Case

Vaccines the Cause of Britain’s Drop In Covid Cases, Not Lockdown, Says KCL Epidemiologist

A King’s College London epidemiologist has said that Britain’s “exemplar vaccine programme” – which has seen almost 40 million first and second doses administered – is behind the drop in Covid cases since January. Professor Tim Spector’s view contrasts with that of the Prime Minister who believes lockdown – not the vaccine – has delivered “this improvement in the pandemic“. The Mail has the story.

Vaccines are behind Britain’s sharp drop in coronavirus cases since January, top experts claimed today – despite Boris Johnson insisting lockdown was the reason for the fall.  

Professor Tim Spector, a King’s College London epidemiologist who runs the UK’s largest Covid symptom tracking study, said the epidemic had “mainly” been squashed by the “exemplar vaccine programme”.

With more than 60% of the population jabbed with at least one dose and up to 10% protected due to prior infection, Professor Spector added Britain was “starting to see herd immunity take effect”.

His comments come after data from his symptom-tracking app showed a 17% drop in daily cases last week, with an estimated 1,600 new symptomatic infections a day across the country – down from 60,000 at the peak in January.

Separate Test and Trace figures showed new cases in England had dipped by 34% last week, with 19,196 positive tests recorded in the seven days to April 7th – compared to 29,178 at the end of March. 

Professor Spector said: “As the UK slowly exits lockdown, I’m encouraged to see Covid cases continue to fall with our rates among the lowest in Europe. 

“In fact, the UK closely mirrors cases in Israel with its exemplar vaccine programme. Based on our data and countries like Israel, I believe the fall in cases since January is mainly thanks to the vaccination programme and less about the strict lockdown the UK has been under since late December. 

“With up to 60% of the population vaccinated and around five to 10% with natural immunity due to infection, we’re starting to see herd immunity take effect. This should prevent future large-scale outbreaks.”

Professor Spector warned it was inevitable cases would pick up again as restrictions are eased over the coming months. But he said any outbreaks would be “smaller” and “manageable” and among groups yet to be vaccinated.

The Prime Minister has been underplaying the impact of the vaccine for some weeks. As well as pinning the fall in Covid cases on lockdown rather than on the vaccine rollout, he recently said that vaccinated people must not meet indoors because jabs “are not giving 100% protection” – this despite the fact that the risk of catching a symptomatic Covid infection for two people who have been vaccinated is about one in 400,000. His confidence in lockdowns has, however, stood firm, despite an increasing number of studies showing they’re ineffective.

The report by the Mail is worth reading in full.

More Than Half of People in England Living In Areas with Almost No New Covid Cases

Many areas across England have now gone months without enough Covid cases to justify the publication of their data, as the Prime Minister is urged to honour his pledge of following “data not dates”. The Telegraph has the story.

Over half of people in England now live in an area in which new cases of Covid have all but vanished, with some places not reporting a case in public data for more than a month.

Infections have been so low in areas with a total population of 34.5 million that Public Health England has redacted their latest weekly case tallies in order to protect the privacy of those – if any – who test positive.

These 4,307 areas could have had at most two new cases but potentially zero in the seven days to April 4th – and 1,091, home to 8.2 million people, have had their data suppressed every week since the end of February.

Around 20,000 cases are now being detected across England each week – a fall of nearly 95% from the peak of more than 380,000 during the worst week of the second wave.

At that time in January, only six neighbourhoods out of a total of 6,791 in PHE’s data had low enough cases to require redaction under data protection rules, as the more contagious Kent variant of the virus left few areas untouched.  

However, many places have now gone months without enough cases to justify publication of their data.

Areas of Devon including Bampton, Holcombe, Westleigh, Lynton and Combe Martin have all gone 10 weeks with close to zero cases, while in Cornwall Towednack, Lelant, Carbis Bay, Probus and Roseland have gone nine.

On average, areas that have had their most recent weekly case total redacted are now in their third week in a row with close to zero cases, suggesting infections are staying low even after the recent relaxation of lockdown measures.

Conservative MP William Wragg said that the emphasis now should be on “data and not dates”.

It is good that we are making such strong progress and I would hope therefore that there should be no impediment to progress. If the roadmap can be accelerated, it should be accelerated.

Last month, Mark Harper, the Chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), said that the idea Boris Johnson is following “data not dates” could look “increasingly ridiculous” unless the opening of some things was “[brought] forward”. Infections rose week-on-week in only one in seven areas across England between March 28th and April 4th, which some MPs argue is not enough to excuse the continuation of the “roadmap” out of lockdown at its current slow pace.

Steve Baker, the CRG’s Deputy Chairman, suggested the “stellar success” of the vaccine rollout meant people should now be treated as “responsible adults”.

Worth reading in full.

The Measure of Man

We’re publishing a new essay today by Sinéad Murphy, a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University, about the light that the work of the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer can throw on the Government’s handling of the pandemic over the last 12 months. Here are the three opening paragraphs:

One year later, and the Coronavirus Act that has enabled much of the UK Government’s lockdown has just been renewed for another six months. Debate in the lead-up to its renewal has included admissions from the Prime Minister of his failure last year to introduce measures early enough and ‘hard’ enough, submissions from Tory opponents of the Act showing that cases of COVID-19 are now so low as to make continued measures unnecessary, and ongoing concern by the bravest Tory of them all, Charles Walker, about the health of the population when measures continue in defiance of falling cases.

All of these aspects of the debate are important. But it is well past time for scientific analyses and disagreements in respect of measures, cases and health to be supplemented, perhaps even undercut, by a philosophical perspective. These concepts – measure, case, health – have this year been our bread and butter. We have bandied them endlessly, sometimes desperately. But are we fully aware of what they mean?

In a short essay from 1990, entitled “Philosophy and Practical Medicine”, the German philosopher, Hans-Georg Gadamer, provides us with just what we need: a philosophical account of the concepts of measure, case, and health, which reveals just how truncated has been the understanding and application of them during the past year.

Worth reading in full.