>>> Find related articles, information and videos in our Covid Zone



Trajectory of COVID-19 epidemic in Europe

Authors: Colombo M et al

Publication date: 28 September 2020

Journal: medRxiv preprint

DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.26.20202267

The classic Susceptible-Infected-Recovered model formulated by Kermack and McKendrick assumes that all individuals in the population are equally susceptible to infection. From fitting such a model to the trajectory of mortality from COVID-19 in 11 European countries up to 4 May 2020 Flaxman et al. concluded that "major non-pharmaceutical interventions -- and lockdowns in particular -- have had a large effect on reducing transmission". We show that relaxing the assumption of homogeneity to allow for individual variation in susceptibility or connectivity gives a model that has better fit to the data and more accurate 14-day forward prediction of mortality. Allowing for heterogeneity reduces the estimate of "counterfactual" deaths that would have occurred if there had been no interventions from 3.2 million to 262,000, implying that most of the slowing and reversal of COVID-19 mortality is explained by the build-up of herd immunity. The estimate of the herd immunity threshold depends on the value specified for the infection fatality ratio (IFR): a value of 0.3% for the IFR gives 15% for the average herd immunity threshold.

Read more

Offline: COVID-19 is not a pandemic

Author: Richard Horton

Publication date: 26 September 2020

Journal: The Lancet

DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32000-6

As the world approaches 1 million deaths from COVID-19, we must confront the fact that we are taking a far too narrow approach to managing this outbreak of a new coronavirus. We have viewed the cause of this crisis as an infectious disease. All of our interventions have focused on cutting lines of viral transmission, thereby controlling the spread of the pathogen. The “science” that has guided governments has been driven mostly by epidemic modellers and infectious disease specialists, who understandably frame the present health emergency in centuries-old terms of plague. But what we have learned so far tells us that the story of COVID-19 is not so simple. Two categories of disease are interacting within specific populations—infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and an array of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These conditions are clustering within social groups according to patterns of inequality deeply embedded in our societies. The aggregation of these diseases on a background of social and economic disparity exacerbates the adverse effects of each separate disease. COVID-19 is not a pandemic. It is a syndemic. The syndemic nature of the threat we face means that a more nuanced approach is needed if we are to protect the health of our communities.

Read more


Massive genetic study shows coronavirus mutating and potentially evolving amid rapid U.S. spread

Authors: Chris Mooney, Joel Achenbach and Joe Fox

Publication date: 23 September 2020

Source: The Washington Post

Scientists in Houston on Wednesday released a study of more than 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus that reveals the virus’s continual accumulation of mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious.

The new report, however, did not find that these mutations have made the virus deadlier or changed clinical outcomes. All viruses accumulate genetic mutations, and most are insignificant, scientists say.

Coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2 are relatively stable as viruses go, because they have a proofreading mechanism as they replicate. But every mutation is a roll of the dice, and with transmission so widespread in the United States — which continues to see tens of thousands of new, confirmed infections daily — the virus has had abundant opportunities to change, potentially with troublesome consequences, said study author James Musser of Houston Methodist Hospital.

Read more


COVID-19 herd immunity in the Brazilian Amazon

Authors: Buss LF et al

Publication date: 21 September 2020

Journal: medRxiv preprint

DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.16.20194787

The herd immunity threshold is the proportion of a population that must be immune to an infectious disease, either by natural infection or vaccination such that, in the absence of additional preventative measures, new cases decline and the effective reproduction number falls below unity. This fundamental epidemiological parameter is still unknown for the recently-emerged COVID-19, and mathematical models have predicted very divergent results. Population studies using antibody testing to infer total cumulative infections can provide empirical evidence of the level of population immunity in severely affected areas. Here we show that the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Manaus, located in the Brazilian Amazon, increased quickly during March and April and declined more slowly from May to September. In June, one month following the epidemic peak, 44% of the population was seropositive for SARS-CoV-2, equating to a cumulative incidence of 52%, after correcting for the false-negative rate of the antibody test. The seroprevalence fell in July and August due to antibody waning. After correcting for this, we estimate a final epidemic size of 66%. Although non-pharmaceutical interventions, plus a change in population behavior, may have helped to limit SARS-CoV-2 transmission in Manaus, the unusually high infection rate suggests that herd immunity played a significant role in determining the size of the epidemic.

