Public Health England

“You Can’t Ever Say Mission Accomplished”: Minister Doesn’t Rule Out Winter Lockdowns

Whether it takes place on July 5th (unlikely!), July 19th or later, “Freedom Day” is supposed to be irreversible. So why is a senior health official saying we may need to lock down again this winter and why is a Cabinet Minister unable to deny it?

Dr Susan Hopkins, the Director for Covid at Public Health England, says “we may have to do further lockdowns this winter” – a claim which Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has refused to deny. So will this ever end?

The Independent has more.

Dr Hopkins… said Britain needed to move to a situation where we can “live with this” in the longer term.

She told the Andrew Marr Show: “I think that means that we wouldn’t normally put people into lockdown for severe cases of influenza.

“We may have to do further lockdowns this winter, I can’t predict the future – it really depends on whether the hospitals start to become overwhelmed at some point.

“But I think we will have alternative ways to manage this through vaccination, through antivirals, through drugs, through testing, that we didn’t have last winter, and all of those things allow us different approaches, rather than restrictions on lives and restrictions on livelihoods, that will move us forward into the next phase of learning to live with this as an endemic, as something that happens as part of the respiratory viruses.”

Asked about her comments, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland declined to rule out more restrictions, telling Times Radio: “The essence of the virus is you can’t ever say mission accomplished.”

Worth reading in full.

British Variant Not More Deadly, Admits PHE

Contrary to claims since January that the Kent coronavirus variant is “up to 100%” more deadly, a new study from Public Health England has confirmed – as a Lockdown Sceptics‘ analysis showed three weeks ago – that it is no more deadly than the original virus. The study continues to claim it increases the risk of hospitalisation by 30%, but this too seems unlikely to be more than a statistical artefact. As the Swiss Doctor notes, it is based on poor evidence, and “the influence of age, comorbidities and seasonal effects is much larger”.

Lockdown Sceptics noted on Saturday that while the British variant is becoming dominant in many countries, that dominance is often, as in the UK and Denmark, accompanied by infections, hospitalisations and deaths plummeting not surging. President Macron is locking down France again for a month (including closing schools), blaming the surge on the British variant. But is this correct? Here’s the graph plotting the progress of the Kent variant across the channel.

SARS-CoV-2 variant prevalence in France – Kent variant in red (from CoVariant)

Here’s what the positivity rate does at the same time.

Masks and Social Distancing “Could Last Years”, Says Public Health England Official

Masks and social distancing could remain in the UK for several years after lockdown – “at least until other parts of the world are as well vaccinated as we are”, according to a Public Health England official. The BBC has the story.

People may need to wear face coverings and socially distance for several years until we return to normality, a leading epidemiologist has predicted.

Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at Public Health England, said basic measures could be in place until other countries successfully roll out jabs.

She also said a return of big spectator events required careful monitoring and clear instructions about staying safe. …

Dr Ramsay said restrictions such as face coverings in crowded places and social distancing had become accepted by many and still allowed the economy to function.

She said “people have got used to those lower-level restrictions now, and people can live with them, and the economy can still go on with those less severe restrictions in place”.

“So I think certainly for a few years, at least until other parts of the world are as well vaccinated as we are, and the numbers have come down everywhere, that is when we may be able to go very gradually back to a more normal situation,” she added.

Warning it was “very important that we do not relax too quickly”, Dr Ramsay said any circulating virus would inevitably pick on those who are vulnerable. 

“We have to look very carefully before any of these restrictions are lifted,” she said. …

A group of Government scientific advisers said last month that “maintaining a baseline of policies which reduce transmission” will be necessary for some time to come.

Those experts said these could include continuing test-and-trace, self-isolation, and public messaging that encourages “voluntary actions to reduce risks”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A record number of people have been vaccinated in the UK for the third day running. But what’s the point of the vaccine if it’s not going to allow us to return to normality?