Displaying items by tag: Covid19

Friday, 23 July 2021 10:26

Pandemic pinging = panic buying

Iceland said photographs of empty shelves in supermarkets, signs of panic buying, were isolated incidents. While there were ‘some availability issues’, they said their supply chains are resilient. M&S and other businesses said growing numbers of staff have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app and they must self-isolate for 10 days. Businesses want people who have been double-vaccinated or have daily tests to be able to return to work. The British Retail Consortium said shops were facing increasing pressure as they try to keep shelves stocked with rising numbers of staff self-isolating. It said ministers needed to ‘act fast’ and allow fully-vaccinated retail workers or those who had tested negative for Covid to go to work. The Road Haulage Association said a shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers is disrupting supply chains as workers return to Europe following Brexit.

Published in British Isles

Sung worship in churches will be allowed from 19 July. Danny Webster of the Evangelical Alliance said that the prospect of worshipping together is exciting but will have many challenges. ‘We need to be very aware that we're in a context where cases are rising and, while the vaccine seems to be doing its job, churches may well want to be cautious and careful with how they proceed in the next few weeks. Every church will come to its own conclusions.’ Danny added, ‘There will be people who are vulnerable, people who are uncertain or anxious that aren't necessarily willing to come straight back into a church. Churches are going to have to act with a lot of wisdom and a lot of grace.’ Pray for an outpouring of wisdom on church leaders as they consider their congregation sizes, venue ventilation, and welfare of church members.

Published in British Isles
Friday, 09 July 2021 10:01

Covid: young people’s mental health

Covid-related pupil absence in England has hit a new high since students returned to school in March. Over 640,000 English pupils were not in school due to Covid last week; only 62,000 were confirmed or suspected Covid cases. Gavin Williamson plans to replace the present bubble system with a new increased testing regime so that pupils would only be sent home if they tested positive. Also the mental health impact of the pandemic could have lasting repercussions for young people leaving education to take their first steps on the career ladder, with over one in four 18- to 24-year-olds believing poor mental health will affect their ability to find a job. Research found that while the UK’s public health crisis has eased and the economy is recovering, over 20% of that age group are still reporting poor mental health. Pray for pupils in higher education to receive proactive support to thrive before any further damage is done.

Published in British Isles

A July prayer report looking at the opportunities and challenges of vaccinations, Covid-19 Hot Spots and some suggested Prayer Pointers with links to resources:

As of 6th July, the total global figure for people infected by Covid-19 stood at 184.3 million according to Johns Hopkins University. In addition to this, the recorded number who have died totalled 3,986,701.  After peaking in late April, cases declined throughout May and have remained steady in recent weeks

Covid-19 hot spots

Here are those countries / regions which are currently showing high levels of infection.

Brazil, India and Colombia currently have the highest case rates on a weekly basis, however these are declining relative to previous weeks.  Indonesia has seen a 35% increase in cases over the last week.  Other countries showing particular spikes include Spain, Myanmar and Russia whilst Africa recorded its record number of cases over the past week. There were 36,000 new infections reported per day, driven by a surge in South Africa.

Indonesia is suffering a serious rise in cases, its medical infrastructure is struggling to cope and is teetering on the brink of collapse as jammed hospitals turned away patients, forcing desperate families to hunt for oxygen tanks to treat the sick and dying at home.  CNN reports that more than 60 people died in a hospital last weekend (3/4 July) after oxygen supplies nearly ran out, as the country battles a severe wave of covid-19 that authorities say is driven by the more infectious Delta variant.  The world's fourth most populous nation is facing one of Asia's worst outbreaks, with a record high of 27,913 new cases reported on Saturday 3rd July. The islands of Bali and Java -- which includes the capital Jakarta -- went under emergency lockdown Saturday to curb the spread of the resurgent virus.  In a statement, the Sardjito hospital on Java said 63 patients died between Saturday and early Sunday after it nearly exhausted its oxygen supplies. The hospital said it had sought more oxygen for days before the incident, but virus patients streaming in since Friday had pushed it beyond its capacity, consuming oxygen faster than expected. 