Read more

Covid-19 patients

UK report on 11,162 patients critically ill with COVID-19

Institution: Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre (ICNARC)

Publication date: 25 September 2020


Inborn errors of type I IFN immunity in patients with life-threatening COVID-19

Authors: Zhang Q et al

Publication date: 24 September 2020

Journal: Science

DOI: 10.1126/science.abd4570

Clinical outcome upon infection with SARS-CoV-2 ranges from silent infection to lethal COVID-19. We have found an enrichment in rare variants predicted to be loss-of-function (LOF) at the 13 human loci known to govern TLR3- and IRF7-dependent type I interferon (IFN) immunity to influenza virus, in 659 patients with life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia, relative to 534 subjects with asymptomatic or benign infection. By testing these and other rare variants at these 13 loci, we experimentally define LOF variants in 23 patients (3.5%), aged 17 to 77 years, underlying autosomal recessive or dominant deficiencies. We show that human fibroblasts with mutations affecting this pathway are vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2. Inborn errors of TLR3- and IRF7-dependent type I IFN immunity can underlie life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia in patients with no prior severe infection.

Read more

Auto-antibodies against type I IFNs in patients with life-threatening COVID-19

Authors: Bastard P e al

Publication date: 24 September 2020

Journal: Science

DOI: 10.1126/science.abd4585

Interindividual clinical variability in the course of SARS-CoV-2 infection is immense. We report that at least 101 of 987 patients with life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia had neutralizing IgG auto-Abs against IFN-ω (13 patients), the 13 types of IFN-α (36), or both (52), at the onset of critical disease; a few also had auto-Abs against the other three type I IFNs. The auto-Abs neutralize the ability of the corresponding type I IFNs to block SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro. These auto-Abs were not found in 663 individuals with asymptomatic or mild SARS-CoV-2 infection and were present in only 4 of 1,227 healthy individuals. Patients with auto-Abs were aged 25 to 87 years and 95 were men. A B cell auto-immune phenocopy of inborn errors of type I IFN immunity underlies life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia in at least 2.6% of women and 12.5% of men.

Read more

Covid-19 and children

Susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Children and Adolescents Compared With Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Authors: Russell M. Viner PhD, Oliver T Mytton PhD, Chris Bonell PhD

Publication date: 25 September 2020

Journal: JAMA Pediatrics

DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.4573

Importance: The degree to which children and adolescents are infected by and transmit severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is unclear. The role of children and adolescents in transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is dependent on susceptibility, symptoms, viral load, social contact patterns, and behavior.

Objective: To systematically review the susceptibility to and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among children and adolescents compared with adults.

Study Selection: Studies that provided data on the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in children and adolescents (younger than 20 years) compared with adults (20 years and older) derived from contact tracing or population screening were included. Single-household studies were excluded.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Secondary infection rate (contact-tracing studies) or prevalence or seroprevalence (population screening studies) among children and adolescents compared with adults.

Results: A total of 32 studies comprising 41 640 children and adolescents and 268 945 adults met inclusion criteria, including 18 contact-tracing studies and 14 population screening studies. The pooled odds ratio of being an infected contact in children compared with adults was 0.56 (95% CI, 0.37-0.85), with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 94.6%). Three school-based contact-tracing studies found minimal transmission from child or teacher index cases. Findings from population screening studies were heterogenous and were not suitable for meta-analysis. Most studies were consistent with lower seroprevalence in children compared with adults, although seroprevalence in adolescents appeared similar to adults.

Conclusions and Relevance: In this meta-analysis, there is preliminary evidence that children and adolescents have lower susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, with an odds ratio of 0.56 for being an infected contact compared with adults. There is weak evidence that children and adolescents play a lesser role than adults in transmission of SARS-CoV-2 at a population level. This study provides no information on the infectivity of children.

Read more


Pandemics and Traditional Plant-Based Remedies. A Historical-Botanical Review in the Era of COVID19

Author: Sònia Garcia

Publication date: 28 August 2020

Journal: Frontiers in Plant Science

DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.571042

Pandemics are as old as humanity and since ancient times we have turned to plants to find solutions to health-related problems. Traditional medicines based mostly on plants are still the only therapeutic possibility in many developing countries, but even in the richest ones, herbal formulation currently receives increased attention. Plants are natural laboratories whose complex secondary metabolism produces a wealth of chemical compounds, leading to drug discovery – 25% of widespread use drugs are indeed of plant origin. Their therapeutic potential is even bigger: although many plant-based compounds show inhibitory effects against a myriad of pathogens, few reach the stage of clinical trials. Their mechanism of action is often unknown, yet traditional plant-based remedies have the advantage of a long-term experience in their use, usually of hundreds to thousands of years, and thus a precious experience on their safety and effects.

