Thursday, June 17, 2021

UK Freedom Day delay based on obsolete data

Data used by Boris Johnson to delay Freedom Day 'was out of date and underestimated the effectiveness of vaccines' against Indian variant, MPs are told | Daily Mail - Shaun Wooler & Connor Boyd:

June 16, 2021 - "Boris Johnson delayed lockdown based on outdated modelling that is likely to have exaggerated the impact of ending restrictions, MPs have heard.

"Under the most pessimistic scenario, Imperial College London warned Britain could experience 203,824 more deaths by next June. Even more optimistic forecasts from other universities suggested more than 50,000 would die. But the figures were based on old estimates of jab effectiveness, which assumed they would work less well, the Commons science and technology committee heard yesterday.

"Imperial worked on the basis that the AstraZeneca jab would reduce hospitalisations by between 77 and 87 per cent after two doses. But real-world data from Public Health England shows the vaccine is 92 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation. The power of the Pfizer jab was also underplayed by several university groups.

"It means the modelling considered by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and the Prime Minister overestimates the likely number of deaths. Readjusting the models could see Imperial's death estimates fall from 203,824 to 26,854. 

"The PHE figures were made public on Monday, after the modelling to support delaying June 21 – but Dr Susan Hopkins, deputy director of PHE's national infection service, told MPs the Government was aware of the figures since last Friday. Tory MP Aaron Bell told the committee: 'The models that we seem to be relying on to justify the extension of restrictions don't appear to be using [the PHE] numbers'.... 

"Latest analysis by Public Health England estimates that Pfizer's vaccine slashes the risk of being hospitalised by the Indian variant by 96 per cent after two doses and AstraZeneca's jab cuts it by 92 per cent.... PHE's study of 14,000 cases of the Indian 'Delta' variant also found a single dose of either vaccine provides roughly 75 per cent protection against being admitted to hospital three weeks after getting the jab. It suggests the vaccines work just as well at reducing Covid hospital rates from the Indian variant – which spooked ministers into delaying the final easing of lockdown – as they do against the previously dominant Kent version.... 

"Officials had always believed the jabs would work well against the variant but there were growing doubts after multiple studies found it made vaccines significantly weaker at preventing infections.... This, combined with the fact the Indian variant is around 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent version, has led to England's June 21 Freedom Day being delayed by a month.  

"SAGE warned there could be up to 500 Covid deaths a day if Boris Johnson were to press ahead with next week's unlocking. But the group's models were based on older, more pessimistic data about the Indian variant."

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

McIntyre elected BC Libertarian leader

Penticton local chosen as Libertarian Party leader | Castanet - Chelsea Powrie:

May 20, 2021 - "Penticton politician and resident Keith MacIntyre has been elected as the new leader of the BC Libertarian Party.

MacIntyre ran as MLA for Penticton in the last provincial election. He is also currently running in a local Penticton city council byelection to fill an empty seat.

"In a press release, MacIntyre shared how honoured he is to be chosen as leader.

"'I saw the party come together and exceed all expectations during the last provincial election. We can build off of that momentum and field a full slate of 87 candidates in the 2024 provincial election,' MacIntyre said, adding that he believes his party stands for individual freedoms, invoking current conflicts in Penticton.

“'In Penticton where I live, the Horgan government is bullying the municipality on three separate fronts: forcing a homeless shelter, closing an addiction centre, and demanding a million dollars after the fact for a Primary Care Network,' MacIntyre said.

The party also chose Sandra Filosof-Schipper, a former candidate in Vancouver-Fairview, as deputy leader."

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Lockdown in Chile where 58% are vaccinated

Covid-19 pandemic: Chile capital locks down despite mass vaccination | BBC News:

June 11, 2021 - "Chile has announced a lockdown in the capital Santiago amid rising Covid cases, despite nearly 60% of the country being fully vaccinated. More than eight million residents living in and around the capital now must stay at home from Saturday.

"On Thursday, Chile reported 7,716 new daily cases, with the vast majority of infections being among those who had not been fully vaccinated. Intensive care beds are nearing full capacity, health officials warn. Jose Luis Espinoza, the president of Chile's National Federation of Nursing Association, says his members are 'on the verge of collapse', Reuters reports.

"About 58% of the country's 17.5 million people have been fully vaccinated, and as many as 75% have received at least one vaccine dose. 

"But critics have accused the government of getting caught up in triumphalism over the vaccine rollout and of having loosened coronavirus restrictions too fast. Chile's borders had been closed from March to November 2020. But after a strict lockdown had driven infections down, the decision was taken to reopen them.

"Chileans were also given special holiday permits to travel more freely around the country during the southern hemisphere summer holidays. Restaurants, shops, and holiday resorts were opened up to kickstart the faltering economy.

"Chile has had nearly 1.5 million infections since the pandemic began, with more than 30,000 Covid-related deaths, according to America's Johns Hopkins university."

