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Covid deaths in England and Wales hit lowest levels since BEFORE pandemic took off last spring

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Weekly coronavirus deaths in England and Wales at the end of May fell to their lowest levels since before the first lockdown last spring, official data revealed today.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 54 virus deaths occurred in the week ending May 28 — the fewest since the week ending March 13, 2020, 10 days before Boris Johnson announced the first blanket shutdown.

Only three people died with Covid on the final day of the month — the seventh time in a fortnight fatalities were in single digits. For comparison, the daily death count stood at around 1,400 during the darkest spell of the second wave in January.

Death figures lag behind cases by around two weeks, so the spike in infections triggered by the Indian variant over the past few weeks has yet to translate into a huge up-tick in fatalities. 

But experts believe the UK’s successful vaccine roll-out has broken the once impenetrable link between cases and serious illness, meaning fatalities and hospital admissions should remain low even in the face of rising infections — which top advisers warn is inevitable because of the easing of restrictions, coupled with the extra transmissibility of the Indian ‘Delta’ variant.  

The ONS figures also showed Covid is now to blame for fewer than 1 per cent of deaths, with the virus mentioned on 95 out of 9,600 death certificates registered in the final week of May. 

Despite promising data that shows the vaccines still work against the Indian variant, the Prime Minister is facing calls to push back ‘Freedom Day’ on June 21 by a fortnight, to allow all over-50s to be fully vaccinated and give time for the jabs to take effect.

The Cabinet are split on the issue with some urging Boris Johnson to exercise caution while others say the focus must now shift to the economic recovery.  

Weekly Covid deaths in England and Wales at the end of May fell to their lowest levels since before the pandemic took off last spring, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed today

The provisional number of total deaths registered in England and Wales decreased from 9,860 in the week ending May 21 to 9,628 in the week ending 28 May 2021. The number of deaths was 3.1 per cent below the five-year average (312 fewer deaths)

The data also show three people lost their life to Covid on the final day of the month — the seventh time in a fortnight fatalities were in single data

Covid intensive care survival rates DOUBLE with new drugs and jabs – and just FIVE patients are being admitted each day compared to 330-plus at the peak of the pandemic

An average of just six people per day were admitted to intensive care with Covid in May – a total of 169 patients across the UK.

The number marks a huge turn of fortunes since the winter when there were nearly 10,000 people taken into during January, the worst month of the UK’s epidemic.

The massive vaccine rollout, which has now given two doses to at least half of adults, the effects of lockdown and the use of potentially life-saving treatments have managed to force the virus into submission in many parts of the country.

While coronavirus patients made up three quarters of all critically ill patients in the UK in January, they now account for just one in five. 

Department of Health data show 3,493 people were admitted to hospital in May and the 169 in ICU means just 4.8 per cent of people admitted to hospital ended up in intensive care. The number of patients in hospital overall – including non-ICU – is now just 2.5 per cent of what it was at the peak, with 932 compared to 39,249.

The South West, South East, East of England and Wales all had fewer than 10 people go into intensive care across the entire month – four, eight, six and two, respectively. 

The percentage of people admitted to hospital who die has tumbled from almost half to just one in five

Covid patients (red) made up three quarters of all ICU patients in January but this has tumbled to just one in five

The discovery of drugs that can save people from dying of Covid have dramatically boosted survival rates in ICU, too, with the death rate halving to around 20 per cent from 45 per cent in the first wave, The Telegraph reports.

Medicines such as the steroid dexamethasone and arthritis drug tocilizumab have both helped to cut the risk of death for hospital patients since they were proven to work in June and January.  

And early figures suggest the vaccines are keeping people out of the life support units. The average age of patients is falling and is now below 50, down from 60, showing older double-jabbed age groups are benefiting from protection.  

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The ONS data released today showed weekly deaths fell by 11 per cent in the week ending May 28, down from 61 the week before.

But the figures are based on occurrences, meaning the true toll could change slightly over the next fortnight as more deaths are registered.

The most recent week was the second lowest on record since the start of the pandemic, with three of the top five lowest weeks for Covid deaths occurring in May this year. 

Covid death occurrences fell to 52 in England, down from 55 the week before, and to just two in Wales, down from six the week before. 

None occurred in the North East or South West during the week, while only the North West and London recorded double figures (both 12).

Weekly deaths with Covid registered on the certificate — which lag behind occurrence data and are affected by bank holidays — fell to 20 on the final day of the month, 19 of which were in England. 

The North West only registered one on the day, despite containing the majority of Indian variant hotspots.

