“We are sacrificing our chance to see loved ones this Christmas so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so we can see them on a future Christmas,” said Johnson, taking a potentially career-defining move. Said he had refused just a few days ago.
But the delta version — still more permeable than the alpha strain that ruined last year’s festivities — hasn’t gone away.
The country has quietly endured higher cases, hospitalizations and deaths than the rest of Europe. Britain has reported nearly half a million cases in the past two weeks – and nearly 50,000 on Monday – more than France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined. Britain on Tuesday reported 223 deaths, the highest daily figure since the beginning of March.
Johnson has deviated from most of the EU in his approach; While many countries on the continent have introduced vaccine passports, England has shelved its original plan to do so. Wearing of masks and social distancing and other measures are no longer required by law in the UK.
Hospitals in the UK are now once again under pressure from new admissions. And the risk of the nation’s early vaccination success is being undone by the stuttering rollout of booster shots and shots for children.
“Extraordinary policies produce extraordinary results,” Deepti Gurdasani, an epidemiologist at Queen Mary University in London, told Granthshala. “It’s very predictable. It’s a consequence of opening everything up.”
“We’re approaching winter, and things are only getting worse,” she said.
Some things may still be off; Johnson’s spokesman acknowledged on Monday that a “challenging” winter is ahead, and the prime minister has ruled out a return to mask mandates or stronger restrictions to protect the country’s National Health Service (NHS) in the coming weeks.
But some experts are calling for a more immediate change in approach.
“We are out in a number of ways[in]with Western Europe and the rest of the world,” said Martin Mackie, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“We have seen in other European countries that collective measures make a big difference,” he said. “We must ask ourselves: Are we right? (Because) there is no evidence that we are.”
Stuttering Vaccine Rollout
But the country is struggling to replicate those early successes as it tries to vaccinate teens and give booster shots to the elderly and those at risk.
“England’s booster rollout has failed to keep pace with the rollout of the first and second vaccine doses,” John Roberts, a consultant with the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group, which tracks vaccination data, said in a statement on Monday. warned.
More than a month after the booster shot was started, less than half of those over 80 who were twice vaccinated have received a top-up. “It is clear that it is important to accelerate the booster rollout to reduce the pressure on health services and to reduce Covid-related deaths this autumn and winter,” he said.
The group estimated that, at the current pace, the 22 million people that make up the country’s high-risk groups would not be triple-vaccinated until the end of January, despite initial government promises that the program would protect people for the winter. .
The vaccine is reducing the number of patients with COVID-19 who need hospital treatment, but the pace of rollout becomes especially important as immunity declines. Most people over the age of 40 in Britain were originally vaccinated with the partially indigenous Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has shown less efficacy against the delta version than shots from Pfizer and Moderna.
Many experts blame months of positive assurances from Johnson’s government for the lack of momentum in Britain’s vaccination campaign.
“All messages and actions of the government show that we are out of danger,” Gurdasani said.
“There are a lot of messages that the pandemic is essentially over, so a lot of people are wondering: ‘Why bother?
There are also concerns at the other end of the age spectrum, as the NHS works to vaccinate those over 12 and greatly disrupt the summer period in June and July to avoid a recurrence of mass transmission in schools.
That program faced a false start amid conflicting preliminary advice from the country’s scientific bodies; For example, France introduced under-18 vaccination in June, with the British government only flagging the move in September.
1.2 million adolescents have now been given a single dose of a vaccine and in England just 260,000 have seen two doses.
Gurdasani said, “The problem is not that teenagers don’t want to take it. There are many who are desperate to get it, but it is not being given in school yet.”
Schools have complained about a lack of vaccination staff, and England’s delay in allowing teenagers to visit national vaccine centers has seen it lag behind Scotland in age-group vaccinations.
“There’s a loss of direction here,” said Mackie. “It is not clear who is in charge.”
UK hospitals are battling severe cold
Britain’s Covid-19 rates are much higher than in Europe, but its mitigation measures are minimal.
“The government is completely dependent on the vaccination program, which is now running very half-heartedly,” Mackie said. “Where we differ from other countries needs an urgent review, and an assessment: should we be different? What’s the rationale?”
In contrast, Johnson has withdrawn initial plans to introduce similar measures. “Vaccine passes have an important role to play; the French and Italian experience show that they do,” Mackie said. Cases have been low in both countries since the measures were introduced.
Health care is developed in the UK and vaccine passes have been announced in Wales and Scotland. Johnson is meanwhile keeping them in reserve under his “Plan B” scenario for England – but with infection rates so high every day, many wonder why Plan A is still in effect.
“The rate of infection among our children is very high (and) they have spread to the elderly population,” Gurdasani said. “We’re approaching winter, and things are only going to get worse.”
Covid fatigue among the masses is another challenge. Large-scale programs are underway without the need for vaccinations and during busy periods little trace of the pandemic still remains on the British high streets.
According to the Office for National Statistics, just 40% of Britons still practice social distancing regularly, compared to 62% in mid-July and 85% in April. The same periodic study also showed a gradual decline in mask wear.
For some, this trend is worrying. “We have 30 to 40,000 cases every day for months. There is no other country that is tolerating it… (but) it has become normal,” Gurdasani said.
The steady stream of hospitalizations has not increased dramatically over the past two months, but there has been no significant decline either; Official figures show more than 700 new patients are entering the facilities every day.
That leaves hospitals, already struggling to work through a backlog of treatments that were delayed during the pandemic, anxiously awaiting another winter surge.
Last week, NHS England said more people were waiting for treatment than at any time since it began keeping records – 5.7 million – while health care workers battled through the busiest September on record this year.
“There is no doubt that the NHS is running hot, with September seeing the most patients at A&E, recording 14 times more Covid patients and 999 ambulance calls in hospital compared to the same month last year, Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of the NHS, said of the figures.
Which direction the winter takes is still not inevitable. “There are a lot of unknowns,” Mackie said, noting that the previous anticipated spikes in infections this year have not materialized.
But experts and hospital staff fear further stress. “It’s not a place most health workers want to live,” Gurdasani said. “It really scares me that we’re in this place before winter.”
And, as the year rolls on, the nature of Britain’s second pandemic Christmas remains unclear.
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