oxford vaccine group]'.
These are significamt and encouraging developments, but the roll-out exercise may still be many months away, and the vaccine, although very promising indeed, has still to demonstrate its safety and effectiveness.
There is great debate about 'protecting the elderly for their own sakes' by enforcing lockdown on them. There is a case for saying that there are many areas in Britain where the risks to the elderly from Covid-19 are, at this time, far smaller than those from accidents and other mishaps.
Our daily analysis of Thames Valley cases suggests that Covid-19 cases are almost all restricted to localised groups. So is lockdown for the elderly justified in the bulk of the area where no new cases are occurring? Testing for and evaluation of these new cases is increasingly urgent to give an answer to this question.
Prof Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer and Gresham Professor of Physic, gave a live-streamed Gresham Lecture at 6pm on Thursday 30th April. His lecture is still viewable at the Gresham College website www.gresham.ac.uk. All Gresham Lectures are free.
Prof Whitty's clear and factual presentation of the facts is very important in understanding the characteristics of this terrible diseases. DO WATCH IT!
The following article was prepared for media publication.
The Covid-19 case figures for a group of 6 Thames Valley regions with a population of just over 1M shows that the total number of Covid cases has steadily risen, in almost linear progression, for more than a month now, without peaking, at an average rate of about 60 cases per day.
Most people are isolating as required. 60 new cases per day is numerically incompatible with isolation and social distancing between the bulk of the population and the approximately 300 infectious people in the region. The steadiness of the rise implies that it is smaller groups of people within the region that are self-infecting with a steady reproductive-value R of about 1.
What are these groups? Where can they be found? It is clear that self-isolating people, particularly the older population, have very little numerical influence on the steady 60 cases per day rise.
All the same, these groups represent a hidden danger to the rest of us, particularly to older and vulnerable people, and will remain so until their nature and identity is investigated, exposed and acted upon.
Congratulations to Capt. Tom Moore on reaching his 100th birthday! We are delighted that his Spitfire flypast took place, to celebrate the huge success of his appeal on behalf of the NHS, which currently stands at in excess of perhaps £30M. And his promotion is a very fitting gesture. What a wonderful man!
The following article was prepared for media publication.
News from the Japanese medical community suggests that the ante-viral drug Avigan (also known as favipiravir) has been instrumental in 95% of cases of easing the severity of Covid-19 symptoms, and its use appears to have significantly reduced the death rate in that country. It is reported that the drug is now being more broadly devolved in Japan to less severe cases. The drug has been used in Italy, and, no doubt, is being evaluated in the UK.
It is now being evaluated in three London hospitals.
We learn that a drug called Avigan or favipiravir (developed by Japanese company Fujifilm in 2014 against influenza) is said to be effective at reducing Covid-19 symptoms in 91% of severely infected patients in Japan, and the drug is being tested in Italy and other countries. No clear results on use in Europe are yet available, but it is likely that the drug is being considered in the UK. In particular, no blind-checked tests have yet been fully carried out on Covid-19 patients, as far as we can tell from currently available information.
The New York Times posted a most encouraging briefing this morning that we reprint in full HERE.
This article describes the state of the very promising work of the Oxford vaccine team. It is essential reading!
The full text of the Prime Minister's speech this morning can be found HERE.
Boris thanked the people of this country for their resolve in the worst crisis since the second World War. He promised careful move towards opening up the economy, but said that lockdown must stay until it was clear that the country would avoid a second and catastrophic second wave of infection
In our area, as the analysis below shows, we have not yet peaked out, and this underlines the importance of not taking premature action.
Every day we receive 15-20 junk emails, which are attempted scams of one kind or another. All go straight in the 'bin', without any response, and, particularly, without following any kind of link, however innocent it may seem to be, or opening any attachment.
By far the greatest number of these scams indicate that you have won, inherited or been awarded a breathtakingly large sum of money, often by a large and seemingly reputable body. Some are posed as a means of avoiding taxation, some are posed as sob-stories. They are all of the 'too good to be true' nature. In many cases the grammar is poor, and the email address of the sender often appears to have no relationship with the organisation supposedly making the offer.
Several of today's scams were attempts to entice one to invest in 'Binary' funds - following the Bitcoin bubble. Ignore - or you'll never see your money again - or even the quick award offered.
Several scams offered 'wonderful' investments in property. Do not touch these! Property investment is tricky enough, even without the near certainty of these being scam offers.
One scam offered an unspecified scheme to make money working from home, with one button to investigate further and another button to 'unsubscribe'. Ignore both options.
The last scam copied the distinctive logo and design of Office 365, a Microsoft messaging and office service, stating that some incoming messages had been rejected and would be permanently discarded unless action was taken, and offering a means to review these messages (by viewing an attachment). The sender's email address was suspicious, but in any case this kind of communication isn't Office 365 practice. Never attempt to access any attachment unless you are sure of its innocence!
Scam messages must be deleted permanently as soon as possible! Today's messages had been correctly identified as junk by our mail system - but be aware that junk detectors can treat a small percentage of valid messages as junk, and can fail to identify some kinds of scam. Take care!!
To find Laurence Perkin's daily mini-recital on the bassoon, go to Bassoons against Covid-19 and enjoy the diversion!
The now-regular Zoom communion service at 11am on 26 April will be led by Revd Tracey Williams; however there is also a sermon available from the Revd Jane Kraft, who would have been leading the Matins Service at St Mary's for that day. Jane has written for us a reflective sermon (follow the link) that underscores our need for faith in Jesus in these difficult times, and the comfort that He brings.
John Kimbell has also provided for us his fascinating address for Saint Mark's Day (follow the link) which actually falls on Saturday 25 April.
We have had a strong endorsement of Wiltshire Farm Foods, who provide a very useful service of providing complete frozen meals delivered to your door in Winkfield. The quality and variety is said to be excellent.
Do have a look at their website www.wiltshirefarmfoods.com and consider trying them out.
The New York Times gives a refreshing relief to the hyper-emotional and confrontational tenor of the British press. This morning, we enjoyed their report on re-wilding - a trend that we have seen here with squirrels and foxes more boldly venturing onto our roads. NYT writes:
"With much of humanity stuck at home, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day arrived on Wednesday without many in-person celebrations but with a silver lining of sorts: The rewilding of some urban areas on a suddenly quieter, less crowded planet.
"It has taken many forms. A herd of shaggy goats was spotted running down desolate streets in Wales, and monkeys were seen taking over a plaza in Thailand. Coyotes have ventured deeper into San Francisco, and deer have wandered freely around Nara, Japan.
"Captive animals have benefited, too. Penguins have been allowed to roam the exhibits at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. And pandas at a Hong Kong zoo finally managed to mate after 13 years - perhaps thanks to a little privacy."
Prof Sarah Gilbert and her Oxford team announced yesterday that they were planning to start first tests on a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this week. This development is based on successful vaccine work with the SARS corona-virus. A lot of testing is required, and huge resources must be deployed to create large-scale production. Success is not guaranteed, but she was confident that her approach would work, and, remarkably, would be able to confer longer-term immunity than exposure to the virus itself.
The Prime Minister has announced a new vaccine Task Force to expedite devevelopment and mass-production of a vaccine, ultimately on a global scale.
This coming Thursday, there will be an international online book-launch of 'Online Courts and the Future of Justice' by Prof Richard Susskind, who is an internationally acclaimed lawyer and Oxford University-based expert on the broad impact of IT. (He was Gresham Professor of Law some years ago.) It is clear that justice systems everywhere will of necessity be profoundly affected by technology; and Prof Susskind's book is a ground-breaking analysis of what will be necessary if technology is to cut through the needs of justice, and provide ways in which the weaknesses of current justice systems can be addressed by fundamental technology-based changes. Traditional lawyers will hate this book, but find it hard to argue against its logic, particularly in corona-virus days.
It was good to read in today's newspaper that a gang working on people frightened by the corona-virus has been smashed. We hope that the smashing will be thoroughly accomplished - it is a little worrying that the justice system isn't working very well these days. We have reported on a number of scams that may have been perpetrated by the gang, such as SE Water scam, threatened fines, HMRC scams, Credit card scams, and we hope that none of us have fallen for the traps.