The majority of deaths Covid deaths registered in England and Wales (63 per cent) occurred in hospitals, with 23 per cent happening at home and 11 per cent in care homes.

The total number of deaths registered in the UK was 10,977 during the week, which was 287 fewer than the five-year average. 

Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said: ‘Numbers of registered deaths are down in the older age groups where most deaths involving Covid have always occurred. 

‘In people aged under 50, the numbers are very low but static — eight in the most recent week, seven in the week before — but because they are so low, there’s no real indication of a trend for the under-50s. 

‘Deaths involving Covid were down in the latest week compared to the week before in England as a whole, in Wales, and in seven of the nine English regions. 

‘The exceptions were London and the North West, but the numbers are too small to conclude that things are really different in those two regions than in the rest of the country.’

The promising figures come as separate data revealed an average of just five people per day were admitted to intensive care with Covid in May — a total of 169 patients across the UK.

The number marks a huge turn of fortunes since the winter when there were nearly 10,000 people taken into during January, the worst month of the UK’s epidemic.

The massive vaccine rollout, which has now given two doses to at least half of adults, the effects of lockdown and the use of potentially life-saving treatments have managed to force the virus into submission in many parts of the country.

While coronavirus patients made up three quarters of all critically ill patients in the UK in January, they now account for just one in five. 

Department of Health data show 3,493 people were admitted to hospital in May and the 169 in ICU means just 4.8 per cent of people admitted to hospital ended up in intensive care. The number of patients in hospital overall – including non-ICU – is now just 2.5 per cent of what it was at the peak, with 932 compared to 39,249.

It comes after Matt Hancock yesterday revealed only three Britons hospitalised with the Indian Covid variant have had both vaccines.

The Health Secretary told MPs jabs currently being deployed in Britain have started to break the once ‘rock solid’ link between infections and admissions.

Official data shows only 126 of the more than 12,000 people to have contracted the mutant ‘Delta’ strain in England have been admitted to hospital.

Only three of those were fully vaccinated. Twenty-eight had received one dose, and 83 were yet to receive a jab. No data was available for the other twelve hospitalised patients. 

Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said: ‘Numbers of registered deaths are down in the older age groups where most deaths involving Covid have always occurred’

No Covid deaths occurred in the North East or South West during the week, while only the North West and London recorded double figures (both 12)

The total number of deaths registered in the UK was 10,977 during the week, which was 287 fewer than the five-year average

The majority of deaths Covid deaths registered in England and Wales (63 per cent) occurred in hospitals, with 23 per cent happening at home and 11 per cent in care homes

Only THREE Britons hospitalised with the Indian Covid variant have had both vaccines

Only three Britons hospitalised with the Indian Covid variant have had both vaccines, Matt Hancock said yesterday.

The Health Secretary told MPs jabs currently being deployed in Britain have started to break the once ‘rock solid’ link between infections and admissions.

Official data shows only 126 of the more than 12,000 people to have contracted the mutant ‘Delta’ strain in England have been admitted to hospital.

Only three of those were fully vaccinated. Twenty-eight had received one dose, and 83 were yet to receive a jab. No data was available for the other twelve hospitalised patients.

‘The jabs are working, we have to keep coming forward to get them and that includes, vitally, that second jab, which we know gives better protection against the Delta variant,’ Mr Hancock said. 

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‘The jabs are working, we have to keep coming forward to get them and that includes, vitally, that second jab, which we know gives better protection against the Delta variant,’ Mr Hancock said.

Mr Hancock also revealed that all over-25s in England will be able to book their first vaccine from today. He hailed Britain’s coronavirus vaccination drive for moving at an ‘extraordinary pace’. 

Until now only over-30s had been able to book appointments, save for surge clinics in some areas where they had been temporarily opened to younger groups.

People in their 20s are the adults at lowest risk from Covid but the NHS has given a first dose to 77 per cent of over-18s already, meaning only around one in four are left to reach.

Sir Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, said the country was now entering the ‘home straight’ of the programme and added ‘getting the jab is the most important thing you can do’.

Britain is now in a race against the Indian variant as medics try to vaccinate as many people as possible to protect them from the strain which Mr Hancock said is likely 40 per cent more transmissible than the Kent variant was.

Public Health England warned last week a single dose of vaccine does not appear to work as well against the now-dominant ‘Delta’ variant as it did against the Kent strain, meaning getting the booster jab is crucial.

Scientists have said as many people as possible – including teenagers – need to get vaccinated to stop the new variant from spreading.

