Covid-19 – where are we at?
I’m not a doctor. I’ve got the white coat for role-plays, obviously, but there’s a lot of people who are a lot more qualified than I am who you should be listening to when it comes to Covid-19.
Make sure you’re getting your updates and insights from experts who are informed and know what they’re talking about.
However, I find it useful to try and keep up-to-date with what’s going on with Covid-19 around the world. It’s a coping mechanism to try and prevent myself from feeling overwhelmed by it all.
One of the unexpected consequences of this pandemic is that we’ve all become data experts as we try to keep on top of the facts. Every day in this new-normal is an exercise in critical analysis. We always need to be questioning – Does this person know what they’re talking about? How objective are they? What’s the context of this information? Does this information apply to me?
While the roll-out of vaccine solutions is underway, the disparity in access to vaccines around the world is concerning.
Here in the UK, good progress has been made – over 80% of the adult population has now been vaccinated. A number of other countries have also reached similar levels of vaccination and are scoping out booster programmes.
However, aside from the obvious moral imperative to help everyone around the world, even if you take a purely isolationist self-centred view of the world, high levels of infection create opportunities for viral mutations that could undermine the effectiveness of vaccines.
The faster that we can achieve global vaccine solutions, then the sooner we can move beyond the pandemic into a world where Covid-19 becomes an endemic health issue.
UK – life beyond lockdown
The UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been an emotional rollercoaster. So many mistakes have been made, so little accountability has been taken, and it seems that few lessons have been learnt.
We’re now in a post-lockdown phase.
This is part of the UK government’s “irreversible” roadmap to “Freedom Day”. All restrictions are off (except they’re not quite) and lockdown is behind us (except it might not be).
You see, the problem is that we’ve got this unforeseen thing called Winter – it’s just around the corner.
In the before-times, Winter causes a huge surge in flu and all sorts of respiratory illnesses, and puts a huge pressure on the UK’s health system – which is pretty stressed at the best of times.
What we saw last winter was that when you overlay Covid-19 on top of that, things don’t go well for anyone.
The question is, have we got Covid-19 under control enough in the UK that we won’t see a repeat of last winter and the health system will be able to cope?
The answer appears to be, probably not.
The government has released a Winter Plan. There’s a Plan A, which is pretty much carry on as we are now because everything is fine. There’s also a Plan B, which means some restrictions will be introduced.
The fact that the government is already talking about Plan B makes it fairly obvious that Plan A is already dead in the water.
Plan B includes things like compulsory mask-wearing and working from home.
What we don’t know is, what’s Plan C? What happens if Plan B isn’t introduced quickly enough or doesn’t have a big enough impact? What happens then?
The best data source that we seem to have is the government’s Covid-19 page on its website.
One of the key failings of this government has been an inability to establish an effective test trace and track system. Other countries have done it, but not the UK. The capabilities around testing appear to be improving, but we’re still relying on lag indicators not lead indicators to shape our response.
Because we’re not testing everyone all the time, test results give a sense of where we’re at with infection numbers but don’t give us a complete picture. What we do know that we had our highest rate of recorded infections on 1Jan21 when the 7-day average hit 61K. From there, reported infection rates slowly declined – dropping to a 7-day average of around 1.8K at the end of April. We then saw a resurgence of the virus, with a peak of reported infections of a 7-day average of around 47.9K on 16Jul21. The 7-day average is currently around 34K new infections per day.
Hospital Admission rates is a real crunch-point. We currently have around 8.3K people in hospital because of Covid-19, and we’re currently seeing around 990 people being admitted each day.
In terms of deaths, the data on this got pretty messy. After several months, the government realised that different parts of the health infrastructure were counting Covid-19 related deaths in different ways. They’re now officially counting deaths as Covid-19 related if they occur within 28 days of a positive test, but even that seems to come with quite a few caveats. If we take the UK-level data at face-value, we’ve had over 134K Covid-related deaths and we’re currently averaging around 130 Covid-related deaths per day.
What’s the end-game?
One of the challenges with viruses is that they mutate – they’re unpredictable. The more infections and transmissions that are occurring, the more opportunities that the virus has to adapt and evolve.
The continued emergence of new strains highlights the risks that we’re facing and why it’s imperative that vaccine solutions are rolled out to everyone around the world as quickly as possible.