The chart below shows the number of daily deaths with “COVID-19 on the death certificate” in the U.K., since March of 2020. There are, of course, various problems with this chart – as readers are well aware. But I’m showing it because it’s the chart with which members of the public will be most familiar.
I think it shows quite clearly that the pandemic was over by the summer of 2021 at the latest – thanks to a combination of natural and vaccine-induced immunity, and because many of those most susceptible to Covid had already died. (Based on the trajectory of age-adjusted excess mortality, you could make a case that the pandemic was over by the summer of 2020.)
What the chart clearly doesn’t show is that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. Covid is now endemic and will kill a certain a number of people every year for the foreseeable future. (We can expect this number to decline over time, as more and more people acquire natural immunity when they’re young.)
The clear evidence of endemicity makes the finding of a recent YouGov poll rather alarming. On April 18th, Brits were asked, “Would you consider the coronavirus pandemic in Britain to be over or still ongoing?” Remarkably, 56% said “Still ongoing”, while only 34% said “Over”. Like Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who carried on fighting WWII long after his country had surrendered, a majority Brits simply refuse to give in.
Interestingly, the poll found no real differences by political views: Conservatives were as likely to say “Sill ongoing” as Labour voters; Leavers were as likely to say “still ongoing” as Remainers. One variable that did seem to matter was age: over 65s were much more likely to say “Still ongoing” than 18–24 years – a majority of whom said “Over”.
If we look across the pond, a recent Gallup poll found that 49% of Americans believe the pandemic is over – which is 15 percentage points more than in Britain. (Some fraction of Americans will presumably have answered “Don’t know”, so those who believe it’s not over must be in the minority.)
In the U.S., there were large differences by political views: 75% of Republicans said the pandemic is over, compared to just 28% of Democrats. And note: this can’t be put down to age; Republicans are slightly older, on average.
The gap between Britain and the U.S. is therefore largest when we consider those on the political Right. Only 36% of Conservative voters say the pandemic’s over, which is less half of the percentage of Republicans who say the same. Why are Right-wing Americans so much more likely to say the pandemic’s over?
One possibility is that they consume different media. For better or worse, many Right-wing Brits get their news primarily from the BBC – which was among the more ‘alarmist’ outlets during the pandemic. By contrast, Right-wing Americans tend to get their news from outlets like Fox and talk radio – which were much less ‘alarmist’. Three years down the line, they’re therefore more likely to have moved on.
The Government put such a lot of effort into making people scared of Covid, we now have a population that simply can’t accept reality.