Surge in variant cases prompts UK to postpone reopen
A passenger plane taxied over the roof of Hounslow on the way to Heathrow Airport, a London borough in the shadow of international airlines.
It is one of the hot spots for the rapidly spreading variant of COVID-19 in the UK (known as the delta variant or B.1.617.2), which was originally discovered in India and is believed to have arrived in the UK by air passengers.
This variant is now the main strain in England. To combat it, the outbreak community has initiated large-scale coronavirus testing and stepped up vaccination campaigns.
“We have been very busy, and we had more than 250 people in line at 8 o’clock in the morning,” Darshan Singh said.
He is a volunteer at the pop-up vaccination clinic set up by Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, a Sikh temple where anyone can come for vaccination without an appointment.
“People are becoming more aware and there are a lot of media reports. People are worried and they come,” Singh said.
In recent days, the number of people newly infected with COVID-19 in the UK has exceeded 5,000, a number that has not been seen since March. According to data from the Department of Public Health, the number of cases of this variant increased by 5,472 to 12,431 last week.
In Leike, a small town in northern England, nearly 1,000 students and staff are self-isolating after an outbreak in two schools and one university.
It is recommended that people living in areas where the variant cases are increasing are socializing outdoors and restrict travel as much as possible, although there is no restriction on the movement itself.
Is the UK at the beginning of another wave of pandemics?
“This [variant] It also has these characteristics that may enable it to move from one person to another more quickly, so this is why we are all worried,” said Ravi Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge.
He said that the UK is in the early stages of the third wave and the government needs to postpone the next phase of reopening, which is scheduled to be held in England on June 21.
England is currently in the third phase of reopening, allowing outdoor and indoor dining, and theaters and cinemas are open outside large group gatherings and in small gathering places.
Phase 4 will end all restrictions on social contacts and the return of nightclubs, large events and large weddings. The government said it would use testing and other technologies to reduce the risk of infection.
Concerns have led to a partial reduction in international travel from England. In May, residents were allowed to travel to 12 countries/regions without having to quarantine upon return. Hopefully more countries will be added to the list; instead, Portugal was removed on Thursday.
How effective is the vaccine?
A recent study by the Department of Public Health of the United Kingdom found that after two doses of the vaccine, the vaccine is effective against delta variants; now, 50% of adults in the UK get both.
Half of the British adult population is now fully vaccinated. This is a remarkable achievement, and each of you has come forward.
Now let us finish this work. When it’s your turn, punch. pic.twitter.com/R1fgZ1FN5q
Gupta, a member of the Emerging Respiratory Virus Threat Advisory Group who advises the government, said: “If this comes in four or five months, our situation will be much easier.”
Gupta predicts that this wave may not be as serious as the previous wave, which is caused by the alpha variant or B.1.1.7 first discovered in the UK in November 2020.
“The problem is that in our health system, morale is already very low. People are exhausted, and even a quarter of the previous one is still too much.”
But not all scientists agree that the government should change course now.
Sir John Bell is an immunologist and professor of medicine at Oxford University and a government consultant.
“I think we really need to strike some balance in the discussion and pay close attention to the serious diseases we are trying to prevent,” Bell said in an interview on BBC Radio 4 Today.
He said that observing the number of hospitalizations and deaths is more important than observing the number of cases.
The number of hospitalizations has increased slightly, but since the pandemic, there have been no deaths in the UK for the first time this week.
Bell told the BBC: “If we fell into a rabbit hole every time we saw a new variant, we would spend a long time squeezing together.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated in an interview at 10 Downing Street that he “currently does not see anything from the data, which means that we cannot proceed with the fourth step of opening up.”
Johnson said that public health officials have always known that after the first three steps of lifting the lockdown, the infection rate will increase. He said that government scientists are studying models to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine against delta variants, but for now, “the data is still unclear.”
The government is not responding fast enough
“They have a history of delaying decision-making,” Hounslow City Councillor Steve Colan said frustratedly.
He said that the government should be blamed for the modified takeoff because it did not close flights from India in time.
“They have put Pakistan and Bangladesh on the red list, and they should have done the same to India at the time,” he said, referring to the two-week delay of banning flights from India.
He said it is difficult to hear the news of these surges, not only because of the lack of communication among senior government officials, but also because people are ready to continue their lives.
“Everyone wants to go out. They want to go on vacation and enjoy themselves, but we have to be cautious. I’m optimistic,” he said of their ability to suppress this variation.
Similar emotions can be heard among people vaccinated in Hounslow. Local resident Jane Akinhead said that despite the news, her view of the future is more optimistic than at any time during the pandemic.
However, she said that if it is possible to impose local restrictions or restore any form of blockade in the outbreak area, the government will face challenges.
“I do not know either [if] If they come back now, people will obey them,” she said. “I think people are now past.
Watch | How certain British communities are coping with the surge of new variants