Today was meant to be the day it was confirmed all Covid restrictions here in England would be lifted
next Monday (June 21st). However, the BBC and others are now reporting that PM Johnson will delay this by
4 weeks. Although the UK has administered more 1st (79% of adults) and 2nd doses (57%) than any major
economy, the rapid growth in the Delta (Indian) variant has complicated plans. It’s still unclear how
much it reduces vaccine effectiveness, but the evidence is that second doses make a big difference as
first dose effectiveness is only estimated at 33% for both Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s vaccines. This
variant may push herd immunity for vaccines at over 90% - a higher take-up rate than virtually all
countries are seeing outside the UK.
This will bring to the fore how much risk populations are
prepared to take. The original mission was largely to protect the vulnerable and health services. So more
data is needed on hospitalisations, especially for those double vaccinated. In terms of the most
vulnerable, there is every evidence that vaccines are still working as today’s CoTD shows new case growth
in England is stronger in the younger less-vaccinated population. However, there is some pick up in cases
for older groups in spite of a 95-99% take-up rate. The other interesting element is that how low cases
are for the elderly relative to the turn of the year. But we can see that the recent growth rate from the
bottom is concerning even in this group.
The most interesting thing about today’s announcement
will be if the PM gives a criteria for what would lead to the easing of restrictions? The fact that some
fully-vaccinated people are catching Covid means it’s near impossible to eliminate it in the near term.
Without attainable criteria the risk is that we see rolling restrictions for many months to come. The UK
and more specifically England will be a good case study of what the rest of the world can expect and what
risks we are prepared to take.