COVID -a very occasional update

Being confined to quarters with a dose of COVID-19 means I’ve had a bit of time on my hands. So, I thought I’d have a quick look at what the current data is on the virus in the UK.

As you may recall, there’s been significant changes to regulations and guidance in the last month. In England, you are no longer legally required to self-isolate and tests are no longer freely available. So the guidance now is that those who experience symptoms should remain home for five days. If they feel fit and able, they can then return to activities outside of the home after 5 days but should be cautious about mixing, especially where it might put vulnerable people at risk.

According to the NHS:

If you have COVID-19, you can pass on the virus to other people for up to 10 days from when your infection starts. Many people will no longer be infectious to others after 5 days.

You should:

try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days

avoiding meeting people at higher risk from COVID-19 for 10 days, especially if their immune system means they’re at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, even if they’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine

This starts from the day after you did the test.

What this situation means is that far fewer people are testing and so the official figures will capture a lot smaller percentage of the actual numbers of people with COVID. There are divided opinions on the benefit of this. On the one hand, moving to normality will mean treating COVID the same as any other respiratory illness. However, there are two issues here.

First of all, whilst there remains guidance to stay home for five days and whilst there is a level of overlap to symptoms between COVID and the common cold, there is the challenge that many people will have if they experience symptoms without a test. What if they stay off for five days and it turns out not to be COVID? What then if they end up being genuinely ill with COVID in another month’s time. They could end up missing 10 days of work separately and that is unlikely to look good on their record.

Secondly, less testing includes pcr testing and that means less lab analysis which is important for research sequencing the virus and identifying new strains and variants. This will become less important as we become more confident of high immunity to COVID and pandemic fears recede. However, my personal preference would have been to see the continued provision of free tests for a longer period. However, we are where we are.

We can though measure what is happening with COVID through hospitalisation and mortality data. Here’s the current admissions data UK wide.

As you can see, admissions have continued to fall back rapidly from the Spring peak and are getting closer to where they were prior to Omicron. We’ve still got a long way to go before the pressure is completely off for the NHS. It is worth noting though that it seems that a far greater proportion of those in hospital are being treated for other conditions so that COVID was incidental to, rather than the primary cause of their admission.

It does also look as though the number of deaths reported daily has peaked from this latest wave although the picture is less clear here and we may want to get clear of the Easter and bank holiday disruptions to data reporting before we can be absolutely certain. However, the picture remains the same, that the post vaccination variant waves (Delta and Omicron) have resulted in far lower mortality rates than we saw in 2020.

All of this continues to fit with my expectation that barring a new variant that is of greater severity and with a greater ability to evade the vaccines (not just in relation to transmission but also to serious illness) that we can expect the impact of COVID to continue to reduce through the summer.

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