#Covid No Longer At Pandemic Status

The World Health Organisation (WHO) no longer considers #Covid to be at a pandemic status. This is due to  “the decreasing trend in COVID-19  deaths, the decline in COVID-19 related hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and the high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2.”

The WHO Director-General has stated that COVID-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

While the global risk assessment remains high, there is evidence of reducing risks to human health driven mainly by high population-level immunity from infection, vaccination, or both; consistent virulence of currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sub-lineages compared to previously circulating Omicron sub-lineages; and improved clinical case management. These factors have contributed to a significant global decline in the weekly number of COVID-19 related deaths, hospitalizations, and admissions to intensive care units since the beginning of the pandemic. While SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, the currently circulating variants do not appear to be associated with increased severity. WHO

Governments, however, should consider how to improve their country’s readiness for future outbreaks.

Weekly Update for Scotland

Published by Public Health Scotland is the Weekly national respiratory and Covid-19 surveillance report on 4th May 2023.

The report covers the week ending 30th April 2023.

Public Health Scotland (PHS) monitor a number of key indicators to assess the impact of COVID-19, including demands on the health system.

The report concedes that there will be an under reporting of PCR/LFD testing for the week due to a data processing issue since 11am on 28 April 2023.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published their final COVID-19 Infection Survey report on 24 March 2023. Therefore, COVID-19 surveillance will use a range of indicators including wastewater concentration levels, reported COVID-19 cases (PCR/LFD) and hospital activity.

Waste Water Monitoring to pin point fragments of coronavirus’ ribonucleic acid (RNA) in local waste water samples – the last recorded sample for Orkney (Kirkwall) was on 6th of April 2023.

The purpose of COVID-19 testing has now shifted from population-wide testing to reduce transmission, to targeted, symptomatic testing in clinical care settings which has led to a reduction in the quantity and quality of available testing data. This makes it difficult to draw any conclusions from these data on community prevalence and caution is therefore advised when making comparisons between metrics and comparing trends over time.

In the week ending 30 April 2023, there were 649 reported positive COVID-19 cases (compared to 1,024 in week ending 23 April 2023). This figure is unreliable due to under reporting (see comment above).

Changes in PCR testing guidance has reduced the numbers of tests available for sequencing compared to earlier in the pandemic.

Hospitalisations – The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital is an indicative measure of the pressure on hospitals, as these patients still require isolation from other patients for infection control purposes.

The following figures are also unreliable due to the data processing issue since 11am on 28 April 2023.

In the latest week ending 30 April 2023, there were 114 new COVID-19 admissions to hospital. Hospital admissions for the most recent week are provisional and should be treated with caution.

There were 11 COVID-19 admissions (1.1%) per 1,000 emergency admissions. In the same week, the 75-79 age group had the highest rate of COVID-19 admissions (2.2%) and the 40- 49 age group had the lowest rate (0.0%)

There were 725 patients in hospital with COVID-19 which is a 22.6% decrease from the previous week ending 23 April 2023, when on average there were 937 patients.

There were 4 new admissions to ICU, a decrease of 7 from the previous week (23 April 2023) when there were 11 admissions.

Vaccination – During the current spring vaccination programme, a total of 229,587 COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to adults currently resident in Scotland. In the latest week ending 30 April 2023, 70,718 COVID-19 vaccines were administered. Among care home residents for older adults, 83.8% have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the first weeks of the spring programme.

Universities and other research organisations around the world continue to publish research on the Covid pandemic, its wider implications, not just of our health but of the economy. Failure to take heed of the research which has been coming out since the start of the pandemic in 2020 may lead governments to learn nothing from past mistakes and they will be unprepared to deal with the next pandemic wave or similar large scale event affecting public health.

In recent research by the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), a study has been made about the impact Covid had on the hospitality sector – and its knock on effects to the wider economy.

The accommodation and food service sector – or hospitality sector – provides approximately 5 billion pounds in gross value added to the Scottish economy. In addition, it is the largest employing sector of the economy employing approximately 200,000 jobs before the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on both employment/jobs and total output from the sector; a loss of 85% of output between February and May 2020, and a 23% loss in the number of jobs between March and December 2020.  

Sectors which were particularly impacted because of the accommodation and food services sector suffering during the pandemic, included the processed fish, fruits, vegetables, dairy, vegetable oils and soft drinks industry. 

The Rowett Institute’s Dr Wisdom Dogbe explained:

“Focusing on the food and beverage sectors, our analysis found that the processed and preserved fish, fruits, and vegetable sector is the slowest to return to its initial production level following the disruption on the accommodation and food services sector indicating that this sector needs to develop stronger capabilities to deal with future disruptions.

“We attribute the slow recovery of this sector to the demand shift towards fresh products and influx of media reportage on the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables to build immunity against the Covid-19 infection. The most resilient sector (fastest to recover) is the preserved meat and meat product. This could be due to demand shift from the closure of the hospitality sector towards household demand.”

It should also be noted that shoppers and businesses were hit not only by Covid, but by the effects of Brexit – when the UK left the world’s largest free trade area. So we had Covid 19 restrictions, including lockdowns, and barriers to the free movement of trade where before there had been none. In the early days of the pandemic the UK was not prepared having cut funding in real terms to our NHS. Front line workers in health, social care, delivery, cleansing and retail food (to mention just a few) were as never before revealed as the backbone of our communities. Leadership in the UK Government was unstable with a revolving door of Prime Ministers. Tory MPs were mired in allegations of PPI scandals and booze filled parties whilst citizens were unable to visit dying family members and friends.

This all seems so long ago but it has been less than 3 years – have we learned nothing ? Let’s hope that the words of WHO are heeded and we are better prepared for any future events.

image of the Covid virus
Image credit Bell

Fiona Grahame

2 replies »

  1. Could it be that the WHO is sending the wrong message? Or simply risks that countries feel even more encouraged to abandon surveillance now completely?
    Since only very few countries still test and report to WHO, many hospitalisations and deaths might not even be attributed to Covid even if it is a contributing factor, but somehow those hospitalisations and deaths just are becoming components of a chronic disease burden and excess mortality?

    For many, there remains a threat which is disproportionately higher than for others. Do they – now even more than before – have to “justify” why they still use masks, are not keen on visitors, are wary of mingling with others…?
    It is tiring… having to defend one’s own precautionary principles every day…

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