Thursday, April 15, 2021

Today's Annual meeting of Cumbria County Council

Today's Annual General Meeting of Cumbria County Council (about to start at 10am on 15th April 2021)  will include the election of the council leader and the Chair and Vice chair of the council.

The meeting will take place online and this link should enable you to watch and listen to the meeting:

https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_NDJjMjhiMTktNGFjNi00Yjc5LTg2N2YtZjYyMTgyYWVjMGE3%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%22ac4b077e-a758-4bc5-9465-35c192007704%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%2292abf29a-2999-4456-9c44-884bfe2e94a3%22%2c%22IsBroadcastMeeting%22%3atrue%7d&btype=a&role=a

The agenda and supporting documents can be found on the County Council website at:

Agenda for County Council on Thursday, 15th April, 2021, 10.00 am | Cumbria County Council


Care Homes

Yesterday the government launched a five week consultation on making vaccines a condition of deployment for staff in care homes with older adult residents in England – as part of the aim to explore every option to protect the lives of the most vulnerable to the virus.

  • Older people living in care homes continue to be most at risk of suffering the serious consequences of Covid-19, and despite best efforts to protect them, we have seen the grave effect the virus has had on this group.
     
  • With nearly half of all care homes with older adult residents yet to meet SAGE’s recommended vaccine threshold, we have opened a consultation on making vaccines a condition of deployment – which would provide greater protection for staff and residents, helping save lives.
     
  • Vaccines are our best way out of this pandemic, already taking millions of people out of the path of the virus and preventing deaths – and in our duty of care to those most vulnerable, we will not hesitate in considering all options to keep them safe.

A very good article on the impact of the pandemic

There was an excellent and very comprehensive piece in the FT on Tuesday about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic based on excess death figures. You can read it here.

I will be commenting in a bit more detail after today's council meeting.

It begins as follows:

"The human cost of coronavirus has continued to mount, with more than 136.6m cases confirmed globally and more than 2.9m people known to have died."

The article later explains the basis they have used for comparison:

"There are concerns, however, that reported Covid-19 deaths are not capturing the true impact of coronavirus on mortality around the world. The FT has gathered and analysed data on excess mortality — the numbers of deaths over and above the historical average — across the globe, and has found that numbers of deaths in some countries are more than 50 per cent higher than usual. In many countries, these excess deaths exceed reported numbers of Covid-19 deaths by large margins."

The article includes these charts and tables showing which countries have had the largest number of excess deaths in both absolute terms and per head of population, and how the death rate has varied over time by country compared with the five year average for the relevant time of year as successive waves of the pandemic have hit different countries.























It also reports on the efforts being made to vaccinate people around the world and other strategies to control the pandemic. In terms of excess deaths per head of population the FT ranks Britain just outside the twenty worst-hit countries at 21st out of the 48 countries for which they had enough reliable data to calculate excess deaths.

Afghanistan

Yesterday the Foreign and Defence Secretaries confirmed the UK will join the US and our NATO allies in drawing down our forces in Afghanistan over the coming months but will remain steadfastly committed to supporting lasting peace and stability in the region.  

  • Britain stands with NATO and the people of Afghanistan to support a more stable, peaceful future for the country, and will continue to work closely with the US, our allies and partners to ensure the security and stability of the wider region.
     
  • As UK forces are we withdrawn, the government will plan for an orderly departure of our people, which ensures the security of our people currently serving, and will continue to help build up Afghanistan’s capacity for self-governance and will continue with counter-terrorism support to help protect the gains made over the last 20 years.
     
  • Many in our Armed Forces community, both serving and veterans, will have lasting memories of their service in Afghanistan, and as we conclude our military operations there, we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and who will never be forgotten.

Quote of the day 15th April 2021

"If Prince Philip had lived to hear the House of Commons tributes to him, he might well have died laughing."


(Title of Commons Sketch article by Tom Peck, suggesting that the late Duke of Edinburgh, who had a great sense of humour, had said that he didn't want any fuss over his death, and was known for his brutal honesty and for saying exactly what he thought, might have been very amused by some of the things which MPs said about him on Monday.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Vaccination update

40,496,685 doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines have now been administered in the United Kingdom.

388,808 doses in the latest 24hr period.

32,326,604 people have received at least one dose, of whom 8,170,081 have had both jabs and are now fully vaccinated.









