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The British variant, UCSD researchers warn, looks like a COVID-19 timebomb | Instant News

Many celebrated the lifting of California regional stay-at-home orders on Monday and increased opportunities for outdoor dining, youth sports competitions and other social gatherings.

But a group of researchers at UC San Diego, Scripps Research and other respected institutions warned on Tuesday that the dominance of the new virus variant first seen in Britain makes this the wrong time to take any action that could increase the collective size of the community. from social contacts.

Standing before the San Diego County Board of Trustees, Natasha Martin, a university infectious disease modeller with a doctorate in mathematical biology from the University of Oxford, noted that B.1.1.7, the variant first seen in San Diego County on December 30, was estimated. 50 percent to 70 percent more transmissible than the early versions that swept across the world after popping up in China.

Things are much different now than in late 2019 and early 2020, with vaccines now increasingly available and significant indications they will be effective against the new variant, at least to some extent. But it is important to vaccinate large sections of the human population – many estimate around 70 percent – to achieve a herd immunity level that prevents infection from spreading rapidly from person to person.

Martin’s presentation to the board on Tuesday stated that, while vaccination has increased significantly, the spike in the number of social contacts, combined with the significantly greater spreadability of B.1.1.7, could lead to a spike in infections that goes beyond vaccination efforts.

“In a scenario where contact rates increase, within two weeks, due to reopening activities, a substantial spike will occur, exceeding our health care capacity, in all scenarios, even with vaccinations,” said Martin.

Only because it is able to spread faster than other variants that are its competitors, B.1.1.7, said Martin, is expected to quickly become the dominant variant in circulation. The speed of that transition, he said, is proportional to the number of people in the population sharing space and air, especially if they are not wearing masks.

Change, he said, was inevitable. This has already happened in England, Portugal and Ireland.

Increasing numbers of collections, especially if done without masks, mean San Diego, and California in general, “could potentially see a scenario of 7,000 cases per day”.

That will be significantly more than the previous record of 4,550 set on January 7.

So while many are celebrating the chance to get out and about more now that stay-at-home orders are back on the shelves, experts suggest otherwise.

“I can’t stress this enough; with the emergence of B.1.1.7 and other strains that may be more contagious, and potentially more virulent, it is time to multiply the reduction in transmission and the expansion of vaccination, ”said Martin.

“We have to be very careful about reopening and monitoring the situation closely.”

This is quite difficult for a situation that gradually looks better over 10 consecutive days.

The county COVID-19 report Tuesday listed 1,434 new cases with the number of patients still high but declining in hospital beds with confirmed coronavirus infections. The report listed 46 additional deaths, but, while tragic, they tended to come long after infection. Thus, the increase in mortality reflects the infectious activity that occurred in the past few weeks.

The state, as briefings Monday and Tuesday showed, continues to see its infection rate drop, leading to the cancellation of stay-at-home orders.

Fewer infections, officials said, led to models showing numbers of intensive care falling significantly through February. Southern California, for example, which recently had an estimated 0 percent ICU capacity, is expected to increase to 33 percent by February 21.

It was unclear Tuesday whether the state model took into account predictions of dominance of the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant.

An email, sent Tuesday afternoon by officials at the communications office at the California Department of Public Health, said that “the modeling used in projecting ICU capacity takes into account current conditions, including recently observed rates of transmission.”

That sentence seems to suggest that the data used to make the decision to delete stay-at-home orders are, for the most part, using current trends in infection rates to predict where things will go in the future rather than trying to predict how. the dominant British variant will change things.

The state agency appeared to confirm that interpretation late Tuesday, stating in a follow-up email: “if conditions on the ground change, such as wider transmission, it is included in the model.”

It is clear, however, that the current British variant looks like a San Diego problem, rather than a California problem.

Monday’s coronavirus update includes an update on B.1.1.7, showing that there have been only 90 confirmed cases statewide so far, 87 of them in San Diego County.

Does this mean that the British variant is just a San Diego problem, a local situation that is unlikely to grow as fast as elsewhere?

Probably not, says immunologist Scripps Research and molecular biologist Kristian Andersen, whose laboratory, working with positive tests administered by UCSD, is the first to confirm the presence of the new variant in San Diego County.

Detecting the presence of B.1.1.7 requires extra work. Testing, only from certain manufacturers, which returned with only two out of three positive genetic targets served as a smoky signal that a British variant might be involved, but additional genetic analysis is needed for confirmation.

