Covid cases rising in UK – what happens next?

here in the uk a new stage of the pandemic began when boris johnson said this in july we’ll move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus the plan was clear in england there would be no rules requiring masks social distancing ventilation in schools or vaccine passes for restaurants instead the emphasis was on the uk’s vaccine rollout on personal responsibility on accepting that we must learn to live with the virus three months on this is how it’s going this week the uk recorded its highest number of daily infections since mid-july and it’s far higher than any of these major european countries and as case numbers rise the uk government says there isn’t a reason to change tack at the moment it’s sticking with what it calls plan a vaccines are central to that plan but they’re also central to understanding why infections are going up it starts with the speed of the uk’s vaccine rollout it had one of the fastest starts in the world and that start is a factor now at the start of this year we i think we’re sort of patting ourselves on the back for how fast the uk’s rollout of vaccines was going that’s actually um ironically become a bit of a problem for us now because what it means is that we have this issue of waning immunity the point being that immunity wanes over time here we see immunity a month after vaccination and then after several months now waning immunity can be addressed with booster jabs but right now millions of eligible people haven’t had one and then there’s children in september the uk decided to vaccinate children age 12 and over but many other countries started far sooner and all of this means the government’s handling of the vaccine rollout is now under attack the booster programme is stalling with charities describing it as a chaotic failure only around 13 of children have actually been vaccinated his wall of defense is falling down at just the point that vaccination is waning well as we’re hearing the government would refute that characterization but it is true that the rate of vaccinating children the rate of boosters and waning immunity are all factors when we look at the rising case numbers and that’s not all social distancing and masks are relevant too indoor socializing in the uk is pretty much at full tilt scotland and wales recently introduced vaccine passports for some large venues but in the rest of the uk they’re not needed as for masks well in scotland they’re legally required in some circumstances in england the government doesn’t require them though some local authorities do on public transport in reality though it’s patchy go on the underground in london you’ll see lots of people without masks that contrasts with say germany where masks are legally required in some places and use is high and the labour party thinks there’s a lesson here is it too much to ask really to ask someone on a crowded bus or tube to where uh wear a mask but also why you know forcing people to go back to work or um ending any social distancing and ending advice about ventilation all of these mitigations have been maintained on the continent their levels and our fraction of ours the data on the impact of mask wearing on the uk right now though is far from straightforward there is of course large-scale research showing massed reduced transmission but as john bernock of the ft notes data suggests right now they’re not a major driver of case numbers in a long twitter thread he posted if you’re encouraging or at least not discouraging lots of big crowded indoor mixing you’ll get more transmission masks or no masks and we know that despite some policy differences across the four nations including some mandatory mass squaring we’re seeing similar covet patterns for all of the uk and those patterns are leading some nhs leaders to call for a range of measures to be brought back they say it’s time for the government’s plan b we are saying it is at risk and we need to take measures now measures like wearing masks in crowded places avoiding unnecessary indoor meetings working for home if you can the government though doesn’t agree with changing tack at this point but listen to this from sajid javid there are many more things that we can all do to help contain the spread of this virus like you know meeting outdoors where it’s possible and if you can only meet indoors letting in fresh air like wearing a face covering in crowded and close spaces this advice raised eyebrows as mr javid and his conservative colleagues don’t wear masks in the house of commons but that plays into the government’s emphasis on personal responsibility on individuals taking their own decisions the question is whether that approach along with an emphasis on the vaccine will be enough to keep the virus at a sustainable level for the nhs well here’s the rate of hospitalizations in the uk through the pandemic it’s rising but this is nowhere near the first or the second wave of covid but there are risks here this is probably the first season where we will have significant amounts of uh covid circulating as well as flu uh people’s behaviors have changed we’re mixing more winter weather is coming along everybody’s going into enclosed spaces and if this winter is a bad flu season it’ll make the uk particularly vulnerable to rising covid hospitalizations and look at this chart the uk has fewer hospital beds per person than spain italy france and germany now that lack of capacity is not caused by kovid that’s a far broader discussion about how healthcare works in the uk but covid can apply pressure to that capacity and as we consider these differing analyses of what to do with the uk’s current situation here’s a word of caution on being too definitive at the moment it’s not clear whether what we’re seeing at the moment will continue to increase as we move towards christmas or as some modelers have suggested actually will peak sometime this month and then start declining what is more certain is that the uk government strategy rests almost entirely on vaccines and that’s not what the world health organization is recommending what’s position is that we can’t only rely on vaccination at the moment to suppress the virus since july though that is almost exactly what england has done life in many ways has gone back to normal with the benefits that brings and the rising cases that brings and now with the nhs warning that a tough winter is coming so too are tough decisions for the government it believes that for now vaccines alone can work this winter will reveal if that’s right you  

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