Forget what the government said about the so-called “Freedom Day” not being a bet. There is still enormous uncertainty as to how the weeks and months ahead might unfold.
“It’s a calculated risk,” Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the government’s top Covid advisers, told me on Monday.
Professor Ferguson seems much more optimistic than he has at any time we’ve spoken since the start of the pandemic.
But he’s the first to admit that he can’t reliably predict where we might be in a few weeks.
England’s easing lockdown impact will take three or four weeks to materialize, Professor Neil Ferguson says
The risk revolves around three main uncertainties.
First of all, how effective vaccines turn out to be preventing people from dying of Covid-19.
There is no doubt that they are very effective: they are estimated to be between 92% and 98% effective in preventing a person from dying from the disease.
But at the population level, those few percentage points make a big difference. If the vaccines are 98% effective, we may never see more than 100 deaths per day in the next wave, but if they are at the lower end of that estimate, experts predict we could see 400 deaths. per day.
Then, how we all behave.
With a gradual return to pre-pandemic behavior by the fall, cases could peak at around 100,000 per day.
This is much more than January’s peak of 60,000, but due to vaccination it will result in around 1,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths (or more, depending on vaccines – see above).
While if we do, in the words of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam, “we pull our pants off”, cases could reach 200,000 per day and hospitalizations and deaths to around 2,000 and 200 per day. , respectively.
What is a reasonable worst case scenario? Professor Fergusion explains it:
And then there are the schools.
They have been one of the main drivers of infections since the Delta variant took off in UK. But at the end of the week, they will close.
They are expected to remove some of the heat from the current explosion, possibly even stalling the cases.
But by how much, and for how long, is about as uncertain as what we do, or don’t do, with these pants.
Hospitalization rates are down, death rates are down – what next?
But if you look beyond Covid, the picture is less optimistic: “We have a serious triple threat coming this winter,” according to intensive care specialist Dr Charlotte Summers.
She is concerned about a huge backlog of NHS operations, combined with forecasts of a severe winter season due to the fact that no one was exposed to the flu or other respiratory viruses this past winter, which means a very sensitive population.
“We have a very serious triple threat this winter,” says Dr Charlotte Summers
Although the government does not qualify its current policy as “herd immunity”, this is indeed what will result from the mantra “learning to live with the virus”, emanating from the Ministry of Health.
And if the vaccines work and unvaccinated young people aren’t harmed by Covid, that may be a reasonable policy.But we cannot ignore the fact that Covid is not a typical respiratory illness.
It can cause damage to vital organs like the heart, kidneys and liver.
It can cause Long Covid.
While some of the worst predictions for Long Covid don’t appear to be coming true, it’s still very early days.
Coronavirus: what you need to knoww – How can clinically vulnerable people be protected after “Freedom Day”?
Additionally, letting the virus run rampant through a partially vaccinated population – which precisely could happen from Monday – is the perfect way to select new variants of Covid.
We would like to think that Covid doesn’t have much more to throw at us, but the short, grim history of this pandemic tells us otherwise.