Why Are We Still Talking About Infection Rates?

Covid’s now been with us for almost two full years. Here in the UK, we’ve had three separate lockdowns. And as of Monday, two thirds of the entire population has been fully vaccinated.

Yet people are still fretting over infection rates. Last week, the New York Times published an absurd article titled ‘Needless Suffering: Britain offers a warning of what happens when a country ignores Covid.’

If three separate lockdowns and a mass vaccination program qualifies as “ignoring” Covid, I’d hate to see what “addressing” it looks like. Spending 90% of GDP on suppression and renaming the Health Secretary ‘Minister for Covid’, perhaps?

“Cases have surged this fall,” the authors write, “more so than in the rest of Europe, the U.S. or many other countries.” So? Covid’s rapidly becoming an endemic disease, and infections will creep up from time to time. But there’s no evidence that lots of people are getting seriously ill or dying.

What’s more, infections have actually been falling for the past three weeks. Indeed, they’d already started falling when the Times article was published – a reminder that, in the era of Covid, life comes at you fast.

Given that natural immunity confers stronger protection against infection than the vaccines, case numbers are likely to remain elevated until enough people have had the virus at least once. I’m not sure what fraction of people are currently in this category, but it might be about a third.

That means we’ve got a few months to go before the disease becomes truly endemic. And as vaccine-induced immunity wanes, there are going to be more infections. Why not just get them out of the way now?

Rather than being concerned about Britain’s moderately high infection rate, maybe we should be happy about it. The more people who get infected now, the less who’ll get infected a few months hence – when the NHS comes under greater pressure.

We’ve already offered the vaccine to all over 50s – three times over in some cases. Why should it matter if another ten thousand 20 year olds catch the virus? Aside from remaining vigilant in hospitals and care homes, there’s really nothing left to do.

I’ve made an alternative headline for the New York Times: ‘Needless Panic: Britain offers an illustration of what happens as Covid becomes endemic’.

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