Read more

Second wave

Molecular Architecture of Early Dissemination and Massive Second Wave of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus in a Major Metropolitan Area

Authors: Wesley Long S et al

Publication date: 25 September 2020

Journal: medRxiv preprint

DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.22.20199125

We sequenced the genomes of 5,085 SARS-CoV-2 strains causing two COVID-19 disease waves in metropolitan Houston, Texas, an ethnically diverse region with seven million residents. The genomes were from viruses recovered in the earliest recognized phase of the pandemic in Houston, and an ongoing massive second wave of infections. The virus was originally introduced into Houston many times independently. Virtually all strains in the second wave have a Gly614 amino acid replacement in the spike protein, a polymorphism that has been linked to increased transmission and infectivity. Patients infected with the Gly614 variant strains had significantly higher virus loads in the nasopharynx on initial diagnosis. We found little evidence of a significant relationship between virus genotypes and altered virulence, stressing the linkage between disease severity, underlying medical conditions, and host genetics. Some regions of the spike protein - the primary target of global vaccine efforts - are replete with amino acid replacements, perhaps indicating the action of selection. We exploited the genomic data to generate defined single amino acid replacements in the receptor binding domain of spike protein that, importantly, produced decreased recognition by the neutralizing monoclonal antibody CR30022. Our study is the first analysis of the molecular architecture of SARS-CoV-2 in two infection waves in a major metropolitan region. The findings will help us to understand the origin, composition, and trajectory of future infection waves, and the potential effect of the host immune response and therapeutic maneuvers on SARS-CoV-2 evolution.

Read more….


False-positive COVID-19 results: hidden problems and costs

Authors: Elena Surkova, Vladyslav Nikolayevskyy and Francis Drobniewski

Publication date: 29 September 2020

Journal: The Lancet

DOI: 10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30453-7

RT-PCR tests to detect severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA are the operational gold standard for detecting COVID-19 disease in clinical practice. RT-PCR assays in the UK have analytical sensitivity and specificity of greater than 95%, but no single gold standard assay exists.1,  2 New assays are verified across panels of material, confirmed as COVID-19 by multiple testing with other assays, together with a consistent clinical and radiological picture. These new assays are often tested under idealised conditions with hospital samples containing higher viral loads than those from asymptomatic individuals living in the community. As such, diagnostic or operational performance of swab tests in the real world might differ substantially from the analytical sensitivity and specificity.

Read more

Covid-19 restrictions

Lessons learnt from easing COVID-19 restrictions: an analysis of countries and regions in Asia Pacific and Europe

Authors: Han E MSc et al

Publication date: 24 September 2020

Journal: The Lancet

DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32007-9

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis. Many countries have implemented restrictions on population movement to slow the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 and prevent health systems from becoming overwhelmed; some have instituted full or partial lockdowns. However, lockdowns and other extreme restrictions cannot be sustained for the long term in the hope that there will be an effective vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. Governments worldwide now face the common challenge of easing lockdowns and restrictions while balancing various health, social, and economic concerns. To facilitate cross-country learning, this Health Policy paper uses an adapted framework to examine the approaches taken by nine high-income countries and regions that have started to ease COVID-19 restrictions: five in the Asia Pacific region (ie, Hong Kong [Special Administrative Region], Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea) and four in Europe (ie, Germany, Norway, Spain, and the UK). This comparative analysis presents important lessons to be learnt from the experiences of these countries and regions. Although the future of the virus is unknown at present, countries should continue to share their experiences, shield populations who are at risk, and suppress transmission to save lives.

Read more


Safety and Immunogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 mRNA-1273 Vaccine in Older Adults

Authors: Anderson EJ et al

Publication date: 29 September 2020

Journal: New England Journal of Medicine

DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2028436

Background: Testing of vaccine candidates to prevent infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in an older population is important, since increased incidences of illness and death from coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) have been associated with an older age.

Methods: We conducted a phase 1, dose-escalation, open-label trial of a messenger RNA vaccine, mRNA-1273, which encodes the stabilized prefusion SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (S-2P) in healthy adults. The trial was expanded to include 40 older adults, who were stratified according to age (56 to 70 years or ≥71 years). All the participants were assigned sequentially to receive two doses of either 25 μg or 100 μg of vaccine administered 28 days apart.

