Peak of the Delta Surge Elusive for England, While Scotland’s Decline Continues

It appears that the anticipated peak of the current surge in England has not yet arrived, and the recent slowdowns may have been temporary.

U.K. positive Covid tests by date reported

As of today, ZOE data is now beginning to show the uptick in infections that Government data has shown over the past week, reversing what had appeared to be (including to ZOE lead scientist Tim Spector) the early signs of a declining trend.

Early Indian variant hotspot Bolton, which had peaked and gone into decline in mid-May, is now spiking again.

Bolton positive Covid tests by specimen date

Localities as far apart as Carlisle, Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire and North Devon and also surging.

Carlisle positive Covid tests by specimen date
Rushcliffe positive Covid tests by specimen date
North Devon positive Covid tests by specimen date

Neil Ferguson popped up again yesterday morning to predict up to 200,000 ‘cases’ a day in the not-so-distant future. However, it’s important to recognise that the ‘case’ figures for this surge are not comparable to those of earlier surges as testing numbers are now almost double what they were before March when mass testing with lateral flow devices came in.

Test positivity is currently only around 3%, according to Our World in Data, compared with around 7.7% at the autumn peak and 12.8% at the winter peak.

Nonetheless, there can be no doubt this is a real virus surge, despite being summer – the Delta variant appears not to be as afraid of the sunshine as other variants. As of July 10th the ONS infection survey has both England and Scotland on just over 1% community prevalence of COVID-19.

Interestingly Scotland’s decline in reported positive tests has continued, holding out hope that 1-2% prevalence may be the peak of this surge.

Scotland positive Covid tests by date reported

U.K. Hospital admissions are still relatively low but are now increasing. Deaths are still very low, though up a bit.

U.K Covid hospital admissions

So once again we’re left waiting to see how high it will go, and what impact it will have on hospital admissions and deaths. One difference this time though is restrictions are being lifted during the surge, not imposed, so we may finally have a clear test in this country of the theory that restrictions are necessary to bring infections down. The fact that ‘Freedom Day’ in any form is going ahead despite the ongoing surge is a sign of the strength of scepticism in Government and among Conservative MPs. Many are determined that now the vulnerable are vaccinated there can be no further justification for lockdowns, however high infections get, as what then would we be locking down for?

Why has this surge been wavier than previous ones, with a number of temporary plateaus or short term declines that were mistaken for peaks? Is it the warmer weather making progress more faltering? Is it the vaccines causing unexpected changes in the course of the epidemic, with the surge in the vaccinated coming later than in the unvaccinated? Could it even be all the gatherings for Euro 2020 putting rocket boosters under the spread? Or something else?

As so often, the drivers of the epidemic remain somewhat mysterious. Nonetheless, Scotland’s continued decline gives hope the peak is not too far away. Let’s hope so, as surges are always great for those who want an excuse to push through more Covid nonsense.

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