Reported positive ‘cases’ have been increasing slightly in the U.K. recently, though the trend appears to be flattening.
Interestingly, the rise has been concentrated outside England, which has been declining in the last week or so.
Scotland has seen the most striking rise, linked it appears to the return of children to school on August 18th.
The Scottish surge in ‘cases’ is linked to a surge in testing – it seems that parents have not been testing their children over the summer, and the requirement to do so for school has picked up a load of hidden infections (presumably these children and their families have not been isolating over the summer either).
This initially caused a spike in the test positive rate as well. However, as noted by Anthony Brookes (Professor of Genomics and Health Data Science at the University of Leicester, who produced these graphs), the positive rate has been declining for the past week.
It’s instructive to break down the recent trends in England by age. Trends in different ages were very similar until July 28th, at which point they diverged. The 20-40 age group abruptly started rising again, though then peaked again on August 9th and has been declining since. The under-20s slowed to a plateau, spiked from August 14th, peaked again on August 22nd and have been declining since. The over-40s on the other hand started rising again on August 2nd and are still going, despite being the age groups with the highest vaccination rates.
Worryingly, this rise in reported infections in the over-40s coincides with a rise in the proportion of Covid hospital admissions in the over-65s. The drop in the proportion of older people being admitted to hospital had been one of the key real-world indicators of the vaccines preventing serious disease, so to see this going up again raises questions of whether vaccine effectiveness against serious disease is declining.
Data from the Israeli Government has suggested that vaccine effectiveness against serious disease in the over-65s has declined to around 55% in six months, which is one reason they are now rolling out boosters.
In the U.S., President Biden and Dr Anthony Fauci have mooted the possibility of boosters as often as every five months. If people are receiving these injections twice a year every year that significantly changes the risk-benefit calculation. A new analysis by TrialSite News of VAERS data finds that almost 100 times more deaths are reported in connection with Covid vaccines than with flu vaccines, and that the variations across different categories indicate the increase is not a result of stimulated reporting.
Meanwhile, American states continue to demonstrate that Delta outbreaks stop growing and decline without any interventions.
Florida’s reported infections have plateaued at a high level rather than declined so far – though it appears this is a result of increased testing. The positive rate dropped sharply last week, suggesting an epidemic in decline.
Vaccines may help to prevent serious disease and death in high risk groups, though it’s not clear how long this protection will last and thus how the risk-benefit stacks up over time. But in the end what will bring this pandemic (if such it still is) to an end will be old-fashioned herd immunity, built up via infection and robust against the various variants that appear over a number of seasons. In the meantime, the extraordinary measures taken to counter the spread of the disease have shown themselves ineffective or, worse, an impediment to the development of this durable herd immunity.