The devastating wave of infections that recently overwhelmed India has passed however the full impact and devastation caused by this is still only now emerging. India remains the second worst-hit country in the world by the pandemic after the United States. The overall case count officially now stands at 30,619,932 cases, and 403,310 deaths although many fear it may be 5 or 6 times higher than this. Doctors have demanded additional protection after being subject to violence and assaults by frustrated and angry families whilst a lack of access to online learning, particularly for poorer girls, has led to research suggesting millions of girls could drop out of secondary school as a result of the pandemic. 

Brazil continues to see great suffering in 2021.  Thankfully, cases have decreased more rapidly over the last 2 weeks, although they still remain above levels seen last September. In total, Brazil has seen 18.79 million cases and 525,112 deaths.  

Although there has been a slight improvement in recent days, as the pandemic recedes in much of the world, according to the World Health Organisation, Latin America has become the driver of global infections. Mid June, the region recorded nearly half of the world’s 10 200 daily covid-19 deaths.  In Bolivia, Chile, and Uruguay, coronavirus cases are surging and hospitals are filling with younger patients aged 25-40 years old, said Carissa Etienne, director of WHO’s Latin American office, the Pan American Health organisation (PAHO).  Bolivia, Colombia, and Paraguay all recently saw record covid-19 fatalities in the last fortnight. Venezuela reported 1300 new covid-19 infections and 18 deaths on 1 July. Hospital data show that the actual figures are at least four times higher than those published by the authoritarian government, say public health experts and doctors.

New waves and Variants

It seems that new variants are emerging monthly, each presenting new and concerning challenges. Last month much of the focus was on the Delta variant which now appears to be the dominant worldwide strain. Four major Australian cities went into a four-day "circuit-breaker" lockdown this week to try and stop it from spreading. Australia's Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced looser vaccination policies to try to get more people immunized before the variant could spread. Ireland delayed plans to resume indoor service in bars and restaurants and US officials urged Americans to get vaccinated to stop its spread. The World Health Organization says the Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, has spread to at least 85 countries since it was first identified in India last fall. At least half of the United States is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases as the highly transmissible Indian 'Delta' variant continues to spread, according to a new analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

It is feared that the delta variant is responsible for much of the new, third wave affecting Africa, but the picture is unclear in a number of countries as testing – let alone genomic sequencing – is sparse.  Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the African Union’s Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance, has said “We are in acute emergency mode – we need to prepare oxygen, field hospitals, health workers, declare humanitarian emergencies in countries where the systems are overwhelmed, and have surge capacity people coming in if needs be,” she said.  She said that the pandemic in Africa was “silent”, with people suffering or dying at home . “In India we had the burning funeral pyres that the whole world looked at in horror,” she said. “This is like watching bodies slide under water, a silent mass drowning where people are reaching their hands up for help but no-one is watching and nobody can see.”

The latest variant to be highlighted by the World Health Organization, named Lambda, has now been found in at least 27 different countries. It is especially widespread across South America, having first appeared in Peru in August last year, and is accounting for more and more cases in these countries.

Having found its way to Europe, where there is already an ongoing battle against the Delta variant, due to lack of study it is still unclear how major a cause of concern it might be. It is not yet listed as a ‘variant of concern’, rather a ‘variant of interest’ by the WHO, meaning it has been identified as causing transmission or detected in multiple countries.

Some scientists fear that the Lamda variant that is ravaging Peru may be resistant to vaccines however there is no definitive data to support this yet.

This New York Times article provides a useful and detailed analysis of the nature and scientific understanding of variants.

Vaccines

“The global failure to share vaccines equitably is fueling a two-track pandemic that is now taking its toll on some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The emergence of variants has shone new light on the vaccination programmes as it is clear that without vaccination, the chain of transmission, hospitalisation and death will not be broken.  Whilst many poor nations are crying out for vaccinations for the most vulnerable, some rich nations have begun vaccinating teenagers where the risk is very small.

