Europe has seen major changes in coronavirus case rates over the last two months. In many areas of Europe covid case rates have dropped sufficiently to allow restrictions to be eased, but there are notable exceptions. The Covid-19 rate in Spain now appears to be as bad, if not worse, than two months ago, and the Netherlands has seen a dramatic increase in numbers recently.
In the case of both Spain and the Netherlands, the rates increased following the decision to unlock their countries too quickly, and in both cases those decisions have had to reversed within weeks. Greece too appears to be seeing a new wave, and these areas now represent the largest threat to Europe’s strategy to keeping infection rates down.
A majority of genome sequences from human cases had clear phylogenetic relationships to sequences recovered from mink samples. Sequences from humans and mink from the same mink farms clustered closely together, suggesting within-farm human-to-mink and/or mink-to-human transmission. In sequences from two human samples from one of the negative mink farms the mutation Y453F, considered as an adaptation to mink, was observed.
“Between mid-October and mid-November, the National Veterinary Institute received 74 submissions of between 3–5 dead mink, representing between 1 and 4 submissions per farm. Thirteen farms gave positive results for SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acids using qRT-PCR. All positive farms were located in Sölvesborg, the County of Blekinge, in the south-eastern part of the country. None of the positive farms had reported increased morbidity or mortality before testing positive but, retrospectively, a slight increase in daily mortalities could be observed in the records from several of the farms.
All sequences from mink belonged to sub-lineage B1.1.39, a sub-lineage only seen once in Sweden before the outbreak. From the serological screening, 24 samples per farm were received from 26 out of the 28 mink farms that remained after the pelting. Specific SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were detected in the vast majority of samples from 23 farms, including in all farms that previously had been tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acids. In the remaining three farms, all samples tested negative.
A total of 100 persons have been registered in the program, but due to the seasonal mode of work, and changes in the workforce, the number of participants has varied. The 317 samples that have been taken and analysed for ongoing viral infection within the surveillance program have resulted in 8 positive persons. In addition to samples from these persons another 14 samples from mink farmworkers that was tested positive before the surveillance was launched were collected. All 22 samples were whole-genome sequenced (WGS). In the serological survey, 78 persons participated, among whom 27 tested positive.
The resulting sequences from WGS were analysed using pangolin. Generally, two main groups were seen, one representing sequences with a pangolin classification similar to that of sequences recovered from WGS of samples from minks (B.1.1.39) and the second group representing sequences with a pangolin classification identical to those circulating in Sweden at the time. The sequences were further analysed by aligning them towards the reference sequence NC_045512. A phylogenetic tree was calculated, and the subtree representing sequences with the pangolin classification B.1.1.39 was studied separately as new sequences were added.
A majority of sequences from human cases had clear phylogenetic relationships to sequences recovered from mink samples. Sequences from humans and mink from the same mink farms clustered closely together, suggesting within-farm human-to-mink and/or mink-to-human transmission. In sequences from two human samples from one of the negative mink farms the mutation Y453F, considered as an adaptation to mink, was observed.”
From: Mink-associated infections with SARS-CoV-2 –
** Update ** Mink farming was suspended for 2021 in Sweden, but on the basis of this report, mink farming should be banned entirely, not just in Sweden, but internationally. Mink farms risk becoming major reservoirs of Sars-CoV-2 capable of spilling back into the human population. The advantages of mink farming do not remotely outweigh the risks.
The highest ever daily country case figure for coronavirus on Planet Earth was recorded in The Seychelles in May 2021. The Seychelles daily case figure, adjusted for population, reached an astonishing 4,083 cases per million.
What is also surprising is that many of the countries on the list with the highest daily case rates also have excellent vaccination rates (see below). The Seychelles, for example, has vaccinated more than 60% of its population.
The reasons behind some of the high daily case numbers are given in articles we have previously published and have linked to below.
“I can confirm that we have received another report of a suspected death linked to vaccination last week,” writes Veronica Arthurson, unit manager at the Medical Products Agency in a text message to SVT. The woman in her 70s was completely healthy when she was vaccinated with Astra Zeneca’s vaccine, according to relatives. A few days later, she got the unusual side effects – blood clots and low levels of platelets – which have been the focus of the EU Medicines Agency’s review of the vaccine, according to SVT.
“Instead of following evolving evidence, the [Swedish] FHM has doubled down and defended its approach without reconsidering the assumptions on which the failed national approach is based. It has downplayed the roles of asymptomatic spread, aerosol transmission, children as potential source of infection, and the use of face masks. It has maintained an approach that mainly builds on recommendations to take voluntary actions, guided (in our view) more by public opinion than by sound public health policy. “
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is one simple graph like this worth?
The number of people with Covid-19 in intensive care units in Sweden has hit its highest point since the first wave, according to data from the Swedish Intensive Care Registry on Monday. There are currently at least 393 people in intensive care with Covid-19 across the country.
That topped the 389 who were treated in ICUs in early January, but was below the number in intensive care during the first wave of the pandemic in spring 2020, when the total reached as high as 558.
The spread of infection in Sweden on Friday was 625 new confirmed infections per day per one million inhabitants and the spread has increased since April 2 when it was 469 per one million inhabitants. The figures are based on an average over the last seven days.
According to Johns Hopkins University’s figures , the average value for the number of infections in Europe right now is 231 new confirmed cases per day and one million inhabitants – in the USA the figure is 205. Sweden’s figures are thus about three times as high.
Only the two small states of San Marino with 711 and Andorra with 630 new confirmed infected per day per million inhabitants have higher numbers.
Graph courtesy of OurworldinData.org
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that democratic governments can make vaccinations obligatory, in a landmark judgement rejecting complaints brought by Czech families penalised for refusing compulsory jabs for their children.
“The… measures could be regarded as being ‘necessary in a democratic society'” the court ruled, saying that the Czech health policy was consistent with the “best interests” of children.
Our opinion: ** Is there an easier or quicker way of antagonising parents in the middle of a global viral pandemic than encouraging mandatory vaccinations? We can’t think of one. Expect severe blowback **
Another Swedish case is now being investigated for a suspected connection between blood clots and AstraZeneca’s vaccine. It concerns a woman employed in care in the 30s, who now receives intensive care, the Medical Products Agency states.
This is the second confirmed case in Sweden where it concerns an established combination of blood clots and low levels of platelets in a person who has received AstraZeneca’s corona vaccine.
“It will get worse before it gets better.” The words are from the chief physician Magnus von Seth, who sees up close how the third wave strikes with force against Uppsala, Sweden.
Right now, every fourth covid patient in the county is cared for at IVA. “This time it is younger patients we are admitting,” he says.
The Academic Hospital’s intensive care unit is again under high pressure. This weekend, another five very seriously ill patients were admitted, which meant that every fourth covid patient in the county was cared for at IVA.
To find a worse situation, you have to go back to the first half of April last year. The peak came on April 9, when 30 percent of all patients in the Uppsala Region were in intensive care.
Results from a U.S. trial of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine may have used “outdated information,” federal health officials said early Tuesday.
The Data and Safety Monitoring Board said in a statement that it was concerned that AstraZeneca may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data of the two-dose vaccine.
By March 15, 18 cases had been identified by mutation screening, but the region feared the number was just the tip of the iceberg.
Since then, the outbreak has grown, and the number of infected students is now 47. At the same time, about 15 cases of the variant have also been discovered outside the university, according to Mats Martinell.
“In total, there are about 60 cases in Uppsala. So it is not just students, but we have a social spread.”
Curt Hagquist, visiting professor of public health science at the University of Gothenburg, is concerned about the consequences: Especially for the young people who have already had worries in life before. And that health gap, the gap between those who are well and those who are less well. That gap widens during this pandemic, if we do not see what is happening with open eyes and try to parry for it, says Curt Hagquist.
He also says that a lot of research shows clear links between financial anxiety and increased mental illness. High school students have been affected by the pandemic at an important start in life; and many, after a year of pandemic, mostly distance education and social isolation, see a rather uncertain future for themselves.