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Health systems, govt responses linked to virus tolls

BERLIN (AP) — Scientists say a comparison of 21 developed countries during the start of the coronavirus pandemic shows that those with early lockdowns and well-prepared national health systems avoided large numbers of additional deaths due to the outbreak.

In a study published Wednesday by the journal Nature Medicine, researchers used the number of weekly deaths in 19 European countries, New Zealand and Australia over the past decade to estimate how many people would have died from mid-February to May 2020 had the pandemic not happened.

The authors, led by Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London, then compared the predicted number of deaths to the actual reported figure during that period to determine how many likely occurred due to the pandemic. Such models of ‘excess mortality’ are commonly used by public health officials to better understand disease outbreaks and the effectiveness of counter-measures.

The study found there were about 206,000 excess deaths across the 21 countries during the period, a figure that conforms to independent estimates. In Spain, the number of deaths was 38% higher than would have been expected without the pandemic, while in England and Wales it was 37% higher.

Italy, Scotland and Belgium also had significant excess deaths, while in some countries there was no marked change or even — as in the case of Bulgaria — a decrease.


While the authors note that there are differences in the compositions of populations, such as age and the prevalence of pre-existing conditions that contribute to mortality rates, government efforts to suppress transmission of the virus and the ability of national health systems to cope with the pandemic also played a role.

Amitava Banerjee, a professor of clinical data science at University College London who wasn’t involved in the study, said it was well designed and had used standardized methods.

He noted that the comparison between death rates in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, where the age of the population and the rates of pre-existing conditions such as obesity are similar, supports the argument that other factors contributed to the differing mortality figures.

“Even if vaccines and better treatments for severe (COVID-19) infection are developed, the way to minimise excess deaths is to reduce the infection rate through population level measures,” said Banerjee.

These include lockdowns, protecting high risk groups,and establishing effective “test, trace and isolate” systems, he said.

Germany, which like the United States was not among the 21 countries examined in the study, has seen fewer deaths so far in 2020 than in some recent years, according to the head of the country’s disease control agency.

While the reasons for this are complex and may take time to fully understand, a decline in hospital infections and the absence of any reported measles cases in Germany since March indicate that social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing play a role.

“The measures that were introduced because of COVID have further effects, and they’re positive, that much is clear” Lothar Wieler, who heads the Robert Koch Institute, told

Study: Health Systems, Govt Responses Linked to Virus Tolls | World News

BERLIN (AP) — Scientists say a comparison of 21 developed countries during the start of the coronavirus pandemic shows that those with early lockdowns and well-prepared national health systems avoided large numbers of additional deaths due to the outbreak.

In a study published Wednesday by the journal Nature Medicine, researchers used the number of weekly deaths in 19 European countries, New Zealand and Australia over the past decade to estimate how many people would have died from mid-February to May 2020 had the pandemic not happened.

The authors, led by Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London, then compared the predicted number of deaths to the actual reported figure during that period to determine how many likely occurred due to the pandemic. Such models of ‘excess mortality’ are commonly used by public health officials to better understand disease outbreaks and the effectiveness of counter-measures.

The study found there were about 206,000 excess deaths across the 21 countries during the period, a figure that conforms to independent estimates. In Spain, the number of deaths was 38% higher than would have been expected without the pandemic, while in England and Wales it was 37% higher.

Italy, Scotland and Belgium also had significant excess deaths, while in some countries there was no marked change or even — as in the case of Bulgaria — a decrease.

While the authors note that there are differences in the compositions of populations, such as age and the prevalence of pre-existing conditions that contribute to mortality rates, government efforts to suppress transmission of the virus and the ability of national health systems to cope with the pandemic also played a role.

Amitava Banerjee, a professor of clinical data science at University College London who wasn’t involved in the study, said it was well designed and had used standardized methods.

He noted that the comparison between death rates in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, where the age of the population and the rates of pre-existing conditions such as obesity are similar, supports the argument that other factors contributed to the differing mortality figures.

“Even if vaccines and better treatments for severe (COVID-19) infection are developed, the way to minimise excess deaths is to reduce the infection rate through population level measures,” said Banerjee.

These include lockdowns, protecting high risk groups,and establishing effective “test, trace and isolate” systems, he said.

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Govt Considers Tighter Lockdown Restrictions for England



These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

New Lockdown Measures

New measures to tackle the rise in COVID-19 cases in England have been predicted, with at least one report today claiming the plan has already been approved by Number 10.

A three-tier system of local lockdowns has been touted as the most likely response as the Government tries to balance health measures and the fragile economy.

Under the system, different regions of England would be placed in different categories depending on infection rates from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The strategy was trailed yesterday by the Scottish Government which introduced more stringent rules, including curbs on pub and restaurant opening hours in the central belt, which includes Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, confirmed to the BBC earlier that the Government was “currently considering what steps to take”.

It was widely reported today that pubs and restaurants could be closed for a time in some of the worst affected areas in England.

The Times asserted that the strategy had already been signed off by the Prime Minister, and would be accompanied by extra financial support for affected businesses.

The timing of any extra measures remained unclear, although some commentators suggested they could be introduced next week.

Daily Data

In today’s daily data another 17,540 UK positive tests were reported and 77 deaths.

There are 3412 COVID-19 patients in hospital and 442 ventilator beds are in use.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director for Public Health England, commented: “We are seeing a definite and sustained increase in cases and admissions to hospital. The trend is clear, and it is very concerning.”

Extra Funding to Back Coronavirus Enforcement Rules

Police forces and local councils in England have been told they will receive an extra £60 million to boost patrols enforcing coronavirus rules.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said: “This extra funding will strengthen the police’s role in enforcing the law and make sure that those who jeopardise public health face the consequences.”

The Government said that police would also be asked to provide more support to local authorities and NHS Test & Trace to enforce self-isolation regulations.

COVID-19 Mortality Exceeds Flu and Pneumonia

More than three times as many people have died from COVID-19 in England and Wales this year than from pneumonia and influenza, official figures showed.

Between the beginning of January and the end of August, there were 48,168 deaths due to COVID-19 compared with 13,619 deaths due to pneumonia and 394 deaths due to flu.

The Office for National Statistics said the trend was particularly evident between March and June.

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 were 23.7% higher in males than females, figures showed.

The proportion of deaths occurring in care homes due to COVID-19 up until the end of August was 30.0%, compared with 15.2% for pneumonia and flu, statisticians reported.

Asymptomatic Patients

A study led by University College London found that more than three quarters of people who tested positive for COVID-19 during lockdown

Gov’t Bows to Vax Makers’ Demands? 2nd Wave Hits Europe; FDA Wants Makena Pulled

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The White House is blocking new FDA guidelines that would stiffen requirements for authorizing COVID-19 vaccines, after manufacturers reportedly objected to the guidance. (New York Times, Politico)

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Pastor Greg Laurie of the Harvest Christian Fellowship megachurch were the latest attendees at a recent White House event to report a positive coronavirus test. MedPage Today has a running list here.

Perhaps the most at risk White House staffers, however, are the 100 members of the White House’s residence staff. (The Atlantic)

Finally: the CDC acknowledges the potential for airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

As of 8:00 a.m. ET Tuesday, the estimated U.S. COVID-19 toll reached 7,459,102 cases and 210,196 deaths — up 40,364 and 462, respectively, since the same time Monday.

The Northeast and Midwest are experiencing surges, and new cases have risen for at least two weeks in a row in 21 states. (Reuters)

Lockdown measures make a comeback in Europe. (The Guardian)

WHO official said roughly 1 in 10 people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19 and that we are now heading into a “difficult period.” (Reuters)

Three doctors met with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Trump advisor Scott Atlas, MD, to push the herd immunity hypothesis. (The Hill)

European drug regulators are investigating reports of acute kidney injury in some COVID-19 patients who were on remdesivir. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Moderna failed to enroll enough people of color in its vaccine trial and slowed enrollment to ensure more minority volunteers were recruited. (Reuters)

Trump issued an executive order establishing a Coronavirus Mental Health Working Group to respond to “mental-health conditions induced or exacerbated by the pandemic, including issues related to suicide prevention.”

Texas universities have plenty of tests, but participation rates are far lower than expected, prompting one school to offer prizes to students volunteering to be tested. (Texas Tribune)

PBS is airing a segment tonight on the nationwide scramble for personal protective equipment in the first wave of the pandemic.

In other news:

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    Elizabeth Hlavinka covers clinical news, features, and investigative pieces for MedPage Today. She also produces episodes for the Anamnesis podcast. Follow

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Huge Questions for UK Govt After Spike in Virus Cases | Business News

By PAN PYLAS`, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — The British government faced huge questions Monday over its coronavirus testing system after a tripling in the number of daily positive cases over the weekend that was blamed on a technical glitch.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to make a statement to lawmakers later Monday after the opposition Labour Party asked the government to explain why the cases were not tabulated when they should have been.

