For those who urge the government promote the relaxation of lockdown restrictions Later this month on Tuesday the announcement will be made by “Zero Deaths” in the UK is provided as further evidence of the need to end the delay.
Certainly the country has come a long way since the New Year’s Covid surge, when the daily number of infections peaked at more than 68,000 and the number of people in the hospital would later rise to nearly 40,000. In the bleakest weeks of winter, more than 1,000 fatalities were mourned every day.
The vaccination program, perhaps the only unqualified success of the entire pandemic, has changed the calculation again.
But we are already seeing echoes from last summer’s situation.
The number of Covid patients in the hospital fell to around 700 before an unstoppable surge fueled by a relaxation of restrictions and the spread of the variant first found in Kent.
Now it’s the first variant discovered in India to spread across the country – and it’s spreading rapidly, at a time when only 50 percent of the population have received a second vaccination.
The Covid dashboard may be flashing “Zero Deaths” today, but it is also flashing warning signs that problems may be imminent.
The number of Covid infections is always the first number to rise. In previous waves, there were more hospital admissions – and then more deaths. It happens in this order, with weeks between the first signs of problems and an increase in deaths.
Has the introduction of the vaccine program resolved the link between infections and deaths? In theory it could, and that’s the hope, if enough people are vaccinated.
But with scientists warning of a third wave, there are reasons to seriously doubt.
Although half of UK adults have had two vaccinations, millions are still unvaccinated or protected with just one vaccination.
As Public Health England found, vaccination from Pfizer or AstraZeneca is only about 33% effective against symptomatic disease, compared with about 50% against the Alpha or Kent variants.
Protection increases significantly after two doses, hence the government urge to fire more second shots in the guns, especially for the elderly and more vulnerable.
To make matters worse, the variant first found in India, which is called Delta after the new naming system of the World Health Organization, is up to 50% more transferable than the variant from Kent, which is now called Alpha. Unless that number is corrected downward as the virus spreads across the country, vaccines alone are unlikely to contain it.
Outbreak specialists who advise Sage re-run their models to get a handle on what happens next. But they have already fired their long-range shot.
The modeling published earlier this month showed that if the new variant is 40% more transferable than the Kent variant, and if it no longer causes serious illness, and if Vaccines also work against what they don’t seem to do, and then the lifting of restrictions in step three of the roadmap could push hospital admissions to January’s dismal levels. The fourth step on June 21st could double that high.
The lockdown and vaccination program had a profound impact on the epidemic, bringing the deaths from the heartbreaking heights of winter.
Now the sun is shining and a longed-for summer seems to be ahead of us.
Many people are desperate to be free of Covid restrictions and feel that a return to some sort of normalcy is in sight and ministers are under pressure to stick to their schedule – albeit before the Delta variant became an issue .
The question now is – how big is the wave that healthcare and the nation can take?