African countries are also suffering from a crippling shortage of Covid vaccines. Only 15 million people, just 1.2 percent of the entire African population are fully vaccinated, according to the WHO.

The African Union special envoy tasked with leading efforts to procure Covid-19 vaccines for the continent has blasted Europe on Thursday, saying that “not one dose, not one vial, has left a European factory for Africa”. Strive Masiyiwa took aim at the global scheme COVAX which was run by various organisations such as WHO and UN that was meant to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

Masiyiwa said COVAX had promised to deliver 700 million vaccine doses to Africa by December. But at mid-year, Africa has received just 65 million doses overall. Less than 50 million doses via COVAX have arrived.

Moreover, even those Africans who have been fully vaccinated may not be able to travel freely in a post-pandemic world. European Union has recently imposed restrictions on people vaccinated with Covishield, the Indian-produced version of the EU-accepted AstraZeneca vaccine. Dr Ayoade Alakija is the co-chair of the African Union’s Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance told BBC that if the decision is confirmed, that would amount to what she calls “vaccine-apartheid”.  “What it feels like there is a two-tier vaccine system in this new world… where we are living in one world, the pandemic is almost over, in another world the pandemic is quite frankly beginning.”

Latin America and the Caribbean continue to be hit by increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections and deaths, highlighting the stark global inequalities in access to vaccines, officials from the World Health Organization warned.

At a time “when we are seeing some reprieve from the virus in countries in the Northern Hemisphere,” Carissa Etienne, the director of the W.H.O.’s Pan American Health Organization, said at a news conference that for most countries in the Southern Hemisphere, “the end remains a distant future.”

Only one person in 10 has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean, she added, calling it an “unacceptable situation.”

“Access to Covid-19 vaccines shouldn’t be a privilege for a few but a right we all share,” Dr. Etienne said.

Current figures show that 3.25 vaccination does have been administered, 895 million people are fully vaccinated, representing 11.5% of the world population.

Let’s Pray… Let us continue to declare that the novel coronavirus is defeated by the blood of Jesus.

We pray for divine intervention and for God's name to be glorified even as each nation and government tries its best to prevent or control the emergence of new waves of infection and finally arrest this epidemic.

We pray that individuals, leaders and nations focus on the needs of others rather than themselves, and that cooperation and compassion lie at the heart of the world’s response to the crisis.

We pray for our scientists.  In particular we pray for those assessing and communicating risks associated with vaccines, that they be filled with wisdom and understanding. We pray too for those investigating, sequencing and analysing new variants.

We pray especially for the nation of Indonesia.  We stand with our brothers and sisters who are living amidst this uncertainty.  We pray in particular for those providing medical support in the most difficult of times. 

We release wisdom, skill, and integrity upon our leaders, particularly as they grapple with the complexities, challenges and many voices that seek to influence them.

We pray that leaders and nations will see their moral duty to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and back this up with action not just words.

We pray for protection, wisdom and strength, for those working to bring treatment and comfort to the sick and their families.

We pray for individuals struggling to decide whether to receive the vaccine.  We ask that their fears be settled and that the information they receive be truthful and honest.

We pray special grace and help for the vulnerable and lesser-developed nations.

We pray for a safe, effective, and affordable vaccine to be released soonest and the continued development of a range of vaccines to supply the whole world

We continue to release faith, hope, and love over the peoples of the world. May the Church seize this opportune time to manifest Jesus our Lord and Savior to those who are seeking answers and peace.

