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Mutated virus may reinfect people already stricken once with covid-19, sparking debate and concerns

The Washington Post
Reprint

 Carolyn Y. Johnson, William Wan 

a person standing in front of a brick building: Volunteers deliver coronavirus test kits Thursday west of London as part of surge testing for the virus variant discovered in South Africa.
© Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images Volunteers deliver coronavirus test kits Thursday west of London as part of surge testing for the virus variant discovered in South Africa.

A trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine detected the most sobering signal yet that people who have recovered from infections are not completely protected against a variant that originated in South Africa and is spreading rapidly, preliminary data presented this week suggests.

The finding, though far from conclusive, has potential implications for how the pandemic will be brought under control, underscoring the critical role of vaccination, including for people who have already recovered from infections. Reaching herd immunity — the threshold when enough people achieve protection and the virus can’t seed new outbreaks — will depend on a mass vaccination campaign that has been constrained by limited supply.

Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that it appears a vaccine is better than natural infection in protecting people, calling it “a big, strong plug to get vaccinated” and a reality check for people who may have assumed that because they have already been infected, they are immune.

In the placebo group of the trial for Novavax’s vaccine, people with prior coronavirus infections appeared just as likely to get sick as people without them, meaning they weren’t fully protected against the B.1.351 variant that has swiftly become dominant in South Africa. The variant has been detected only a handful of times in the United States, including a case reported Friday in Virginia, which became the third state to identify the presence of the virus variant.

The preliminary finding from the South African vaccine trial, based on a data set with limitations, stirred debate and concern among researchers as results first hinted at in a news release last week were revealed more broadly this week.

“The data really are quite suggestive: The level of immunity that you get from natural infection — either the degree of immunity, the intensity of the immunity or the breadth of immunity — is obviously not enough to protect against infection with the mutant,” Fauci said.

Even if they don’t agree on the scope of the threat, scientists said reinfection with new variants is clearly a risk that needs to be explored more. There is no evidence that second cases are more severe or deadly, and a world in which people may have imperfect protection against new versions of the virus is not necessarily a world in which the pandemic never ends.

“I worry especially that some of these premature sweeping conclusions being made could rob people of hope,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science and Security. “I worry the message they may receive is that we’re never going to be rid of this. When in fact that’s not what the data suggests.”

She and others emphasized the apparent lack of severe health repercussions from reinfection — and the lack of evidence that reinfection is common.

When Maryland biotechnology company Novavax first disclosed results from two international vaccine trials last week, the company noted in its news release that some people in the trial with earlier infections had become reinfected, probably with the variant B.1.351, which had become dominant during the trial.

On Tuesday, details of the Novavax trial were presented at the New York Academy of Sciences.

About 30 percent of the people in the South African trial had antibodies in their blood at the start of the trial showing they had recovered from an earlier infection.

But that previous exposure didn’t necessarily appear to afford protection. Among those who got saltwater shots, the people with a prior infection got sick at the same rate as study participants who had not been previously infected — a surprise because they would have been expected to have some immunity. Nearly 4 percent of people who had a previous infection were reinfected, an almost identical rate to those with no history of infection.

“It’s awful strong data,” said Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who is co-leading the federal clinical trial network testing coronavirus vaccines in the United States. “Basically, it’s saying vaccination actually needs to be better than natural immunity. But vaccination is better than natural immunity.”

The study found that two shots of the experimental vaccine did provide protection against the variant.

The reinfection result was incidental to the main objective of the study, which was to determine the vaccine’s efficacy and safety. It was not designed to test the likelihood of reinfection, and others argued that it can’t be used to draw firm conclusions and cautioned against assuming that the previous infection provided no protection.

It also shows the risks of a strategy to reach herd immunity pushed by Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and adviser to President Donald Trump, who is said to have endorsed allowing the virus to spread mostly unfettered, while protecting nursing homes and other vulnerable populations. Atlas has repeatedly denied backing such a strategy.

The study backs up recent laboratory data from South African researchers analyzing blood plasma from recovered patients. Nearly half of the plasma samples had no detectable ability to block the variant from infecting cells in a laboratory dish. In a separate study, scientists at Rockefeller University in New York took blood plasma from people who had been vaccinated and found that vaccine-generated antibodies were largely able to block mutations found on the B.1.351 variant.

Novavax did not provide a breakdown of mild, moderate, and severe cases, but severe cases of covid-19 were rare in the trial, suggesting that reinfection is unlikely to send people to the hospital.

“It is not surprising to see reinfection in individuals who are convalescent. And it would not be surprising to see infection in people who are vaccinated, especially a few months out from vaccine,” said Michel Nussenzweig, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology at Rockefeller University. “The key is not whether people get reinfected, it’s whether they get sick enough to be hospitalized.”

Reinfection has always been a possibility, but scientists who design disease models had assumed that natural infection would convey some level of immunity for at least a few months. That figured into some earlier calculations for how America could start approaching herd immunity by this summer or fall. Even with limited vaccination supply and delays in distribution, the hope was that people previously infected would factor in the drive toward herd immunity.

If it turns out that previously infected people could be susceptible to reinfection by variants, that could have implications for when the nation reaches herd immunity.

“Everyone’s still trying to digest this and asking, is this really what’s happening? Because the implications are pretty huge,” said Chris Murray, who leads the modeling team at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “If the data holds true, it means we will need to walk the public back on the idea of how close we are to the finish line for ending this pandemic.”

Others are less sure. Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, said he couldn’t draw clear conclusions from the data because it remains limited and preliminary.

“The pace has been dizzying, and several times today, I have learned new things that significantly change my view of those data,” Lipsitch said.

Projections created by data scientist Youyang Gu — whose pandemic models have been cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — suggest that about 65 percent of America’s population will reach immunity by June 1. But built into that 65 percent is roughly 20 percent having immunity from past infections only. Scientists are unsure how the potential for reinfection might influence their projections. They are eager to see if other vaccine trial data in the coming weeks will corroborate the trend from the Novavax trial.

“The sample size so far is small,” Gu said. “We need much more data before we can draw conclusions.”

More data from South Africa will help clarify how common reinfection is and whether it results in severe disease. Researchers are following up with certain groups, such as health-care workers, to quantify reinfection, said Anne von Gottberg, co-head of the Center for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis at South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“Several individual cases of reinfection have been confirmed,” Gottberg said in an email. “We may be able to learn from seasonal coronaviruses and the fact that reinfection for these viruses are not uncommon, and start to occur 6 to 12 months after the previous infection.”

The good news is that vaccine trials from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax show that vaccines can work — even against the B.1.351 variant, and particularly in preventing severe illness.

“I think the fact that we … now have data from two vaccines indicating that we can prevent serious disease, even against the new variant, is hopeful,” Penny Moore, a scientist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, said in an email. “We need to keep monitoring sequences as these won’t be the last lineages.”