On Monday, Britain reached our target to vaccinate the most vulnerable by the 15th of April - meaning that we can now begin to vaccinate those aged over 45 as we continue to progress towards our target of offering all adults across the UK a vaccine by the end of July.

  • We have met our target to vaccinate the most vulnerable by the 15th of April, meaning that all those in the target groups 1-9  have now been offered a life-saving Covid-19 jab, more than 40 million of which have been given in total.
     
  • That is why, in line with JCVI recommendations to vaccinate people by age, invitations to receive a vaccine should be sent to all those aged over 45. If you are over 45 you do not have to wait to get a letter: ring 119 between 7am and 11pm on any day of the week or go on the vaccination booking website.
     
  • Prioritising those at increased risk from the virus will ensure that we save the most lives as we continue to progress towards our target of offering all adults across the UK a vaccine by the end of July.
     
  • Following a successful start last week in Wales, the Moderna vaccine is now being rolled-out in England as of yesterday, meaning the UK now has three safe and effective vaccines being rolled out across the country.

Blood clot risks

This graphic shows the proportion of people who have had blood clots following one of a number of four other possible events - having the Oxford AstraZeneca jab, taking the birth control pill, smoking, or catching COVID-19.

These percentages are an indication of correlation, not causation. The lower the level of correlation the weaker the argument that there is a causal connection.

But if there is a causal connection - which is not proven - the average person has about 40,000 times more risk of getting blood clots as a catching COVID-19 as they have of getting one as a result of being vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

Midweek madrigal: "Come Again, sweet love doth now invite," by John Dowland

University students can return from 17th May

It has been announced that all university students will be able to return to campus from 17th May, ensuring they can they get the world class education they deserve, while also stopping the spread of the virus.

  • It has always been a high priority has to keep young people as safe as possible while ensuring that they continue to receive the high-quality education that they deserve.
     
  • That is why the government announced yesterday that all students will be able to return to university from the 17th of May - and is putting in additional support to ensure this is safe, including twice-weekly testing for all students and staff and a further £15 million in funding for students facing financial hardship.
     
  • Allowing the return of face-to-face teaching will mean that students can get back to normal and continue to access the best possible opportunities as we build back better from the pandemic.

Comeback of the century

"This is completely unacceptable".

(Sir Keir Starmer, then shadow Brexit secretary)

"We've actually cut and pasted this from your own web site"

(Gavin Barwell, then Chief of Staff to PM Theresa May)

Quote of the day 14th April 2021

 


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Campaigning resumes

The Conservative party and most other political parties suspended campaigning as a mark of respect from the sad news of Prince Philip's death for several days.

Campaigning for the local and police and crime commissioner elections has now resumed, but will stop again for the day on Saturday, the day of his funeral.

The path out of lockdown

Yesterday, shops, gyms, hairdressers, pubs and restaurants reopened in a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom. The government and health professionals have urged everyone to continue to behave responsibly as we push on with our vaccination programme.

  • Yesterday Britain reached the second phase of our cautious easing of lockdown restrictions as part of our route back to a more normal way of life.
     
  • This means that non-essential retail, outdoor attractions, indoor leisure facilitates, hospitality venues and self-contained accommodation are now able to open once again, funerals can continue with up to 30 people and the numbers able to attend weddings and receptions has risen to 15.
     
  • Whilst this will be a relief for business owners, and a chance for everyone to get back to doing many of the things they’ve missed, we urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’.

Quote of the day 13th April 2021


 

Vaccination update

Britain has now reached our target of schedule to offer a vaccine to all those in priority groups 1 – 9, meaning the most vulnerable in society have been given precious protection against Covid-19. This allows us to move forwards in our vaccine programme.

  • Ahead of our target date of 15 April, yesterday we hit the significant milestone of offering a vaccine to all those in the priority groups 1 – 9. 
     
  • This means that all adults over 50, the clinically vulnerable and health and social care workers have now been offered a life-saving Covid-19 jab, nearly 40 million of which have been given in total, and we can prepare to move into the next phase of our vaccination programme following advice from the JCVI on how to carry this out. 
     
  • We can all be grateful to everyone involved in the vaccine rollout which has already saved many thousands of lives, and the NHS will continue to progress towards our target of offering all adults a vaccine by the end of July.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Music to relax on a Monday evening: the RAF Central Band play the theme from "633 squadron"

I was just about to arrive at my destination earlier today when Ron Goodwin's theme from "633 squadron" came on the car radio. I really wanted to stop and listen to it but had to go in and fire up the computer and attend an online meeting.

