The statistics became available before the PM made his parliamentary announcements today, so I will deal with them first.
The numbers being tested now have substantially reduced with only 703,991 done yesterday. It has been less than a million for the last 7 days. The number testing positive falls in parallel. Just 38,409 today, a bout 3,000 less than a week ago. Weekend figures are difficult to interpret but only 25,696 tested positive yesterday. Over all 79 ,000 less positive cases in the last week were recorded. The positive rate is now 488.7 per 100,000. It is below 500, the first time for some months.
Looking at the hospital data, 1,294 people were admitted on one day on 15th February. By the !8th February the total number in hospital was only 11,223, which is a 1,000 less than in hospital just a week previously. The number on a ventilator was only 335.
Only 15 deaths were recorded, but of course Monday is always low due to the weekend effect. Tomorrow’s figure will be much nearer the correct average daily number. There have been 239 fewer deaths in this last week recorded compared with the previous week. The death rate is down to 1.4 per hundred thousand.
Vaccine statistics show 91.4% have had a first jab. 85% have now had 2 doses and 66.1 % have had three doses. The leadership of Her Majesty over70 years has been quite remarkable. The image of her masked and sitting alone at her husband’s funeral will be with us for ever. We can be certain she is being given the best possible care and monitored carefully. It is certain she will have had at least three doses of the vaccine. It is highly likely she will also have been given one of the antiviral drugs by now. These considerably reduce the seriousness of the infection if given early. It is good to know she is able to continue with light duties. She and her medical staff will want to keep her up and mobile. She is not out of the woods yet, but the signs are encouraging.
“We will remove all legal Covid restrictions as from Thursday” So said the PM in Parliament this afternoon. Legal restraint goes but he rightly encourages self-responsibility. It is of course better to have self- responsibility, but we know many cannot effectively manage it. 4 million of us refused to be immunised, and many still refuse to wear masks without a good medical reason. A great deal of research has led to the developments of special antiviral drugs. Without testing we shall not easily identify when the illness starts and so the antivirals will no be given early in the course of the disease.
All testing using PCRs or lateral flow tests will stop on 1st April. It is not clear whether you will be able to purchase tests if you still want to do a test. Over £2million was spent on tests in January alone. He said this money could be better spent supporting the NHS.
There are new plans announced to give a further jab to everyone over 75 years old, those in care homes, and those over 12 years old who are very vulnerable. six months after their third; it will be known as the spring dose. Plans are being drawn up to possibly give another in the Autumn to be known as the autumn jab. it is far from clear how this will work.
This is not the end of Covid but we are moving to a new beginning. Effectively Covid will be treated as endemic and added to the list of infectious diseases that the world can catch but most will be protected by immunisations.
Another issue is how will we know what is happening.? The statistics I give you in every reports will be very different. I understand ONS surveillance will continue It remains to be seen how we can best use this data.
How will it work in the work place? Most of us can determine whether we are well enough to go to work. We do so with a mild cold or flu, but with influenza with significant symptoms most would stay off work. We do not know whether sick pay will kick in after day one or day 4. Will Doctors certificates be required once more.? There are more questions than answers at the moment.
My personal medical opinion is that these are the right steps to make, we are getting on top of Covid and Boris Johnson is right to try to get the country back to normal but I feel it has been rushed forward by about a month. There are political not medical reasons for moving now.
Do you think we will go back to shaking hands when meeting and greeting? How long will it take? will some of us just give up the practice? I certainly will not be elbow bumping any time soon.
If Tesco still asks me to protect their staff and other customers by wearing a mask then I will continue to do so.
More hand washing continues to be a good habit we would do well to continue. The measures we have been taking have also helped reduce the prevalence of influenza and the common colds. As we withdraw precautions we will see a higher incidence of these other winter diseases,
Remember too we need to do an enormous catch up within the NHS. Much routine screening has been paused, we are behind with many childhood jabs, Deaths from cancers are also likely to be the unintended consequence of missing screening. We can also make sure everyone catches up on screening.
There is a lot to digest tonight. I welcome the moves tonight but consider it a month too early. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings, I suspect there is no right or wrong, but a range of opinions may be acceptable. It is somewhat ironic that we wait until 3 senior Royals have Covid and then we say its almost back to normal. We wish you all well.
So please act responsibly and stay safe.