A future concern needing close monitoring is whether the reformulation of vaccines to keep up with the evolving virus could drive the virus to continue evolving. There is also a concern that subpar immunity could allow new resistant variants to emerge. That possibility, Nussenzweig said, is one reason that people should get both doses of a vaccine, on time.

In the News today –

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May be an image of food and text that says

Ministry of Health, Montserrat investigages suspected COVID-19 cases

COVID, Ministry of Health & Social Services, News / 6th February 2021

The following is a release which says that Montserrat’s Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) is currently investigating possible cases of COVID-19 on the island.

The Ministry has started the contact tracing process while they await the results from tests conducted.

A further update on this will be issued tomorrow, Saturday February 6, 2021, following the results of the tests.  

In the meantime, the Ministry of Health is encouraging persons to practice the recommended social distancing and safety protocols:

  1. Wear a face-covering or mask in business places and on transportation services;
  2. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizing gel;
  3. When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your flexed elbow dispose of the tissue immediately and wash your hands;
  4. Avoid close contact with anyone who has coughing and fever;
  5. Practice social distancing.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services will continue to update the public as new information is received.

Unconfirmed response to inquiries as to whether to suspicions are of a person or persons already living on the island, or recent visitors, is that its the latter.

There has not been a positive case since July 2020. It is still puzzling why some of these protocols have been criminalised with heavy fines of $1,000.00 and there is no official advice as to what the public should do to immunise their bodies or how to immediately deal with early symptoms.

It would not be surprising should we see a panic reaction from the ‘authorities’ who have not demonstrated that they in fact have acted with reasonable understanding and hands-on practice with the pandemic.

Visit the Facebook page for information in that regard at: https://www.facebook.com/themontserratreporter/

see the latest chart:

May be an image of food and text that says 'MONTSERRAT CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) REPORT as at 20 Jan 2021 12:00pm 13 COVID-19 CONFIRMED CASES O COVID-19 ACTIVE CASES O NEW CASES O PENDING RESULTS 835 PERSONS TESTED 930 SAMPLES TESTED 56 PERSONS QUARANTINED O PERSONS HOSPITALIZED COVID-19 RELATED DEATHS 1 "Status Tested 11 PERSONS RECOVERED Global Caribbean ESSENTIAL NUMBERS Flu Hotline 496-9724 Confirmed Cases Deaths Recovered 97,872,687 2,093,913 70,289,601 473,887 6,288 313,832 Casualty 491-2802/2836 /2552 Ministry of Health & Social Services -facebook.com/MontserratMOH'

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nigeria covid-19

The world is ‘on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure’ by failing to get vaccines to poorer countries, the WHO warns

BUSINESS
INSIDER

Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce

nigeria covid-19
Bidemi Aye receives a pre-paid debit card for cash and food provided by World Food Programme (WFP) in a makeshift home in the Makoko riverine slum settlement in Lagos, Nigeria on November 27, 2020. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images
  • The world was “on the brink of catastrophic moral failure,’ over vaccine distribution, the head of the World Health Organization said Monday.
  • Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries.
  • “A me-first approach leaves the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at risk, it’s also self-defeating,” Ghebreyesus said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The world is “on the brink of catastrophic moral failure” by failing to give vaccines to poorer countries, the head of the World Health Organization said Monday.

“It is not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general at the WHO, said during an executive board session.

Governments naturally want to prioritize their own health workers and older people — but they need to come together to prioritize those most at risk of severe diseases and death around the world, he said. 

“More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries, but just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country,” Tedros said. 

A “me-first approach” was “self-defeating”, ultimately prolonging the pandemic, as well as the restrictions needed to contain it and both the human and economic suffering, he said.

Research from Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center predicted that it could take years to roll out vaccines in poorer countries due to vaccine cost and availability, as well as a lack of infrastructure to transport, store, and distribute the shots.

Tedros said that countries and companies had promised equitable access by signing up to COVAX, a voluntary scheme to ensure vaccine distribution worldwide launched. COVAX was launched by the WHO, Gavi vaccine alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

But certain countries and companies have gone around COVAX, he said, putting themselves first and in doing so driving up prices.

Manufacturers had also prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries where profits are highest, he added. 

He did not name any specific countries or companies.

He urged countries that had circumnavigated COVAX – and that have control of supply – to be transparent about their contracts, and share any excess vaccines.

“My challenge to all member states is to ensure that by […] April 7, COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in every country, as a symbol of hope for overcoming both the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges,” he said.

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14-day quarantine period required for all travelers to Montserrat

As the Government of Montserrat (GoM) continues its vigilance in attempting to keep the island COVID-19 (and any variant thereof) free after its demonstrated ignorance or its lacking of alertness at the beginning and before the pandemic announcement.

According to the following release of a decision, “in light of concerns regarding a new variant of COVID-19 which was recently discovered in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe,” GoM has decreed that all persons “traveling to Montserrat will be required to quarantine for 14 days…”

The release dated Wednesday, December 23, 2020, follows:

 –  As of 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020, all persons traveling to Montserrat will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

This decision was made in Cabinet this morning, in light of concerns regarding a new variant of COVID-19 which was recently discovered in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, and which Health Experts say can spread more quickly than prior strains of the virus. 

As a result, Cabinet has decided that, except for those classes of people who are specifically exempted under S.R.O 80 of 2020, all other individuals arriving in Montserrat must quarantine for the full 14 days, including those staying in Government approved quarantine facilities.

Those exempted from the quarantine requirement are: Non-Resident Technicians granted permission to travel to Montserrat; a member of the crew of an aircraft or ship; and a person who has been granted permission by the Minister of Health to enter Montserrat for the purpose of aiding with preparations for a disaster or after a disaster.

Individuals traveling to Montserrat are reminded that a negative PCR COVID-19 Test and pre-travel registration are still required prior to entering Montserrat.  The PCR COVID-19 Test must be undertaken no earlier than seven days prior to entering Montserrat.

Members of the public are also urged to continue practicing the recommended health and safety precautionary measures, to include wearing a face covering, social distancing, and sanitisation.

As the Government of Montserrat (GoM) continues its vigilance in attempting to keep the island COVID-19 (and any variant thereof) free after its demonstrated ignorance or its lacking of alertness at the beginning and before the pandemic announcement.

According to the following release of a decision, “in light of concerns regarding a new variant of COVID-19 which was recently discovered in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe,” GoM has decreed that all persons “traveling to Montserrat will be required to quarantine for 14 days,”

The release dated Wednesday, December 23, 2020, follows:

 –  As of 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020, all persons traveling to Montserrat will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

This decision was made in Cabinet this morning, in light of concerns regarding a new variant of COVID-19 which was recently discovered in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, and which Health Experts say can spread more quickly than prior strains of the virus. 

