A third lockout was inevitable for England. As it deals with new infections from a form of the coronavirus that scientists estimate is 50-70 percent more transmissible, strain is growing on the NHS. The number of new infections continues to reach 50,000 per day, and there are hundreds of deaths per day.
Many were hopeful a few weeks ago that vaccinations in England would return to normal by spring.
With the government’s reaction to this pandemic, it’s easy to be disappointed and wonder why it did not act earlier.
Ministers missed the opportunity to eradicate the virus in the summer when the number of cases was tiny, opting instead to act rapidly and recklessly after the initial national lockdown. Without any testing or quarantine limits on the return of passengers, the government subsidized dining in restaurants and bars and encouraged vacations abroad via “travel corridors”.
It was always probable that, if left unchecked, the virus causing Covid-19 would mutate. The high prevalence created more possibilities for the introduction of a strain that now appears to be circulating at an alarming pace. Live UK Covid: Sunak launches a £ 4.6 billion package to support businesses through the lockout of the third coronavirus. Optimism among scientists about many approved vaccines is tempered by serious worries about the new version and what it will bring in the next couple of weeks.
Sage experts remember that it will be a challenge, even with existing restrictions, to avoid the spread of this new variant in the coming weeks.
Some fringe scientists have suggested that allowing the virus to spread through younger, healthier members of the population makes this a stronger argument for the government.
In addition to the possibilities this would generate for more mutations to occur, new research from Manaus, Brazil, shows how devastating an unchecked outbreak would be.
76% of individuals are known to be infected with Covid-19, and the outbreak is still continuing.
A 76 percent infection rate, using Manaus’ age-specific infection death rates, will mean 350,000 deaths in the UK and 1.58 million deaths in the US.
Manaus has a particularly young population, so the mortality rate is possibly lower there than in Western Europe and North America’s older populations. The significant rate of serious Covid-19-related illness also illustrates the danger of exposing a large percentage of the population to a virus that is still not well understood. Even a proposal to allow the virus into the population would entail limits, since the high incidence of hospitalization resulting from infections with Covid is unsafe for all.
Patients of all stripes – whether recovering from a heart attack or a car accident – can’t get the care they need when hospitals are packed.
And Covid 19 patients can not receive the vital treatment they need to live without free beds. The reverse reaction to this is what has been called the maximum suppression or “zero Covid” model.
But at this point, with the Office for National Statistics estimating that in England there are around 100,000 infections every day, and with the latest variant placing pressure on the NHS and the test-and-trace scheme, it seems no longer feasible to follow this strategy. Without crippling the NHS, the immediate goal should be to get through the next few months and prepare a vigorous response to eradicate Covid in the spring and summer. Vaccinating as many individuals as possible would be crucial. The UK has preferred to vaccinate more individuals with one dose, rather than fewer individuals with two doses. This is more of an ethical and political decision than a scientific one, as it comes at a tremendous cost to wait for follow-up vaccines to be delivered.
Except for the most needy children and the children of key staff, schools will remain closed until mid-February. As always, to monitor the virus, mass testing and assisted isolation are central.
We can rapidly screen individuals during the lockdown and after the new restrictions are lifted to recognize those who are carriers of the virus and ensure that those who need to be isolated have the means – both financial and realistic – to spend 10 days on their own