COVID 19: Wave#3

Click for a larger image. Logarithmic graph showing positive caseshospital admissions and deaths since the start of the pandemic. The blue arrows show the dates of ‘opening’ events. See text for further details. The red and blue dotted – – – lines show similarities and differences between the start of Wave#3 and Wave#2.

Friends, do you remember the good old days when the control of deadly infectious diseases was considered a matter of public health? Sadly, we are not living in those times.

25 days ago

On 4th June I wrote:

“I am reluctantly concluding that – as they did last summer – the government are about to screw things up.

I don’t think [Wave#3] can kill ‘hundreds of thousands’, but it could easily kill ‘thousands‘ and cause serious illness in many more.

I estimated that

by the end of June we would exceed 10,000 new cases per day and approach 40,000 per day at the end of the school term“.

I then pointed out that aside from more death and serious illness and we would be rolling the variant dice. I then concluded:

“the recommendations [on what to do] were … obvious, but that writing them down was pointless, because the Government just doesn’t care!

Today

Today (29th June) my spreadsheet tells me that the weekly averaged figure for new cases is 17,877 rather than 10,000. And it looks like at the end of the school term (~20th July) the figure could approach 100,000 positive cases per day rather than 40,000.

Currently cases are rising as rapidly as they did last summer which indicates that the virus is spreading easily in the non-vaccinated population.

The data on hospital admissions do not yet show a strong rise. But if we reach 100,000 positive cases per day it seems inconceivable that there will not be a significant extra burden on the health service.

The death rate is currently 17 people per day and rising at the same rate as it did last summer. The vulnerable population is probably not large enough to allow rates of 1000 deaths per day as in Wave#2. But it could plausibly reach 100 per day – i.e. 3000 deaths per month.

So should we abandon all restrictions on July 19th?

The normal death rate in the UK is about 1% of the population per year, or roughly 1700 people per day.

So death rates from COVID-19 of 10 or 20 people per day are not a great societal strain in themselves.

But being an infectious disease, COVID-19 has the capability to increase exponentially in prevalence and cause harm – sometimes in unforeseen ways.

Vaccination of 66% of the total population (1 dose) has limited the harm which can be done, but the virus is currently spreading freely amongst the 33% of the population (around 20 million people) who are unvaccinated. That is a lot of people.

I think removing restrictions in July will make almost no difference to the growth rate of viral prevalence, because I don’t think current restrictions are having very much effect. I could be wrong.

For me the question is whether there should be extra restrictions now because we are unsure of the harm to which are committing ourselves.

The government’s proposal that their policies are irreversible is truly Cnutian, implying that somehow they have dominion over the virus. I wonder if it knows.

Personally

I think we should take action now to avoid death rates of 100 people per day i.e. 3000 people per month, together with an unknown burden of long-term ill health.

In two months, vaccination levels could reach 90% and this point – when the viral prevalence was decreasing rather than increasing – would be a suitable point to remove restrictions.

Damaged as we all are by the pandemic, and impoverished as many people and businesses have been, I think think keeping mask-wearing and social distancing for a couple more months would be reasonable.

Allowing unrestricted mixing in the UK will create a viral breeding ground which could easily create new variants which could potentially allow viral escape from the vaccine. This is something we have seen often enough to know that it is not just a theoretical possibility.

And while 66% vaccination may reduce harm in the UK, there are many countries with a lower vaccination rate. For those countries it would be madness to allow unrestricted travel from the UK while the viral prevalence was approaching the same levels seen at the height of Wave#2.

But I know the government are not listening to me, or sadly their advisors. Individually they appear to be utterly venal, incompetent and corrupt, and collectively they appear to be in hock to a group of right-wing ideologues who are in denial about the harms caused by the virus. Despair is always an option.

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