As a result, Cabinet has decided that, except for those classes of people who are specifically exempted under S.R.O 80 of 2020, all other individuals arriving in Montserrat must quarantine for the full 14 days, including those staying in Government approved quarantine facilities.

Those exempted from the quarantine requirement are: Non-Resident Technicians granted permission to travel to Montserrat; a member of the crew of an aircraft or ship; and a person who has been granted permission by the Minister of Health to enter Montserrat for the purpose of aiding with preparations for a disaster or after a disaster.

Individuals traveling to Montserrat are reminded that a negative PCR COVID-19 Test and pre-travel registration are still required prior to entering Montserrat.  The PCR COVID-19 Test must be undertaken no earlier than seven days prior to entering Montserrat.

Members of the public are also urged to continue practicing the recommended health and safety precautionary measures, to include wearing a face covering, social distancing, and sanitisation.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Environment, Featured, Government Notices, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, TOURISM, Travel0 Comments

Sourfriere-Hills-MVO-Fb

Martinique Steps Up Vigilance Over Activity At Mount Pelée Volcano

Reprint
TMR: Martinique going on alert – In contrast, see below Montserrat Soufriere Hills volcano report for week ending Friday, December 4 2020
Martinique – Mount Pelée Volcano

December 4, 2020

Experts in neighbouring Martinique are stepping up their vigilance as a result of activity at Mount Pelée Volcano and have raised the level of alert, local reports say.

Martinique 1ere  on Friday quoted Fabrice Fontaine, the Director of the Volcano and Seismology Observatory in the French overseas territory, as saying that the experts had urged a switch to a yellow level alert.

He said it meant stepping up vigilance including aerial reconnaissance.

Yellow is the third level of vigilance on a scale that has 5.

The next step is the pre-alert, in orange then the alert in red.

However, the Prefect of Martinique, Stanislas Cazelles, says the yellow alert is no precursor of signs of an eruption.

“This reminds us that Pelée is a living volcano. We are going to strengthen its surveillance. This yellow alert is not an alert for the population but for scientists”, he explained.

“We detected a reactivation of Mount Pelee. This is normal. On the other hand, we have absolutely no precursor sign of an eruption but it could occur on the scale of a few years or perhaps less, ” Marc Chaussidon, director of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, was quoted by RCI.FM as saying.

Last September  51 volcano-tectonic type tremors had been recorded on Mount Pelée and the number has been increasing since November last year, local reports say.

Montserrat Volcano Observatory – Weekly Report

Soufriere Hills volcano view from Plymouth

27 November to 04 December 2020

Activity at the Soufrière Hills Volcano remains low.

The seismic network recorded five volcano-tectonic earthquakes this week.

Measurements of SO2 flux were taken from the helicopter on 01 December and 02 December. The average flux values were 337 tonnes per day on the 01 December from eight traverses and 172 tonnes per day on 02 December from eight traverses.

Due to the large size of the lava dome, pyroclastic flows can occur at any time without warning on any side of the volcano, including Gages from where they can travel rapidly into Plymouth. Tracks across the Belham Valley can be destroyed or heavily modified by flash flooding or lahars, and caution should be exercised crossing the valley during and after rainfall.

The Hazard Level is 1. There is no public access to Zone V, including Plymouth. Maritime Zones E and W are daytime transit only between sunrise and sunset (boats may sail through the zone but must not stop). Anyone who ignores these restrictions is liable to be prosecuted.

This report along with additional information on the Soufrière Hills Volcano and the Hazard Level System can be found at the MVO website: www.mvo.ms. Old weekly reports can be downloaded from http://www.mvo.ms/pub/Activity_Reports/. You can also follow @mvoms on both Facebook and Twitter.

Graham A. Ryan
Director

Monitoring Data Summary

Seismic Activity (number of events)

  This week Last week Last 4 weeks (weekly average)
Rockfalls 0 0 1
VT earthquakes 5 7 8
Hybrid earthquakes 0 0 0
LP earthquakes 0 0 0

Last year (Nov 29 – Dec 6 VT earthquakes 9 14 10

Sulphur Dioxide Flux (tonnes per day)

  This week Last week Last 4 weeks
Average 255 326 n/a
Maximum 441 387 n/a
Minimum 147 209 n/a

Note: The numbers provided in the tables above are provisional and may be subject to change after further analysis of the data.

Posted in Environment, International, Local, Regional, Volcano0 Comments

Devastation in the village of Harris’ Below is the same area two weeke before

25 years unforgotten memory of volcanic destruction – ‘fighting’? volcano destruct, now COVID-19

In a Government of Montserrat release, for what or any significance that may be attached, superstitiously or otherwise, it declared that July 15, 2020, was “declared a public holiday on Montserrat, in observance of 25 years since the start of volcanic activity.”

It almost evaded my attention until the very day, having not seen the promised “order of service” which, “with other details was to be published at a later date. Meantime the day July 15, would be “observed as a National Day of Prayer, Reflection, and Thanksgiving, under the theme ‘25 Years on, we are still here’.  The National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving service will be held at 5:00 p.m. at the Look Out Catholic Church.”

Yet to be forgotten as a time in history, with Montserrat is not yet near a place or time a quarter of a century (25 years) later that it can say the loss was for better days, as it has been for others with somewhat similar experience.

It is still confusing why that holiday was not given on the eve which was Friday.

As for the theme, which seemed an effort at expressing some pride by those saying it, but to me, it is quite empty. Giving God thanks, of course, but…

Five years ago, remembering this day from 20 years prior, in the article under a headline caption “Bringing 20 year volcanic crisis perspectives – Recapturing: THE VOLCANO and DEATH, we opened: “In this week’s issue we mostly feature articles and reports from first issues after July 18, 1995 and from immediately after June 25, 1997.

“This, especially in light of discussions that have taken place as a committee set up to plan the 20th-year anniversary of the beginning of what is still referred to as the eruption of Soufriere Hills volcano; “where we came from, where we ought to be, and where we want to go.”

There were some memorable times from that commemoration. It is that which makes us declare the theme of this year’s Thanksgiving seems wrong. Expect more on this.

At that time we also wrote referring to articles from 1995 on…, “… we still hope our readers may now, following, hearing or having heard or followed the debate and discussions, make their own determination as to where we are and know where we are going.

We wish the conversation now would be updated with real pride but we still find we must say, Really, as is said it is time for action. “Everyone”, they say, “has their part to play.” And isn’t odd though that those last words, we have heard them time and time again. Still more to come.

So like 20 years ago and often enough we present as we recapture for the benefit of going forward and for those who might now get a sense of then.

For Bishop Melroy’s references:

https://www.themontserratreporter.com/mdc-shut-down-montserrat-back-five-years/

It is fifteen years on and featured speaker Bishop Melroy Meade said that one day was not enough. In a passionate message, he called for a week of Thanksgiving during which time residents would give thanks to God for his protection, preservation, and faithfulness over the last fifteen years. The congregation that came together to give God thanks appeared to have agreed with him.

