The Office for National Statistics (ONS), have released the latest data from their COVID-19 Infection Survey and a technical article looking at the cumulative incidence of the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Prof James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, and Professor of Structural Biology, University of Oxford, said:
“Today has seen some very valuable pieces of data by ONS. The cumulative infection survey (how many people have ever had covid between Apr20 and Feb 21) and the current prevalence (week ending Apr 16).
“Firstly, the prevalence of the omicron variant is decreasing in England to just under 60 in every 1000 people, Scotland also fell to just over 50 per 1000 people. Where Scotland has gone, England will likely follow. Prevalence peaked around the middle of March at around 84 people in every thousand. Prevalence has fallen in every region and in all age groups.
“All things being equal a fall in prevalence should feed through to reduced pressure in hospitals which are clearly under extreme stress. This will lead to a fall in deaths, which have continued to rob families of their loved ones.
“I believe the fall will happen but we need to watch for the following things which could change this assumption.
(1) Does protection against serious illness wane differently in the most vulnerable?
(2) What protection does the 4th jag give and for how long?
(3) As omicron evolves has a new strain become more severe in vaccinated people?
(4) Who is being infected, the disease is in general the most severe in the elderly and vulnerable?
(5) How common is re-infection?
“Secondly the cumulative survey by mid Feb 22 between 66 and 75 % of the English population, 41 to 64 % of Scottish (although the data for Scotland start a little later) had had covid19. These numbers are an underestimate of where we are now, due to the very high prevalence since mid Feb.
“The total number of infected people was rising rapidly when the data stopped. The bottom line, is the majority of people in the UK have had covid19, in some regions of England today I would predict the portion of those who have had covid19 will easily exceed 80 %.
“Omicron is a very fit virus. Given the decision to lift restrictions, omicron will infect everyone susceptible to the virus in the UK. From a health care system viewpoint, the slower the spread the easier it is to manage and the more time there is to vaccinate.
“We have endured a massive wave with omicron which is only now slowly subsiding. The 6 month period Oct21 to Feb22 saw a more than doubling in the % infected compared to the 20 month spell Apr 20 to Oct 21. Another way to say this, is the majority of the most vulnerable people in the UK were infected after they had protection from vaccination. As a result of the vaccines the omicron infection was significantly less severe for the vaccinated individual.
“This is what the lockdown and social restrictions bought us, the time to vaccinate and to save lives of the unlucky, the elderly and the vulnerable in the teeth of the extraordinary surge of omicron infection. There was a significant cost to the decision to restrict our lives. Scientists play a vital role in explaining some of the consequences of different decisions but quite rightly it is only elected politicians who can take decisions (balancing costs and benefits).
“We now know that Omicron remains a severe illness in people who have not been previously infected or vaccinated. Omicron is to be feared since it spreads so quickly, without vaccination, the high numbers of infections would have in the UK led to triaging in the NHS and a non-linear death rate. Countries with elderly populations and vulnerable groups who have not been effectively vaccinated have much to worry about. It is a priority to get effective jags into every arm.
“Finally, there is evidence that vaccination has reduced the severity and longevity of long covid. I would therefore urge anyone not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated. Long covid can be a debilitating disease. Because so many people have been infected, the UK is going to have face the future with a large number of long covid sufferers.”
All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink: