Monday, September 26, 2022

‘Freedom Day’ for England looks like a mirage

LONDON – The news media calls it ‘Freedom Day’, the fast-approaching moment when England’s remaining coronavirus restrictions must finally be lifted, enabling pubs to fill up, nightclubs to open their doors and the curtain to rise in the surrounding theaters. the country.

But a recent increase in the number of cases of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant called Delta has upset such scientists and health workers so much that the country is now destined to wait a little longer for its freedom.

For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is often accused of doing too little to combat the virus, the stakes are high. The question is not so much whether ‘Freedom Day’ (June 21) should be postponed, but to what extent. Four weeks seems to be the maximum considered, and some advocate for a limited version of the full opening and others prefer two weeks delay.

An announcement on the next steps is scheduled for Monday and Johnson plans to study the data through the weekend. But many health professionals have already decided on the seriousness of the threat of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India.

The concern is that a surge in cases caused by the new variant could lead to a sharper increase in hospitalizations and that the virus could once again overwhelm the National Health Service.

“Covid is not going to disappear on June 21 and lifting all measures as early as the 21st could reverse the significant progress we have made,” said Jim McManus, vice president of the Association of Public Health Directors, who senior representatives are, said. health officials across the country.

He insisted on extending the current restrictions to prevent a further increase in cases – especially in areas with high or long-term transmission – and to allow more people to be vaccinated and protected against the Delta variant . ‘

However, the decision involves a dilemma that Mr. Johnson is known, an instinctive libertarian who is blamed by critics for the unwillingness to take strict measures for the country’s high number of Covid-19 deaths. He is accused of locking up, postponing border controls and rejecting scientific advice.

Indeed, Mr. Johnson was blamed by the opposition Labor Party on Friday for spreading the Delta variant by delaying the imposition of the strictest quarantine restrictions on travelers from India.

On the other hand, Johnson’s huge pandemic success was to export vaccines faster than most other countries, with vaccination rates exceeding 90 per cent for every age group over 65 in England. As a result, the data show that although the number of cases is rising rapidly from a low base, hospitalizations remain manageable and daily deaths are very low, often in the single digit.

A break in the link between infections and hospital cases suggests the government’s rapid vaccination program is working, and a noisy caucus of lawmakers within Johnson’s Conservative party has urged him to stick to the June 21 date. The choir was added by owners of pubs, restaurants and other businesses that depend on the public. Theater impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber said this week he was prepared to risk arrest to open a show later this month.

New data released by Public Health England on Friday reaffirmed scientists’ fears about the Delta variant, while also boosting their confidence that fully vaccinated people offer a clear path to full reopening.

To some extent, the Delta variant now accounts for 96 percent of all cases of coronavirus in England, and even displaces the highly contagious variant from Britain, known as Alpha, which has caused deadly waves of the virus worldwide this winter.

In a household distribution study, the Delta variant appears to be 64 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, Public Health England said. And worryingly, people with Covid-19 cases caused by the Delta variant were about twice as likely to be hospitalized, a preliminary indication that the variant could cause serious illness, although scientists still try to confirm it.

In England, many of the most severe pandemic restrictions have already been lifted and people can already go to pubs and restaurants and to museums and gyms, albeit with some restrictions. Although Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own rules, they also relax them.

What many businesses are particularly interested in is security, and this has required some support for a four-week delay, rather than a two-week period that may or may not be extended, making planning more difficult.

But caution holds political dangers for Mr. Johnson in. “If the Prime Minister delays the reopening date of June 21, I promise to work with all MPs to use every mechanism at our disposal to resist the changes,” said Julian Sturdy, a lawmaker from Mr. Johnson, said. “People’s livelihoods, mental health and our long-term freedoms are at permanent risk.”

But the scientific community remains largely cautious.

“The virus is doing well, it is not under control and is growing rapidly,” said Gabriel Scally, a professor of public health at the University of Bristol, acknowledging that this trend has so far not led to serious hospitalizations.

“The concern is that the virus will really rise in large numbers,” he said, adding that although many of the most vulnerable populations have been vaccinated, there is a risk that the virus could spread among the rest. Although they are less at risk for serious diseases, they still represent a large number of people who also have the potential to develop long-term complications.

Neil Ferguson, a British government epidemiologist and scientific adviser, told reporters this week that a small part of the Delta variant’s dominance appears to stem from its ability to evade the immunity caused by vaccination or infection. the virus.

This could give the variant a slight advantage in heavily vaccinated countries, such as Britain or the United States, which is likely to be the next place where we will see a reasonable rise in Delta, said Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics, said. Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Yet vaccines appear to hold up well to the Delta variant, and show slightly lower efficacy than compared to earlier versions of the virus, Public Health England said on Friday. Of the 33,206 cases of the Delta variant detected by health officials, 59 percent occurred in unvaccinated people and only 5 percent at two or more weeks after their second doses. Unvaccinated people accounted for about two-thirds of emergency visits by patients with cases caused by Delta.

For Britain, the problem is that just over half of adults are fully vaccinated. Many more are waiting for second doses that the government has delayed in an effort to give more people the partial protection of a single dose.

And a single dose appears to be only about 33 percent effective against the Delta variant, a sharp decline in performance compared to earlier versions of the virus.

Professor Scally said that the intense political focus on the date of 21 June also detracts from the pressure on other measures that the government can take to control the virus.

These include an increase in vaccination in coronavirus hotspots, increased testing of those at high risk, better financial support for low-income people needed to isolate themselves, and improved workplace ventilation.

“It’s not just an option to continue or loosen social restrictions,” he said. “There are other things the government can and should do to get us out of this problem.”

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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