Read more:

Update: British Medical Journal, April 20, 2021: 

""A study published by researchers at the University of Chile on 6 April, in which Cortés was not involved, found that the CoronaVac vaccine was 56.5% effective in preventing infections two weeks after a second dose but only 3% effective after a single dose.... Some 93% of the doses administered [in Chile - gd] were the CoronaVac vaccine, manufactured by Chinese state run pharmaceutical Sinovac, and 7% the more effective Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. Chile’s CoronaVac study results are comparable to previous CoronaVac trials elsewhere and 'were not a surprise,' said Cortés."

Monday, June 14, 2021

UK lockdown orders to be extended until July

Covid: Lockdown easing in England to be delayed by four weeks | BBC News - Becky Morton & Joseph Lee:

June 14, 2021 - "Most coronavirus rules will remain in place in England for another four weeks after the planned 21 June unlocking, government sources have told the BBC. Senior ministers have signed off on the decision to delay the lifting of all legal restrictions on social contact. That could mean capacity limits for sports, pubs and cinemas will remain, and nightclubs would stay closed.

"Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to confirm the delay at a news conference later - at 18:00 BST. The extension will be put to a Commons vote this month and could trigger a sizeable Conservative backbench rebellion."

"England was due to move to stage four of the government's roadmap out of lockdown on 21 June, when venues and events would be allowed to operate without capacity limits and the cap on guests at weddings would be lifted. It would also have meant an end to the current rules which limit gatherings at home to six people or two households.

"But many scientists have called for the reopening to be delayed to enable more people to be vaccinated and receive second doses, amid rising cases of the Delta variant. A delay would also allow more work to be done on whether vaccines are breaking, or simply weakening, the link between infections and hospitalisations....

"All areas of Scotland are due to move to Level Zero Covid restrictions on 28 June - meaning bigger groups can gather in cafés, pubs and restaurants, although they will still have to observe social distancing. Limits on indoor gatherings in Northern Ireland are scheduled to be relaxed on 21 June and the current rules in Wales will be reviewed on 25 June.

"If the lifting of restrictions is pushed back, the UK Weddings Taskforce - an industry group - estimates that 50,000 weddings planned in the four weeks from 21 June could be cancelled, with the industry losing £325m for every week of delay. Currently the number of guests allowed at weddings is limited to 30.

"The Night Time Industries Association said businesses such as nightclubs had already spent millions preparing to reopen, and the association will legally challenge any delay to reopening. 'It's going to be catastrophic to us. This will possibly hurt us more than the initial lockdown back in March last year,' said Will Power, owner of the Lab 11 nightclub in Birmingham.

"UKHospitality, which represents pubs, bars and restaurants, said businesses faced losing £3bn in sales if the relaxation of restrictions is delayed by a month."

Read more:

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Child labor rising during pandemic, warns UNICEF

Child labour rises to 160 million – first increase in two decades | UNICEF (press release):

June 9, 2021 – "The number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF. Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward – released ahead of World Day Against Child Labour on 12th June – warns that progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years, reversing the previous downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016. 

"The report points to a significant rise in the number of children aged 5 to 11 years in child labour, who now account for just over half of the total global figure. The number of children aged 5 to 17 years in hazardous work – defined as work that is likely to harm their health, safety or morals – has risen by 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016....

"In sub-Saharan Africa, population growth, recurrent crises, extreme poverty, and inadequate social protection measures have led to an additional 16.6 million children in child labour over the past four years. Even in regions where there has been some headway since 2016, such as Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, COVID-19 is endangering that progress. The report warns that globally, 9 million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic. A simulation model shows this number could rise to 46 million.... 

"Additional economic shocks and school closures caused by COVID-19 mean that children already in child labour may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions, while many more may be forced into the worst forms of child labour due to job and income losses among vulnerable families. 

'We are losing ground in the fight against child labour, and the last year has not made that fight any easier,' said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. 'Now, well into a second year of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions, and shrinking national budgets, families are forced to make heart-breaking choices. We urge governments and international development banks to prioritize investments in programmes that can get children out of the workforce and back into school, and in social protection programmes that can help families avoid making this choice in the first place.'"

 Other key findings in the report include:                

  • The agriculture sector accounts for 70 per cent of children in child labour (112 million) followed by 20 per cent in services (31.4 million) and 10 per cent in industry (16.5 million).   
  • Nearly 28 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 years and 35 per cent of children aged 12 to 14 years in child labour are out of school.  Child labour is more prevalent among boys than girls at every age. When household chores performed for at least 21 hours per week are taken into account, the gender gap in child labour narrows.   
  • The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (14 per cent) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (5 per cent). 
  • Children in child labour are at risk of physical and mental harm." 

Read more:

Saturday, June 12, 2021

100 million were pushed into poverty, says ILO

 UN Labor Agency Finds Pandemic Pushed Over 100 Million Workers Into Poverty | Common Dreams - Jessica Corbett: 

June 2, 2021 - "Over a year after projecting that the coronavirus pandemic could have a 'catastrophic' impact on the global economy and workforce, the United Nations labor agency on Wednesday revealed that the public health crisis pushed more than 100 million workers worldwide into poverty. 

"The new report (pdf), entitled World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021 (WESO Trends), also warns of the 'real risk that — absent comprehensive and concerted policy efforts — the Covid-19 crisis will leave behind a legacy of widened inequality and reduced overall progress in the world of work across multiple dimensions.'