Results: Solicited adverse events were predominantly mild or moderate in severity and most frequently included fatigue, chills, headache, myalgia, and pain at the injection site. Such adverse events were dose-dependent and were more common after the second immunization. Binding-antibody responses increased rapidly after the first immunization. By day 57, among the participants who received the 25-μg dose, the anti–S-2P geometric mean titer (GMT) was 323,945 among those between the ages of 56 and 70 years and 1,128,391 among those who were 71 years of age or older; among the participants who received the 100-μg dose, the GMT in the two age subgroups was 1,183,066 and 3,638,522, respectively. After the second immunization, serum neutralizing activity was detected in all the participants by multiple methods. Binding- and neutralizing-antibody responses appeared to be similar to those previously reported among vaccine recipients between the ages of 18 and 55 years and were above the median of a panel of controls who had donated convalescent serum. The vaccine elicited a strong CD4 cytokine response involving type 1 helper T cells.

Conclusions: In this small study involving older adults, adverse events associated with the mRNA-1273 vaccine were mainly mild or moderate. The 100-μg dose induced higher binding- and neutralizing-antibody titers than the 25-μg dose, which supports the use of the 100-μg dose in a phase 3 vaccine trial.

Read more

Environmental hazards

COVID-19 and frequent use of hand sanitizers; human health and environmental hazards by exposure pathways

Authors: Mahmood A et al

Publication date: September 2020

Journal: Science of the Total Environment

DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140561

Till date no medication or vaccine is available to cope with the COVID-19 infection and infection rate is increasing drastically across the globe. Only preventive measures and healthy life style with efficient immune system have been suggested by WHO to fight and stay safe from COVID-19. WHO recommended alcohol based hand sanitizers for frequent hand hygiene, which are mainly made up from ethanol, isopropyl alcohols, hydrogen peroxides in different combinations. These preparations may become toxic to human health and environment when misused. These chemicals have known toxic and hazardous impact on environment when released by evaporation. In early five months of 2020, American Association of Poison Control Center reported 9504 alcoholic hand sanitizer exposure cases in children under the age of 12 years and recognized that even a small amount of alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning in children that is responsible for confusion, vomiting and drowsiness, and in severe cases, respiratory arrest and death. Furthermore, frequent usage of said hand sanitizers has reported increased chance of antimicrobial resistance and chance of other viral diseases. Current review is designed with main objective to highlight the toxic and serious health risks to human health and environment by frequent using hand hygiene products with alcohols based formulations.



Government and Health Authorities


WHO, partners roll out faster COVID tests for poorer nations

Author: Jamey Keaten

Publication date: 28 September 2020

Source: AP

The World Health Organization announced Monday that it and leading partners have agreed to a plan to roll out 120 million rapid-diagnostic tests for the coronavirus to help lower- and middle-income countries make up ground in a testing gap with richer countries — even if it’s not fully funded yet.

At $5 apiece, the antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests for which WHO issued an emergency-use listing last week, the program initially requires $600 million and is to get started as early as next month to provide better access to areas where it’s harder to reach with PCR tests that are used often in many wealthier nations.

The rapid tests look for antigens, or proteins found on the surface of the virus. They are generally considered less accurate — though much faster — than higher-grade genetic tests, known as PCR tests. Those tests require processing with specialty lab equipment and chemicals. Typically that turnaround takes several days to deliver results to patients.

Read more

Emergency powers

Coronavirus: MPs overwhelmingly approve renewal of emergency COVID powers

Author: Greg Heffer

Publication date: 30 September 2020

Source: Sky News

MPs have approved the renewal of the government's emergency coronavirus powers after ministers staged a climbdown to offer the House of Commons a greater say on new nationwide restrictions.

Powers under the Coronavirus Act, which was passed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, have to be renewed by parliament every six months.

MPs approved the motion by 330 votes to 24 - a 306 majority - after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons that the measures were "still needed to keep people safe".

But the government had earlier been forced to offer the concession of greater consultation of MPs - and a Commons vote "wherever possible" - on new coronavirus lockdown restrictions before they come into force.

Read more


Media – Science related

Covid-19 pandemic

Latest REACT findings show high number of coronavirus infections across England

Author: Justine Alford

Publication date: 01 October 2020

Source: Imperial College

An interim report from the largest community COVID-19 testing programme has found a high infection prevalence and that cases have continued to rise.

Results from swab tests carried out by more than 80,000 people out of a total of 150,000, taken between 18th and 26th September, show that infections have increased substantially across all age groups and areas of the country.

The research, led by Imperial College London, estimated that over 1 in 200 people across England have the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or 0.55% of the population, compared to 0.13% in the previous round of testing.

Read more


Sunetra Gupta - Something that is becoming a scientific fact: Pre-existing resistance to COVID-19

Publication date: 25 September 2020

Source: Co-Immunity You Tube

Watch video


A deliberate “population immunity” strategy before a vaccine: Why it wouldn’t work and why it shouldn’t be tried

Publication date: 25 September 2020

Source: Independent SAGE

A deliberate strategy of attempting to raise the level of population immunity by allowing or encouraging people at lower risk of hospitalisation or death to become infected is not only unlikely to achieve the desired objective of population immunity, but risks a significant amount of avoidable death and illness, without protecting the economy.

Evidence suggests that the duration of immunity achieved could be less than a year. In addition, guaranteed shielding of vulnerable groups is infeasible and there would be substantial mortality and morbidity even among the ‘non-vulnerable’. It would also increase health and social inequalities, with the most disadvantaged groups, particularly the elderly, deprived and the ethnic minority groups, being disproportionately impacted. Treatment for COVID-19 is improving all the time. Delaying as many people as possible becoming infected with coronavirus will save lives and ill-health as new treatments become available. Other countries have shown that the infection rates can be suppressed without highly damaging ‘lockdowns’ by using established infection control procedures, including excellent contact tracing followed by supported isolation.

Read more

COVID-vaccine results are on the way — and scientists’ concerns are growing

Authors: Smriti Mallapaty and Heidi Ledford

Publication date: 25 September 2020

Source: Nature

Several ongoing coronavirus-vaccine trials could announce game-changing results next month. But as anticipation grows, concerns are growing about whether the vaccines will clear safety trials, what they will achieve if they do and the risk that the approval process will be influenced by politics, or at least seem to be.

Two weeks ago, the UK trial of a leading vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca restarted after a six-day pause to investigate safety concerns. Halted trials of the same vaccine in South Africa and Brazil have also since resumed, but the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet given the green light for US studies to start again. The trial’s sponsors have so far released few details about what caused the pause, and why the trial was allowed to resume. Some scientists say this lack of transparency could erode public trust in the vaccine.

In the background, fears have intensified that political meddling could see a vaccine approved for emergency use without sufficient evidence that it works. US President Donald Trump has said he wants a vaccine ahead of his country’s presidential election in November.

Read more

These Coronavirus Trials Don’t Answer the One Question We Need to Know

Authors: Peter Doshi and Eric Topol

Publication date: 22 September 2020

Source: the new York Times

If you were to approve a coronavirus vaccine, would you approve one that you only knew protected people only from the most mild form of Covid-19, or one that would prevent its serious complications?

The answer is obvious. You would want to protect against the worst cases.

But that’s not how the companies testing three of the leading coronavirus vaccine candidates, Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, whose U.S. trial is on hold, are approaching the problem.

According to the protocols for their studies, which they released late last week, a vaccine could meet the companies’ benchmark for success if it lowered the risk of mild Covid-19, but was never shown to reduce moderate or severe forms of the disease, or the risk of hospitalization, admissions to the intensive care unit or death.

To say a vaccine works should mean that most people no longer run the risk of getting seriously sick. That’s not what these trials will determine.

Read more


Media – Reporting

Covid-19 pandemic

Alarming Data Show a Third Wave of COVID-19 Is About to Hit the U.S.

Authors: Chris Wilson and Jeffrey Kluger

Publication date: 28 September 2020

Source: Time

There are few things as powerful as avoidance learning. Touch a hot stove once and you’re not likely to do it again. Cross against the light and almost get hit by a car and you’re going to be a lot more careful the next time. But when it comes to the U.S. response to COVID-19? Not so much.

You’d have thought that the sight of overflow hospital tents and refrigerated trucks to hold victims’ bodies in New York would have been enough to scare us all straight in mid-March and early April, when infection rates peaked at 32,000 new cases a day, or nearly 10 cases per 100,000 residents—making social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing all universal practices. But shortly after that peak, the warm weather arrived and several states cautiously reopened some public spaces for Memorial Day.

That, as we wrote at the time, quickly led to distressing signs of upticks in several states, pushing the national rate marginally north again. By the end of June, the rolling average of new cases per day had far exceeded the April peak, prompting some states to pull back their reopening plans. But the damage had been done. By mid-July, a second wave peaked at over twice the value of the first, exceeding 67,000 cases per day—more than 20 cases per capita. There was good news buried in that bad news, however: after the peak was reached, the decline was at least quicker and more precipitous than it was the first time.

Read more

ROBERT DINGWALL: We must learn to live with coronavirus - just like Samuel Pepys lived with the Great Plague

Author: Robert Dingwall

Publication date: 26 September 2020

Source: Mail Online

Humans have lived with infectious diseases for at least 15,000 years. Many of these are shared with animals. They infect us, we infect them and, from time to time, there is a new crossover, as with Covid-19.

When a novel infection appears, people are naturally fearful. Will this new virus or bacterium kill us all? Is it going to wipe out humanity? Yet, after a fairly short period of time it becomes clear that we are not trapped in science fiction, after all, and that humans will survive.

