Covid-19: UK keeps lifting restrictions despite surge in cases

Despite a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases on its territory, the United Kingdom is maintaining its schedule. The new British Minister for Health, Sajid Javid, on Monday confirmed the government’s goal of lifting the last restrictions still in force in England on July 19. “We see no reason to go beyond July 19” in maintaining the latest restrictions, he said, in his first address to MPs as Minister of Health.

The sharp acceleration of the epidemic had already resulted in a one month postponement of the lifting of the last restrictions, initially planned for June 21. “No date” would be accompanied by a “zero risk” vis-à-vis Covid-19, “we know that we simply cannot eliminate it, we have to live with it,” said Sajid Javid.

Some indicators of the epidemic have been on the rise for a few weeks in the country. The Public Heath England (PHE) agency identified this Monday nearly 22,868 cases over the last 24 hours, or more than 16,600 per day on average over the past week. A figure which however includes a part of catching up following cases not reported by the authorities the day before.

Despite this, the trend is confirmed. Such a number of contaminations had not been observed since January 30 in the United Kingdom. But if the curve of new cases is progressing visibly, that of hospitalizations remains to be put into perspective. Admissions are increasing, but in much smaller proportions and at relatively low levels.

The latest data released on June 22 by the authorities show 222 new admissions per day, an increase of 10.3% in one week. Most of the positive cases, the overwhelming majority of which come from the Delta variant, now the majority in the country, particularly concern young people. As for hospitalizations, the majority of new and young patients would not have been vaccinated, however.

What to relativize any alarmism. “The question is not so much the number of cases, but the number of people hospitalized. Because we expect the vaccine, and in particular after two doses, that it protects especially against hospitalizations, ”already stressed to the Parisian, the infectious disease specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux.

Efficacy of the vaccine against hospitalizations

According to the Public Heath England agency (PHE), a double dose of the Pfizer vaccine like AstraZeneca would guarantee very good efficacy (96% and 92% respectively) against the risk of hospitalizations linked to the Delta variant. Regarding people who have completed their vaccination cycle and who have died, it should be “kept in mind” that “only a tiny fraction (7.7%) of those infected with Delta have been fully vaccinated” and that “the case fatality rate of 0.3% is very low compared to the Alpha variant (2.0%), ”said on Twitter Meaghan Kall, Epidemiologist at Public Heath England.

However, conclusions remain difficult to draw, given the lack of hindsight of the health authorities. “There are still a lot of uncertainties, but in any case the vaccine will never be 100% effective and we will always have special cases”, concedes immuno-oncology researcher Eric Billy. So far, 84.1% of the UK adult population has received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine and 61.6% has received two doses.

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