Meanwhile, Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford said the NHS there will have offered vaccines to all adults over 18 by Monday, putting it six weeks ahead of the end-of-July schedule.

Freedom day ‘is set to be delayed by a fortnight’ as ministers say they ‘rule nothing out’ after ‘downbeat’ briefing from Chris Whitty about surging cases – despite vaccines limiting deaths 

Freedom day could be delayed by a fortnight after Chris Whitty delivered a ‘downbeat’ assessment to ministers, it was claimed today.

The June 21 milestone could be pushed back to allow all over-50s to be fully vaccinated and give time for the jabs to take effect.

The Cabinet are split on the issue with some urging Boris Johnson to exercise caution while others say the focus must now shift to the economic recovery.

In a round of interviews this morning, Environment Secretary George Eustice said the government ‘don’t rule anything out’ in terms of changing the timetable.

But he also insisted that the data on vaccines were ‘encouraging’ and a final decision will not be taken until next Monday.

Medical and science chiefs Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance reportedly gave a ‘fairly grim’ update on the situation to ministers, underlining that jabs can never provide 100 per cent protection and variants are significantly more transmissible.

Whitehall sources said contingency plans are being drawn up for a possible ‘short’ delay to give scientists more time to consider data and allow the NHS to carry out more vaccinations.

One cabinet source told The Times they expected to see a delay of ‘between two weeks and a month’.

They said there was not much concern about political backlash as long as the full reopening happened before schools break for summer on July 23.

Matt Hancock and Michael Gove are among those pushing a more dovish approach, while Rishi Sunak and Grant Shapps want to avoid delay.

Despite the vaccine success, some ministers and officials have been spooked by a surge in Covid cases – with a 68 per cent rise today compared to last week.

However, those cases have so far not fed through into hospitalisations and deaths, suggesting immunity levels are offering substantial protection.

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This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Adults with Down syndrome are THREE TIMES more likely to contract COVID-19

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Down syndrome puts adults at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection, a new  study suggests. 

Patients with Down syndrome were three times more likely to contract the virus than those with other intellectual and developmental disabilities, in this study of over 500 NYC patients with disabilities.

Researchers theorize this because people with  Down syndrome are more likely to have other conditions that make them vulnerable to coronavirus.

Additionally, older patients, those with chronic kidney disease, and those living in crowded environments were also at higher risk for infection.

The team, from Syracuse University, says the findings suggest that patients with intellectual disabilities – especially Down syndrome patients – should be a priority in COVID vaccination efforts.

People with intellectual disabilities are more vulnerable to COVID, a new study shows

Down syndrome patients are three times more likely to get COVID than other patients with intellectual disabilities, while chronic kidney disease patients are five times more likely

Intellectual and developmental disabilities are well-known to be risk factors for COVID.

Past studies have found that people with these disabilities tend to have more severe COVID outcomes – meaning they are more likely to go to the hospital or die if they get sick.

This trend is especially true for disability patients living in nursing homes and other, similar residential settings – where COVID outbreaks have been common and deadly.

The CDC specifically lists Down syndrome as a risk factor, noting that having this condition ‘can make you more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19.’

Down syndrome is a condition caused when a person has an extra copy of genetic material – causing mental and physical changes in their development.

Patients with Down syndrome and other disabilities are likely to also have other medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID, such as respiratory diseases and endocrine diseases.

But a new study shows that Down syndrome patients are more likely to become infected with COVID, too – even compared to other patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In this study, researchers tracked COVID outcomes for 543 people with disabilities receiving support from a New York City-based nonprofit.

The nonprofit supported over 8,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities over the course of the pandemic. This support includes assistance with daily living activities and access to nursing care.

Out of the 543 people included in the study, 91 were diagnosed with COVID between March and October 2020. Of those patients, 35 died from the disease.

These disability patients had higher COVID case rates and mortality rates than NYC overall during that time period.

The case mortality rate, reflecting the share of COVID patients who died, was four times higher – 39 percent of the COVID patients with disabilities died, compared to 10 percent of New Yorkers with COVID overall.

This study’s case rate may be a low estimate, however. 

The disability patients were only tested for COVID when they showed symptoms, and contact tracing was limited. More patients may have become infected with COVID with mild symptoms or no symptoms.

Disability patients had a COVID case fatality rate four times higher than NYC overall

The researchers found that COVID risk factors for the disability patients were similar to known risk factors for the general population.

Older patients were more likely to be diagnosed with COVID, for example. Patients who lived in more crowded settings – similar to nursing homes – were also more likely to get sick.

