Reading the news over the last week, you might have seen a number of headlines all saying roughly the same thing: vaccines aren’t going to be enough.
Now, these headlines all have the same source – a new study from the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, which has been highly active in modelling the pandemic ever since infections first began to rise back in early 2020. The study attempts to model rates of infection – the infamous R-number -, deaths and hospital admissions over the next few years (between January 2021 and January 2024), looking at the effect that vaccine rollout could have on these figures. The banner conclusions are these:
Partially easing lockdown restrictions in February 2021 would have lead to 131,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the UK by January 2024.
Partially easing lockdown restrictions in April 2021 would lead to 61,400 deaths.
Doing so in June 2021 would result in 53,900 deaths.
In any case, there are four variables at play in determining the number of lives that future waves claim. One, of course, is how early restrictions begin to be eased. Another is speed at which restrictions are eased. It also depends on the strength of protection provided by our vaccines. And, finally, it depends on the uptake of the vaccines.
Based on shifts in these variables, then, the model predicts a couple of trajectories. One of the researchers, Professor Matt Keeling states ‘that early sudden release of restrictions is likely to lead to a large wave of infection, whereas gradually easing measures, whereas gradually easing measures over a period of many months could reduce the peak of future waves.’ It is unclear just how ‘many months’ a safe easing of restrictions would need but perhaps, the study suggests, fully removing restrictions might have to wait until January 2022.
Dire predictions aside, then, how well are we performing according to this model? Seemingly, pretty well (knock on wood). Firstly, the vaccine rollout has been far more successful and quick. A lot of people have gotten their first jabs and in very short order. Another cause for hope, with regard to these predictions, is the strength of the protection offered by the Pfizer/Biotech and Oxford/Zeneca vaccines which, according to another researcher, Dr. Sam Moore, ‘may be a higher level of protection against severe disease […] than the level we assumed.’
The biggest source of optimism in the report, however, are the everyday measures that Britons can take to secure an expedient and safe recovery. Keeling says that ‘some measures, such as test, trace, and isolate’ will be ‘necessary.’ Keeping tabs on infection will require regular testing, akin to the sorts of schemes most schools are using, which rely on rapid tests. This is something that all of us can do, monitoring ourselves and our families, everyday.
If you’d like to take a look at our range of rapid tests, take a look at our website.
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