That is, in order to detect the presence of a variant, the local laboratory must use the type of test which has an accidental and completely accidental sensitivity to deletion of the variant’s genetic code, and local researchers must look for the subtle smoke. signal and also must be willing to follow up with a proper genetic analysis.

Some health departments, Andersen said, have all of these components as San Diego does, meaning that many of the positive test results that show up every day in San Diego and elsewhere are due to the variant.

“It’s definitely not localized in San Diego, although maybe it’s more common in San Diego than most other places,” said Andersen. “Unfortunately, (it is) impossible to say due to lack of oversight in most of the other places.”

On seemingly contradictory predictions, with local research consortia predicting an explosion of new cases and countries predicting a decline, particularly in intensive care admissions, both, Andersen notes, could be true.

After all, it usually takes weeks for new infections today to worsen to the point where a minority require intensive care.

“I hope we’ll see ICU admissions drop – maybe quite a lot – and make sense of the case over the next few weeks too,” he said.

Such a downturn, he added, would probably be enough to “lull us into a false sense of security that we changed it only to reappear, first gradually, but then quickly, as B.1.1.7 takes over.”

Although still small, he said, the frequency of cases of the British variant showing up in test results “is doubling roughly weekly.”

Of course, vaccination is another major variable in any coronavirus prediction algorithm.

The scenarios tested by the UCSD / Scripps model assume that the region will vaccinate about 6,000 people per day through January and about 20,000 per day by February, with about 50 percent getting protection from the first dose and 95 becoming immune after the second dose.

However, it appeared that on Tuesday the region had begun to exceed estimates of the vaccination.

Nick Macchione, director of the county health and human services agency and co-chair of testing, tracking and treatment efforts, estimates that the district’s vaccination site now ships about 12,000 vaccines per day. He said he expected inoculation efforts to rapidly increase to 25,000 doses per day with the opening of additional “super site” vaccination sites, including one in East County to be run by Sharp HealthCare and two in North County, one operated in collaboration with Palomar Health. Tri-City Medical Center, UC San Diego and county health departments. The other, serving the North County coast, will be run by Scripps Health.

“We hope to reach 70 percent of our population long before July 1,” said Macchione.

Regional health departments will take additional questions about the coronavirus on Wednesday during routine weekly COVID-19 media briefings.

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With Brexit and COVID, Britain may be heading for a farewell | Instant News

After fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming prime minister a year and a half ago, Britain’s Boris Johnson found an additional title for himself: union minister. The new badge is intended to show its dedication to strengthening the ties between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which together make up Great Britain.

Johnson also promised to “finish Brexit”, which he did by grinding his teeth, with Britain last minute trade agreements with the European Union before withdrawing completely from the club on 31 December.

But what should help end the bitter domestic divisions that Brexit has unleashed serves only to sharpen them. Scotland and Northern Ireland chose not to leave the European Union in 2016 but was powerless to stop it. Many of their residents were feeling shaken again by the trade deal, their resentment towards the Johnson government in London far increasing.

Add that to the widespread criticism of his handling of the pandemic – Scotland’s leaders are thought to have done a better job – and Johnson now has to face an ominous question: Could this fake minister for the union read its final rites?

A man raises British and European Union flags outside Parliament House at anti-Brexit protests in London in 2016.

(Justin Tallis / AFP / Getty Images)

If Michael Sturrock of Edinburgh is any indication, Johnson’s desire to keep the four territories of England (the British call them “four nations”) together is in real trouble, with a divided kingdom in danger of becoming one destroyed.

Sturrock, 26, was among 55% of Scottish voters who chose Scotland to remain part of the UK in the 2014 independence referendum. But she never imagined at the time that staying in Britain would result in her being dragged out of the European Union against her will.

Now he supports Scotland is going its own way. In an unprecedented development, at least 18 consecutive polls in recent months show a plurality or majority of the Scottish population agree with it.

“Brexit has been a fundamental turning point for me and for a lot of people,” said Sturrock. “The big problem for me is getting my European citizenship back. I’m completely devastated. And very angry. “

Although he regrets that young people like him can no longer pursue the dream of living freely and working anywhere in the 27 EU countries, he also considers Johnson’s Conservative government policies so far away from the Scottish social democrat trend that secession is the only solution.