Chronic kidney disease patients had the highest risk of COVID infection – at a rate five times higher than the overall infection rate. This disease is well-known to be a COVID risk factor.

Down syndrome patients also had a high risk of COVID infection. These patients represented 10 pecent of the overall study group – but made up 22 percent of the patients who got sick.

Patients with Down syndrome were three times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID than other disability patients – and three times more likely to die from the disease.

This finding is especially notable because Down syndrome was not previously known to be a risk factor for COVID infection.

 

 

Patients with heart disease were also more likely to be diagnosed with COVID. And they were much more likely to die from the disease – at a rate 17 times higher than other disability patients.

Heart disease, like chronic kidney disease, may be more common and more severe in disability patients.

The researchers did not find an increased COVID infection risk for black, Hispanic, and other patients with minority racial/ethnic backgrounds, though these communities are known to be at a higher risk in the U.S. overall.

This study’s findings are limited because the Syracuse researchers looked at a small number of patients – under 100 were infected with COVID. More research is needed in this area.

Still, the researchers say their findings suggest that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities should be a priority for vaccination efforts and other COVID prevention strategies, such as testing.

This is especially true for people with Down syndrome and other COVID comorbidities.

 

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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White patients were more likely to be screened for COVID-19 via telehealth appointments

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White patients were more likely to be screened for Covid-19 during telehealth visits during the pandemic than their peers of other races, a new study suggests. 

A research team led by members of the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute analyzed health record data at Hennepin Healthcare, a safety net hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to gauge when people were tested for COVID-19 based on a variety of demographic factors. 

Researchers found that white patients were significantly more likely to receive a Covid-19 test than all other racial groups when they performed a doctors visit via telehealth, accounting for 64.5 percent of all tests. 

Black patients received only nine percent of Covid-19 screenings performed by telehealth, while accounting for 45 percent of tests performed in an emergency department.   

White patients were more likely to catch less serious cases of Covid-19 earlier, as they were more likely to be screened at home via telehealth

Data from the study shows that white patients were more likely to be screened for Covid via telehealth, while black patients were more likely to be screened in emergency room settings

Black and white patients were around evenly likely to receive a Covid-19 screening in an in-patient setting, at 35.7 percent and 37.6 percent respectfully.

Researchers noted that patients who were receiving their tests in an emergency room or in-patient setting were more likely to need more intensive treatment, as their case of the virus was caught later than those who were screened via telehealth. 

There was also a massive disparity across the board in testing depending on the primary language of the patient. 

Patients who speak English received a majority of the screenings no matter the setting, including a whopping 88 percent of screenings  performed via telehealth, and nearly 70 percent of tests overall. 

While the results of the test are limited – they only account for one hospital system and do not adjust results for overall population – researchers fear that telehealth could widen an existing racial gap in medical coverage.

Telehealth became the primary way many received health care during the Covid-19 pandemic, as lockdowns closed many clinics for non-emergency visits. 

As the pandemic ends, many experts believe telehealth is here to stay, and may remain the medium many routine doctors visits are delivered by.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), telehealth visits increased by 50 percent in the early stages of the pandemic. 

The shift in medical care drove around $29 billion in revenue for health providers as well.  

The CDC notes that not all Americans have equal access to health care, and the disparities in the American health care system were exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic

There are many health equity issues that arise with telehealth, though. 

Not all Americans have access to the stable internet connection necessary to access telehealth.

There is also a problem with insurers not knowing how to bill the visits properly, though many states, like Illinois, have passed laws regulating telehealth visits as normal doctor visits in terms of insurance and billing, preventing patients from being denied these visits by their insurance.

Researchers may have found another potential disparity in this study, though, as more research goes into the system that may be the future of medical care.

Health equity in Covid-19 testing was a problem early on in the pandemic as well, with the CDC reporting that ethnic minorities often faced barriers such as discrimination, transportation, lack of health care and more to not receiving same access as their white counterparts.

Many underserved, primarily minority, communities also were left without the needed supply of tests early on in the pandemic. 

The full study is available in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday. 

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Pfizer begins testing its Covid vaccine on children between ages 5-11

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Pfizer-BioNTech has entered late-stage clinical trials of their coronavirus vaccine in children between ages five and 11.

Just a few weeks after the shot was approved for teens ages 12 to 15 in the U.S., the companies are now testing safety and efficacy on younger children.

Around 4,500 participants will be enrolled at nearly 100 clinical trial sites in 26 states, Finland, Poland and Spain, according to a press release.

