When delaying the easing of lockdown restrictions in England last Monday, the Prime Minister signalled that the extension was far more likely to last for four weeks (at least) than two. But Brendan Wren, Professor of Vaccinology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says the data shows there is “great hope” that “Freedom Day” could occur on July 5th rather than a fortnight later.
He pins this hope to the successful vaccine roll-out, noting also that mass testing probably gives a false impression of the number of actual Covid carriers in the country – and, of course, of the number of people in hospital because of the virus. Sky News has more.
[Professor] Wren… said that having more than 81% of the adult population with a first coronavirus jab, and 59% with both doses is “very encouraging”.
Asked whether the success of the vaccine programme means England will not need to wait until July 19th to fully open up, he said: “We’d still need to be vigilant – but vigilance and vaccination are the two words.
“So, I think if the numbers continue to be promising then I think there’s great hope we could open up on July 5th.” …
Official figures show the U.K. has recorded more than 10,000 daily Covid cases for three consecutive days.
But Professor Wren explained that the rise in cases seems to be “flattening off”, saying: “If you are testing and tracing more, then you are going to find more cases… but if you look at the population as a general cross-section, then the actual numbers – proportion-wise – might be less.”
The expert said the number of people in hospital with Covid and “certainly the severe cases” have “not crept up in line” with the number of infections.
“There’s clear evidence here that the vaccinations – certainly in the older populations – are working,” he added.
“Although the number of cases may increase, the number of hospitalisations, or deaths, or expected deaths, is not increasing in line with the previous waves.”
And asked whether the U.K. is experiencing a third wave of the pandemic, Professor Wren said: “I don’t think particularly. We expected that there would be an increase as we gradually opened up but I wouldn’t call this a third wave.”
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Others, including those who are closer to the Government, are more pessimistic. SAGE member Professor Calum Semple says we should expect a fourth wave in the winter due to the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Stop Press 2: A reader spotted a good letter in the Sunday Telegraph.
SIR – What is going on?
On June 23 last year the average number of daily Covid-19 deaths in the previous week was 59, with 353 hospital admissions. On that day the Government announced that restrictions on our freedoms would be eased on July 4.
This year the average number of daily Covid-19 deaths in the first week of June was seven, with 144 hospital admissions.
In contrast to last year, those at high risk have been vaccinated. Yet at the beginning of the week, the Government announced its intention to continue restricting our freedom for at least another five weeks.
Where is the logic? Will restrictions ever end? This disease is endemic. We should stop testing asymptomatic people, accept that “zero Covid” is not achievable and get on with our lives.
Dr Geoffrey Maidment
Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire