Here we are with our first Risk Management update of 2022. I’ve updated my model assessment as follows:
As you can see, I’ve reduced the risk probabilities in most cases suggesting that we are past the point of highest risk. There are two reasons for that. First, because there was a strong indication from Boris Johnson yesterday that he didn’t see a need for further measures and that appeared to have the support of his Chief Medical Officer. I suspect that Scotland and Wales will also be reluctant to bring in further measures. So we can expect the current measures to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
In other words, the current requirements for churches in England are that face masks must be warn but that there is a possible exemption for when singing. The measures vary across the other parts of the UK. In England it also seems wise to facilitate contact tracing and to encourage church members to take an LFT prior to attending church.
The second reason is that the data coming out of Christmas does look reasonably encouraging. I would remain cautious about drawing conclusions about case numbers as these will still be variable due to the holidays and we don’t know what impact school returns will have yet. However, here is the picture in terms of daily reported cases for the UK and the 4 nations.
England has had the most regular reporting through the holiday period and so perhaps gives us the best indicator of where we are. As you can see, there has been a discernible slow down in case growth. This does not mean that we have seen cases peak yet, but this is certainly encouraging at this stage.
The other factor that policy makers are keeping a close eye on is the situation with regards to hospital admissions. There are three key numbers to watch here, daily admissions, the number of inpatients and the number of people on mechanical ventilation on ICU.
These charts show both why we find ourselves in a challenging situation and why there is room for optimism. The challenge comes because although the admissions rate has remained low and is probably around 1.8-1.9% at the moment, the substantial increase in case numbers means that this has still involved a steep incline in the number of patients too. This means that wards are filling up. Staffing shortages are liable to increase pressure on the NHS.
However, the number of patients requiring mechanical ventilation on ICU has not increased by anywhere near the same amount. This fits with the suggestion that Omicron, in terms of our experience of it is milder (potentially due to a mix of prior infection and vaccination increasing general immunity).
The big unknown right now is whether or not the case slow down we are seeing in the data is real and sustained. It remains a significant possibility that cases will rebound upwards as schools return. However, if the slow down continues and we see a move to cases falling over the next week or two then things begin to look highly promising for the Spring.