A comment from Professor Paul Hunter on today’s update on the UK Government website for data and insights on COVID-19.
Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, The Norwich School of Medicine, University of East Anglia, said:
“Today’s issue of data on the DHSC COVID-19 Dashboard show continuing satisfactory declines in the number of people being hospitalised and dying from COVID. The number of people being admitted to hospital in a single day is lower than it has been since November.
“However, there are some very concerning issues.
“Firstly, the pretty rapid decline in case reporting that we have seen throughout January and early February seems to have slowed dramatically in the past week or so. Based on the data published today the most recent 7 day rolling mean was 10,882 cases/day compared to 12,331 the previous week, a 12% decline compared to a 28% decline over the week before that. This slowing in the rate of decline is also apparent in data from the ZOE COVID tracker. Taking these two sources together it looks like R has been rising in recent days and may now be quite close to 1.0, at least in some parts of the UK.
“Secondly the number of vaccinations being given has also dropped during the past week. During the first two weeks of February the UK averaged 3,001,892 injections per week (both first and second doses) but in the past seven days we have only given 2,436,697, that is 565,195 fewer injections over one week.
“Taken together, these two observations are concerning. If R is now a lot closer to 1.0 then the impact of relaxation measures currently planned for early March, notably reopening all schools, may well force R back above 1 and we start to see increases in case numbers sooner than we would have expected. If more of our vulnerable people were protected from severe disease through immunization, then we could allow some increase in numbers without posing a substantial extra risk of severe disease and hospitalisation. However, a lot of people admitted to hospital with COVID are still not in the groups where vaccination has been completed.
“If vaccination rates do not pick up very soon, then we will struggle to give enough people their first dose before we have to allocate more and more of our available doses to people’s second injections. This could lead to more potentially vulnerable individuals being unprotected for a lot longer than we had expected as we try to relax restrictions further. This would have the real potential to derail the UK’s road plan for coming out of lockdown.”
All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink: