In the weeks leading up to July 19, the date on which England decided to open up the economy and return to normal public and business activity, many criticized the government’s decision. The World Health Organization has called on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to back down and experts in Europe and Britain themselves have said the move in the midst of the fourth wave – which recorded 50,000 cases a day – is part of an “irresponsible” policy. The propaganda was that opening nightclubs, returning to offices (partly due to summer vacation), entering restaurants and traveling in the crowded “tube” without the obligation of a mask (but only voluntarily) would soon bring the number of new cases to 100,000 a day.
But reality has proven otherwise. In the three weeks since the opening of the economy, the course of corona disease in the United Kingdom proves that there are still many factors influencing the spread of the virus that scientists do not understand, including the link between the vaccine given to the population and severe morbidity and mortality.
Instead of rising, despite the warnings, the number of new cases began to decline inexplicably starting July 20, the day after the economy opened. On that date it stood at about 48,000 cases (on average per day based on a week) in the United Kingdom. Two weeks later it dropped by almost half, standing at 25,000 cases. In the last week there has been a moderate re-increase, and the daily number of cases stands at 27,000 new cases per day. The “English Riddle” called it this morning the German newspaper “Zydowitsch Zeitung” which reported on the phenomenon.
And what happened to the significant measures of hospitalizations and mortality? The number of hospitalizations per day only increased until July 25, when it stood at about 6,300 people and since then it has been on a steady downward trend (15% decrease in the last week), and now stands at about 5,300 people a day. Mortality, however, has risen, and the daily number of victims stands at about 88 people, compared to about 30 people before the restrictions were lifted.
It is difficult to explain what is now known as the “British riddle”: a sharp decline in the number of infected (and a slight increase in the last week), a continued decline in inpatients and an increase in the number of victims, which is still low compared to winter. All this 3 weeks after removing all restrictions. Prof. Neil Ferguson, who sent Britain to the 1st closure, says “the era of closures is almost over” pic.twitter.com/N72y6Avm2c
– Assaf Oni, Berlin (@AssafUni) August 10, 2021
75% received two doses of vaccine
The explanation given by the government for the phenomenon is the comprehensive vaccination campaign in which Britain first launched the world. It has now reached 75% of the adult population who received two doses of vaccine as required, and 89% of the adult population who received at least one dose. This is why, according to the British government, three weeks after a similar number of patients were registered last autumn (estimated time from diagnosis to mortality), the number of victims stood at 900 people, and now stands at a tenth of that. It now places emphasis on a comprehensive vaccine, which according to data from the health authorities manages to reduce mortality and morbidity even when 100% of cases are due to the Delta variant.
Adam waits in line to get vaccinated for Corona at London’s Heaven night club. The club became the first club in the UK to establish a vaccination station / Photo: Associated Press, Alberto Pezzali
Another reason given is that opening up the economy has not fundamentally changed people’s behavior, in terms of traffic and interaction metrics, as provided by Google and telephony companies. That is, even before the complete removal of the restrictions, the gradual removals had already manifested themselves in an almost complete return to routine. Another opinion is that the “summer waves” in Europe are relatively weak due to the effects of weather and the departure of residents outside the homes, and even last summer experts wondered what explains the low ratio of patients to victims, in some European countries.
In Scotland, too, almost all restrictions have been lifted
Following the data, Scotland joined England yesterday, also announcing the removal of almost all public and social restrictions (except for the obligation to wear a mask on public transport and in shops). Scottish partygoers promised to celebrate “every night” in clubs that had been closed for so long, and these opened yesterday a minute after midnight. Pictures of crowded hangouts in closed clubs, without masks, without social distance, appeared this morning in the British media. Authorities in Scotland have taken the step despite 851 daily Corona cases and a positive test rate of 6.7%.
It should be noted and clarified that the picture may change within a few days, and that the slow upward trend recorded in the past week will become a leap, as has characterized the corona plague in the past. But there are many experts who believe that the vaccines “fundamentally changed the picture.” Prof Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist who was the main reason why the British government changed direction in March 2020 and went to closure and restrictions, said in an interview over the weekend that he estimated “the era of closures is almost gone”.
Prof Ferguson, of the Imperial College School of Public Health in London, said the vaccines “changed the relationship between cases and hospitalizations” and clarified that in his estimation “one should learn to live alongside the virus”. He estimated that this compromise would mean the excess death of thousands, and possibly tens of thousands more people each year as a result of the virus, in a manner similar to influenza mortality. He cautioned that this also depends on the dynamics of the spread of the virus itself, and the assumption that it will not undergo “significant change.”