Pencils are poised, fingers are twitching, and minds are turning to the most eagerly awaited data set we have seen in a lifetime. While more than half Australia’s population are today in lockdown with state premiers and health officials wringing their hands and obsessing over zero community transmissions, the English have hit the streets in celebration during a pandemic and during a third wave of infection driven overwhelmingly by the Delta variant.
Source: Jack The Insider, News Corp
Coronavirus: Boris Johnson rolls the vaccination dice
England’s experiment has brought jubilant scenes in pubs and nightclubs. Mandated social distancing, mask-wearing and restrictions on entry to concerts, theatre and cinema are all gone. But the hard data remains weeks away at best.
England’s so-called Freedom Day, largely a political and media construct, came and went without catastrophe. Now we wait, drooling, for the sweet, delicious data.
Let’s start with the baseline. As of July 19, the numbers of infections the UK is experiencing is similar to those of its second wave of Covid-19 infections in January. In the third week of January, the UK recorded 59,565 new infections on a seven day average. The seven day average for July is 45,462 new infections.
Thus, the UK can be seen to be in the clutches of a third wave of infection with the Delta variant causing almost all the havoc. While statistics reveal that third wave infections are approaching the levels of its second wave in January, serious illness and hospitalisations from Covid-19 are down markedly. There were 4000 in ICU in January over a seven day average with 38326 hospitalised. In the week prior to Freedom Day, 3584 had been hospitalised with 454 in ICU over a seven day average.
At this point hospitalisations and those in critical conditions is around one tenth of what it had been before widespread vaccination.
Covid-19 deaths irrespective of comorbidities stood at 1240 per day in a seven day average in the UK in January compared with 40 in the week preceding Freedom Day.
Those are the baseline figures and while the rate of Covid-19 infections will necessarily rise, post Freedom Day, the trend indicates the clear benefits of vaccination.
The other exemplar nation in pandemic management is Israel. Like the UK, Israel has high levels of vaccination and is suffering from the impact of the Delta variant.
On Tuesday, Israel’s Health Ministry reported 61 Israelis have been hospitalised in a serious condition with Covid-19, 24 of those in serious condition are unvaccinated, while 37 are fully vaccinated. It is this headline figure that has caused a stir with anti-vaxxers leaping on figures that superficially show a higher number of fully vaccinated people succumbing to Covid-19 and requiring hospital treatment.
As usual from the anti-vax mob, it is a case of lies and damned statistics. Israel with a population of 6.6 million adults (Israel requires all children aged 12 or more to be vaccinated and as of June 100,000 doses have been administered to that age group) has 83 per cent of its adult population having received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
No more masks indoors and no limits on social gatherings: England’s so-called “freedom day” means day-to-day pandemic restrictions have been lifted, but in the streets and in the scientific community some concern remains as coronavirus cases surge across the nation.
Only one of 61 Israelis hospitalised with Covid-19 in a serious condition is a fully vaccinated individual under the age of 60. No fully vaccinated individuals under age 50 were in hospitalised in a serious condition. The lone seriously ill fully vaccinated person under 60 is a 59-year-old man.
Meanwhile, among the unvaccinated, 14 people under age 50 were in serious condition, two of whom were younger than 40.
Thus, the hospitalisation or seriously ill rate for those vaccinated is at one per 150 people while for those unvaccinated, it is one per 45 people.
Further, the high rate of fully-vaccinated patients among people aged 60 or more do not include information regarding pre-existing health conditions.
Rather than the nonsense put about by anti-vaxxers and their ugly tropes, Israel’s data could not be clearer. It is an advertisement for the benefits of vaccination.
In the manner of black and white reporting, England’s Freedom Day experiment has been perceived as a ‘let it rip’ strategy. What England will experience is accelerated levels of Covid-19 infection that will put certain categories of the population at risk.
The data strongly suggests that the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions especially leukaemia and blood cancers or where immune systems are compromised remain at high risk and will have to adapt, restrict their movements, persist with masks and social distancing.
There is a broader risk attached to Boris Johnson’s approach. In an ocean of Covid-19 infection other variants may arise, even more infectious and even more resilient against vaccinations.
But we can’t keep locking down great swathes of the population. We can’t keep toying with the collective mental health of our people. We can’t keep consigning low paid workers to long periods of little or no income. We can’t keep our economy spluttering along with labour and skill short shortages.
Spiked Online Editor Brendan O’Neill says there are “noisy voices in the media” that seem to “want us to be locked down forever”. “And we’ve got to resist them as much as possible,” Mr O’Neill told Sky News host Paul Murray. Mr O’Neill spoke about the fact that More
Certainly, Australia’s vaccination stroll-out prohibits the Boris Johnson approach without serious consequences and drains on health resources. But as the supply issues slowly resolve, we will have England’s experience to drive our own policies, create our own thresholds and hopefully learn from their mistakes when it comes time to re-open the country and return to a form of Covid-19 normal.
It’s not a let it rip strategy we need. We need to move from zero case obsessions to a proper consideration of the common good. Mass vaccination and targeted information to high risk groups is the only way out of this pandemic.