Bishop Meade likened the experience in Montserrat to that of Job when everything he had was taken away, but he pointed to a better day which is coming. He also referred to the determination, resoluteness, and pride of a people who have suffered greatly. Like Job, people don’t understand what Montserratians went through but when they become familiar with the island, the resilience of the people they too want to embrace it, he said.

According to Bishop Meade, “The truth is our trials come to make us strong and life cost what it cost and it never goes on sale.”

By Bennette Roach

Devastation in the village of Harris’ Below is the same area two weeke before
Devastation in the village of Harris’

One of the conditions the British Governor of Montserrat and the local Government never wanted to exist, is that they would ever have to report that lives were lost as a direct result of volcanic activity in Montserrat.

On the night of July 18, 1995, residents not far away from Soufriere Hills could hear what they later described as roaring sounds like those that come from jet planes, and it was soon realized by all that a volcano that lay in waiting at English Crater in Soufriere Hills had come alive.

Soon after from several and continuous radio broadcasts, and interviews from scientists, the Governor and the Chief Minister, his office and the offices of the Emergency Operating Centre (EOC), we were to learn that there has always been this volcano, that there have been activities at approximately 30 – 35-year intervals since the turn of this century; that there have been studies, one as recent as the mid-80s, which suggested that there will be serious activities around this time.

No attention whatever was paid to these facts and so here we were in July, less than a month under two years ago, with an erupting volcano and every resident as ignorant as ever to the dangers that this could pose for Montserrat. Since that time it has been a downhill battle, which may have not yet culminated, but which has now directly claimed the lives of at least 10 people with more almost certain to be confirmed when the ash becomes cool enough to be cleared in some way.

1997 6 24 pics
Home demolished by the power and volume of the flow

June 25, 1997, will be long remembered as the worst day of the volcano (I hope) because lives were lost. And the question that is being asked, “Could this have been avoided?” Amazingly, the homes in Long Ground are still standing untouched but for the September 17 last year’s eruption. It may well be that the Tar River valley is their protection or perhaps it is early yet.

MVO Reports

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) report for that morning read as follows: The latest earthquake swarm has just reached a peak, with 4 or 5 earthquakes occurring every minute. At the time of the highest activity, the hybrid earthquakes could more accurately be described as continuous tremors. There have been several small pyroclastic flows in Mosquito Ghaut in the last hour. Observations of the dome last night showed that the top of Mosquito Ghaut is the only active area of the dome at the moment, as the focus of activity has switched from the eastern side to the north in the last few days.

Further pyroclastic flow activity is expected, and the high level of activity means that these flows could happen at any time and be larger than before. The current area of activity makes Mosquito Ghaut the most likely pathway, but further flows in Gages, Tuitt’s, or Tar River are probable as well.”

The following recently became a standard part of the report: Bramble Airport remains operational, but the public is reminded that it is open only for essential travel purposes. The sirens will be tested as usual this afternoon.”

Now following is the evening report following the disaster: “An intense swarm of hybrid earthquakes began at 11 a.m., and rapidly escalated to repetitive events which merged into continuous tremor after 12:15 p.m. At about 1 p.m. major pyroclastic flow activity began in Mosquito Ghaut, which generated an ash cloud to over 30,000 ft within minutes. The flow traveled into Farms River to Trants Bridge. Downriver of Bramble, the flows fanned out into Bethel and Spanish Point almost to the sea. On the northern side, Farms and Trants villages were affected, and the surge reached to Trants bridge. A total of at least 2 square kilometers of land was covered by the pyroclastic flow and surge.

The lower half of Harris village was also impacted, and an ash surge traveled from the Farrell’s area down to the west at least as far as Dyers, and into the upper reaches of Dyer’s Ghaut. There was no activity in the Gages valley during the afternoon.

During the time of the reported activities above, there were people tending their animals and gardens in the Farrell’s and surrounding areas, some of whom perished; there were people in Harris’ and areas way down to Trants, Bethel and Spanish Pointe, Bramble village, etc. who were either visiting their properties or living there. Except for those properties on the perimeter of Mosquito Ghaut in Harris’, individuals were able to avoid the fury of the ash surge from the flow by moving to even higher grounds, but not those in the other areas which were all on lower ground and not far from the ghaut which became more shallow as it nears the sea.

So that just as the report above described, confirmed by the eye witness account of Roy ‘Slim’ Daley from Bramble village who was in Harris’ at the time. He said: “I saw the surges coming back up the hill from the pyroclastic flows, which moved at incredible speed down towards Farms and Trants, breaking over the walls at Brambles and rushing down towards Spanish Pointe through Bethel.”

Fatalities

Soon we were to hear the calls of the authorities for persons to advise them of persons who were known to have been in the areas for one reason another. Both the Governor and the Chief Minister appeared on the radio to tell the nation about the rescue efforts that were underway, never admitting then that there might be fatalities following the activities.

But having seen the results of the forerunning pyroclastic flows, I was certain that the persons who I discovered were in their homes or in the area, had met an unfortunate end.

Other than the sketchy and well-monitored reports that came from Government Information Unit (GIU) and ZJB, the rest of the local media was reduced to press conferences which were cut short and severely limited by interviewees who gave much too long answers, having been denied views from the helicopter or access to the area other than the rest of the general public was entitled to.

By the end of the following day, the admission of fatalities was announced and the count grew each day from four to ten by Monday. It was on Saturday when the CM came close to saying that there may be more dead who are still difficult to get to because of the still searing hot ash that lay deposited on the ground.

THE DISASTER

1997 6 24 pics a
Helicopters involved in the search and rescue missions

I was finally afforded a trip to look at the damage done on Wednesday by EMAD, on a helicopter which is one of four helicopters brought in from different sources to aid the ‘search and rescue’ effort.

The trip was not like any I’ve had and did not afford me the opportunity for detail as I rode with David Brandt and 2 others, plus Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) cameraman and video cameras. with another from Trinidad. It was only a 20-minute trip, far too short.

However, the devastation is much greater than I imagined. The lands (forest) between Tuitts and Mosquito Ghauts is no more. Although not filled with material the pyroclastic was extremely powerful as it left the volcano and that’s when the surge immediately went over Farrells and down Streatham and across Windy Hill. The Farrells estate house is completely gone and so is Mandy’s garage on the corner below the graveyard. It went through the bottom of Windy Hill and well across and into the ghaut beyond.

Escapee

One eye witness woman who escaped and who eventually went back to collect money she left in a vehicle, found it but had walked via Water Works, retracing her steps to get to it. She said she had to go reap the carrots because she was under so much pressure from the government to supply vegetables to shelters.