So I'm now listening instead to this particularly good performance of the theme for a fictional RAF squadron played by the real airmen of the RAF central band.
 

PM's tribute to HRH Prince Philip in the House of Commons

 

The Prime Minister made the following tribute in the House of Commons this afternoon:

"Mr Speaker, I beg to move:

That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty expressing the deepest sympathies of this House on the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and the heartfelt thanks of this House and this nation for his unfailing dedication to this Country and the Commonwealth, exemplified in his distinguished service in the Royal Navy in the Second World War; his commitment to young people in setting up The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a scheme which has touched the lives of millions across the globe; his early, passionate commitment to the environment; and his unstinting support to Your Majesty throughout his life.

Mr Speaker, it is fitting that on Saturday His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh will be conveyed to his final resting place in a Land Rover, which Prince Philip had designed himself, with a long wheel base and a capacious rear cabin, because that vehicle’s unique and idiosyncratic silhouette reminds the world that he was above all a practical man, who could take something very traditional – whether a machine or indeed a great national institution – and find a way by his own ingenuity to improve it, to adapt it for the 20th or the 21st century.

That gift for innovation was apparent from his earliest career in the Navy. When he served in the second world war, he was mentioned in despatches for his “alertness and appreciation of the situation” during the Battle of Cape Matapan, and he played a crucial role in helping to sink two enemy cruisers. But it was later, during the invasion of Sicily, that he was especially remembered by his crewmates for what he did to save their own ship.

In a moment of high danger, at night, when HMS Wallace was vulnerable to being blown up by enemy planes, he improvised a floating decoy – complete with fires to make it look like a stricken British vessel – so that the Wallace was able to slip away, and the enemy took out the decoy.

He was there at Tokyo Bay in 1945, barely 200 yards away from the Japanese surrender on the deck of USS Missouri; but he wasn’t content just to watch history through his binoculars. It seems that he used the lull to get on with repainting the hull of HMS Whelp; and throughout his life – a life that was by necessity wrapped from such a young age in symbol and ceremony – one can see that same instinct, to look for what was most useful, and most practical, and for what would take things forward.

He was one of the first people in this country to use a mobile phone. In the 1970s, he was driving an electric taxi on the streets of London – the fore-runner of the modern low-carbon fleet, and, again, a vehicle of his own specifications. He wasn’t content just to be a carriage driver. He played a large part in pioneering and codifying the sport of competitive carriage driving.

And if it is true that carriage-driving is not a mass-participation sport – not yet – he had other novel ideas that touched the lives of millions, developed their character and confidence, their teamwork and self-reliance. It was amazing and instructive, to listen on Friday to the Cabinet’s tributes to the Duke, and to hear how many were proud to say that they, or their children, had benefited from taking part in his Duke of Edinburgh Award schemes.

I will leave it to the House to speculate as to who claimed to have got a gold award, and who got a bronze. But I believe those ministers spoke for millions of people – across this country and around the world – who felt that the Duke had in some way touched their lives, people whose work he supported in the course of an astonishing 22,219 public engagements, people he encouraged, and, yes, he amused.

It is true that he occasionally drove a coach and horses through the finer points of diplomatic protocol, and he coined a new word – dontopedalogy – for the experience of putting your foot in your mouth.

And it is also true that among his more parliamentary expressions he commented adversely on the French concept of breakfast, and told a British student in Papua New Guinea that he was lucky not to be eaten, and that the people of the Cayman Islands were descended from pirates, and that he would like to go to Russia except that, as he put it, “the bastards murdered half my family”.

But the world did not hold it against him, Mr Speaker. On the contrary, they overwhelmingly understood that he was trying to break the ice, to get things moving, to get people laughing and forget their nerves; and to this day there is a community in the Pacific islands that venerates Prince Philip as a god, or volcano spirit – a conviction that was actually strengthened when a group came to London to have tea with him in person.

When he spoke so feelingly about the problems of overpopulation, and humanity’s relentless incursion on the natural world, and the consequent destruction of habitat and species, he contrived to be at once politically incorrect and also ahead of his time.

