UK finds vaccines 80% effective at preventing hospitalisations in over-80s

Link: https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-health-coronavirus-britain-vaccines/uk-finds-vaccines-80-effective-at-preventing-hospitalisations-in-over-80s-idUSKCN2AT38I

Excerpt:

The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are more than 80% effective at preventing hospitalisations from COVID-19 in those over 80 after one dose of either shot, Public Health England (PHE) said on Monday, citing a pre-print study.

Author(s): Alistair Smout

Publication Date: 2 March 2021

Publication Site: Reuters

7 Virus Variants Found in U.S. Carrying the Same Mutation

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/14/health/coronavirus-variants-evolution.html

Excerpt:

As Americans anxiously watch variants first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa spread in the United States, scientists are finding a number of new variants that originated here. More concerning, many of these variants seem to be evolving in the same direction — potentially becoming contagious threats of their own.

In a study posted on Sunday, a team of researchers reported seven growing lineages of the novel coronavirus, spotted in states across the country. All of them have evolved a mutation in the same genetic letter.

“There’s clearly something going on with this mutation,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveportand a co-author of the new study.

Author(s): Carl Zimmer

Publication Date: 14 February 2021, updated 25 February 2021

Publication Site: NY Times

U.K. Virus Variant Is Probably Deadlier, Scientists Say

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/13/world/europe/covid-uk-variant-deadlier.html

Excerpt:

British government scientists are increasingly finding the coronavirus variant first detected in Britain to be linked to a higher risk of death than other versions of the virus, a devastating trend that highlights the serious risks and considerable uncertainties of this new phase of the pandemic.

The scientists said last month that there was a “realistic possibility” that the variant was not only more contagious than others, but also more lethal. Now, they say in a new document that it is “likely” that the variant is linked to an increased risk of hospitalization and death.

The British government did not publicly announce the updated findings, which are based on roughly twice as many studies as its earlier assessment and include more deaths from Covid-19 cases caused by the new variant, known as B.1.1.7. It posted the document on a government website on Friday.

Author(s): Benjamin Mueller, Carl Zimmer

Publication Date: 13 February 2021, updated 17 February 2021

Publication Site: NY Times

‘Encouraging’ signs for Covid vaccine as over-80s deaths fall in England

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/feb/16/encouraging-signs-covid-vaccine-over-80s-deaths-fall-england

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Deaths from coronavirus have fallen by 62% among over-80s since 24 January, the point at which a third of that age group had some level of immunity against coronavirus, having received their first vaccine dose at least two weeks earlier, data analysis by the Guardian showed.

This drop was larger than among groups with a lower level of vaccination. Among people aged between 20 and 64 the drop in deaths was 47%, while the drop among those aged 65 to 79 was 51%.

Author(s): Anna Leach, Ashley Kirk, and Pamela Duncan

Publication Date: 16 February 2021

Publication Site: The Guardian

Up to 90 volunteers in UK to take part in pioneering Covid infection trial

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/17/uk-to-begin-worlds-first-covid-human-challenge-study-within-weeks

Graphic:

Excerpt:

The world’s first coronavirus human challenge study will begin in the UK in a matter of weeks, following approval from the country’s clinical trials ethics body, the business department said.

Approval has been given for an initial trial that will involve up to 90 carefully screened, healthy, adult volunteers aged between 18 and 30. They will be exposed to the coronavirus in a safe, controlled environment. It is hoped further trials will follow.

“These are quite unique studies, able to accelerate not only understanding of diseases caused by infection, but also to accelerate the discovery of new treatments and of vaccines,” said Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London.

Author(s): Nicola Davis

Publication Date: 17 February 2021

Publication Site: The Guardian

HMT Review of Solvency II: Call for Evidence—IFoA Response

Link: https://www.actuaries.org.uk/system/files/field/document/HMT_SII_v7.pdf

Excerpt:

The current design of the SII risk margin is too interest-rate sensitive and too high, particularly in the current low-interest rate environment. We believe reform, and an overall reduction, in the risk margin is desirable and can be done whilst keeping an appropriate balance between policyholder protection and cost.


The Matching Adjustment (MA) is vitally important to UK insurers, UK pension schemes and individuals. Without it, annuity prices would increase, and it would simply not be affordable for many pension schemes to buy-out with an insurance company. The IFoA fully supports the continued inclusion of the MA; the MA has successfully helped reduced
procyclical investment behaviour, such as during the stressed conditions in early 2020. However, we believe that the MA framework needs to incorporate more pragmatic flexibility, without a lowering of regulatory standards.


We favour incentivisation of ‘green’ investment rather than overly penal disincentives for ‘brown’ asset classes, noting that sectors considered ‘brown’ must also be part of the solution to the challenges of climate change.

Author(s): Institute and Faculty of Actuaries

Publication Date: 19 February 2021

Publication Site: Institute and Faculty of Actuaries

Solvency II Review: Call for Evidence

Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/solvency-ii-review-call-for-evidence

Excerpt:

Solvency II is the regime that governs the prudential regulation of insurance firms in the UK. This call for evidence is the first stage of the review of Solvency II.

The review is underpinned by three objectives:

to spur a vibrant, innovative, and internationally competitive insurance sector

to protect policyholders and ensure the safety and soundness of firms

to support insurance firms to provide long-term capital to support growth, including investment in infrastructure, venture capital and growth equity, and other long-term productive assets, as well as investment consistent with the government’s climate change objectives.

The government seeks views on how to tailor the prudential regulatory regime to support the unique features of the insurance sector and regulatory approach in the UK.

Author(s): Her Majesty’s Treasury

Date Accessed: 24 February 2021

Publication Site: Gov.UK

Matching adjustment becomes a battleground in UK’s Solvency II consultation

Link: https://www.insuranceerm.com/analysis/matching-adjustment-becomes-a-battleground-in-uks-solvency-ii-consultation.html

Excerpt:

Solvency II sets strict requirements over what kinds of liabilities and assets are eligible for the MA [matching adjustment], and the governance of them. In the UK’s Solvency II consultation, respondents have argued a looser regime would be good for insurers – and good for the country.

…..

Many of these suggestions have been previously floated in industry circles, some since even before Solvency II came into effect in 2016. But there are a growing number of experts calling for a much more dramatic rethink of the MA – and whether it should even exist.

Dean Buckner, a former regulator at the Bank of England who worked on the MA, and Kevin Dowd, professor of finance and economics at Durham University, have been at the forefront of arguing the MA creates “fake capital” and puts annuity payments at risk.

In their submission to the consultation, they write: “The MA allows firms to recognise some anticipated risky future profits as if they were certain, thereby allowing them to be distributed before being realised. If the risky future profits are not realised – bear in mind that they are called ‘risky’ for a reason – then the capital created by MA will vanish, and policyholders will be at risk.”

Author(s): Christopher Cundy

Publication Date: 23 February 2021

Publication Site: Insurance ERM

Despite Starkly Different COVID-19 Policies, the U.S. and the U.K. Saw Similar Drops in Cases Around the Same Time

Excerpt:

Despite the stark difference in policy, both countries saw remarkably similar COVID-19 trends this winter. According to Worldometer’s numbers, the seven-day average of new cases peaked in the U.K. on January 9; it peaked in the U.S. two days later. That number then fell sharply in both countries. As of yesterday, it was down 81 percent in the U.K. and 73 percent in the U.S.

Daily deaths are also falling in both countries. As of yesterday, the seven-day average in the U.K. was down 61 percent from the peak on January 23. In the U.S., it was down 43 percent from the peak on January 26. Given the dramatic drop in daily new cases that began more than a month ago, daily deaths should continue to fall.

…..

The same story of starkly different policies and similar outcomes emerges from a comparison of Texas and California, the two most populous states. While California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a new lockdown on December 3, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did not impose new restrictions, and the state remained largely open. Yet since mid-January, the two states have seen almost the same drop in the seven-day average of newly reported cases, which has fallen by 85 percent in California and 81 percent in Texas.

Author(s): JACOB SULLUM

Publication Date: 22 February 2021

Publication Site: Reason

Covid vaccines: Boris Johnson pledges surplus to poorer countries at G7

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-56117120

Excerpt:

Boris Johnson is pledging to donate most of the UK’s surplus vaccine supply to poorer countries in a speech to a virtual G7 meeting on Friday.

He urged rich countries to back a 100-day target for the developing new vaccines for future emerging diseases.

The UK has ordered more than 400 million doses of various vaccines, so many will be left over once all adults are vaccinated.

Publication Date: 20 February 2021

Publication Site: BBC News

Fury at ‘do not resuscitate’ notices given to Covid patients with learning disabilities

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/13/new-do-not-resuscitate-orders-imposed-on-covid-19-patients-with-learning-difficulties

Excerpt:

People with learning disabilities have been given do not resuscitate orders during the second wave of the pandemic, in spite of widespread condemnation of the practice last year and an urgent investigation by the care watchdog.

Mencap said it had received reports in January from people with learning disabilities that they had been told they would not be resuscitated if they were taken ill with Covid-19.

The Care Quality Commission said in December that inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices had caused potentially avoidable deaths last year.

DNACPRs are usually made for people who are too frail to benefit from CPR, but Mencap said some seem to have been issued for people simply because they had a learning disability. The CQC is due to publish a report on the practice within weeks.

Author(s): James Tapper

Publication Date: 13 February 2021

Publication Site: The Guardian

‘Do not resuscitate’ orders caused potentially avoidable deaths, regulator finds

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/dec/03/do-not-resuscitate-orders-caused-potentially-avoidable-deaths-regulator-finds

Excerpt:

Do-not-resuscitate orders were wrongly allocated to some care home residents during the Covid-19 pandemic, causing potentially avoidable deaths, the first phase of a review by England’s Care Quality Commission has found.

The regulator warned that some of the “inappropriate” do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) notices applied in the spring may still be in place and called on all care providers to check with the person concerned that they consent.

The review was prompted by concerns about the blanket application of the orders in care homes in the early part of the pandemic, amid then prevalent fears that NHS hospitals would be overwhelmed.

Author(s): Robert Booth

Publication Date: 2 December 2020

Publication Site: The Guardian