Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Nov. 1: Boris Johnson’s Macho Toxic Culture, 15 Million in U.S. Have Received Updated Jab

U.K. Ends £1 billion in Covid Loan Guarantees to Banks

By Jonathan Spira on 1 November 2023
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A fall November day in a New York City park

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,330th day of the pandemic and the first day of November.

In news we report today, data shows the campaign for the updated coronavirus vaccine in the United States lagging behind last year’s update, the U.K. government will end £1 billion in Covid loan guarantees to banks, and Boris Johnson’s government had a macho, toxic culture that one member of the cabinet called misogynistic.

UNITED STATES

The Department of Health and Human Services reported that over 15 million people have received the updated 2023 coronavirus vaccine as of October 27.  The numbers continue to lag behind last year’s figures.

As of October 26, 2022, almost 23 million people had received updated boosters data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. The 2022 fall vaccination campaign started ten days earlier than this year’s.

Drugmaker Pfizer reported a loss for the third quarter of 2023. The news came as the company recorded charges largely related to struggles for its SARS-CoV-2 antiviral treatment Paxlovid and coronavirus vaccine.

The pharmaceutical house recorded a $5.6 billion charge for inventory write-offs due to a lower-than-expected demand for its SARS-CoV-2 products.

GLOBAL

The UK government has scrapped guarantees on nearly £1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) of bank loans handed out to ailing businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The move, first reported by Reuters, will leave banks on the hook for some of the funds loaned out that will not be repaid.

The amount is but a fraction so far of the £77 billion pounds of loans issued during the first two years of the pandemic.

There was a toxic macho culture in Boris Johnson’s government, Helen MacNamara, the former deputy cabinet secretary and chief ethics officer, told the official government inquiry into the pandemic.

MacNamara said that the “female perspective” was missed during the pandemic because of a “macho” culture and sexism in Downing Street.  She also expressed disappointment that the prime minister had not called out an expletive-laden message written about her by Dominic Cummings, who served as Johnson’s chief advisor.

On Tuesday, Cummings apologized for multiple profane messages that criticized members of the government, but denied misogyny, saying he had been “much ruder” about the men in the cabinet.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson told senior advisers that the coronavirus was “just nature’s way of dealing with old people” and he was “no longer buying” the fact the NHS was overwhelmed during the pandemic, the country’s pandemic inquiry was told.

Sir Patrick Valence, the country’s chief scientific advisor, described in his diaries a “bonkers set of meetings” that took place in August 2020.  Valence said that the then prime minister appeared to have been “obsessed with older people accepting their fate” and allowing younger people to get on with their lives during the early years of the pandemic.

Vallance’s diary also details how then chief whip Mark Spencer told a cabinet meeting in December 2020 that “we should let the old people get it and protect others.”

Meanwhile, Lee Cain, one of Johnson’s longest serving aids, told the inquiry that the pandemic was the “wrong crisis” for the prime minister’s “skill set.” Cain told of great indecision in No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s offices, as a result.

OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS

The New York City Department of Health is warning people to carefully wash their hands after using the toilet.

“Stop the shigella germ by washing hands carefully before leaving the bathroom and especially before touching food,” the agency said in a social media post. “Stay home when sick and don’t prepare or share food while sick.”

Shigellosis is an infection of the intestines caused by Shigella bacteria.  Anyone can get shigellosis but it is recognized more often in children.

It is spread when an individual inadvertently puts something in his mouth that has touched infected feces or by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the bacteria.

GLOBAL STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, November 1.

As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 697.25 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.11 million in the past, and 6.93 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 669.06 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of .07 million.

The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Wednesday at press time is 21,259,709, an increase of 52,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, 21,221,688, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,021, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past ten months.

Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded 109.11 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.18 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 45 million, and a reported death toll of 533,293.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July 2022, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat last reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July 2022, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 40.14 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.55 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 706,808, has recorded 37.95 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with 34.57 million cases, as number six; Japan, with 33.8 million cases placing it in the number seven slot; and Italy, with 26.23 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.79 million, and Russia, with 23.12 million, as nine and ten respectively.

CURRENT U.S. COVID STATISTICS AT A GLANCE

In the United States, in the week ending October 21, 2023, the test positivity rate was – based on data released on October 26 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – 8.7%, a figure that is down 0.7% from the previous 7-day period, while the percentage of emergency department visits that were diagnosed as SARS-CoV-2 was 1.3%, a figure that unchanged.

The number of people admitted to hospital in the United States due to SARS-CoV-2 in the same 7-day period was 16,186, a figure that is down 0.02%. Meanwhile, the percentage of deaths due to SARS-CoV-2 was 2.7%, a figure that is up 12.5% over the same period.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

Some 70.6% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Wednesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.53 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 15,861 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 32.8% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain at or below 10%.

In addition, with the beginning of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines in any significant number.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

 

 

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