In a quite unparalleled career of advice and encouragement and support, he provided one particular service that I believe the House will know in our hearts was the very greatest of all. In the constant love he gave to Her Majesty the Queen – as her liege man of life and limb, in the words he spoke at the Coronation – he sustained her throughout this extraordinary second Elizabethan age, now the longest reign of any monarch in our history.

It was typical of him that in wooing Her Majesty – famously not short of a jewel or two – he offered jewellery of his own design. He dispensed with the footmen in powdered wigs. He introduced television cameras, and at family picnics in Balmoral he would barbecue the sausages on a large metal contraption that all Prime Ministers must have goggled at for decades, complete with rotisserie and compartments for the sauces, that was – once again, Mr Speaker - a product of his own invention and creation.

Indeed as an advocate of skills and craft and science and technology this country has had no royal champion to match him since Prince Albert, and I know that in due course the House and the country will want to consider a suitable memorial to Prince Philip.

It is with that same spirit of innovation that as co-gerent of the Royal Family, he shaped and protected the monarchy, through all the vicissitudes of the last seven decades, and helped to modernise and continually to adapt an institution that is above politics, that incarnates our history, and that is indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.

By his unstinting service to The Queen, the Commonwealth, the armed forces, the environment, to millions of people young and not so young around the world, and to countless other causes, he gave us and he gives us all a model of selflessness, and of putting others before ourselves. And though I expect Mr Speaker, he might be embarrassed or even exasperated to receive these tributes, he made this country a better place, and for that he will be remembered with gratitude and with fondness for generations to come."

Annual meeting of Cumbria County Council

The April 2021 full council meeting of Cumbria County Council on 15th April 2021  has been designated as the Annual General Meeting and will include the election of the council leader and the Chair and Vice chair of the council.

The meeting will take place online starting at 10am this link should enable you to watch and listen to the meeting:

https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_NDJjMjhiMTktNGFjNi00Yjc5LTg2N2YtZjYyMTgyYWVjMGE3%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%22ac4b077e-a758-4bc5-9465-35c192007704%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%2292abf29a-2999-4456-9c44-884bfe2e94a3%22%2c%22IsBroadcastMeeting%22%3atrue%7d&btype=a&role=a

The agenda and supporting documents can be found on the County Council website at:

Agenda for County Council on Thursday, 15th April, 2021, 10.00 am | Cumbria County Council



Quote of the day 12th April 2021


 

Watch out for Ice and Snow this morning

After yesterday's wildly fluctuating weather conditions I had to remove a layer of ice from the windscreen this morning for the first time in several months. Watch out for slippery surfaces if you are travelling.



Sunday, April 11, 2021

Low Sunday

Today is nicknamed "Low Sunday" because the church usually seems very empty compared with Easter Sunday the week before.

Compared with pre-COVID attendances the church was not particularly full, but St James' Whitehaven was as full as I have seen it since the first lockdown.

Sunday music spot: Sanctus from the Mozart Requiem

Quote of the day 11th April 2021


 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Political campaigning suspended

As a mark of respect following the death of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, all political campaigning has been suspended until further notice.

That includes social media posts so I will not be posting anything on this blog or elsewhere on social media which could reasonably be seen as making party-political points.

I will be passing on any important public health information which comes to my attention, and giving details of council meetings in a non-partisan manner. Items which are not party-political, such as music posts and inspirational messages of a non-partisan nature - will continue to appear.


Music spot for Saturday 10th April 2021: "Requiem Aeternam" from the Mozart requiem

This is the start of Mozart's famous "Requiem Mass." 

The lyrics roughly translate as follows: 

"Grant them eternal rest O Lord,
and may everlasting light shine upon them.
You are praised, O God in Sion,
and worshipped in Jerusalem.
Here may prayer, O Lord, for all living things will come before you.

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may everlasting light shine upon them."


Quotes of the day 10th April 2021

1) "He's the money man - except that we haven't got any money."

(The late HRH Prince Philip when George Osborne was being introduced as the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a bemused President of Indonesia, according to a tweet from GO yesterday.). 

Another example of the late Prince's humour: when  HRH Prince Philip and PM Jean Chr├ętien met for the first time, they spoke entirely in French.

Chr├ętien said: "You speak French very well for an Englishman".

Prince Philip replied:


2) "I am NOT an Englishman, and I've been speaking French since before you were born!"