Bit by bit, societies get used to the infection, seeing it as a nuisance rather than something that should disrupt a whole way of life.

And when an epidemic of the same infection does come round again, people and institutions know how to deal with it. They get on with the business of living.

Bubonic plague – the Black Death – devastated 14th Century England. Yet by the Great Plague of 1665, which was essentially the same disease, the City of London authorities knew exactly what they were dealing with.

Read more

Dr JOHN LEE: This cure is worse than the disease

Author: Dr John Lee

Publication date: 24 September 2020

Source: Mail Online

As every doctor has known since the time of Hippocrates, the primary rule every physician must obey is simple: ‘First, do no harm.’

The best surgeons I encountered during my career as an NHS consultant were those who knew when to stand back and not to operate.

They had the humility to understand when their surgical skills would not save a life, or usefully prolong one for the benefit of the patient.

I despair as I watch this Government, following a flawed scientific narrative, turn the challenge of a nasty coronavirus into a national tragedy and economic disaster.

Shamefully, it is doing so while the medical profession, cowed into bureaucratic obedience, offers endorsement through silence instead of constructive criticism.

Read more


Now pubs are banned from playing loud music! New curb joins chaotic curfew scheme as it emerges hospitality sector is to blame for just THREE PER CENT of all coronavirus outbreaks

Authors: Luke Andrews, James Tapsfield and David Wilcock

Publication date: 28 September 2020

Source: Mail Online

Pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes have now been banned from playing loud music under draconian rules sneaked out by ministers overnight amid mounting fury over Number 10's 'idiotic' 10pm curfew. 

New legislation means premises in England are no longer allowed to play music louder than 85 decibels — similar to that of a busy restaurant or heavy traffic. Live performances are exempt from the rules, however.

And the tough Covid-19 rules — quietly introduced today — mean managers must take 'all reasonable measures' to stop customers from dancing and groups of six or more singing. But ministers have spared wedding ceremonies and receptions from the law.

The new laws were introduced alongside a new £4,000 fine for people who 'recklessly' breach self-isolation, and a £1,000 penalty for those who maliciously force people into isolation by falsely telling authorities that they could have come into contact with the virus. 

They came as government statistics revealed a tiny proportion of Covid-19 outbreaks have been linked to pubs and restaurants. Just 17 of 532 (3.2 per cent) of England's reported coronavirus clusters occurred in the hospitality sector last week — down from around 5 per cent the week before the draconian restriction was imposed.

Read more


Trump, pressured over pandemic, says states will receive 150 million tests

Authors: Stve Holland and Andrea Shalal

Publication date: 28 September 2020

Source: Reuters

President Donald Trump, under fire over his handling of the coronavirus epidemic, announced on Monday the federal government would ship 150 million rapid tests to U.S. states and warned an increase in positive cases is likely in the days ahead.

Trump, at a Rose Garden event, said the tests would largely be used for opening schools and ensuring safety at centers for senior citizens. He has been pressuring state governors to do more to open schools for in-person learning.

Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and virus adviser Scott Atlas warned more positive cases may result from stepped up testing.

Read more


Vaccine Chaos Is Looming

Author: Sarah Zhang

Publication date: 29 September 2020

Source: The Atlantic

On the day that a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, a vast logistics operation will need to awaken. Millions of doses must travel hundreds of miles from manufacturers to hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies, which in turn must store, track, and eventually get the vaccines to people all across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state and local health departments, coordinates this process. These agencies distributed flu vaccines during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic this way, and they manage childhood vaccines every day. But the COVID-19 vaccine will be a whole new challenge. 

“The COVID situation is significantly different and more complex than anything that we have had to deal with in the past,” says Kris Ehresmann, an infectious-disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health.

The two leading vaccine candidates in the U.S.—one developed by Moderna, the other by a collaboration between Pfizer and the German company BioNTech—have progressed so quickly to clinical trials precisely because they are the fastest to make and manufacture. They rely on a novel vaccine technology whose advantage is speed, but whose downside is extreme physical fragility. These vaccines have to be frozen—in Pfizer/BioNTech’s case, at an ultracold –94 degrees Fahrenheit, colder than most freezers—which will limit how and where they can be shipped. The ways these vaccines are formulated (without added preservatives) and packaged (in vials that hold doses for multiple people) also make them easier to develop and manufacture quickly but harder to administer on the ground.

Read more

Covid-19: UK volunteers could be given virus to test vaccine

Publication date: 24 September 2020

Source: BBC News

The UK could be the first country in the world to carry out Covid "challenge trials" - where healthy volunteers are deliberately infected with coronavirus to test possible vaccines.

It is understood the studies - first reported by the Financial Times - would be conducted in London.

The UK government said it was holding discussions about developing a vaccine through such "human challenge studies".

No contracts have yet been signed, the BBC understands.

Read more

Covid-19 Vaccines Could End Up With Bias Built Right In

Author: Roxanne Khamsi

Publication date: 22 September 2020

Source: Wired

RICH COUNTRIES HAVE often pressed for an advantage in procuring vaccines, and that pattern of behavior is playing out again today. Recently, the US stepped back from a global effort to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 immunization; while well-off nations such as Britain, France, and Canada (to name a few) have put in preorders for vaccines to secure access for their residents. Even if these machinations could be stopped, the inequities might still play out in an unexpected way. It turns out that a couple of the leading vaccine candidates have potential bias baked right into their biological designs, such that they might be most effective at preventing illness when administered to the wealthiest populations in the world.

The design of two vaccines, in particular, raise this concern: One, called Sputnik V, has already been made available by the Russian government; another, from China’s CanSino Biologics, is now in late-stage clinical trials. The potential issue comes from how they’re made: Each is a viral vector vaccine, which means it uses an engineered version of another, milder virus—here it’s one that causes common colds—as a delivery system. But some people who could end up getting these vaccines will have immunity to the vector. If that’s the case—if their bodies have fought off the relevant cold virus in the past—then their preexisting antibodies may end up hampering (or even neutralizing) the new vaccines. More concerning, this potential problem isn’t evenly spread across global populations: It’s much more common in the developing world.

Read more


Local lockdowns failing to slow the increase in coronavirus cases

Authors: Sarah Knapton and Dominic Gilbert

Publication date: 27 September 2020

Source: The Telegraph

Local lockdowns are not working to suppress the increase in coronavirus cases, analysis shows, with just one town managing to break free of restrictions, and most seeing instances continuing to rise [….]

The figures are troubling because they suggest that measures announced by Boris Johnson last week may do little to suppress the virus, at the expense of civil liberties and the economy.

Prof Hugh Pennington, Emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “I have to agree that local measures are often having disappointing results. The same in Glasgow and surrounding areas.

“National lockdown using the same control measures would very likely have the same poor result. In my view all this shows that much more community testing is needed to identify cases and that contact tracing isn’t yet good enough.”

The data shows that although local lockdowns appear to have short term benefits, they do little to prevent the virus resurging, and according to experts, may lead to a bigger second wave.

Read more

Lockdown 'could kill 75,000 over five years' - that's the OFFICIAL projection of non-COVID deaths caused by missed cancer diagnoses, cancelled operations and health impacts of a recession. The virus death toll? 42,000

Authors: Ben Spencer and Simon Walters

Publication date: 25 September 2020

Source: Mail Online

Nearly 75,000 people could die from non-Covid causes as a result of lockdown, according to devastating official figures buried in a 188-page document.

The startling research, presented to the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), will further increase pressure on Boris Johnson to hold back on introducing further coronavirus restrictions.

The document reveals 16,000 people died as a result of the chaos in hospitals and care homes in March and April alone.

It estimates a further 26,000 will lose their lives within a year if people continue to stay away from A&E and the problems in social care persist.

Read more

Who are the people campaigning against lockdown rules? From Tory libertarians to Supreme Court judges, the rising tide of protest

Author: Hugo Gye

Publication date: 25 September 2020

Source: The Independent

When the Government starting locking down the UK in March, ministers were surprised by just how easy it all was. Polls showed 90 to 95 per cent of the public supported the strict curbs on everyday life, with little outcry from MPs or the courts, and – unlike in America – no street protests against the measures.

That appears to be changing. There is still broad support for tough action to stop the spread of Covid-19, but it is much less universal than it was: a survey for i by Redfield & Wilton Strategies this week found 57 per cent believe the Government was right to introduce new measures such as a pubs curfew while 17 per cent were against.

A growing number of Conservative MPs, led by Sir Graham Brady, are speaking out at the way Parliament has been sidelined throughout the crisis. And legal figures have criticised ministers for sneaking out changes to the law in the dead of night, sometimes just minutes before they come into fore, meaning that neither Parliament, nor the police, nor citizens can scrutinise the incoming regulations or correct potential errors and loopholes.

