UK: Expert warns over number of COVID-19 hospitalisations
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Professor Matt Keeling, from the University of Warwick and a member of Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), said his team has estimated that by July 19 – the date all remaining restrictions are lifted – there will have been 15.3 million symptomatic and asymptomatic infections in the country. This would equate to just over a quarter (27.4 percent) of the population in England being infected and therefore having natural immunity, leaving the remaining number either vaccinated or unvaccinated.
But in a damning finding, the University of Warwick research team also predicted that when taking account of vaccines, 33 percent of the population remains susceptible to the Delta variant, first identified in India.
Professor Keeling told a briefing: “There’s still a large number of susceptibles out there and we expect infection, cases and hospital admissions to keep increasing between now and July 19th.”
The leading scientist said maintaining the low number of hospital admissions “and below what we saw in January” ultimately depends on the behaviour of people, while also echoing calls from the Prime Minister for the population to remain cautious as restrictions are lifted.
He also warned experts do not know about decreases in immunity in significant detail and “any waning immunity” could impact the figures, triggering a jump in cases.
The expert added: “You almost need to think of this like a spring-like system, and, if you suddenly release it, you get a much, much bigger wave than if you gradually let things change.”
Professor Graham Medley, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told the same briefing it is his belief England will eventually reach the herd immunity threshold “one way or another”.
He said when that point is reached, the R number will be around 1, and “that is herd immunity”.
The professor also warned the UK will experience a sharp rise in new cases when restrictions are eased “because the vaccines are not perfect and we’re not vaccinating everybody, so there is room for another wave of infection”.
Professor Medley added: “That’s going to be the case for all countries, not just this one.”
Elsewhere, Covid restrictions are also being eased on Scotland, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirming the country will move down to Level 0 of lockdown measures, with some changes to original plans.
She told MSPs in a briefing the success of the vaccination programme means restrictions can be eased as planned on July 19 – as with the case in England.
Social distancing will be reduced to one metre in public places, whole up to eight people from up to four households will be allowed to meet in homes.
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Ten people from four households will be able to meet in a public indoor space, such as a pub or restaurant, with up to 15 people from up to 15 households able to meet outdoors.
However, Ms Sturgeon said for the next three weeks at least, there will be a requirement for one-metre distancing between different groups of 15 outdoors.
The requirement to wear face coverings will remain, while the planned “gradual return to the office” has also been pushed back until August 9.
The First Minister told MSPs: “I will confirm that certain mitigations – such as the mandatory wearing of face coverings – will remain in place, not just now but, in all likelihood, for some time to come.
“Measures like the continued wearing of face coverings are important, not just to give added protection to the population as a whole, but also to give protection and assurance to those amongst us who are particularly vulnerable and previously had to shield.”
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme earlier today, Ms Sturgeon added: “What the Scottish Government will want to avoid is what is happening in Europe now.
“The Netherlands has seen an over 700 percent increase in cases. They’ve had to close nightclubs again, put restrictions on bars and restaurants, they’ve had to cancel mass events.
“I think the Scottish Government will want to continue to move forward, but Level 0 is not a huge jump, it’s a relatively modest jump to the next stage.”
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