The data from the previous two weeks has been erratic due to Christmas and new year. So how are we doing?
- We are in lockdown and restrictions may increase
- New cases are running at around 420,000 per week and rising but the rate of rising is coming down so we may be close to the peak or a plateau.
- Deaths are running at around 5000 per week and rising at 50% per week. The peak or plateau will lag behind the cases by around two weeks
- Vaccinations are running at 866,000 per week. So twice as many people will be getting immunity from the vaccine (3 weeks after the jab) than those getting it from catching the virus. But most of those getting the jab are vulnerable people and old people – not the spreaders.
- Hospitals are at full capacity now and the demand continues to grow at 35% per week.
It’s the usual sorry state we have come to expect from the government. Meanwhile British scientists and engineers are doing wonderful work in designing and manufacturing vaccines and we should be very proud of them.
So why are we in such a state?
The UK figures are quite depressing. Cases are rising, deaths are not decreasing, restrictions will be reduced at Christmas, and the Tiers will soon be revised. The Government continues, as it has done from the beginning to react too little and too late.
Boris Johnson announced the changes to the restrictions in London and the South East at around 4:30pm on 19th December. No one was allowed to leave after midnight. As a result trains were crammed, with no social distancing, by folk desperate to get home for Christmas. How many people caught the virus in a packed train carriage to pass on over the festivities?
So how do we compare?
For weekly death rates, in the EU countries England is fourth behind Lithuania. Slovakia, and Czechia.
In the world we are eighth. behind the above EU countries plus Lichtenstein, San Marino, Gibraltar and Wales.
New Cases per week
We can see the sudden rise in cases in the UK following Christmas relaxation of restrictions
Deaths per week
The rise in cases following Christmas have resulted in a rise in deaths in the new year. Strangely Germany seems not to be seeing a rise in cases, but a huge rise in the death rate. Death rate in the UK is now considerably greater than any of our neighbours and also the USA.
In this article I suggested that the new variant may have a higher mortality than the first variant. But there us another explanation for the increase in the proportion of new deaths to new cases.
Simply put, less cases are being recorded. This can be for any number of reasons. For example:-
- People not getting tested as they do not want to lose income.
- People not getting tested as they cannot get to a testing centre. (e.g., they do not have a car, do not want to use public transport, can’t lave the kids, etc. etc.
- People not wanting to go to a testing centre as they suspect they may actually catch the virus there.
- People not getting tested as they do not suspect they have the virus.
- People not getting tested as they think the lockdowns are a conspiracy. (Germany, in particular, has a strong anti-lockdown movement which may explain the rise in deaths not matched by a rise in cases)
- The track and trace system failing to notify people who have been in contact with infected people.
If this is the case and not enough people are getting tested, then the virus will continue to spread at, or close to, the current rate of around 20% per week until the effect of the vaccinations kick in.
Without vaccinations, with the new strain of covid, we currently seem to get a growth rate of 20% per week. As people are infected they either die or become immune (at least most of them will). As more people become immune, the epidemic will tail off because of “herd immunity”. Everyone does not have to be immune. As more people become immune, the chances of a susceptible person coming into contact with an infected person are reduced, eventually to a quite low probability, but never to zero.
But this takes a long time, and would result in many tens, or hundreds of thousands of deaths. over the next two years. Current infections are running at around 340,000 per week, which will result in around 330,000 immunities. This figure would rise, then come down as immunity starts to have an effect on the virus spread. But it will take a long time, and if restrictions are released the figure will rocket.
Currently we (England) have had 71039 deaths. Mortality is around 1.2% so we must have had about 6 million cases. Population is about 56 million so around 11% of the population are immune. So the chance of someone with the virus meeting someone without it is 89%. With these chances, with the current restrictions, the infection rate is growing at 30% per week, or 45% per 10 days (the length of time people are contageous) If we can reduce the chances of meeting someone with the virus by 45% then the growth should plateau. So we need to get these chance down to 55%x89% or 49%. So, roughly we need 50% of the population immune before the virus spread plateaus at the current level of restrictions. Increasing restrictions will further reduce the growth
If we could vaccinate 2 million people per week, then the immunity figure grows much more quickly and does not tail off. We cannot avoid the rise in deaths over the next few weeks, but the vaccinations should make the rate plummet after the peak and the virus could be virtually eliminated in the UK.
With 20:20 hindsight I was optimistic. We did manage well over 2 million people per week (well done the NHS!) but the vaccines are not 100% effective against infection. Neither does a dose of the infection provide 100% immunity from reinfection. But either or both reduce the chances.
The timing is dependent on the roll out and the take up of the vaccine.