Friday, April 09, 2021

Music spot 9th April 2021: March from Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary

The First Sea Lord's tribute ...


 

The Chief of Defence Staff's tribute to Prince Philip

 


Prime Minister Boris Johnson pays tribute to Prince Philip


"It was with great sadness that a short time ago I received word from Buckingham Palace that His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has passed away at the age of 99.

Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world.

He was the longest serving consort in history,

one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in the second world war at Cape Matapan, where he was mentioned in despatches for bravery

and in the invasion of Sicily, where he saved his ship by his quick thinking and from that conflict he took an ethic of service that he applied throughout the unprecedented changes of the post war era.

Like the expert carriage driver that he was he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.

He was an environmentalist, and a champion of the natural world long before it was fashionable.

With his Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme he shaped and inspired the lives of countless young people

and at literally tens of thousands of events he fostered their hopes and encouraged their ambitions.

We remember the Duke for all of this and above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty The Queen.

Not just as her consort, by her side every day of her reign, but as her husband, her “strength and stay”, of more than 70 years.

And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today.

Because they have lost not just a much-loved and highly respected public figure, but a devoted husband and a proud and loving father, grandfather and, in recent years, great-grandfather.

Speaking on their golden wedding anniversary, Her Majesty said that our country owed her husband “a greater debt than he would ever claim or we shall ever know” and I am sure that estimate is correct.

So we mourn today with Her Majesty The Queen

we offer our condolences to her and to all her family

and we give thanks, as a nation and a Kingdom, for the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh."

(Boris Johnson)

Prince Philip RIP

I was very sad to see that Prince Philip has died at the age of 99.

There is likely to be a pause in political campaigning as a gesture of respect. There will be no political posts on this blog until further notice.

Prince Philip served his country for longer than the traditional measure of a human lifetime, first as a naval officer - who fought in World War II against fascism and the Nazis - and then in giving decades of faithful support to Her Majesty the Queen.

Thoughts and prayers are with Her majesty and the royal family at this sad time.

Rest in Peace.





Investing in British colleges

The government has announced that sixteen colleges across England will benefit from transformative investment to upgrade their facilities, creating more excellent places for people to learn and get the skills they need to secure great jobs.  

  • As we recover from this pandemic, it is vital our colleges continue to be great places to learn with excellent facilities.
     
  • That is why the Prime Minister launched the £1.5 billion Further Education Capital Transformation Fund to rebuild colleges that are modern, fit for purpose and meet the needs of students and the communities they serve. The next sixteen colleges in England most in need to upgrade and revitalise their estates will now receive their funding.
     
  • This will help make sure that every student can access high quality education and training no matter where they live as we build back better and spread opportunity across the country.

Quote of the day 9th April 2021


 

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Vaccination update



NHS England has also confirmed that as of 4th April, the following percentages of people in England in the categories described had had a first dose of an approved vaccine:

95% of people aged 80 or over

Approximately 100% of people aged 75-79

97% of people aged 70-74

94% of people aged 65-69

97% of people aged 60-64

94% of people aged  55-59

87% of people aged 50-54

28% of people aged 16-49

And also 92% of people shielding and 79% of staff in care homes for the elderly.

To achieve this level of protection against a deadly disease none of us had heard of fifteen months ago is an incredible achievement for the scientists, NHS staff and everyone else involved. 

Meeting Britain's obligations to British Overseas Citizens from Hong Kong

The government has announced today that British National (Overseas) citizens and their families coming to the United Kingdom from Hong Kong will benefit from a dedicated package of support, helping them find a home, schools for their children, opportunity and prosperity.

  • We have a moral and historic duty to uphold freedom in Hong Kong, which is why the UK government introduced a pathway for people with British National (Overseas) Citizen status who have had their rights curtailed by the Chinese government to come and live in the UK.
     
  • Backed by over £43 million, our Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) Integration Programme will ensure new arrivals can access advice and support to find a home and schools for their children, register with a GP, find a job or set up a business and access English language skills if they need them.
     
  • We are a champion of freedom and democracy, and this package of support will help new arrivals to build a prosperous, happy and successful life in the United Kingdom.

Imperial College report on the progress of the battle against the pandemic

New research from Imperial College London shows Britain's rollout of the life-saving vaccines is working and has led to the number of infections dropping by 60 per cent since February – but we are not in the clear yet. It is vital that everyone continues to show caution as we gradually return to normality.