She got the money but the vehicle she had to leave. She described the flow that she saw as “sweet oil” running down the hill, noting how the flow backed up when the heat.

Looking down on the Harris’ road Mosquito ghaut is next to it. The surge reached across the road to the Police Station and burnt all those houses including the Church. These were not completely demolished but nevertheless destroyed, from the Morgan’s house down the hill towards farm, then there is one mass of destruction down through Farms, Bethel, Spanish Pointe, Trants.

Since that of course more flows and reports have stated that more damage was done in Harris’. I could see the walls of some of the houses in Farms, Bramble village, and Spanish Pointe, but it is obvious that truly there may be about 10 feet of material lying on the lands.

Trants village was completely demolished, hardly recognised any walls standing and it did seem such a vast area.

I saw how the flow over Farrells ran down and into the top of Belham.

I can now report that for Plymouth, we can expect worse to come along, it already looks a disaster. The flows that have been going down Gages and Fort Ghaut seemed to have damaged houses high up on the Gages corner and down the fringes of the ghaut. The Catholic convent and infant school and even the Church are now like the rest of the property in that vicinity are now in line for certain disaster as long as flows continue. At the foot of Gage’s mountain, the ghauts as I can remember are somewhat shallow, so that serious flows are likely to spread early over to Amersham as it has reportedly done.

I hardly had time for any detail or even good photographs as I was shooting through the helicopter sealed windows. Looking at the photographs, I do not remember where the various scenes are, and I was unable to make notes.

The helicopters are being operated from Geralds and joining them is that from the British navy ship.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Climate/Weather, COVID-19, Environment, International, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

Is this the anti-christ?

by William Bubblicous Galloway

This was submitted in April 2020

It’s amazing this virus took us by surprise but in so doing exposed us and our insecurities. COVID-19 peeled back our inner onion-like reality. The tears are true but the honesty is deep.

It’s amazing for our security and the security of others we were directed to isolate, quarantine or plain avoid contacting for spreading it with others. An unselfish move for the good of mankind. Allow the professionals to dissect the virus, get its DNA, and find a way to tackle it. Not too much of a task, but being human our wondering minds took off and because of our lack of trust in humanity, the conspiracy theories ran rampant. It’s not that there is no room for conspiracies but let’s go beyond that.

It’s a virus like many other viruses, humanity has been there before. It’s just that now we are more technologically advanced and we can curtail this before it gets out of hand. Like a wildfire, staying home is like wetting your house while your neighbor’s house is on fire. Except now information gets into the hands of too many influential fools and they have social media.

But let’s go one step further. We are all trying to avoid getting sick or die. This is akin to everyone believing in something or someone. Yes! I’m going down the religious road. It is dangerous but we got to face facts. I don’t care what religion you are or if you are an atheist. You believe that you are going to die once you were born. Now there are no facts of anyone living forever, though many of us hope to. What a farce. The promise of eternal life is guaranteed through religion all that is required is that we believe.

Let me make a sidebar here. There are no special permits or allowances for the rich, stinking rich, or pauper. Death is the only guarantee, so all greedy politicians, neighbors, and preachers beware.

If in reality, we believe that together we can beat this virus we will because COVID-19, shut down Mecca churches, mosques, courthouses, jails, shows, cinemas, sporting events, etc. It exposes that all men are equal. Once you are born you are going to die. It went across all barriers from pauper to prince. From Muslim to Christian from preacher to lying politicians.

Breaking the barriers of racism. Color of the skin or the entrenched religious belief that their God or whoever the supreme being, is the right one. Does a name really matter? God, Buddha, Allah, Sun, Nature. I know minds are trained to believe this and humanity is built on this belief. I’m not trying to change one’s belief. I’m saying let’s see each other as a person irrespective of a member of the human race. Respect their boundaries and just let us live. COVID-19 is not racist, sexist, religious, xenophobic, gluttonous, or hateful. Just an equal opportunity contaminant.

Posted in COVID-19, Environment, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

PAHO

Three out of 10 people in the Americas are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 because of underlying conditions, PAHO Director says

Diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, immunosuppression, and TB, place people at increased risk for more severe disease. Many of these conditions are widespread in the Americas.

Washington, D.C., July 21, 2020 (PAHO) — In the Americas, three out of ten people – or nearly 325 million – are at increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying health conditions, Pan American Health Organization Director (PAHO) Carissa F. Etienne said.

Certain underlying, chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, and hypertension, as well as infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, or immunosuppression, place people at increased risk for more severe COVID-19 disease.

“Unfortunately, many of these medical conditions are widespread in the Americas, which leaves our region more vulnerable to severe illness,” Etienne told a media briefing today.

To help address this, PAHO has developed a new data model in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that provides a more accurate picture of the prevalence of health conditions in the Americas.

“What we see is worrisome,” she noted. “We are talking about 186 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean,” and in the U.S. Canada and Mexico, one in three people are at increased risk of severe COVID-19.

In the Americas, there are 43 million people at high risk, “which means they would require hospitalization due to their underlying health conditions. And within this group, men are twice as likely as women to be at high risk of developing severe COVID-19,” she said.

People over the age of 65 are at greater risk of experiencing more severe disease, since the likelihood of developing multiple health conditions increases with age, PAHO’s director said. “But working-age adults – which refers to people from 15-64 – are not immune, as many of them live with one or more underlying health conditions. Diabetes and chronic kidney disease, in particular, are especially prevalent among adult populations,” she added.

Strategies to protect people with comorbidities

The new tool developed with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will help countries with specific data “to adapt their COVID-19 responses and better protect vulnerable populations from chronic conditions that threaten their health,” Etienne said.

Strategies to protect people with underlying conditions, which range “from self-isolation with assistance, to providing adequate resources and support systems,” can help countries reduce deaths among vulnerable groups, flatten the curve and preserve the capacity of health services, Dr. Etienne added.

“With the surge in COVID-19 patients, many health systems lack the staff, space, and supplies to adequately offer routine care. Such disruptions have delayed treatments for cancer patients and dialysis for those with chronic kidney disease. People with diabetes are running out of insulin, and HIV patients have to worry about continuing their treatment,” she said.

“With the new tool, countries can tailor their response to protect vulnerable groups from risk and implement innovative programs to help people safely and more consistently manage their conditions. This includes increasing telemedicine capabilities and establishing surge points for care, which allows people with chronic conditions to be seen by a doctor away from suspected COVID-19 patients.

Countries should ensure that vulnerable groups are advised to connect with their health care providers to ensure they have the medications and supplies they need to safely manage their conditions, she said.

“This is also the time to rely on their friends and families to run errands so they can minimize trips outside their homes. And as much as possible, people should maintain a healthy routine at home that includes regular exercise and nutritious food,” Etienne added.

The pandemic is not slowing down

As of July 20, 7.7 million cases have been reported and more than 311,000 people have died in the Americas. In the last week alone there were almost 900,000 new cases and some 22,000 deaths, most in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

In the Amazon basin, COVID-19 continues to spread with significant surges in localized hot spots in Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Pero, she noted, while Central American countries “are reporting their highest weekly increases of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.”

Links

Director’s remarks- Media briefing: https://www.paho.org/en/media/weekly-press-briefing-covid-19-situation-americas

Posted in COVID-19, Environment, Health, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

fish-net-lmask_PAY-PLT_masks_slammed_DN00JPG

The Mirror’s must read rundown of today’s news, advice and stories

Replicated from the Mirror, UK

Office staff will NOT have to wear masks at work

Welcome to tonight’s briefing…
Office workers in England will not have to wear face coverings, Matt Hancock has said.
Face coverings will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets from July 24
But the Health Secretary said there were no plans to extend the requirement to workspaces and schools.
“It is something we’ve looked at and rejected,” he said.

He added: “When you’re in close proximity with somebody that you have to work closely to, if you’re there for a long time with them, then a mask doesn’t offer that protection.

“The same logic applies for schools – we’re not recommending masks for schools because if you’re in a classroom with kids all day then a mask doesn’t give you protection.”

In other developments today: 
• Boris Johnson has committed to holding an independent inquiry into the Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
• The Queen will attend her first face-to-face public engagement since the lockdown to knight Capt Tom Moore at Windsor Castle on Friday.
• The charity Action on Smoking and Health says more than one million people have given up smoking since the start of the Covid outbreak.
• Starbucks and McDonald’s are among the firms to cut prices after the VAT reduction started today. VAT on food and drink has been cut from 20% to 5%.
• The infection rate in England fell dramatically before the easing of the lockdown in May, according to a study by Imperial College, London. It found the R rate was down to 0.57 – lower than the official estimate of between 0.7 and 1.
• The luxury fashion firm Burberry is to axe 500 jobs from its UK and global workforce.
• DisneyLand Paris reopened today with social distancing rules in place and visitors aged over 11 required to wear face coverings.
• Spanish authorities have closed the Punta Ballena party strip in Magaluf after tourists flouted rules on social distancing and face coverings.

People in Blackburn have been banned from visiting each other in groups of more than two and told they must not shake hands following a spike in new Covid-19 infections.

Health bosses warn that unless the number of new cases goes down, Blackburn with Darwen may have to follow Leicester back into lockdown.

The measures – which also include advice to wear face coverings in all enclosed public spaces – will be in place for the next month.

The authority’s director of public health, Dominic Harrison, said a lockdown similar to that in Leicester is “a real possibility” after the infection rate rose to 47 cases per 100,000 from 31.6 in just seven days.

The authority is third on the list of highest weekly rates, behind Leicester, which has a rate of 118.2 cases per 100,000 and is subject to a local lockdown, and nearby Pendle, with a rate of 76.6.

And here’s how NOT to mask

Discount fashion website Pretty Little Thing has been slammed for selling a “useless” bedazzled face mask

The online retailer was mocked for its Black Diamante Fishnet Mask with shoppers ridiculing the product on Twitter and many branding it “ridiculous”.

Images taken from the Pretty Little Thing Website show the £10 mask as worn by a model and it is made from a fishnet style material, with rhinestones dotted across the front.

The “statement mask” provides absolutely no coverage over the mouth or nose, leading many to criticise the design.

Among those to question, the product was Twitter user Imogen Jayde from Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

Emma Pharoah from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, retweeted the image saying: “PLT are really f* up atm aren’t they?”

One user named Eden Loise fumed: “Companies who see masks as a trend rather than a necessity in helping prevent thousands of people dying. What is this @OfficialPLT, wise up.”

And another user from Glasgow named Rebekah dubbed it: “The most useless thing I’ve ever seen.”

Thank you for reading The Mirror’s Coronavirus Briefing. We’re proud to campaign seven days a week for a fair and equal society for all. Share your stories at webnews@mirror.co.uk. If you were sent this email by a friend and would like to sign up, you can do so here.

See full article here: https://email.trinitymirror-news.co.uk/w1pfEz5HIUHEgPbOVJ53nhdphMndx1EWNGaM2XMF7CF/WebView.aspx

Posted in COVID-19, Environment, Features, Health, International, Local, Regional, TOURISM0 Comments

Safe & Sound

Safe & Sound

Reprint       News        Covid-19 is NOT a virus!

Health

Find out what Covid-19 really is and how you can protect yourself

One thing COVID-19 isn’t is a virus. There – I said it! Not that you would know from everything that’s buzzing around the media right now.

So if it’s not a virus, what is it?

COVID-19 is the disease you develop from being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Imagine it like HIV which is the virus that causes the disease AIDS.
Or the Streptococcus bacterium that causes tonsillitis.

So what does SARS-CoV stand for and how did it start?

SARS-CoV stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome caused by the Coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2 is the latest strain of the virus.

Scientists have been looking at the genome sequencing of this virus and have traced its origins back many tens of thousands of years. Coronavirus is part of a family of viruses that cause various diseases in various animals and, more recently, humans.

Scroll forward thousands of years. The first human Coronavirus was discovered by Tyrrell and Bynoe, back in the 1960s. They took respiratory tract swabs from human volunteers who were suffering from the common cold. They discovered a common infectious agent and the story of human Coronavirus began.

Whilst this was a fantastic discovery, it only answered a few questions about an otherwise innocent disease. Oh, and also to gain its name due to the crown-like projections emanating from the virus cell’s membrane. Coronavirus!

Forward again to the 21st Century. The first strain of SARS-CoV appeared in 2002 in a small city in the Guangdong Province of China (population of around 7.2 million) on the border with Hong Kong where a farmer became ill with a severe respiratory infection. The virus spread around the world infecting 8,000 people (as far as we know) and was attributed to 774 deaths in 17 countries.

SARS-CoV came and went without a huge global concern given the overall numbers affected.

Fast forward to 2012: Saudi Arabia. The first case of MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) was reported. This spread around many countries and even reached the UK in 2015. Its official name is MERS-CoV. Since its discovery, it has infected around 2,494 people (laboratory-confirmed cases) and 858 reported deaths over 27 countries. Again, no global crisis because of such low numbers.

Now jump forward to late 2019 and back to China. This time an outbreak in the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei Province, Wuhan (probably from a meat market). The first example of the current mutation of the virus, SARS-CoV-2. Let’s dive in and look at why this strain of Coronavirus is causing worldwide chaos when SARS and MERS did not.

Lots of people say that flu is a huge global killer, so what’s the big deal about Coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation estimates the global deaths from seasonal flu at a minimum of 290,000 annually,

This is clearly a big number. So why the panic around Coronavirus? As we will see, for various reasons, left unchecked, the science around this new disease is that it would kill far more people than the flu. Why is this?

First up, It’s not about how many people die from it. It’s about how many catch it and survive!

In the case of SARS, there were 774 deaths out of 8,000 infected. This is a mortality rate of 9.7%.

Turning to MERS, there were 858 deaths out of 2,494 deaths, a staggering mortality rate of 35%! That means that if 100 people catch it, 35 will die.

Initially, the data suggests that this new strain of Coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, has a mortality rate of between 2-4%. On the face of it, the new virus doesn’t sound like a big deal.

However, this ignores the likely number of people infected worldwide. 2% of 1,000 would be a minor public health issue. However SARS-COV-2 is incredibly infectious and without massive interventions, many millions will be infected and 2% of millions is a huge loss of human life.

The Infection Rate

In order to understand why SARS-CoV-2 is so infectious, we need to understand something called the infection rate, calculate it for this virus and then work out how many people could potentially contract the illness and thus work out how many could possibly die.

The infection rate is how many people can a single person infect if they have the illness. We call this the R0 (R nought) number or reproduction number.
For example, flu has an R0 1.3.

So for each person that has the flu, they will pass that on to another 1.3 persons. Then they, in turn, will pass that on to another 1.3 people. And on it goes.

To add some context, measles has an R0 between 12-18 depending on various factors. So measles is incredibly infectious which is why public health authorities are so concerned to ensure close to 100% of the population are vaccinated. Without mass vaccination, millions would die from measles each year.

So with this data can we predict how many will catch this new virus and how many may die?

Well, no, not quite. There is something else we have to factor in and that’s the incubation time.

Incubation Time

Incubation time determines how many people will get sick over what timeframe. The flu has an incubation period of just a few days. And you may not show any symptoms over those few days but are still passing the virus on.

In just a few days the flu can infect many people. However, you know you have it sooner and can isolate so as not to infect others. In fact, most of us are too ill to want to go out once we have the symptoms. So we often stop spreading it as widely, at that stage, because we naturally travel less through the community.

So, in the case of viruses with long incubation periods, the longer the period we can infect other people. In the case of viruses where some or a large proportion of those infected have no symptoms during the incubation period, the more people we unknowingly infect.

Putting it all Together

We can now understand why SARS-CoV-2 is posing a worldwide pandemic and an unprecedented public health emergency not seen since the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic which killed an estimated 20-50 million people globally.

This new variant of SARS-CoV has an R0 of 2-2.5, has an incubation period between 1-14 days and, particularly in young people can be completely symptomless.

So can we now see how a) it will infect more people, b) they won’t know they are infected until they have had the virus for a while.

The combination of these factors means that if societies do not take extreme measures to socially isolate citizens, the virus will spread extremely rapidly and widely. Public Health England and other reputable medical sources estimate infection rates where such measures are not taken of approximately 80%

Even if the estimated death rate for SARS-CoV-2 of 2-4% is exaggerated – let’s apply an overall death rate of 1% – this would mean around 54 million of the UK population would be infected and around 540,000 would die. Taking the lower of the 2-4% range, over a million people would perish in the UK.

The idea that SARS-CoV-2 is just like the flu is dangerously wrong. This virus is a very dangerous beast and requires the huge and urgent international response it has generated.

How does the SARS-CoV virus work?

This virus can’t walk and it most certainly can’t fly. What’s more, it can only use those little crown projections coming out of it to bond to very specific cells. It can’t just bond to any old cell in your body.

It’s a respiratory tract infection. It can only bind to those special cells.

How does the SARS-CoV virus get into our body?

Usually, you put it there! Viruses are very intelligently adaptable. They have been on this planet longer than we have. They need to reproduce and then get out to find new hosts. Not just new host cells within the first animal they find: if they infect too many cells that the animal will die taking the virus along with it. Somehow they have to find a way to get out of this host animal and into another one. It’s incredibly difficult to infect another species, so it needs to find lots of the same species of animal in one place.

With this in mind, viruses tend to infect areas where they can easily get in but also get out. It’s no coincidence that Norovirus makes you expel all your bodily contents from both orifices of your digestive system! Its evolutionary capability is to reach as far and wide as possible.

The same mechanism drives coughing and sneezing when we have the flu. This enables the virus to reach other potential hosts.

On the other hand, when the virus leaves the body, it is under threat. It can’t live for very long outside the body. So it needs to find a new host before it dies. If the environmental factors are right, some viruses can live outside a host for many days. SARS-CoV 2 mostly relies on you coughing out large droplets of water to carry it and give it some temporary accommodation. Depending on what it lands on, its survival is a matter of hours or several days.

Direct contact can allow the virus to be passed from one person to another. The closer the contact, the more likely. Kissing is a virus’ best and easiest route. But the most likely route is usually your hands. That’s where the tyres meet the tarmac, so to speak. It’s how we interact with our surroundings.

An infected person touches another person or a hard surface and the virus waits for you to touch your face to facilitate migration into its new host animal – YOU!

What happens once we become infected by SARS-CoV?

Once inside your body, the virus binds to cells that have similar receptors to itself.

This is what’s called an enveloped virus – it has a special fat layer around the outside. This helps protect it between host cells but it also looks like a protein that should not be attacked by the immune system. Initially anyway. The virus is not of human origin so our immune system doesn’t recognise it. The infected cell is then fooled into accepting the virus.

This is where the virus gets to work. It has found a new host and the new cells are healthy. So the virus starts to hijack the cell. The virus then uses the cell’s factory to start printing out millions of copies of itself. But it has to hide these new copies so they don’t get attacked. This is another vulnerable stage for the virus. It uses our cells to coat the new copies, to hide them and releases them in search of new hosts. The virus ruthlessly keeps printing copies until it kills the host cell that it’s hijacked. It hopes that the new copies have infected new cells and thus the cycle continues.

As more and more cells are destroyed in the production of new viruses, the system begins to break down. So, in the case of a respiratory tract infection, lung cells. Obviously, fewer functioning lung cells means reduced functionality of the lungs.

In the case of SARS-CoV 2, the evidence suggests that this is the most likely cause of death. Those with existing reduced lung function, like the elderly or those with lung diseases, are at the most risk. But any underlying health condition that reduces your body’s ability to fight infections, increases the risk.

But it’s not all bad. The clock is ticking for the virus. As it kills more cells, our immune system will be enlightened to that and start to react. Actively looking for and killing new viruses that are released from damaged host cells. Now it’s the battle of the fittest. This is why those who are young, fit or healthy have strong immune systems and their systems are best able to fight the virus and kill it off. Those people either have no symptoms or mild or moderate symptoms. They will not need medical treatment although drinking lots of fluid and taking paracetamol can be used to reduce headaches and aching limbs. Those who are less fit, older, with less strong immune systems will experience much more serious symptoms and may need to be hospitalised.

