Reported positive Covid tests hit a new recent high yesterday of 48,553, confirming for many that their fears of a big exit wave are coming to pass.
However, Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE Covid Study app and Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, had another message: according to his data, infections are already peaking.
ZOE data for July 11th (data from the app is always four days behind) showed 32,920 symptomatic infections in the U.K., and this appears to have peaked (R is currently estimated to be around 1) and may already be starting to drop (see above).
Why is this so different to the new daily ‘cases’ reported by the Government, which show no obvious sign of peaking?
One possibility is that the ZOE data is a false dawn and the rise in reported infection numbers in the last four days will come through on ZOE in the coming days. However, the Government dashboard is already showing new infections declining in Scotland, suggesting the nationwide peak may be near.
Another possibility is it may be an artefact of the reporting delay. If we look at ‘case’ numbers by specimen date (below) then there seems to be more evidence of slowing towards a peak.
ZOE data provides a breakdown by vaccination status, which shows symptomatic infections in the unvaccinated have been dropping since the start of the month, whereas those in the vaccinated (with at least one dose) continue to surge – though are perhaps slowing towards a peak now.
Professor Spector notes that “new cases in vaccinated people are still going up and will soon outpace unvaccinated cases”. He suggests this is “probably because we’re running out of unvaccinated susceptible people to infect as more and more people get the vaccine”. Another way of putting this is that the unvaccinated are nearing herd immunity.
Oddly, Professor Spector shows no obvious interest in exploring further the implications of his observation. In particular, if the vaccinated are surging while the unvaccinated are dropping, how can either trend be attributed to the restrictions? Clearly the restrictions are not preventing spread, and the drop is a result of reaching herd immunity (as Tim effectively acknowledges). The unvaccinated population has seen this plunge before, of course, both in December and March 2020, so this is not a new thing. It seems to suggest that herd immunity has been reached on two previous occasions and this is more of a topping up, presumably due to the partial immune evasion of the Delta variant.
Prof Spector emphasises that “whilst the figures look worrying… vaccines have massively reduced severe infections and post-vaccination Covid is a much milder disease for most people”.
“The main concern is now the risk of Long Covid”, he says – as though that could possibly justify all the social restrictions, travel constraints, enforced vaccinations and so on that will still be with us after ‘Freedom Day’.
With Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warning yesterday that restrictions could return as soon as next month, at Lockdown Sceptics we’ll be keeping a close eye on the data.