  • These findings are promising and illustrate the significant impact that lockdown, combined with our phenomenal vaccination programme, is having on the prevalence of this dreadful virus.
     
  • We are meeting the government's four tests for easing the lockdown and there are many reasons to be optimistic for the future, but we cannot let this come at the expense of vigilance today.
     
  • The only way to safeguard the progress we have made as a country is by continuing to show caution and by doing everything we can to drive this virus into retreat – practising hands, face, space and meeting outdoors, and, accepting the offer of a vaccine, when it comes.

Bach's arrangement in A minor for four harpsichords, of Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins

I wtote on Tuesday that I love this piece, but have never quite been able to make up my mind whether I prefer the original Vivialdi version for four violins (which I was posting then) or the version as Bach transcribed it for four harpsichords. 

So here is the latter.

Further update on the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab

The post earlier today about the AZ vaccine was based partly on my own views and knowledge and partly on a BBC article to which I linked. I have now had the following additional information about it from official sources.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives - and when people are called forward, they should get their jab.

  • As the MHRA – the UK’s independent regulator – and the JCVI have said, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks for the vast majority of adults.
     
  • Everybody who has already had a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should receive a second dose of the same brand, irrespective of age, except for the very small number of people who experienced blood clots with low platelet counts from their first vaccination.
     
  • The government will follow the updated advice, which sets out that, as a precaution, it is preferable for people under the age of 30 with no underlying health conditions to be offered an alternative vaccine where possible once they are eligible.
     
  • When people are called forward, they should get their jab. Vaccines are the best way out of this pandemic and provide strong protection against Covid-19. We are very grateful for the work of our world-leading regulator and our expert advisors as they continue to address this issue.
     
  • More than 37 million jabs overall have already been administered, and we are on track to offer jabs to all over 50s by 15 April and all adults by the end of July.


The Oxford - AstraZeneca Jab

I've had a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination three weeks ago. I had no side-effects whatsoever, and unless very dramatic new evidence turns up in the meantime prompting any further change of medical and scientific advice, I shall have no hesitation at all in having the second jab when it is due.

The only clots I am worried about are Anti-Vaxxers.

Both the UK and European medicine safety regulators say that the jab is safe and effective and saves lives.

Because the effects of the vaccination rollout is being extremely carefully monitored, it has been found that of the 20 million people in the UK who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, 79 have developed a type of rare blood clot, of whom 19 have died.

You don't need to be Alan Turing to work out that this is slightly less than four people in a million who have had the vaccine and also had blood clots, and slightly less than one in a million who actually died with them.

The regulators have pointed out that there is no proof of a causal relationship between the vaccination and the blood clots - a certain small number of people get these clots anyway. Anyone who assumes that the vaccine caused all these clots is making a mistake so old that scholars of logic usually refer to it by the latin name it was first given many hundreds of years ago - post hoc ergo propter hoc

That is latin for "After this, therefore because of this," something which does not necessarily follow. As per my quote of the day, correlation does not prove causation. 

This type of clotting is very rare, but some people do get these clots anyway, and since 60% of UK adults have had a COVID vaccination, the majority of whom have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, it is almost certain that the group of people vaccinated will include a substantial proportion of the people who were already going to develop these blood clots and would have done so whether they had had the vaccination or not. 

It is possible that there may be a correlation, and that that this may be a result of a causal relationship, but as I understand it the scientists are still cautioning us that it has not been proved. And even if it exists the risks are very low indeed, both compared to the risks of dying of COVID-19 and the risks of developing blood clots for other reasons - including COVID-19.

Even if the vaccination did cause these clots, someone my age would be more than a thousand times more likely to die, or for that matter get blood clots, as a result of COVID-19 if I hadn't had the vaccine than I actually am of getting them as a result of having taken the jab. COVID-19 causes side effects too, and one of the things it is associated with is a higher incidence of blood clots. Of cause, correlation does not prove causation in that case either but it is at least as likely.

The same would be true of all the people in their forties and fifties or above who are being offered the vaccination at the moment. Anyone who is concerned that they might be particularly vulnerable to blood clotting or any other issue should seek medical advice from their GP or another medical professional with relevant qualifications.


The review by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found:

  • Nearly two-thirds of the cases of rare clots were seen in women
  • The people who died were aged between 18 and 79, with three of them aged under 30
  • All the recorded cases occurred after the first dose, although the lower number of second doses meant it was not possible to draw any conclusions from this

Meanwhile, the EU's medicines regulator, the EMA, says unusual blood clots should be listed as a possible very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca jab, but that the benefits outweighed the risks

The World Health Organization said the link between the vaccine and blood clots was "plausible" but not confirmed, adding that the clotting incidents were "very rare" among nearly 200 million people who have received the jab worldwide.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK's review confirmed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is "safe, effective and the benefits far outweigh the risks for the vast majority of adults".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the AstraZeneca vaccine had "already saved thousands of lives" and the new advice should ensure people of all ages "continue to have full confidence in vaccines".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also urged people to "trust in our doctors and scientists" and said he was looking forward to receiving his second AstraZeneca dose.

AstraZeneca said both the MHRA and the EMA reviews reaffirmed that the benefits of the vaccine "continue to far outweigh the risks".


The MHRA is recommending, however, that when the vaccination rollout reaches people aged 18 to 29 for whom the balance of risk is less overwhelming, they should have the option of taking one of the other vaccines rather than the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.


 June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said the side-effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine were "extremely rare" - and more work was going to identify if the vaccine was definitely causing the clots.


"The balance of benefits and known risks is still very favourable for the majority of people," she said.


But she said for younger age groups it was more "finely balanced".


She added: "The public's safety is at the forefront of our minds." 


Professor Lim Wei Shen, of the JCVI, (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) said the move was being made "out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns".


Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chairman of the Commission on Human Medicines, said the risks had to be weighed against the consequences of Covid-19, which also causes clotting.


He said 7.8% of coronavirus patients suffer blood clots on the lungs, while 11.2% will suffer deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs.


People who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should still get their second dose, the MHRA said. Only those who suffered one of these rare blood clots after the first dose should not get vaccinated, it added.


Pregnant women and people with blood disorders that leave them at risk of clotting should discuss the benefits and risks of vaccination with their doctor before going for a jab.


Anyone who suffers symptoms such as a persistent headache, blurred vision or confusion for four days or more after vaccination or who experience unusual skin bruising, shortness of breath or chest pain are being asked to seek medical advice.


England's deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, described the move as a "course correction" - and said it was normal in medicine to change preferences in this way.


He also said the impact on the government's promise to offer all adults a jab by the end of July should be "zero or negligible" as long as the expected supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines - the other two Covid vaccines in use in the UK - arrived as expected in the coming months.


The source for much of the information in this post is an article on the BBC website here.

Quote of the day 8th April 2021

 “One of the first things taught in introductory statistics textbooks is that correlation is not causation. It is also one of the first things forgotten.”

 Thomas Sowell, "The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy")



Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Digital Markets

The government has launched a new Digital Markets Unit today, boosting online competition and giving consumers greater choice and control over their data.

  • As millions of us increasingly rely on online platforms to work, shop and stay in touch with loved ones, we are determined to crack down on the unfair practices which leave businesses and consumers with less choice and more expensive goods and services. 
     
  • The new Digital Markets Unit will help foster a new pro-competition regime and break up the concentration of power among a small number of businesses which raise concerns about monopolistic behaviour; and will begin by rebalancing the relationship between online platforms and content providers such as news publishers.
     
  • The UK has a world leading reputation as a global tech hub, and by ensuring the system is fair, we can help unleash the talents and innovation of our smaller business while giving businesses and consumers greater choice and more security.

Developing and testing safe new medicines

The government announced today that life science manufacturing companies can now apply to the £20 million Medicines and Diagnostics Manufacturing Transformation Fund – harnessing the best of UK manufacturing to boost our ability to respond to future pandemics.

  • British scientists'  incredible response to the pandemic reminds us of the vital importance of championing scientific innovation and capabilities. 
     
  • That is why the government has launched a new £20 million fund designed to strengthen and grow our medicines and diagnostics manufacturing industry, encouraging companies to develop new technologies, build more factories and improve our domestic supply chains – helping create hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the UK. 
     
  • As we build back better, and more resilient, from the pandemic, this will help ensure UK companies remain in a formidable position to continue to lead the global response to the most pressing challenges of our time.

Midweek Music Spot: Mozart "Rondo Alla Turca"

Vaccination Update


 

Quote of the day 7th April 2021

 


Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Supporting business

Today, the government announced further support for businesses who have been forced to close due to the pandemic, as we continue to protect jobs and support businesses across the country.

