What do the latest numbers say?
As infections continue to rise, and sharply in some areas, it is clear that the recent restrictions in place to suppress the virus have either not yet come into effect or have not gone far enough. On Wednesday, another 7,108 new cases were recorded, down slightly from 7,143 the previous day, but high enough to show that the epidemic continues to grow at a rapid pace. 71 deaths were reported for the second day in a row.
Is it as bad as spring?
With the first wave of infection, testing was minimal, so the number of infections recorded each day was just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s infection rate is a more accurate reflection of the scale of the epidemic, but many cases are still being overlooked. Back in March and April, there might have been more than 100,000 new infections per day. That compares to the Office for National Statistics estimate of about 10,000 cases a day now. At Wednesday’s press conference, Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer of England, and Sir Patrick Vallance, chief science advisor to the government, were challenged on whether their previous forecasts for a second wave were too bleak – with up to 200 people per day. They die by mid-November – but they broadly cling to their guns saying the second wave could easily and quickly escalate out of control.
How is the outbreak different this time?
In the spring, the UK was one of the few countries in Europe to have experienced a large-scale outbreak of the disease nationwide. In Italy and Spain, the outbreak was widespread, but more regional. The latest data shows that cases in England are rising unevenly this time, at least for the time being.
The most affected areas are the Northwest and Northeast, Yorkshire, the Humber and parts of the West Midlands. The increases have led to strict domestic lockdowns, but the country as a whole is clearly in an unstable situation. Witty was far from optimistic about the chances of containing the virus in a few areas. He said, “We have a long winter ahead.”
Are young people still led by fascism?
While young people are still registering most of the new infections, as seen in other countries, this infection has subsequently spread to the older and more vulnerable groups, with an inevitable rise in hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, and distressing deaths. The most striking increases were in people between the ages of 19 and 21 as the weekly percentage of those testing positive for the virus doubled to nearly 13% in September alone. The best news is that the infection is generally stable in school-age children.
What is the effect of this on the elderly?
Throughout the pandemic, there has been a steady stream of voices calling for the virus to be allowed to spread through the young and healthy people in the hope of building up herd immunity and eventually allowing it to return to life as usual. But many scientists opposed as cases soared, as did deaths. The latest graphs show that the surge in cases in England has been followed by a spike in hospital admissions. Since the end of August, the number of admissions has risen sharply among the elderly, aged 85 and over, with the proportion of care taken quadrupling from three to 13 per 100,000. The rise in acceptance was nearly steep among the 75 to 84 year olds. But a smaller increase was also seen in younger people, right up to the group between the ages of 15 and 44.
More people in hospital led to a further increase in admissions into intensive care and high dependency units, with 65 and over seeing a steep rise, but also admissions in the 45 to 64 age group. In line with Covid-19 hotspots, regions bear Northwest, Northeast and Yorkshire are the brunt of hospital admissions, but the Midlands and London are also showing clear rises.
Is another national closure on the horizon?
Boris Johnson made it clear that he was not averse to ordering a second national lockdown.
He called for endurance, but did not announce any new measures to contain the virus, which frustrated some. “What will be different next week compared to last week? There is no new support for people’s isolation.” Susan Michi, a professor of health psychology at the University of California and a member of the Behavioral Sciences subgroup at Sage, tweeted on Twitter, “Don’t address the curfew crowds.
Some scholars advising the government have not hesitated to call for tougher restrictions. Professor John Edmunds, a Sage member at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said ministers are doing little, too late, to bring the pandemic under control. The government’s chief scientific adviser did not utter his words. “Things are definitely going in the wrong direction,” he said of the increasing cases, adding that it would be a mistake to think of the epidemic as a problem only in certain areas. “There is evidence of the disease spreading everywhere and everyone should take precautions across the country,” he said.
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