Thursday, 24 June 2021 22:34

Japan: Covid-wary Olympics

A month before the Olympics opening ceremony, many Japanese people remain resolutely opposed to the Games, amid fears that the influx of athletes, sport officials and journalists could worsen the continuing Covid outbreak in Tokyo and across the country. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and organisers are steadfast in their resolve to continue with the Games as anti-virus measures remain in place; they promise stringent protocols will prevent 93,000 visitors from worsening Japan’s outbreak. But questions still outnumber answers. Doctors and healthcare workers have the strongest opposition voices – an infection surge could overwhelm healthcare systems. ‘Front-line medical workers are being treated as disposable,’ said a 27-year-old nurse in Tokyo.Another factor fuelling public opposition is the sluggish pace of Japan’s vaccine rollout. A former Olympic athlete said the safety of people is not considered the priority. Instead, the IOC’s own interests are being considered the priority.

Published in Worldwide

A mid – June prayer report looking at the opportunities and challenges of vaccinations, Covid-19 Hot Spots and some suggested Prayer Pointers with links to resources:

As of 13th June, the total global figure for people infected by Covid-19 stood at 175.7 million according to Johns Hopkins University. In addition to this, the recorded number who have died totalled 3,796,642.  From a peak of worldwide daily cases in early January, numbers declined steadily until mid-February when they started to rise again, more recently exceeding the January peak.

Covid-19 hot spots

Here are those countries / regions which are currently showing high levels of infection.

The devastating wave of infections that overwhelmed India does appear to be slowing. India is the second worst-hit country in the world by the pandemic after the United States. The overall case count officially now stands at 29,439,989 cases, and 370,407 deaths although many fear it may be 5 or 6 times higher than this. The devastating second wave that engulfed India, one of the worst experienced by any nation, may finally have abated, but trauma and death has been left in its wake. There was barely a family in India left untouched by the virus, and with Covid hitting adults much worse than children, it has resulted in thousands becoming orphans in the past few weeks.

Brazil continues to see great suffering in 2021.  Cases have increased since early February, peaking at the start of April at over 100,000 per day.  The current daily average of 75,778 cases per day is slowly declining, but still exceeds that of the first wave in July 2020.   Total cases have exceeded 17.3 million with 486.358 deaths.  Having peaked at 4249 daily deaths on 8th April, the figure still remains high with over 2008 daily deaths still being reported.  Whereas many countries have seen sharp declines following a peak, Brazil has been much slower at reducing cases and deaths over time. 

South America continues to experience some of the highest levels of death due to COVID.  Over the week 6th-13th June, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Colombia have all experienced some of the highest levels of death relative to population size, although thankfully cases are declining in all of these countries.

The US continues to be the country with the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths related to Covid-19 with figures at around 34,315,873 and 614,955 respectively. Thankfully the daily infection rate has fallen dramatically from a 7 day rolling average high point of nearly 250,000 cases in early January to just over 16,000 cases mid-June (John Hopkins) and daily deaths were reported as 308 on 13 June .

Cases in European countries are relatively stable, having declined over the last 6 weeks in most countries.  There are signs of small rises in Russia and the UK amidst debates about the speed of easing restrictions and the possible impact of new variants. 

New waves and Variants

New variants of COVID 19 continue to be the source of discussion and focus, not least as their interaction with the vaccination programmes and new waves of infection become a greater priority.  The World Health Organisation have recently introduced a new naming convention for variants of Interest (VOI) and variants of concerns (VOC).  "No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants," Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for Covid-19 response, wrote in a Twitter post. Rather, a WHO expert panel recommends using Greek alphabet letters to refer to variants, "which will be easier and more practical to discussed by non-scientific audiences," WHO says on a new webpage on its website.

The P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil and designated a variant of concern in January, has been labelled "Gamma." The B.1.617.2 variant, first found in India and recently reclassified from a variant of interest to variant of concern, is "Delta." Variants of interest have been given labels from "Epsilon" to "Kappa."