  • We have stopped at nothing to protect jobs and livelihoods throughout the pandemic and as the situation has evolved, we have ensured that our support continues to meet businesses’ needs.
     
  • As we safely reopen parts of our economy, our new Recovery Loan Scheme will deliver loans of between £25,000 and £10 million to ensure that businesses have access to the finance they need as we move out of this crisis.
     
  • There is now a light at the end of the tunnel and this latest support will ensure we are protecting jobs and businesses so that we can build back better.

Moving to Step Two of the route out of lockdown

Yesterday, the Prime Minister confirmed that, having continued to meet the four tests, the UK will move to Step Two on our cautious roadmap – reopening shops, gyms, zoos, personal care services and outdoor hospitality on 12 April.

  • All our collective efforts have given us crucial time and space to roll-out our record-breaking vaccination programme, that has now vaccinated over 31.5 million people.
     
  • That is why from Monday 12 April, Britain will move to Step Two of our roadmap - reopening shops, gyms, zoos, personal care services, outdoor hospitality, and increasing the number of visitors to care homes from one to two.
     
  • However, as set out in the roadmap, the success of the UK’s vaccination programme does not provide universal protection. In view of this we have established four programmes of work to consider different aspects of how we should handle COVID-19 from summer onwards. These reviews are looking at COVID-status certification, international travel, large events and social distancing to ensure a consistent approach that protects the health of the public, communities and our economy.
     
  • We set out our roadmap and we’re sticking to it but we must remain cautious by monitoring the data at every stage and by following the rules: remembering hands, face, space and fresh air - that we hope together will make this roadmap to freedom irreversible.

Tuesday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto for 4 violins in B minor

I love this piece. 

Though I've never quite been able to make up my mind whether I prefer the original Vivialdi version for four violins (as here) or the version as Bach transcribed it for four harpsichords.

Quote of the day 6th April 2021

 "Nicola Sturgeon deserves to lose."

(Title of article on the Scottish parliament elections by Stephen Daisley which eviscerates the case for voting SNP and which you can read in full here.)

Monday, April 05, 2021

Vaccination update

 


Today's statement from the Prime Minister

 The Prime Minister made the following statement at a press conference this afternoon:

 

"Good afternoon, I hope you’re all continuing to enjoy the Easter break,

and I know that over this weekend millions of people have been able to see loved ones for the first time in months.

And I want to thank you all again for your patience,

because it is really clear now that this is paying off.

And it your collective efforts, our collective efforts, that has given us that crucial time and space to vaccinate more than 31 million people.

And I’m pleased that we’ve also been able to support our overseas territories

so that Gibraltar has become one of the first places in the world to offer a vaccination to its entire adult population.

And the net result of your efforts and the vaccine roll-out is that I can today confirm that from Monday 12th April, we will move to Step Two of our roadmap -

re-opening shops, gyms, zoos, holiday campsites, personal care services like hairdressers and, of course, beer gardens and outdoor hospitality of all kinds.

And on Monday the 12th I will be going to the pub myself - and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips.

We’re also increasing the number of visitors to care homes from one to two – to allow residents to see more of their loved ones.

We think that these changes are fully justified by the data

which show we are meeting our four tests for easing the lockdown as Chris will shortly explain.

But – and you know I’m going to say this – we can’t be complacent.

We can see the waves of sickness afflicting other countries

and we’ve seen how this story goes.

We still don’t know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise, as I’m afraid that they will –

and that’s why we’re saying:

Please get your vaccine or your second dose when your turn comes.

And please use the free NHS tests – even if you don’t feel ill, because remember 1 in 3 people with this virus doesn’t have any symptoms -

and you can get these tests from pharmacies or your local test site,

you can even order them on gov.uk and get home deliveries.

As part of our roadmap we’re also publishing today on gov.uk the early thinking on our four reviews, on the safe return of major events, on social distancing, the potential role of Covid status certification, and on the resumption of international travel.

We set out our roadmap and we’re sticking to it.

And I want to stress, that we see nothing in the present data that makes us think that we will have to deviate from that roadmap.

But it is by being cautious,

by monitoring the data at every stage

and by following the rules  

- remembering hands, face, space and fresh air -

that we hope together to make this roadmap to freedom irreversible .