Symptoms of SARS-CoV-2

The reports of symptoms are far and wide. Ranging from no symptoms at all, all the way up to death.

However, the 2 most common symptoms are:

• a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
• a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

The only way to know if you really have SARS-CoV 2 is by testing.

The UK is currently only testing hospital admissions that are displaying the common symptoms. There is no test available at the moment for people who have already contracted the illness but recovered. And until we have one it’s very difficult to accurately calculate the mortality rate, infection rate and incubation period. It may be that many more have had this virus than first thought, which would significantly reduce the mortality rate. The UK Government has announced that it is very close to the release of mass self-testing to see whether individuals have had the illness because the test will detect whether they have developed antibodies (prior to last December, no human had had the virus so no-one was immune).

I think I have Covid-19 – what should I do?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature or a new, continuous cough), use the 111 coronavirus service: NHS 111 Service

DO NOT go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

What can I do to prevent getting Covid-19?

At the moment, there is no vaccine or anti-viral drug for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Once you are infected and develop Covid-19 all you can do is alleviate symptoms. So if you have a fever, for example, try to reduce it.
Government advice is changing daily with daily bulletins, updates and advice.
But as with any virus, we can take certain basic precautions.

Hand Washing is Your Best Weapon

Soap and water will remove the virus. Alcohol hand sanitiser can damage the fatty shell and make the virus more vulnerable. Washing robs much of the natural oils from our skin causing it to dry out. Dry skin is incredibly difficult to clean, so moisturiser is just as important as soap! After washing, try to moisturise to keep your skin hydrated and make it easier to clean.

Should I wear a face mask?

Surgical face masks won’t stop you contracting the virus. The mask is to stop the healthcare worker coughing onto their vulnerable patients. Evidence has shown that face masks can increase the risk as they get wet (remember this virus needs those water droplets) and human behaviour. Those not accustomed to wearing them touch their face more frequently than they would normally have done. Although if you have the virus you can prevent others from contracting it by using a mask or covering your face when coughing or sneezing.

Social Distancing

I’ve already mentioned how water droplets can’t travel far. So social distancing is another great weapon to combat the increased spread of the virus.
The droplets from coughing and sneezing can reach up to 2 meters from the infected host. So maintaining at least that distance in an open space should prevent infection.

Isolate Yourself

Stay at home as much as you can. Only leave for essential items or to help someone who is vulnerable and cannot care for themselves. And remember that you can be infected and spread this virus with little or no symptoms.
Understand the R0 factor and incubation period as I discussed earlier.
If one member of your household contracts it, the chances are the rest will.

Symptoms usually last for 5-7 days. But in those where they have been complications, it can take several weeks to recover.

What About Herd Immunity?

So if most of us will be ok, then why not just go get it?

Herd immunity does work. But it works much more safely if we can vaccinate rather than take the gamble people will survive the illness. It’s estimated about 20% of those that contract this virus will require hospitalisation. With about a quarter of those which will require Intensive Care.

In number terms, it is estimated that instead of 540,000 plus dying if nothing is done, using herd immunity and then protecting the vulnerable would reduce the number of deaths by around half to 250,000.

This is why the UK Government has introduced a significant lockdown of the country. The experts have estimated that if the UK population follows the guidelines strictly, the number of overall deaths could be substantially limited, possibly as low as around 25,000.

So what is the difference between the herd immunity model and the lockdown model?

Whilst our healthcare system is currently coping, we are only in the very early stage of the epidemic in the UK at the moment.

If the growth of those catching the virus is not strongly controlled by changing the population’s exposure to each other over the cycle of the virus until there is a vaccine available (estimated at 1 year to 18 months) or effective anti-viral medication (period unknown), the health service will rapidly become overwhelmed in terms of human resources, beds, oxygen, ventilators and personal protection equipment. Many, many thousands of people will needlessly die both from the virus and also from other illnesses which the health system will not be able to treat.

Herd immunity involves allowing 80% of the population to carry on with business as usual whilst the most vulnerable are in lockdown. However, this will mean that too many people will catch the virus and get ill at the same time. Around 20% of those catching it will become seriously ill and the health service will rapidly become overwhelmed.

Hence the new model: everyone apart from essential workers are placed into periods of home lockdown. This is designed to ensure that the virus spreads in as controlled and limited way as possible so that over the medium term the health services can cope and the maximum number of lives can be saved.

If most people recover after 7 days, then our beds should clear relatively quickly and will be ready for the next wave. It would be easier to deal with many small waves than one big one. Any good sailor will tell you that.
Each country has to deal with this in a different way. Individual demographics (some cultures have more people living in a single homestead), social demographics (elderly populations are more vulnerable), transport systems (better transport the larger the infection rate). I could go on. But the variables will make timing and tactics very different from country to country.

When will this end?

The truth is, we don’t know. What we do know about viruses is that they die off either by lack of hosts (because they are dead or too far away to infect so the virus naturally dies) or by having antibodies against the virus in our immune system via vaccination or surviving the virus.

But even then this could change seasonally and our antibodies may only offer short term protection like the flu.

The better question perhaps is how will this end? Here our answer is driven by what we know about the virus as summarised above. If through lockdown, the spread can be reversed, if the reversal is maintained eventually the population will be virus-free. How does the spread reverse: the answer is the R0 becomes less than 1. We know that uncontrolled the SARS-CoV-2 has an R0 of 2.3 meaning one person will on average infect 2.3 other people. If we successfully self-isolate, the R0 will drop. In a strange hypothetical world where every person the entire world self-isolated for six weeks, the R0 would eventually hit 0 i.e. no-one is infecting anyone else!

In the real world, the likelihood of the virus dying out in the human population is highly remote because different countries are imposing different degrees of lockdown. Thailand is an example of a country which has closed its borders, internal curfews, etc. It has had 1,045 cases and 4 deaths in an overall population of around 69 million. It is of course much closer to the original epicentre of the illness, China, than the UK which has a population of around 67.7 million, 9,529 cases and 465 deaths. The UK’s policy has shifted from a more liberal herd immunity approach initially to a much greater degree of lockdown in the last week.

We must bear in mind that European countries, a group of liberal democracies, will be balancing restrictions against the constraints on these actions in free societies. Even within Europe, the UK is more permissive than, say, Italy and Spain.

Bottom line, given different approaches, the virus will not disappear anytime soon. So the virus will not be totally defeated for many years to come. The threat it poses can be substantially reduced if we all follow the UK Government’s directions and, we hope, many of these restrictions can be reduced and subsequently totally lifted once vaccines and anti-viral medications are in place within the next year to 18 months.

Wishing you all well. Stay home, stay safe.

Mark Waterfield

Infection Control Lead for Safe and Sound

Posted in CARICOM, Climate/Weather, COVID-19, Environment, Featured, Health, International, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

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