"Worryingly, the International Labor Organization (ILO) report shows that 'the recovery process is likely to be both incomplete and uneven,' said Guy Ryder, the agency's director-general, in a video about the findings. 'Incomplete because the damage done will not be fully repaired by the end of 2022, we will still have a major jobs shortfall,' Ryder explained. 'Uneven because it's the rich countries, the high-income countries, which are the best placed — because they have vaccines, because they have the fiscal means to do so — to recover more quickly."

"The ILO found that relative to 2019, an additional 108 million workers worldwide are now moderately or extremely poor — meaning their families must survive on less than $3.20 per person each day. The report says that 'five years of progress towards the eradication of working poverty have been undone.' [emphasis added - gd]

"The pandemic has 'highlighted the vulnerable situation of migrant workers' and undermined recent progress on gender equality, the report adds. According to Agence France-Presse, Ryder told reporters that the ongoing crisis has also negatively affected efforts to end child [labour] and forced labor.

"'Looking ahead, the projected employment growth will be insufficient to close the gaps opened up by the crisis,' WESO Trends warns. 'To make matters worse, many of the newly created jobs are expected to be of low productivity and poor quality.'

"The U.N. agency projects that the pandemic-induced 'jobs gap' will hit 75 million this year and fall to 23 million next year. The gap in working hours — which accounts for the jobs gap and hours reductions — is expected to be the equivalent of 100 million full-time jobs in 2021 and 26 million full-time jobs in 2022.....

"'Worldwide, employment in the accommodation and food services sector is estimated to have been the worst affected by the crisis,' says the report. The wholesale and retail trade sector was also heavily hit, as was manufacturing and construction, which 'incurred a significant decline in employment as a result of the crisis, bearing the brunt of the impact in the industry sector.'

"'Recovery from Covid-19 is not just a health issue. The serious damage to economies and societies needs to be overcome too,' Ryder emphasized in a statement. 'Without a deliberate effort to accelerate the creation of decent jobs, and support the most vulnerable members of society and the recovery of the hardest-hit economic sectors, the lingering effects of the pandemic could be with us for years in the form of lost human and economic potential and higher poverty and inequality.'

"'We need a comprehensive and coordinated strategy, based on human-centered policies, and backed by action and funding," he added. 'There can be no real recovery without a recovery of decent jobs.'"

Read more: 

Licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Friday, June 11, 2021

No Covid reinfections among unvaccinated found in Cleveland Clinic study

No point vaccinating those who’ve had COVID-19: Findings of Cleveland Clinic study | Life Sciences News - Sanchari Sinha Dutta, Ph.D.

June 8 2021 - "Scientists from the Cleveland Clinic, USA, have recently evaluated the effectiveness of coronavirus disease 2019 COVID-19) vaccination among individuals with or without a history of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. The study findings reveal that individuals with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection do not get additional benefits from vaccination, indicating that COVID-19 vaccines should be prioritized to individuals without prior infection. The study is currently available on the medRxiv* preprint server (not peer-reviewed)....

"In many countries, especially those with low socioeconomic status, there is a serious shortage of vaccines. Thus, in order to get the maximum vaccine benefits, the most vulnerable population should be prioritized for the vaccination. Currently, most countries prioritize vaccination for healthcare and other frontline workers, elderly people, and people with comorbidities. To further narrow down the prioritization criteria, the scientists in the current study have evaluated the necessity of COVID-19 vaccines for individuals who were previously infected with SARS-CoV-2.

"The study was conducted on 52,238 employees in the Cleveland Clinic. A positive RT-PCR test was considered to define SARS-CoV-2 infection. The participants received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at an interval of 28 days. A participant was considered vaccinated after 14 days of receiving the 2nd vaccine dose. Similarly, a participant who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 at least 42 days before the vaccination initiation was considered previously infected.

"Of all enrolled participants, 5% had previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. Compared to 59% of non-infected participants, only 47% of previously infected participants were vaccinated by the end of the study.... The analysis of cumulative COVID-19 incidence revealed that during the course of the study, SARS-CoV-2 infection occurred almost exclusively in participants who were not previously infected and were not vaccinated.

"Interestingly, no significant difference in COVID-19 incidence was observed between previously infected and currently unvaccinated participants, previously infected and currently vaccinated participants, and previously uninfected and currently vaccinated participants. The participants from these three groups exhibited a significantly lower incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to previously uninfected and currently unvaccinated participants.

"Specifically, of all infections during the study period, 99.3% occurred in participants who were not infected previously and remained unvaccinated. In contrast, only 0.7% of infections occurred in participants who were not previously infected but were currently vaccinated. 

"Importantly, not a single incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection was observed in previously infected participants with or without vaccination.... [emphasis added - gd]

"Although the study did not directly estimate the duration of protection from natural infection, it was observed that previously infected participants remained protected against COVID-19 for at least 10 months after the symptom onset or a positive test result. The scarcity of vaccines, coupled with the knowledge that vaccines do not provide additional protection to those who have already been infected, is the strongest argument for restricting vaccine administration to those who have not had the infection."

Read more:

Read study here: