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 feel some sense of order within the chaos when so much is beyond our control.
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?
Vaccines remain our best solution for being able to navigate a way through viruses such as Covid-19.
While we have seen some success with the vaccine roll-out around the world, the disparity in access remains concerning and continues to leave us vulnerable to viral mutations that we may not be equipped for.
Here in the UK, we’re now moving into the phase of managing the vaccine program for an endemic virus – a critical mass of the population has been vaccinated and now a rolling program of booster vaccines seems to be the way forward. This is great, but we need to also make sure that everyone around the world has access to vaccines. Viruses such as Covid-19 aren’t constrained by borders.
The faster that we can achieve global vaccine solutions, then the sooner that everyone can move beyond the pandemic into a world where Covid-19 becomes an endemic health issue and we can minimise the risk from future viral mutations.
What is happening with the UK’s response to Covid-19?
From the very beginning, 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 along the way.
For now, all Covid restrictions have been removed.
While the data does indicate that we’re past the peak of the Omicron wave, we still have a lot of people acquiring the virus, we still have large numbers of people getting sick and being admitted to hospital, and we still have large numbers of people dying.
I’m all for the removal of Covid restrictions – we all want to put the pandemic behind us. However, with large numbers of people continuing to require hospitalisation because of Covid-19, we’re not giving our health service any head-space to try and address the backlog of patients that require treatment and care for things other than Covid.
The other challenge is around messaging and future behaviour. The government’s own Chief Scientist and Chief Medical Officer have confirmed their agreement with the widely held view that further variants of Covid-19 are inevitable. It’s highly likely that a number of these future variants will challenge the protections that vaccines give us. That means that, at short notice, we could be required to revert to strategies such as masks, social distancing, and isolation.
Not only is the government making it difficult for those messages to be effective – because they’re not laying the groundwork for those future scenarios in their current messaging about ending all Covid restrictions – they’re also dismantling the testing framework.
Dismantling the testing framework means that it will take longer to fire up again if we need it to combat a new variant, but it also means that we’ll have less information to detect emerging variants.
We’re effectively shooting ourselves in the foot.
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 our first peak 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. After a period of relatively stability (but still high infection rates), we saw another surge linked to the Omicron variant – this seems to have peaked on 1Jan22 with a 7-day average of 192K. The current 7-day average is around 10K new infections per day.
Hospital Admission rates is a real crunch-point. We currently have around 8K people in hospital because of Covid-19, and we’re currently seeing around 850 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 177K Covid-related deaths and we’re currently averaging around 120 Covid-related deaths per day.
How is Covid-19 transmitted during sex?
The primary way that Covid-19 is transmitted from one person to another is through respiratory droplets. That includes air-borne droplets (when someone coughs or sneezes) as well as surfaces that the droplets have come into contact with.
Covid-19 isn’t a sexually transmitted infection, but having sex with someone generally includes kissing, spitting, and licking – all of which would enable the virus to spread through respiratory droplets.
There has also been some evidence of oral-faecal transmission of the virus. That means that you could probably get it from rimming someone who is carrying the virus.