We are grateful to Pam for bringing us 'Prayer for a Pandemic', which was first posted on Instagram on 9 March by Dr Cameron Bellm, a mother of two young boys living in Seattle. This moving but uncompromising poem has travelled the world now, as it focuses the mind of those who are relatively safe and secure on those for whom Covid-19 is a catastrophe. It has been released into the public domain. We have used what we think is the original text (less an American spelling).
May we who are merely inconvenienced|
remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbours.
Many will be very interested to know of the digital opportunities (click on the link) offered by Bracknell Forest library services.
Thank you, Mary.
Most of us will have enjoyed the Michael Flanders and Donald Swann duo of the 60s. Their humour and musicianship endeared them to audiences past and present, and some of their songs have enduring popularity.
Below are links to two of these, arranged for choirs by Paul Ayres, composer, arranger and choir director:
We saw a daily newspaper's response to an old person who could not find a delivery-time slot from Sainsbury's, and it was clear that the responder had no practical experience of what to do.
When you reach the delivery-time page, it will not show any free slots unless you are incredibly lucky. Stay on that page and refresh the screen every few seconds using the F5 button on your keyboard. You many have to do this for a quarter of an hour, or perhaps even as much as 2 hours, but eventually you will find that the screen has suddenly added a tranche of newly-available slots. Select one as fast as you can - they go in a few seconds, and you should have it confirmed after a short wait. If it isn't confirmed, you were too slow - keep trying and be quicker next time!
This works reliably, for those prepared to be patient.
For the 15th day, celebrated professional bassonist Laurence Perkins has put up some real virtuosity in his last piece of the day. His daily mini-recitals can be found on www.laurenceperkins.com/inspiration - just click the link.
Earlier days' recitals are still up on Laurence's site. They are brief moments of pure enjoyment
These days our junk-mail detectors seem to be working like over-zealous policemen! We recently found that ours had designated as junk a kind message from Sainsbury's that confirmed the delivery of our grocery order. (What did it have in mind?) So do please look in your junk folder for messages that are genuine - but do remember that fraudsters often use reputable names to generate fraudulent messages. Junk-detection is about 95% accurate for us - but look out for the 5%! Check the detailed email address of any possible genuine mail - if it comes from another country it is usually a scam, but check carefully and never supply personal information unless you are absolutely sure that it is safe.
Our friends writing from NZ (he is a past-Master of the Cooks Company of the City of London) sent us this Easter message of hope, written by the Hon. Chaplain of the Cooks' Company. It gives a thoughtful and relevant perspective of the situation in which we find ourselves at this grim time. Do read and absorb it!
Here is a delight for the day. It is a recent Youtube of a competition performance (videoed for the competition last month in these Covid days) of our super-talented young local violinist Sarah Aizawa, who was 11 last November. Many of you will have heard her perform at our Music and Merriment Concerts in St Mary's church in December 2017 and 2018. Listen to her virtuosic performances of Telemann (unaccompanied) and Wieniawski (with piano) HERE.
Boris Johnson in some ways epitomises our country's dedicated struggle against Covid-19, starting with his clear motivation to listen to the scientific advice, make hard decisions on the basis of what the scientists are saying, and galvanise his team to make the necessary measures work, and moving on to his own nearly fatal brush with the disease. We wish him a steady improvement in his recovery, and patience in sparing himself at a time when he must focus on regaining his own health as a priority. We ourselves must be patient with a government trying to cope, for now and for the future, with huge problems and with a half-understood and ever-changing enemy, while its leader must take time off.
We are pleased that the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition has pledged to lead that body constructively.
It is also good to see the main public bodies reacting to the necessary new challenges and taking on new ways of working - perhaps not as quickly as one would like, but still with a high level of professionalism.
Lots of things have been slow to bring about, and mistakes have been made, but it is a bit pathetic to observe commentators who are so wise after the event. Learning from history is important, but history is not made by - not even documented by - commentaries formulated as the situation is developing.
A friend of ours and his New Zealander wife Marilyn often visit New Zealand (where they have a small house) at this time of year. He writes:
'Marilyn and I are safely locked down in our little home in New Plymouth. The NZ government got on top of things quickly, so country wide there have only been four deaths and 1200 cases.
'However all our plans for travelling in NZ have been abandoned, and we have to stay in the house except for essential food shopping and a daily walk. It remains to be seen whether we can fly back in May when we intended to, but, given what we see and hear about the UK, I am inclined to think we might be better off staying put for a bit. Marilyn is all in favour of that plan!'