“I no longer believe that living in England is Scotland’s democratic wish or the best way to achieve the kind of society we want,” he said. “Independence is the way we can get it.”

Sturrock has created a website, NoToYes, as a place where he and other voters who have switched sides in the Scottish independence debate can meet and share stories. He was surprised by the amount of interest from voters across the political spectrum.

“We have to move forward as a movement,” he said.

Sturrock’s changing view was the music to the ears of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, ever hang most of his political career in the struggle for Scottish independence.

Brexit has become a “gift from the gods” for his Scottish National Party, said Thomas Devine, one of Scotland’s leading historians. Sturgeon can not only point to the fact that the majority of Scots didn’t want to leave the EU in the first place, but also the new realities of trade in a post-Brexit world that have hit Scottish business hard in recent weeks.

That local fish and seafood industry said its trade with Europe – worth more than $ 1.3 billion for Scottish businesses – was on the brink of collapse as new border checks and lengthy customs forms had led to canceled orders and supplies failing to reach their destination on time.

“What appears to have happened is a slow burn in terms of the consequences of Brexit,” Devine said. “There is a growing feeling that countries are going in different directions.”

Sturgeon now plans to hold a symbolic vote on Scottish divorce from England if his party wins local elections in May. The aim is to increase pressure on Johnson to pass another independence plebiscite, as the new referendum is not binding unless approved by the central government in London.

The transition to life outside the EU is no less complex or complex throughout the Irish Sea.

In Northern Ireland, where the fragile peace between breakaway republicans and British loyalists has prevailed for about 20 years, there is concern over Brexit. can revive sectarian tensions if a hard border emerges between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which remains a strong member of the EU. To avoid that, the new trade agreement leaves Northern Ireland within the EU’s single market for goods and, to some extent, its customs framework, even though on paper Northern Ireland is officially leaving the European Union along with the rest of the UK.

The half-in, half-out status infuriated those who saw him as a wedge being pushed between the Northern Irishmen and their British counterparts.

“It feels like we have left the UK rather than leaving the EU,” said Harry Wick, CEO of the Fish Producers Organization of Northern Ireland. “We feel rejected by British politicians.”

It’s served on British Royal Navy for 20 years and living for many years in England, Wick describes himself as a proud member of the union. But now he feels “like a second-class citizen”, warning that those calling for Irish unification will point to the Brexit deal and say: “Look what Britain has done for you.”

“It’s hard to argue that they don’t have a point,” he said. “Brexit only serves to highlight our division.”

Customs officials inspect vehicles at ferry terminals in Northern Ireland as part of new post-Brexit requirements.

Customs officers inspect vehicles at a ferry terminal in Northern Ireland on New Year’s Day, the first day after Britain has completed its withdrawal from the European Union.

(Peter Morrison / Associated Press)

Whether Johnson can withstand the growing dissent and disillusionment in Scotland and Northern Ireland is an open question. His bullying, sometimes bombastic and often witty demeanor – tolerated or even enjoyed during casual times – did not help him as Britain threatened to unravel.

One of his predecessors as prime minister, Gordon Brown, said the country now faced a difficult choice: to become a “reformed nation” or a “failed state”. Four parts of Great Britain must “quickly rediscover what held it together” or risk the union collapsing, Brown – a proud Scottish – wrote in the Daily Telegraph this week.

The COVID-19 pandemic – which has been declining Britain is in a deep recession and brought Britain’s death toll to over 100,000 on Tuesday, Europe’s highest – has also revealed how separate the various parts of the country are, despite Johnson’s efforts to promote solidarity by evoking wartime fervor.

Each of the four counties exercises control over its own health policy, which has resulted in lockdowns being instituted at different times around the UK, schools remaining open in one section but not the other, and patches of rules and boundaries that make Johnson appear more alike. leaders of England only, not all of Great Britain.

In Scotland, home to some 5.5 million of Britain’s 67 million people, Sturgeon has been credited with acting more decisively and transparently, even though his government has not exactly tamed the coronavirus. As of Monday, 5,709 Scottish people have died from COVID-19 – a per capita rate higher than in the US.

“The perception that Sturgeon has handled the pandemic much better than Boris Johnson,” said Devine, the historian. “The reality may be a bit different, but it doesn’t matter. The perception is that he has done a brilliant job. They can’t stand Johnson here. “

Although England is not in danger of disbanding tomorrow, and people’s immediate attention is being trained get past the pandemic, political analyst Coree Brown Swan said the centrifugal force felt in Scotland and Northern Ireland is unlikely to dissipate.

