U.K.

Will the U.K. Face a Winter Covid Surge?

I’m slightly surprised to be writing this post as to my mind the answer is obvious – of course the U.K. will face a winter Covid surge. It’s winter. That’s what happens in winter; the dominant respiratory virus surges and, most years, taxes the capacity of the health service. The only question is how big it will be – unusually large like 2020-21, or unusually small like 2019-2020 before Covid hit? It’s worth remembering that more people died in England and Wales per head of population in 2008 (once adjusted for age etc.) and every year prior to it than died in 2020 or 2021, many of them succumbing during the winter flu season, as the chart below from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries shows. In other words, there’s a winter surge in deaths-by-virus every year, and I see no reason why 2021-22 will be any different.

Standardised mortality rates (SMRs) in England and Wales

As I see it, the only realistic way there would not be a Covid surge on some scale is if another influenza-like virus takes over, which seems unlikely right now as flu is almost nowhere to be seen.

Nonetheless, I am writing this post, and that’s because some people seem to think that this year it’s not going to happen. Dr Sebastian Rushworth argues that places hit hard already, such as Sweden, New York and Lombardy, have developed enough immunity to avoid “another big wave” altogether. Andrew Lilico in the Telegraph maintains that owing to “infection saturation” and vaccine third doses, “for us, the Covid crisis is over”. Even the usual doom-mongers at SAGE are predicting a decline in hospitalisations and deaths in December, according to new modelling released on Friday. A decline in flu-like hospitalisations and deaths in December? Whoever heard of such a thing?

I freely admit that the winter surge may, because of acquired immunity, be relatively small in places like the U.K. which have already faced widespread exposure. Perhaps that’s all that Sebastian Rushworth and Andrew Lilico mean, and in which case our positions are not so far apart. But will it really be a non-event, as SAGE at least appears to be implying, so that Covid deaths decline during the winter and don’t put any further pressure on the health service?

SAGE Adviser Demands People Get Booster Jabs to Avoid Anti-Lockdown Protests

Professor John Edwards, a SAGE adviser, has openly stated that Britain will not share the same fate as much of Continental Europe which has experienced a rapid rise in Covid cases. However, Edwards has connected the necessity for booster vaccines with the emergence of anti-lockdown protests across various European countries, such as the Netherlands, urging members of the public to get triple-jabbed to avoid similar protests breaking out in the U.K. MailOnline has the story.

A SAGE adviser has moved to reassure Britons the UK will not see a spike in Covid cases like Austria and Germany, but warned Europe’s soaring infection rate lockdown riots should act as a ‘warning’ as he urged people to get their booster jabs.  

Professor John Edmunds said today that opposition to stringent restrictions on the continent have demonstrated the importance of booster jabs, warning, “it is pretty clear immunity does wane”. 

“What you see now in central Europe with these rapid increase in cases, you see the importance of vaccination,” Edmunds told Sky News

But Edmunds said the U.K. was unlikely to be hit by the Christmas chaos because the country “is in a slightly different position.”  

This comes amid a fresh wave of Covid infections on the continent that has sent nations back into draconian restrictions and could see excess deaths start to rise again.

Italy is considering a lockdown of the unvaccinated, it emerged yesterday, which would make it the second country to impose the controversial intervention after Austria.

And Germany’s incoming Government has said that it wants unvaccinated people to be barred from going to work and travelling on public transport amid what Angela Merkel calls “dramatic” infection levels. The Netherlands has also introduced a 7pm curfew for pubs and restaurants amid rising cases there.

Austria has made vaccinations mandatory and yesterday announced it would return to lockdown on Monday, with Germany poised to follow suit after health officials warned they cannot rule out a full shutdown. 

The reintroduction of restrictions across Europe have sparked a fierce backlash and fevered protests broke out in cities including Rotterdam overnight, where riot police fired warning shots, injuring protestors marching against the Covid measures.

Today, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Vienna with the far-right opposition Freedom Party among those who have called for the protest and vowed to combat the new restrictions.

Demonstrations against virus measures are also expected in other European countries including Switzerland, Croatia and Italy. 

Worth reading in full.