England will have “put most of the pandemic behind us” by October, a leading scientific adviser said yesterday after the number of new coronavirus cases fell for the sixth day in a row.
Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage), said that while caution was still warranted, the rollout of the vaccine had “fundamentally changed the threat of Covid-19”.
“The effect of vaccines greatly reduces the risk of hospitalizations and death, and I’m sure we’ll be looking back on most of the pandemic at the end of September or October,” he told Today on BBC Radio 4.
“We will have Covid with us, we will still have people dying from Covid, but we will have put most of the pandemic behind us.”
Ferguson added that it was “too early to say” what effect the unlock would have, saying: “We need to remain cautious, especially with the potential increase in contact rate as the weather turns bad and schools return.”
There were 24,950 positive cases in the UK yesterday, down 15,000 from 39,950 last Monday and down from 54,000 on July 17. One model shows the R number below 1, suggesting that the pandemic is shrinking.
Boris Johnson and health officials still urged caution, especially as the impact of the lifting of the legal limits on social contact in England last Monday has not yet been reflected in the data.
England and Wales had 218 deaths related to Covid in the week to July 16, according to analysis of death certificates by the Office for National Statistics, 19 percent more than the week before. It is the highest number since 260 deaths in the week to April 23.
dr. Christopher Jewell, of Lancaster University, an epidemiologist who sits on the Spi-M panel of government advisers, said: “We’ll know more as the week goes on, but our current model-based estimates are certainly [being roughly] one three days ago to R less than one today.”
“The drop in the number of cases is somewhat mind-boggling. . . I suspect it has something to do with schools breaking up and changing contact patterns. We had noticed a drop in Scottish cases compared to earlier elsewhere [Scotland breaks up and goes back earlier than England], which may support this hypothesis.”
However, he also said the numbers could be due to issues with the data, saying people “may be less likely to get tested if they’ve booked summer vacation” and there could be disruptions in sending tests or a ” data error”.
A professor described earlier warnings that Britain could have more than 100,000 new infections a day in the summer as a “significant overestimation”. Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, said the drop in cases is likely linked to Euro 2020, when many people may have contracted the virus after gathering to watch matches in large groups.
He said: “A lot of people might find it disgusting that I say this, but in the end the European Championship could turn out to be one of the things that makes the rest of the summer less stressful as we actually vaccinated a lot more younger people who would otherwise would not have come for or been available for a vaccine, but I want to emphasize that I would never propose that as a pre-control strategy.”
Some models had predicted that a peak towards the third wave would occur at this point.
Karl Friston, a professor of imaging neuroscience at University College London who provides modeling on the “independent Sage” group, said: “This kind of modeling predicts that the current resurgence of infections will peak around now, with no further increases until winter. “
He said it was important to consider “how we are effectively preparing for a winter resurgence” and said: “People may have over-interpreted the worst-case scenario modeling… which hit 100,000 in the summer.” cases per day.”
Fourteen deaths were reported yesterday, compared to 28 on Sunday. The number of people being admitted to hospital, who are typically left with infections, continues to rise.
The number of Covid patients registered in English hospitals yesterday crossed 5,000 for the first time since March 18, reaching 5,055. Epidemiologists have said they expect the number of hospital cases due to the Covid-19 “plateau” this week.
A spokesperson for No. 10 said: “The prime minister thinks we are not out of the woods yet and has repeatedly emphasized that the pandemic is not over yet”, adding that lifting restrictions would have an “impact on the number of cases”. to have. .
Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of Public Health England, said: “It is too early to be sure that the number of cases will fall and in the coming weeks we will give a better idea of whether this is an indication of a longer term decline, especially after the lifting of restrictions.” She urged people to get both doses of vaccine, meet outdoors whenever possible and isolate if asked.
NHS leaders have also warned that the health service is under as much pressure as it was at the peak of the pandemic in January. NHS Providers has written to the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Health Secretary and Chief Executive of NHS England, outlining pressures including record waiting lists, record levels of demand in A&E and the growing number of Covid-19 admissions.
Experts are cautious about the falling numbers, saying the good weather has led to more people socializing outside. The closure of the school year “bubbles” and the so-called pingdemic of alerts from the NHS app may have caused more people to isolate themselves.
Stephen Griffin of the University of Leeds Medical School said: “While this appears to be good news, I would be surprised if we are likely to see a continuation of this decline.”
James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, said: “I hope these test figures, which show such a rapid decline in the number of infections, are an accurate reflection of reality.”