There was an Easter service for us to attend that took place at 11am today, Easter Sunday, using Zoom. This was an excellent thing - and truly made our day. Thank you, Tracey, Huw, Lesley, and all who contribued to this moving occasion.
This Zoom service will happen each Sunday at 10:45 for 11am. Next Sunday 19/4/20, it will be a St Peter's service, and the following Sunday it will be a St Martin's service.
Joining instructions will be found on the Parish website, which is accessible using the blue [Parish website] button above.
We were pleased to join in with quite a lot of clapping at 8pm this evening, to celebreate the wonderful NHS people.
We were advised by a Sainsbury message on Facebook that (for us elderlies) online delivery slots were periodically made available. Sitting on their Delivery Slot page and pressing F5 several times a minute (this refreshes the web-page), a set of slots were soon made available, but disappeared too quickly to grab one. After two more hours plus, more slots were posted by Sainsbury's and this time we were able to grab one, so that is taken care of for a week. Persistence and patience does pay, we learn!
Her Majesty made a speech to the nation which was broadcast at 8pm on Sunday 5/4/20, which thanked the NHS and all those working for a better outcome to a unique world situation, including those confined to home. She also expressed the belief that the spirit of the British people would shine through and be an example to future generations. The full text of Her Majesty's moving spech is HERE.
This came on a day when the Prime Minister was admitted to hospital, where he remains today 6/4/20, reminding us that the disease is no respecter of persons. We wish Boris a speedy and secure recovery.
Some of the St Mary's children read a playlet about Palm Sunday, which was Sunday, 5/4/20. The Youtube link to it is HERE! Enjoy!!
We have received an email suggesting that people 'register for emergency services' by pressing a link. This link appears to be NOT part of the South East Water website.
THEREFORE THIS EMAIL SHOULD BE TREATED AS FRAUDULENT. DO NOT FOLLOW ANY LINK.
Contact South East Water if you wish, but ONLY using web addresses, emails and telephone numbers that they supplied you in bills etc.
The Friends' TSC (Telephone Support Club) started operations yesterday. Some people were uneasy about being 'offered help' by the TSC, as their own arrangements are fine. They should not be uneasy, as the main purpose pf the TSC is, not to help directly, but to support the people in the isolation that they may well be feeling, and to create stronger bonds within our community.
The fact is that the TSC (with many elderly members) has very limited resources for physical help such as shopping, and could not possibly offer such things except in cases of emergency.
So please just join in and enjoy chatting between yourselves, whether or not you need assistance. So far, everybody has set themselves up sensibly to cope with things like shopping.
Which News advise: "Don't believe bogus text messages saying you've been fined for stepping outside during the coronavirus lockdown. It is the latest in a series of scams related to the virus that claims to be from the UK Government."
"This sinister scam claims that your movements have been monitored through your phone, and that you must pay a fine or face a more severe penalty."
You must ignore such messages. Read more HERE.
We have just reviewed and reissued our article on THIS LINK. Please refresh the versionif necessary by pressing F5. It is VITAL READING FOR ALL - PLEASE DOWNLOAD IT AND PASS IT ON!
* Delivered goods, and goods off shop shelves etc could be carriers of corona-virus for 24 hours: wash hands immediately after handling them, and try not to use them for a day.
* In any case, wash hands at least every two hours.
The Revd Roy Burgess sent us a sermon for Sunday 29th March 2020, with a covering letter. Click HERE. It gives some relief from Covid-19.
HMRC have sent an email to the self-employed announcing measures to help self-employer. They also warn of "an increase in scam emails, calls and texts." They say "If someone gets in touch claiming to be from HMRC, saying that financial help can be claimed or that a tax refund is owed, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, please do not respond." They add: "HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for these details."
We all need to be wary of these things - do not automatically trust any email or text just because it says it is from a reputable source!!
For example we just received a message from 'Gas and Electricity' with subject 'What if you could save on your bill?' Is it junk? - no way of finding out, so into the bin it goes!!
Do not trust websites or sellers offering you scarce things like face-masks or hand-wash, etc. This is a scam that really is being applied by unscrupulous people, according to 'Action Fraud'.