“There is a sense of unity in danger … the struggle to articulate a case for unity in a post-Brexit world,” said Brown Swan, a researcher at the Center for Constitutional Change in Edinburgh.

“Everyone is focused on surviving the current crisis, but you do have calls for an independence referendum [in Scotland] this year or next year, “said Brown Swan. “If you see independence happening in Scotland, is Scotland a tipping point?”

Boyle is a special correspondent.

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The COVID-19 variant that was first detected in the UK has been found in Alaska | Instant News

A more contagious strain of the coronavirus was detected for the first time in Alaska, health officials announced Tuesday.

The new strain, first detected in Great Britain, spread faster and easier among people, state epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin told reporters Tuesday.

“That means that people really need to step up their efforts to reduce transmission,” said McLaughlin. He said the COVID-19 vaccine was still effective against the British variant.

In December, a resident of Anchorage became infected with a strain of the virus after the person was recently in a state where a previous virus variant had been detected, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The person started showing symptoms of the virus on December 17, tested on December 20 and received a positive result on December 22.

After learning a positive result, the person is isolated, even though someone who lives with him also falls ill. The two have recovered and had no contact with anyone else, the health official said in the statement.

“We hope that transmission of this particular variant stops in these two individuals, but we will most likely detect more variant strains soon,” said state chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink in prepared statement.

So far, 293 cases of the virus variant have been detected nationwide in 24 different states, including Washington State, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, only a fraction of the cases across the country were ranked to find the tensions.

Alaska public health officials said it was not unexpected to find the virus in Alaska. Earlier this month, federal officials from the CDC said a variant of the virus could become the dominant strain of coronavirus circulating in the United States in March.

The strain is not thought to make people sicker, but increased transmission of the virus could mean more people are infected at once. It can stress the health care system and cause more deaths, According to the CDC.

The state of Alaska has been sequencing COVID-19 cases since March, which is a way to search for new variants. The state virology lab at Fairbanks discovered the strain of the British variant, which was later confirmed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks laboratory, before the state health department finally notified the CDC of its findings on Monday.

Finding a new variant is a process that takes several days. The state lab had passed a stack of specimens indicating a possible variant when the British strain was detected, Jayme Parker, head of the Alaska Public Health laboratory, said in a phone call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. The ordering is tiring and states have been able to hone their technique over time, a process that accelerated in December.

“I would not say that we were very behind in the sequence because since then we have been able to sequence more recent samples, we just haven’t found a variant in that specimen,” Parker said.

Alaska accounts for about 4% to 5% of its cases, namely a most of the cases than the national average, and closer to the percentage of viruses sequenced in Great Britain, where the new variant was first detected in September.

Health officials continue to emphasize that to prevent further spread of COVID-19, including new strains, practices such as staying 6 feet or more away from other people, wearing face covers, washing hands, avoiding gatherings, keeping social bubbles small and isolating. having experienced symptoms is very important.

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A bleak milestone for Great Britain | Instant News

Boris Johnson’s grim announcement that the UK’s death toll from Covid-19 has passed 100,000 marks the lowest point so far in the Government’s handling of the pandemic. It is true that different international measurements make precise comparisons of mortality rates difficult, as does population density, but there is nothing that can be avoided by the fact that the country has experienced one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

Arguments will rage for years as to why this is happening. The country’s elderly population is no more than many others of the same size but has grown substantially in the last two decades. The longer people live, the more likely they are to develop conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. There appears to be greater comorbidity among the UK population than in many other countries, some of which are linked to high rates of obesity and poor diet.

The early failure of the pandemic to isolate nursing homes also contributed to the high mortality rate. A third of all deaths from Covid occur in these homes after residents who have been hospitalized are discharged, often without being tested to see if they are contagious. Isn’t it possible to stop this?

By definition, nursing homes contain the most vulnerable elderly people who need to be looked after by staff who enter and leave on a daily basis. Therefore, for all criticism of the Government, is there another clear way of dealing with this problem?

If many of those who had been hospitalized were not moved, there would be too few beds for COVID-19 patients and the NHS could collapse under stress in the first wave last spring.

Although there have been nursing home deaths in this wave – about a third of the total – the number is less than last year, demonstrating some lessons have been learned.

