Freedom Day

Today is the day that the government has declared we can now stop wearing masks and stop maintaining social distancing. We are now encouraged to stop working at home and get into work. We can also travel to many more countries and not have to isolate on return.

Those making the call are

  • Savid Javid, the Health Minister, who has just tested positive for Covid
  • Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister. Now self isolating as he has been in close contact with the Health Minister
  • Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Also self isolating.

All have had two doses of the vaccine.

This happens as new cases, deaths, and hospital admissions  are all rising at around 40% per week.

Deaths and hospital admissions are starting from a low figure, but they tend to rise at the rate that new cases were rising 2-3 weeks earlier.

If a person tests positive for Covid they must self isolate for 10 days. Currently over 400,000 people will be self isolating for this reason.  Their family members must also self isolate so this will probably take this figure to over 1 million  These numbers are also rising at about 40% per week.

Boris Johnson has said that when the schools close for summer that should put a natural “firebreak” into the system. But school holidays signal the start of the tourist season.  As people who have been vaccinated can still get the virus, and as it is possible to get the virus more than once, it is not easy to see why the incidences of new cases will fall in the immediate future.

Long Covid

According to government statistics 962,000 people were experiencing long covid on 6th June. On this date recorded cases were 4,516,862 and recorded deaths were 127,840. So 21% of recorded cases were experiencing long covid, and the instances of long covid are 7.5 times higher than the death rate.

There IS insufficient data to indicate if these ratios are going up or down according to the variant or the vaccination program. New cases of long covid appear to be going down slightly as the cases are going up rapidly.

Unfortunately there us no test yet for long covid and it’s symptoms range from mild fatigue to full paralysis.

Hospitals

In the last wave, the number of people in hospital peaked at 38,434 on 19th January.  This followed a peak in new case of  61,237 on 18 days earlier on 1st Jan.

Today there are 4,599 people in hospital following 26,526 new cases on 1st July. So it seems that the vaccines have reduced the number of people in hospital with Covid by a factor of 3-4.

The new case rate has more than doubled since 1st July it is still rising at around 40% per week.  Will the NHS be able to handle this?

A major problem is that the case rate will effect the the NHS staff too, so it’s maximum capacity will come down just as the number of patients are going up.  The government tends to give the NHS sufficient capacity to manage the average number of patients at the peak times.  With:-

  • normal winter increase in demand due to flu etc
  • staff shortages due to self isolation
  • staff shortages due to resignations due to low morale

It looks like the NHS will start to struggle in 4-5 weeks.

U turn?

Will the government U turn again and put the brakes on?   Boris Johnson is unlikely worry too much about rising death counts,  struggling hospitals, or long covid sufferers.

“The median age is 82 – 81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get Covid and live longer.

“Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4 per cent) and of those virtually all survive. And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate.”

Boris Johnson

But he will probably worry as the economy is crippled due to rising absenteeism due to positive covid tests. If the cases continue to rise at current rates we may have 4 million people self isolating within a month. Many businesses will have to suspend operations due to lack of critical staff.
If the government do try curb the lack of staff there are really only two alternatives.

  1. Another lock down.
    If they do this then new case rate will fall quite quickly and within 2-3 weeks we should have the self isolating numbers low enough to start work again. We should begin to see a fall in deaths and hospitalisations within a few weeks too.  As regards Long Covid – who knows? But the cases will rise again after the lockdown – unless it is a very long one, and the economy may no be able to withstand that.
  2. Change the rules.
    a. Currently around 500,000 people are self isolating because they have been contacted by the NHS or the NHS app.  They have to self isolate for 10 days but then can go back to work without ever having a test!  Bearing in mind that most people are asymptomatic. THIS IS SIMPLY STUPID.
    The government hopefully will decide that people who have been in contact with an infected person need not self isolate if they have no symptoms and test regularly – maybe every day for 10 days?
    b. The government could decide that people who test positive but are asymptomatic can go to work with a shorter, or non-existent period of isolation.  In that case covid will continue to spread in England  and citizens will have to resign themselves to the fact that they will probably catch the virus at some point.

I would guess this government will go with 2a. above. This will help the economy and get those people who are self isolating needlessly back to work and it may help to reduce the spreading of the virus a little.  It is a short term, sticking plaster approach which will appeal to Johnson.

Update 
Rule changed 16th August

Anyone who is fully vaccinated no longer needs to automatically self-isolate for 10 days if someone they have been in close contact with tests positive.
Instead, they should get a PCR test on day two and day eight of the 10 day period. People who are not fully vaccinated will still need to self-isolate for the 10 days.

Perhaps a third round of vaccinations may help – maybe with a different vaccine.  We really have to rely on the scientists and technologists to compensate for monumental government mishandling.

 

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