We heartily endorse, and join in with, the praise for and appreciation of hard-pressed NHS workers all over the UK yesterday evening. They know how tough it will become in the next few weeks, and their courage in facing up to this is amazing.
John Campbell, Thames Valley Police Chief Constable. this evening spoke on YouTube - press the link - emphasising his force's determination to protect the public as they isolate themselves at home for the benefit of themselves, the NHS, and public safety. Enforcement will be by appeal to common sense, by pursuasion if at all possible.
The Prime Minister announced today that all churches will be closed until further notice.
We encountered a scam hitting worried people today. A person knowing your name announced in a telephone call: "There is a dubious transaction on your Barclaycard account - ring this number to discuss". The number was NOT the helpline number on the card, and the scammer will try to persuade anybody ringing the number to secure their funds in some way - and will then steal them. Only ever ring the official help-line number or you can check your account online.
The Prime Minister announces sweeping new curbs on life. Stay at home except for essential reasons. All non-essential shops will be closed - there is a list of shops that will continue to support daily life. Gatherings of more than two people, not counting those living together, will cease. The police will have new power to enforce the rules.
With these restrictions, the rate of spread of the corona-virus will be curbed dramatically. Without them, the rate of spread of contagion will be a lot worse. Let's do it!
Nicky Gumbel: "Say the Lord's Prayer while you are (frequently) washing your hands!"
This Youtube message from Nicky Gumbel gives a simple message yet clear and cogent. Click on Choose Faith Not Fear
Reprinted from the April/May Parish Magazine
Many of us will spend most of our time housebound over the next few weeks. Here is a splendid way of taking advantage of it!
Gresham College was established as a result of the will of the great Elizabethan financier, Sir Thomas Gresham, to give free public lectures to Londoners.
This amazing organisation is still going, with Gresham Professors who are the top of the class giving stimulating lectures that lay people can engage with. All lectures are streamed on Youtube, and all you need to do is visit the College website www.gresham.ac.uk and select as many lectures as you like - and enjoy them for free!
Of particular interest are the lectures of Chris Whitty, the UK's chief medical officer, and also Gresham Professor of Physic (medicine and biology).
However, you can be entertained and educated on a broad range of topics, from Astronomy to Law, and you do not have to be knowledgeable in any particular subject to become absorbed in the lecture.
Her Majesty made a speech to the whole nation yesterday about its duty to pull together to defeat corona-virus, and particularly thanking all the people who most active in combating the crisis; scientists. medics and other people in vital public services. She said:
"As Philip and I arrive at Windsor today, we know that many individuals and families across the United Kingdom, and around the world, are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty.
"We are all being advised to change our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the communities we live in and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them.
"At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation's history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal.
"We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services; but now more than any time in our recent past, we all have a vitally important part to play as individuals - today and in the coming days, weeks and months,
"Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge. You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part."
Her statement comes after Prince William released a video stating that people in the UK "have a unique ability to pull together".
He explained the role of the The National Emergencies Trust and said it collaborates with charities to raise and distribute money to support victims during a domestic disaster.
The heading is a link to news of local pubs and restaurants that are providing delivery and takeaway services that may be of interest to self=isolaters.
The heading above is a link that gives access to detailed Government guidelines on social distancing for the elderly and vulnerable.
There are many empty shelves in our supermarkets as a result of panic buying, and this creates a real problem for shoppers, particularly elderly ones.
A letter from Sainsbury's Chief Executive Mike Coupe received this morning (18/3/20) contains the following statements:
... We will set aside the first hour in every supermarket this Thursday 19th March, for elderly and vulnerable customers. I hope that you can respect this decision and will work with us as we try our best to help those that need it the most. If you or an elderly family member, friend or neighbour would like to shop during this hour, please check online for your local supermarket opening hours.
... We will also help elderly and vulnerable customers access food online. From Monday 23rd March, our online customers who are over 70 years of age or have a disability will have priority access to online delivery slots. We will contact these customers in the coming days with more details.
... Following feedback from our customers and from our store colleagues, we have decided to put restrictions on a larger number of products. From tomorrow, Wednesday 18th March, customers will be able to buy a maximum of three of any grocery product and a maximum of two on the most popular products including toilet paper, soap and UHT milk. We have enough food coming into the system, but are limiting sales so that it stays on shelves for longer and can be bought by a larger numbers of customers.
On 19/03/20, Tesco's advertised similarly:
From today we will start to implement the following changes:
So, if you could help us by limiting demand of essential items and allowing us to focus on the core needs of our customers - we are confident that we can continue to feed the nation. We are delivering food daily to our stores, but this is a very challenging time and we will only get through this if we work together. .
Thank YOU for your support.
Other supermarkets will clearly put in similar measures.
Concerns that supermarket staff are increasingly exposed to the virus from shoppers, as well as enabling people to maintain stricter isolation, will result in increasing pressure for people to use online shopping. We should all consider online shopping as part of our personal plans to help keep our community safe, as infected supermarket staff will endanger everybody even if they display no symptoms.
Always wash hands after visiting a supermarket.
Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland, has penned a touching poem about coronavirus ...
Yes there is fear.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
They say that in the streets of Assisi
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
So we pray and we remember that
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
This advice from an infectious-diseases specialist doctor is well worth reading and digesting! 9/3/20
I'm a doctor and an Infectious Diseases Specialist. I've been at this for more than 20 years seeing sick patients on a daily basis. I have worked in inner city hospitals and in the poorest slums of Africa. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis,TB, SARS, Measles, Shingles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria...there is little I haven't been exposed to in my profession. And with notable exception of SARS, very little has left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or downright scared.
I am not scared of Covid-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of Covid-19.
What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world. I am scared of the N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics where they are actually needed for front line healthcare providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls, and coffee lounges, perpetuating even more fear and suspicion of others. I am scared that our hospitals will be overwhelmed with anyone who thinks they probably don't have it but may as well get checked out no matter what because you just never know... and those with heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and strokes will pay the price for overfilled ER waiting rooms with only so many doctors and nurses to assess.
I am scared that travel restrictions will become so far reaching that weddings will be canceled, graduations missed and family reunions will not materialize. And well, even that big party called the Olympic Games...that could be kyboshed too. Can you even imagone?
I'm scared those same epidemic fears will limit trade, harm partnerships in multiple sectors, business and otherwise and ultimately culminate in a global recession.
But mostly, I'm scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, openmindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested.
Covid-19 is nowhere near over. It will be coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it. Stop waiting to be surprised further. The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviors and "fight for yourself above all else" attitude could prove disastrous.
I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society. Let's meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience, and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing.
Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.
Our children will thank us for it.
We have encountered an unexplained system failure to complete payment to Sainsbury's online shopping from our computer.
However, using our mobile phone to access Sainsbury's website and to complete the payment worked fine.
There is no approved way of sterilising facemasks (FFRs - Filtering Facepiece Respirators) according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a comprehensive article. FFRs are designed for single use.
However, if there is no option but to re-use, you can recycle (have five masks used one a day and carefully set aside a used mask as temporarily infected for four days) or you can sterilise in steam produced by boiling a cup of water in a microwave for a few minutes. Some masks will spark with their metal parts, and then this method should not be used. Other masks will degrade their seals and should be inspected after treatment. Try it as it is better than nothing. See the caveats in the article quoted.
Sunday 22 March: Closed
Monday 23 March: 9am - 10am
Tuesday 24 Mar: Closed
Wednesday 25 March: 9am - 10am
Thursday 26 March: Closed
Friday 27 March: 9am - 10am
Tesco's opening times are 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 4pm on Sundays.
Sainsbury's announced that from Thursday, March 19, stores including Bagshot Road in Bracknell, will set aside the first hour in every supermarket for elderly and vulnerable customers.
Sainsbury's opening times are 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 4pm on Sundays.
Sainsbury's have allocated a dedicated helpline for vulnerable customers: 0800 052 5500 opening at 9am.
The parish mag for April/May cannot be published and distributed in the same way as usual due to Covid-19 restrictions.We will print a small number of magazines for use by those who really need printed copies and to leave in our churches. The online editorial for April/May is already published on the Parish Mag website www.fosmw.com/parishmag and has its own button at the top. We will shortly have a publication for the advertisers. We will review the situation as the Covid-19 situation develops.
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