So, no new Covid deaths were reported yesterday for the first time since last March. As a former Prime Minister might have put it, just rejoice at that news. Well it is of course fantastic news, but should it affect the decision Boris Johnson must make in the next two weeks about whether lockdown restrictions can be fully lifted on June 21st?
You’d hope it would encourage him to stick to his roadmap. But there’s always a however, and here it comes.
The number of new cases is starting to climb again, mainly due to the spread of the Indian variant. Over 3000 new cases again today. In some areas the rate is now more than 100 in 100,000. Hospitalisations are slowly rising too, but much more slowly than during previous outbreaks, which is presumably down to the vaccine working its magic.
There has to come a point when we as a society, and politicians who make decisions on our behalf have to work out what is an acceptable rate of hospitalisations or deaths. It’s not a pleasant subject to talk about, but talk about it we must.
Did you know that on average 450 people die of cancer each day? Does anyone seem to care that on average nearly 200 people die with dementia or alzheimers each day. 55 people die from flu each day. We have to put this in perspective.
I have, as many of you will know, been something of a lockdown hawk. We do have to be drive by the data as the prime minister never tires of telling us, and he’s right. But we also have to be drive by comparative data.
Things are different to last March, last September or this January. How so I hear you asking? Well, 75% of us have have been vaccinated once, and half of us have been vaccinated twice. By June 21st those figures should have risen to 85% and 65% I’d have thought. Now we do know that the vaccines are only 33% effective if you’ve had one dose of the vaccine but that climbs to 80-90% for two. The only argument I can see for delaying the June 21 lockdown lifting by a couple of weeks is if we need to get a higher proportion of the population vaccinated with two doses. But even then, I’d suggest that the second doses should be prioritised for those areas with high concentrations of the Indian variant.
Public health professionals naturally err on the side of caution. But policy makers, ie the government, have to judge things in the round. As I write today I do not think there is much of an argument for delaying the June 21st date, but it’s impossible to be dogmatic about it. If the facts change, sometimes the policy has to as well. This is probably one of the most important, and difficult decisions Boris Johnson will ever have to make.