Read more


Covid, Vitamin D and what happens when statistics are revered, but not understood

Author: Jon Moynihan

Publication date: 28 September 2020

Source: CapX

It can be frustrating to watch the non-scientists who run our government being deferential to scientists who seem to have less than a full understanding of statistics. Possible approaches for mitigating the coronavirus are passed by, often it seems as a result of a lack of statistical training, most often a lack of understanding of the word “Significance”: what its proper meaning is, when used as the measure for deciding whether or not to adopt a particular suggested approach.

“Significance“ as a word in statistics usually means that there is less than 1 chance in 20 (or, in the more strict application, 1 in 100), of a result being random. Since hundreds of studies of different treatments or approaches are carried out in the medical world, many of them might show a “result“ that is the equivalent of flipping a coin. Flip it enough times, and heads will at some point come up 100 times in a row —but that doesn’t mean the coin is biased to heads. Statistics tells you, in this particular case through the law of large numbers, how often you’re likely to get such a result, and how big a result you have to get in order to be pretty sure that the result wasn’t by chance. Scientists are chary of proceeding on the basis that the test gave a valid result, given this danger that the result was just one lucky fluke in a swathe of different tests. (And they correctly raise the bar further by insisting that the trial be randomised, double-blind, etc.)

But by doing all this, the scientists can miss a valid result. Say you are doing a novel test, the first of its type (i.e no-one else has yet done a similar test), and you get an interesting result – but the statistics tell you, for example, that there is a 1 in 10 likelihood that this result is just random. This fails to meet the gold standard of “Significance“ so the medics advising the government shove the result to one side, if it has even got as far as catching their attention, which is mostly unlikely. They don’t investigate the matter further. But, remember, a 1 in 10 chance of randomness means there are nine in 10 chances that the result was not random!

Read more

Social Impacts

Churches say no to second lockdown

Author: David Scullion

Publication date: 27 September 2020

Source: The Critic

Almost 700 church leaders have told Boris Johnson they must not be asked to close their churches again and have given a strong hint that they won’t conform the next time he tries to suspend services in the name of virus prevention.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister and the leaders of the devolved administrations, Church ministers say a closure of churches “would cause serious damage to our congregations, our service of the nation, and our duty as Christian ministers.”

The letter has been signed by ministers of several denominations in all four parts of the UK and is a strong hint that Christians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, who up to now have acquiesced to coronavirus legislation, may defy a future instruction to shut their doors.

The Christian ministers say they have “carefully followed government guidance” on Coronavirus and “entirely support proportionate measures to protect those most vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2.” But say they “question whether the UK Government and the devolved administrations have it in their power either to eliminate this virus or to suppress it for an indefinite period while we await a vaccine”.

Read more


I got locked out of Twitter for having the ‘wrong’ opinion on Covid

Author: Allison Pearson

Publication date: 29 September 2020

Source: The Telegraph

woke yesterday morning to find that I had been locked out of Twitter for “violating our rules against abuse and harassment”. I was dumbfounded. Which of my recent tweets had been abusive or harassed anyone? I glanced down the email to see something I had posted last week in response to yet another We’re All Doomed! report on the BBC news. “How hard is it for people to understand? We WANT students to get the virus. They will speed us towards community immunity. It may not be very far off.”

Whether you agree with my tweet or not, it accurately represents the opinion of a number of distinguished scientists, including Oxford’s Prof Sunetra Gupta (whom I interviewed for the Planet Normal podcast) and Prof Michael Levitt, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2013. Neither is a wacky Covid-denier. They just happen to agree that the worst-case scenario of 500,000 deaths arrived at back in March by Professor Neil Ferguson, which presumed (wrongly) that all age groups were equally susceptible to the virus, was possibly inflated by a factor of 10 or 12. They also reckon that the best strategy now is to shield the elderly and the vulnerable and allow the virus to infect the healthy population, notably the young, so we build up that terrific community immunity that seems to have served the Swedes so well.

Read more

Is evidence masks don’t work being purged from the internet?

Author: Kit Knightly

Publication date: 23 September 2020

Source: Off Guardian

research paper from its website which found masks do not work to halt the spread of disease. They claim the paper is “no longer relevant in the current climate”.

The article – “Why Face Masks Don’t Work: A Revealing Review” – has been used as a source before by us before (see here), and was a great collation of all the research studies done on the effectiveness of masks as a disease prevention tool. In general it found the evidence suggested masks have little to no value as infection preventatives.

The author, John Hardie (BDS, MSc, PhD, FRCDC), is a 30-year veteran of dental practice, specialising in infection control. The paper had over 30 references and sources from academic journals and peer-reviewed studies.

It’s hard to say exactly when the article was taken down, but the Wayback Machine shows it to be intact on 25th of June, simply missing from July 2nd-9th, and replaced with the current statement on July 10th.

Read more…