Looking back it’s always easy to decry this or that decision without having to put it in a fast-paced, uncertain environment. It is now said that the country should have been locked and isolated from the outside world in March. Had that happened, we would still be in very good isolation, maybe free of Covid but unable to reopen it to keep the virus from entering, as with Australia and New Zealand. Was it really a serious choice last spring, at least when the main carriers weren’t actually foreign nationals but British tourists returning from the Alps?

The country is now entering its third lockdown and, while the raw figures may look worse than in other European countries, the trajectory of the pandemic is nearly the same everywhere, apart from China and parts of East Asia.

The only saving grace for the Government is the speed with which it has built a vaccine program from scratch. While ministers are reluctant to accept international comparisons on deaths, they want to show how much better Britain is doing than its neighbors on the continent.

However, an unproven outbreak of “vaccine nationalism” threatens to undermine this endeavor. The EU has launched its own vaccine in such a way that it threatens to stop the export of products produced in its member countries. That would be outrageous, but if it did, the Government had to be able to secure supplies from elsewhere.

In addition, vaccines need to be the key to getting out of the lockdown and not another reason to tighten restrictions. It is worrying to learn that there are groups in the government debating the removal of the virus, which will take years, even decades, to achieve. The main metric must have an impact on the NHS. Once the vaccine has protected or at least reduced the risk of serious harm to those who are likely to end up in hospital, the lockdown should end at that point.

As Johnson said at the last press conference on Downing Street, recording 100,000 deaths was a “grim moment” in the development of the pandemic, and he promised to hold a national memorial in memory of those who died. But a more durable warning is to ensure that the vaccine program doesn’t stall and is a stepping stone to returning to normal as quickly as possible.


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Brexit Grace Period for Free Flow of Personal Data in EU-UK | Instant News

After the political and constitutional upheavals in the last four years that have become Brexit, a trade deal – the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement – was finally reached between Great Britain (UK) and the European Union (EU) on December 24, 2020, just days before the due date. the time when the UK will cancel all EU agreements.

Among the rules on how much fish French fishermen can catch off the coast of Scotland and whether a vaccine approved in Denmark can be used in the UK, a number of well-meaning statements have been agreed regarding the use of personal data and its flows. the border.

The UK has always been of the view that, given that until recently, both the UK and the EU had identical privacy legal frameworks under the GDPR, it would be safe to send personal data of British citizens to any country in the European Economic Area. (EEA). To date, the EU has made no reciprocal declarations and wants another six months to consider its position. It is always difficult to see how the EU can say that UK data privacy laws do not provide adequate protection to EU citizens, but during this bitter divorce process, the EU simply reiterates that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Thus, in the midst of this nearly 1,500-page agreement there has been inserted a temporary period of four to six months during which personal data can flow in both directions while the final decision on Britain’s “sufficiency” status is made. The sufficiency decision is a formal step by the European Commission that requires approval by other institutions in the European Union which take longer to achieve.

The grace period of six months is subject to conditions. If the United Kingdom changes existing data protection laws during this period without the approval of the EU Partnerships Council (which will draft the details of the UK-EU trade agreement), this “liaison mechanism” will terminate when “powers are exercised or amendments take effect. “Under these circumstances, the UK is unlikely to change its privacy laws or negotiate agreements with third party countries regarding data flows in this interim period. During this time, business owners can operate safely knowing that no additional action is currently required regarding transfers. personal data from EU member states to Great Britain.

However, if this period is to end in June 2021 without the EU adopting a UK sufficiency decision, there may be a sudden shutdown of data flow. As a “reasonable precautionary measure,” the UK Information Commissioner’s Office has recommended that businesses implement “alternative transfer mechanisms,” to protect against any disruption in the free flow of personal data from the EEA to the United Kingdom. For most businesses, this means the “model” or “standard” contract clauses designed by the EU Commission contained in the data transfer agreement.

In addition, businesses that have entities in the UK but operate or have employees in other European countries must appoint official data protection representatives in EU member countries and update their privacy notices accordingly.

Obtaining sufficiency status from the EU now is the stated goal of the provisional terms of this Brexit trade deal, but it is not guaranteed. Businesses and entrepreneurs operating in the UK and across the EU may wish to use this grace period to prepare for further disputes between UK and EU trade negotiators.

© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC, All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 26

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