This New York Times article provides a useful and detailed analysis of the nature and scientific understanding of variants. Some countries, like the USA have been fortunate in avoiding the rapid spread of variants whereas others, such as the UK, have been affected more significantly.  Thankfully, current variants do seem to be suppressed by effective vaccine rollouts, particularly when 2 doses have been administered.  Dr Anthony Fauci urged everyone who has received the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to make sure to sign up for a second. "And for those who have still not been vaccinated yet, please get vaccinated.”  He said vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and to stop this variant from spreading and becoming dominant in the U.S.

There has been much recent focus on the ‘Delta’ variant B.1.617 that was first detected in India in October. This is a concern because there is evidence that the risk of hospital admission is higher in people with the delta variant. Data also indicate that the variant is spreading rapidly through England’s schools. Public Health England has said the Delta (Indian) variant is 64% more transmissible than the Alpha (Kent) variant indoors and vaccines are less effective against it.

Vaccines

The vaccination programme remains the most likely vehicle for ending the pandemic.   As of late April, more than 2.36 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, with 12.2% of the world population having received at least one vaccine dose. Vaccines have now been administered in approximately 180 countries.  Vaccines remain concentrated in high income countriesabout 51% of people who have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine were from high income countries, and at least 48% were from Europe and North America, yet these countries only represent 16% of the world’s population. Because of the limited availability of vaccines, most countries are prioritizing certain groups of people to receive their shots before others. People who are older or more likely to become very ill or die from COVID-19 are usually prioritized over those who are young and healthy. Some groups are prioritized because they are more likely to come into contact with an infected person based on what they do or where they live and, in turn, infect others.

Vaccine inequality remains a serious and potentially worsening problem.  From Africa to Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean, the same issues have been replicated. On top of finding enough doses, there have been logistical difficulties with delivery, problems over healthcare infrastructure and, in some countries, public hesitancy towards vaccines.

Africa’s lack of vaccines – and the erratic supply of those that are eventually delivered – remains a major challenge. Only 28 million doses have been delivered on the continent so far – that’s less than 2% of the continent’s population – at a time when some wealthier countries have vaccinated well in excess of half their populations.

In terms of approved vaccines, the RAPS website provides a good overview of the current situation.  There are currently 16 vaccines with some form of regulatory approval, of which 7 are being used widely across the world.  9 new vaccines are currently in Phase 3 trials, with a further 7651 in earlier stages of development. This is unprecedented and something we should all give thanks for, not least when considering the partnership work between scientists, public and private organisations, which is a source of great optimism.

Moderna and Pfizer have released data suggesting that their vaccines are well tolerated in adolescents and highly effective in preventing COVID-19. Canada, the US and the EU have already authorised the Pfizer vaccine in children as young as 12, and the UK has just approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 12 to 15.  However, there is a much debate as to the benefit of vaccinating children in rich countries, particularly when so many more vulnerable people in the world remain unvaccinated.

Political Leadership

The G7 summit of world leaders has just finished and placed COVID at the centre of its discussions. In particular they focused on worldwide vaccination supply, but also economic recovery from the pandemic.  The group agreed to donate 1 billion doses to poorer nations, something welcomed by UNICEF who said “We welcome the commitment this week by leaders of G7 nations to accelerate the rollout of safe, effective, accessible and affordable vaccines for the poorest countries, with a goal toward ending the pandemic in 2022. Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines represents the clearest pathway out of this pandemic for all of us — children included, and commitments announced by G7 members last week are an important step in this direction.”  Others however have said that the group lacked ambition, highlighting that 12 billion vaccines would be needed worldwide, and a lack of clarity as to how the promised vaccines would be delivered.

Let’s Pray… Let us continue to declare that the novel coronavirus is defeated by the blood of Jesus.

We pray for divine intervention and for God's name to be glorified even as each nation and government tries its best to prevent or control the emergence of new waves of infection and finally arrest this epidemic.

We pray that individuals, leaders and nations focus on the needs of others rather than themselves, and that cooperation and compassion lie at the heart of the world’s response to the crisis.

