Surprise twist after UK's 'dangerous' Covid experiment

·News Reporter
·3-min read

Earlier this month, amid a wave of euphoria from the masses after pandemic restrictions were finally banished, concern over cases of the Delta variant was bubbling in the background once again, with fears community infections were about to trigger another daunting Covid-19 surge in the UK.

Cases climbed above 50,000 a day and experts were warning that number could hit 200,000 within weeks.

An open letter in The Lancet medical journal from more than 1000 doctors called Britain's opening up a "dangerous and unethical experiment".

Yet remarkably, the UK, the nation Australian experts say we can learn a lot from over their exit out of restrictions, turned an unexpected corner.

Hundreds gather at an inside theatre production in London on Monday. Source: Getty
Hundreds gather at an inside theatre production in London on Monday after Covid restrictions were removed earlier this month. Source: Getty

After 54,205 cases on July 17, daily cases have begun to fall. For six days straight, daily infections have fallen. It's the first time it has done so without being the result of restrictions enforced.

Monday's total was 24,950. 

UK may be reaching epidemic's end

While predicting further rises as temperatures drop later in the year, Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the drop could be a sign of things to come. 

"I think what we are seeing is we are getting on top of this. We are at the point where we can start to look forward to thinking that this epidemic is behind us," he told the BBC.

However he said the full effect of July 19's 'Freedom Day', where the final stage of easing occurred, had not yet happened. 

The UK's rise in cases suddenly dropped off about 10 days ago. Source: Worldometers
The UK's rise in cases suddenly dropped off about 10 days ago. Source: Worldometers

A spokesperson from Prime Minister Boris Johnson too reminded the nation was not "out of the woods yet".

However the unexpected drop has provided cause for optimism, even though some experts err on the side of caution. 

"This is a very difficult phase of epidemic to predict and very careful surveillance and monitoring will remain important for weeks and months to come," Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told the BBC.

More than 70 per cent of UK adults vaccinated

More than 70 per cent of adults in the UK have received both vaccine doses, while more than 46 million people have received at least their first jab.

However Professor Woolhouse says most children have yet received the vaccine, and paired with 8 million unvaccinated adults, there was "still a lot of material for the virus to work with".

Brits have been spending much more time outside as a wave of hot weather sweeps the UK. Source: Getty
Brits have been spending much more time outside as a wave of hot weather sweeps the UK. Source: Getty

But what has caused the sudden drop? 

While having the majority of a population vaccinated significantly reduces the chances for the virus to transmit, other factors may have had a helping hand.

With the end of the Euro 2020 tournament, which England made the final of, there has been a reduction of fans gathering and the exuberant celebrations that came with the national team's best major tournament performance since 1966.

And while Australians are regularly criticised for mingling outside amid lockdowns, experts believe a warm summer has meant more people in the UK have met outside, avoiding poorly-ventilated indoor settings and the potential spread of the Delta variant.

And while a rise in deaths typically come several weeks after a rise in cases, with 92 per cent of UK adults showing antibodies in their blood, the prevention of a sharp rise in severe complications or death seem likely. 

However the 445 deaths in the previous seven days is a 50 per cent increase on the week before.

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