The coronavirus pandemic has peaked earlier than expected in many African countries, confounding early predictions, experts have told MPs.
Scientists do not yet know why, but one hypothesis is the possibility of people having pre-existing immunity to Covid-19, caused by exposure to other infections.
Prof Francesco Checchi, a specialist in epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told MPs it was “broadly” true that coronavirus had not behaved in expected ways in African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and Somalia.
Leading scientists across the world say rushing the development of a coronavirus vaccine to bring it to the public before the end of this year is unrealistic, unsafe, and even “crazy”.
Despite reports from across the world suggesting a vaccine could be ready in weeks – particularly from the United States, where “Operation Warp Speed” reportedly has officials on standby to distribute the vaccine by October, ahead of the presidential election – experts are increasingly concerned that the rhetoric is in no way matched by the data.
None of the leading vaccine candidates have yet completed clinical trials, the regulatory bodies who licence vaccines are already struggling to cope with coronavirus demands, and questions over manufacture and distribution haven’t been considered, experts say.
…In normal times, a vaccine takes up to ten years to develop, including several years of testing. Under the current plans outlined by politicians in the UK, Russia, and the United States, this has been crunched to less than 12 months.
CORONAVIRUS hospital admissions were over-counted at the peak of the pandemic as recovered patients returning to wards without Covid were included in the stats.
An investigation for the Government’s Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) found that people were being counted as ‘Covid hospital admissions’ if they had EVER had the virus.
Government figures show that, at the peak of the pandemic in early April, nearly 20,000 people a week were being admitted to hospital with coronavirus – but the true figure is now unknown because of the problem with over-counting.
This over-counting mirrors the problems with data for coronavirus deaths – where people who had died of other causes were being included in Covid-19 statistics if they had once tested positive.
Professor Graham Medley, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, asked by Sage to look into the situation, told The Telegraph: “By June, it was becoming clear that people were being admitted to hospital for non-Covid reasons who had tested positive many weeks before.
“Consequently, the NHS revised its situation report to accommodate this.”
But with no sign of a second summer wave nor an autumn eruption reminiscent of 1918, the commentariat has amended the definition. Suddenly, a “second wave” meant Covid’s seasonal return, in winter, a year on. Widespread adoption of a new phrase in the Covid lexicology – “winter wave” – has academically formalised the idea.
But instead of looking us square in the eye, the Tories have chosen Big Brother’s panopticon; No 10’s new Joint Biosecurity Centre, which will drive “whack-a-mole” local lockdowns, is slickness posing as strategy – and, as it happens, reporting into track-and-trace app failure Dido Harding. When the public twigs that the infection is unlikely to be controlled in this way, the sheer panic could send us back into national lockdown. Three scenarios might help avoid the latter: a vaccine comes along; the Government gets its act together with a plan to protect the vulnerable; or we put in place safety valves against mass hysteria.
Imperial College’s research needs to be particularly scrutinised, as its international influence grows. Dr Seth Flaxman – the first author in the paper that notoriously claimed lockdowns may have prevented over 3 million deaths in Europe – this week won fresh funding to model the pandemic across several countries.
Revelations that disrupt the narrative also need to find a stronger voice: within 24 hours, the scandal of PHE’s inflated daily death figures was running out of mileage. This week’s London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine modelling on the impact of the pandemic on cancer deaths never gathered steam. So too a paper by Oxford’s Prof Sunetra Gupta, which elegantly combined those uneasy epidemiological bedfellows – theory and evidence – to find some parts of the UK may already have reached herd immunity.
Researchers found school closures had little effect on preventing coronavirus transmission compared to that of the flu.
Under-20s are half as likely to catch COVID-19 as over-20s, making school closures less effective at stopping the spread of the virus, a new scientific study has found.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that susceptibility to the coronavirus was low for younger people, before increasing around the age of 20.