The latest problems to afflict the U.K.’s test and trace program emerged over the weekend when public health officials revealed that a total of 15,841 virus cases weren’t tabulated from Sept. 25 to Oct. 2. The government said the “technical issue” was discovered Friday night and has now been resolved.

The unreported cases were added to the government’s daily new infections total over the weekend, boosting Saturday’s number to 12,872 cases and Sunday’s to 22,961. Before that, there had been signs that the number of new infections had been leveling off around the 7,000 a day mark, which Britain hit the preceding four days.

While all of those who tested positive were informed of the results, Public Health England said their contacts had not been traced.

For the test-and-trace program to work well, contacts should be notified within 48 hours. So authorities’ failure to inform people potentially exposed to the virus could lead to many more positive cases and the need for the government to impose further unwanted restrictions on everyday life.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s spokesman on health issues, described the error as “shambolic’’ and said the public “will be understandably alarmed.’’

He said Hancock should tell lawmakers “what on Earth has happened, what impact it has had on our ability to contain this virus and what he plans to do to fix test and trace.”

The reporting error is just the latest problem with Britain’s test and trace system, which is seen as crucial to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and reducing the need for further limits on social interaction. Lawmakers from all parties have previously criticized Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government for a shortage of testing capacity and delays in notifying people of their test results.

Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the news about the glitch is “very disappointing.”

“For the test, track and trace system to have a real impact on reducing transmission of COVID-19, it is essential that test results are communicated rapidly,” he said.

Like other countries in Europe, the U.K. has seen rising coronavirus infections over the past few weeks, which has prompted the government to announce a series of restrictions, both nationally and locally, to keep a lid on infections. They are largely centered on limiting the number of people allowed to gather together and putting a curfew on pubs in order to suppress the virus.

The U.K. has Europe’s highest virus-related death toll at more than 42,400. The government’s chief scientific advisers warned two weeks ago that the

Americans Fault US Govt Over Foreign Powers for Virus Crisis | Political News

By MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans blame the U.S. government instead of foreign nations for the coronavirus crisis in the United States, a rebuke to the Trump administration’s contention that China or other countries are most at fault, a new poll shows.

The poll by The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research was conducted before President Donald Trump tested positive for the virus Friday and was hospitalized. Trump has downplayed the severity and impact of the pandemic in recent months.

Although many see plenty of blame to go around and there’s a wide bipartisan divide over who is responsible, 56% of Americans say the U.S. government has substantial responsibility for the situation. That compares with 47% who place that much blame on the governments of other countries and only 39% who say the same about the World Health Organization.

“It reflects a general lack of confidence in the way the government has handled the situation,” said Austin Wright of the Harris School for Public Policy.

More than 1 million people worldwide, including more than 200,000 Americans, have died of COVID-19 in the outbreak. Trump has squarely blamed the virus’ spread on China, where it originated, and an inadequate response from the WHO.

As he faces a rough reelection contest in November, Trump has steadily ramped up criticism of China for the virus and announced the U.S. would halt funding for and withdraw from the international health agency over alleged Chinese interference in its work. Critics, including public health experts, have said China bears some responsibility but have also harshly criticized Trump’s response.

The poll shows Democrats are especially likely to say the U.S. government is responsible for the situation, while many Republicans are likely to place the blame elsewhere. Among Democrats, 79% say the U.S. government has a great deal of responsibility, while 37% say that about other countries’ governments and 27% about the WHO. Among Republicans, 38% say the U.S. government is responsible, compared with 60% for the governments of other countries and 55% the WHO.

Self-described conservative Republican Ralph Martinez, a 67-year-old grocery store manager from the Fort Worth, Texas area, said he wasn’t sure that any government could have handled it better and dismissed criticism that Trump had downplayed the matter.

“It’s an open question, honestly,” he said. “I don’t care who’s in office, I think they’re going to do their best for everyone. But how much can they do?”

Martinez, who said he had to throw a customer out of his store for not wearing a mask recently, lauded Trump for not wanting to create panic in the early stages of the outbreak in the U.S. He also recalled unprecedented runs on items such as toilet paper and paper towels when people realized the virus was not a momentary phenomenon.

“You would not believe how crazy these people got,” he said. “I can’t imagine how bad it would have been