England is about to make a big bet.

On Monday, July 19, the country will abandon all remaining pandemic-related restrictions. People will be able to go to nightclubs or gather together according to their preferences. They will not be legally forced to wear masks at all, and they can stop social distancing. The government focused on media reports, calling it “Freedom Day” and stated that the removal of security measures will be irreversible.

At the same time, the number of coronavirus cases in the UK is rising rapidly.More than 50,000 new cases were recorded on Friday, and its Minister of Health Say The number of new infections per day in summer may climb to more than 100,000.

In theory, a full reopening during the surge in cases sounds like a combustible mixture. But the British government is betting that this time will not be the same as other times due to its vaccination plan.

Researchers say it is extremely difficult to predict what will happen next because there are multiple overlapping and complex factors at work. So let’s take a look at what we know, what we don’t know, and what we need to focus on in the next few weeks.

What we know: vaccines are working

The British vaccination program is still ongoing, but has achieved widespread success so far. Overall, 52% of adults were fully vaccinated, and approximately 87% of adults received the first dose (this includes 52% who received two vaccinations at the same time).According to the BBC, only 6% of Britons are hesitant to get a vaccine National Bureau of Statistics.

However, there are still many reasons for tension. The country is still months away from fully vaccinating the entire adult population. Young people are particularly vulnerable; people over the age of 18 have just started receiving the first injection, and only a quarter of people between 18 and 39 have received both vaccines. Unlike the United States and most of Europe, the United Kingdom has not yet started vaccinating children.

“It’s dangerous,” said evolutionary virologist Emilia Skirmuntt. “We urgently need to vaccinate young people, especially before they return to school in September.”

This is important because the currently overwhelming covid-19 strain in the UK is a delta variant. Although people who are fully vaccinated have little reason to worry about delta, vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca are more than 90% effective in hospitalization. Public Health England——For those who have only received one shot or have not been vaccinated, this variant is bad news.

According to the alpha variant, which was previously dominant in the UK, its transmission rate was about 60% higher, and it was almost twice as likely to cause hospitalization. Scottish Public Health AgencyData from AstraZeneca or Pfizer shows that a single dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine is 33% effective against delta variants and 50% effective against alpha. Public Health England.

Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The reopening will cause a lot of avoidable damage.” “We should stop relaxing until all adults and adolescents are I received two doses of the vaccine.”

What we don’t know is: When will the cases reach the peak?

Obviously, the UK is experiencing another wave of pandemics. We don’t know how bad the situation will get-or how lifting the restrictions will change the situation. Even the top experts in the field can’t be sure.

“It is difficult to know what will happen after July 19,” said Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modeling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and chair of SPI-M, a group of scientists who advise the United Kingdom Modeling the government pandemic.

Much depends on public behavior, which is known to be difficult to predict. While some people will enjoy their newly acquired freedom enthusiastically (this trend was fully reflected in the European Football Championship finals last weekend), others will be more cautious.

Many people feel frustrated about abandoning masks, which is one of the most basic and effective public health measures.Ipsosson polling It was found that quite a few Britons plan to continue wearing masks in shops and public transportation. If people continue to do so, it may help curb the spread to a certain extent: Israel, which has a high vaccination rate, had to wear masks indoors last month in the face of a sharp increase in cases.

In any case, the number of cases is likely to continue to increase for at least a few days or even weeks. According to Medley, this means that more hospitalizations and deaths are inevitable. The biggest question is how high the wave is.

In a webinar on Thursday, England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, stated that the country may “see terrible numbers again” and “be into trouble again at an alarming rate”.

But the government seems to think that not all numbers are equally scary. It hopes that the number of hospitalizations will be kept low enough to prevent the national health service from being completely overwhelmed. It assumes that the link between cases and hospitalization rates has been weakened even if it has not been broken.

Oliver Geffen Obregon, a British epidemiologist who worked with the World Health Organization, said: “This wave is very different from the previous wave.” Compared with similar points, the hospitalization rate is much lower.”

But not everyone agrees. NHS boss has trigger the alarm Overcapacity, more than 1,200 scientists co-branded Lancet It is believed that the United Kingdom should be concerned about the substantial increase in the infection rate, regardless of the death rate and hospitalization rate.

Epidemiologist Gurdasani is one of them.

“Cases are important,” she said, noting that there are two main dangers: the increased likelihood of long-term Covid in large numbers of people, and the risk of new variants that evade vaccines.

What we know: more people will be infected for a long time

There is already a major problem with long-term covid in the UK. According to a major study, more than 2 million adults may have or have suffered complications that last 12 weeks or longer. Learn From Imperial College London. However, according to the largest study recently published in the journal, people know little about the long-term new coronavirus, with more than 200 symptoms, ranging from fatigue to shortness of breath to memory problems. Lancet.

According to the organization, approximately one in ten people infected with Covid-19 will continue to develop long-term Covid-19 WHOThis means that if another million people in the UK get sick during this wave of epidemics-most people estimate this is a reasonable situation-another 100,000 people may face long-term problems.

Whitty was worried. He said: “I think we will get a longer period of COVID-19, especially among young people whose vaccination rates are much lower.” Say July 6.

This may bring tremendous pressure to the NHS, companies and society as a whole, not to mention the endless suffering to a large number of individuals.

“Some symptoms may last for several years, and we may leave an entire generation of people in very bad health for the rest of their lives,” Skirmuntt said.

What we don’t know is: does this create another dangerous variant

What many experts worry most is that the government’s approach is creating an ideal breeding ground for the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants.

On July 5th, Steve Patterson, co-director of the Genome Research Center at the University of Liverpool, summarized these concerns in a tweet: “Allowing the virus to spread among some vaccinated populations is exactly my experiment for evolution. A virus that evades immunity.”


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