Trials for kids as young as six months to four years old are still in early stages and will expand once the researchers can determine safety.

It comes as Moderna Inc’s CEO says he believes his company’s COVID-19 jab should be available for U.S. children as young as age five by fall of this year.

Parents and doctors have been debating about whether or not to inoculate children because they make up just 0.1 percent of all COVID deaths. 

Pfizer-BioNTech announced on Tuesday they have begun late-stage clinical trials of their coronavirus vaccine in children ages five to 11. Pictured (from left to right): Russell Bright, 7;  Tucker Bright, 5; and dad Adam Bright pose at Ochsner Medical Center in Louisiana as Pfizer’s late-stage trials in children begin, June 7

Lower doses will be used for kids, 10 micrograms, compared to the 30 micrograms that those ages 12 and above receive. Pictured: Pfizer announces the late-stage clinical trials in children

According to clinicaltrials.gov, Pfizer’s study in younger children will work similarly to the way it did in older children and adults.

About half of the ages five-to-11 group will receive two doses 21 days apart and the other half will be given placebo shots.

The team will test the safety, tolerability and immune response generated by the vaccine, likely by measuring antibody levels in the young subjects.

Among the participants are siblings Russell Bright, age seven, and Tucker Bright, age five, who are being tested at Ochsner Medical Center, just outside New Orleans in Louisiana.

The Brights had their temperatures and blood pressure checked, their noses swabbed and blood drawn for tests, and then were given a shot of either the vaccine or a placebo. 

‘I want to do my part and have my kids do their part,’ their father, Adam Bright, told the Associated Press

‘Both me and my wife are already vaccinated, and so the sooner I can get them vaccinated and to feel comfortable being outside, not having to wear a mask, I thought the easiest way to get it is to go through the trial.’  

Russell, who was wearing a Spiderman mask, said he longs for a summer vacation that can include the water park or a longer trip – and then school without masks and social distancing.

‘I’m looking forward to seeing my friends more and not wearing masks,’ he said. 

‘You can’t see if I’m making a frown or a smile. I don’t like to wear them.’

Provided the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective, the trial will be unblinded at the six-month follow-up, meaning those who received the placebo will be offered the vaccine. 

Pfizer says researchers hope to have data from the trial in the second half of 2021.

On Monday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said he believes his company’s vaccine will be available for kids as young as five years old by early fall. Pictured Stéphane Bancel on CNBC in April 2021

Parents and doctors have been debating about whether or not to inoculate children because they make up just 0.1% of all COVID deaths. Pictured: Caleb Chung receives the first dose of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine or placebo as a trial participant, December 2020

Meanwhile, Moderna’s CEO says he believes his company’s COVID-19 vaccine will likely be available to children as young as age five by early fall.

‘I think it’s going to be early fall, just because we have to go down in age very slowly and carefully,’ Stéphane Bancel said on Monday during an event hosted on the social media platform Clubhouse.

‘We anticipate data available in the September/October time frame.’

Bancel said that clinical trials in small children take longer because researchers have to determine the appropriate dosages.

Children are often the last group to be tested during clinical trials because they are not merely little adults.

Their bodies and immune systems behave differently, meaning they might have different treatment needs.

What’s more, children may need different doses or needle sizes depending on their height, weight and age – which is why most children are only vaccinated after safety has been well-documented in the adult population.

In fact, Pfizer announced that it selected lower doses for COVID-19 vaccine trials in children than are given to teenagers and adults.

Those aged 12 and older receive two 30 microgram (μg) doses of the vaccine,

However, children between ages five and 11 will be given 10 μg doses and kids from six months to four years old will receive three μg doses. 

Moderna’s vaccine has only been approved for adults, but revealed last month that  clinical trials showed safety and efficacy among 12-to-17-year-olds.

Although the clinical trial did not examine efficacy, no children who were given the immunization fell ill with the virus within 14 of their second dose while four children given the placebo later tested positive, which Moderna says is ‘consistent with a vaccine efficacy of 100 percent.’ 

However, despite the promising results, many parents are not enthusiastic about vaccinating their children.

In a recent poll, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, parents were asked if they would get their child immunized once a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and available for their child’s age group.

Only about three in 10 parents – 29 percent – of children under 18 said they would get their child vaccinated ‘right away.’

The poll also found 15 percent only plan to vaccinate their children if the school requires it and 19 percent said their child will definitely not be getting vaccinated.

What’s more, although children can contract COVID-19 and pass the disease on to others, they tend to not get very will

More than 3.97 million children have tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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