We pray for our scientists.  In particular we pray for those assessing and communicating risks associated with vaccines, that they be filled with wisdom and understanding. We pray too for those investigating, sequencing and analysing new variants.

We pray especially for the nation of India.  We stand with our brothers and sisters who are living amidst this uncertainty.  We pray comfort for those who suffer and their families, and resilience for those providing medical support in the most difficult of times. 

We release wisdom, skill, and integrity upon our leaders, particularly as they grapple with the complexities, challenges and many voices that seek to influence them.

We pray that leaders and nations will see their moral duty to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and back this up with action not just words.

We pray for protection, wisdom and strength, for those working to bring treatment and comfort to the sick and their families.

We pray for individuals struggling to decide whether to receive the vaccine.  We ask that their fears be settled and that the information they receive be truthful and honest.

We pray special grace and help for the vulnerable and lesser-developed nations.

We pray for a safe, effective, and affordable vaccine to be released soonest and the continued development of a range of vaccines to supply the whole world

We continue to release faith, hope, and love over the peoples of the world. May the Church seize this opportune time to manifest Jesus our Lord and Savior to those who are seeking answers and peace.

Thursday, 17 June 2021 22:00

Young people driving Covid growth

On 16 June Parliament rubber-stamped extending lockdown rules in England until 19 July. Scientists say Covid is growing - with much of it being driven by younger people who are not yet immunised. However, tentative signs in the latest daily data suggest growth may be beginning to slow. The rollout of vaccinations to younger people is key to reducing further spread. Rising infections have boosted a seven-day average to 7,888 cases. The UK recorded 9,055 cases on 16 June - the highest number since 25 February. Hospitalisations have also increased, but daily deaths remain low, with a weekly average of nine deaths within 28 days of a positive test. The Government has clearly announced that it wants to vaccinate all adults in the period between now and 19 July. That will make a very big difference and increase the overall population immunity.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 17 June 2021 21:58

Truth in the pandemic

Justin Welby said, ‘The world is facing a crisis of truth. Claims and counterclaims about the virus, vaccines and the effectiveness of government responses take centre-stage globally. Conspiracy theories circle the globe; misinformation causes repercussions. We need to learn to judge the information we receive, think critically and kindly, and act accordingly.’ There has been a rise in conspiracy theories, anti-vaccination campaigns and growing confusion as people question whether Covid-19 is really a threat. Social media stand accused of spreading misinformation faster than reliable facts and corrections. Is the vaccine safe? Are the statistics accurate? How likely am I to get Covid? The postmodern idea of all truth being relative falls far short of the mark when the truth can save your life.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 27 May 2021 21:59

2021 housing crisis

A lack of effective and sustained government action and funding is partly to blame for a crisis in the quality of England’s homes, according to a new report entitled ‘Past, present and future: housing policy and poor-quality homes’. It finds that while the government has a crucial role in protecting the nation’s housing stock, dramatic funding cuts and failure to act have left England’s homes crumbling. Today, an estimated ten million people in England are at risk because they live in a home which doesn’t meet basic standards, with the majority of these homes posing a serious risk to their inhabitants’ health or safety. Previous research by the Centre for Ageing Better and the King’s Fund highlighted the link between poor-quality housing and Covid-19; those who are most at risk of the disease are more likely to be living in non-decent homes.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 13 May 2021 21:06

Covid variants and booster debate

A leading scientist and member of SAGE says the lockdown easing in June ‘could be delayed', as Indian variant cases are increasing in UK hotspots. Vaccine developers are asserting we will need annual boosters or new vaccines to tackle variants, but some scientists are questioning whether this will be needed. When Pfizer said people could need annual boosters, the ex-director of Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case. Scientists said anticipation around the need for boosters is being set by pharmaceutical executives not health specialists, though ‘preparing for such a need as a precaution was prudent’. The director of WHO’s department of Immunisation said, ‘We don't see the data yet that would inform a decision about whether or not booster doses are needed.’

Published in British Isles
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