UK may become first country to survive pandemic, expert says

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he visits St Thomas’s Hospital for a coronavirus booster vaccination in London, UK on December 2, 2021.

Paul Edwards | Reuters

LONDON – The country has been criticized by many for not wanting to impose additional restrictions on Covid-19 in the face of the omicron option, but the UK could be one of the first countries to survive the coronavirus pandemic, according to one leading scientist.

Talking about the various reactions to Covid, and especially the latest wave of cases caused by the virulent variant of omicron, leading public health official Professor David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that “The UK is closest to any country out of a pandemic, if it is still did not come out of a pandemic and does not have a disease as endemic. “

“Countries are currently seeing an increase in population immunity … and this appears to contain the virus without causing serious illness or death in countries with high immunity populations.”

Heymann, speaking at an online seminar hosted by think tank Chatham House on Monday, cited the latest figures from the UK Immunity Statistics Office, according to which 95% of England’s population has antibodies against infection, whether through vaccination or natural contamination. Hayman added that most of those currently in intensive care units have not been vaccinated.

The UK government was criticized last month for refusing to impose additional restrictions on social mixing ahead of Christmas, as the omicron variant, first discovered in South Africa in late November, spread rapidly. The UK was one of the first countries to be hit hard by the highly infectious strain.

The World Health Organization called Omicron “of concern” because of the strain’s high number of mutations and fears it could undermine Covid vaccines.

We now know that omicron is much more infectious than previous variants of the virus, including the delta variant, but a growing body of research and real-world data show that it causes less severe disease, although this may also be due to widespread vaccination. campaigns.

Covid vaccination provides a high level of protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death, and vaccine manufacturers say early studies have shown booster shots significantly restore protection against the omicron variant.

In recent weeks, the UK government has had to hold back its composure by not introducing new restrictions on the population, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the British public that they will have to “learn to live with the virus” last year.

The government has maintained that stance despite other European countries imposing much stricter communication and travel rules in the past month (and some imposing partial or total locks).

However, there are flashes of light at the end of the tunnel, with growing indications that the peak of the omicron wave of infections is shorter and sharper than previous variants. The daily number of cases reported by the UK has been steadily declining (although they are still high; more than 120,000 cases were reported on Tuesday).

Hospitals in the UK and across Europe operate at very high throughput rates, although hospital admissions remain lower than in previous waves of the pandemic, when vaccination coverage was lower.

Global health officials warn that it is too early to say that the pandemic has entered an “endemic” phase, where there will be persistent but low to moderate levels of Covid in any given population in the future, but the virus is not causing excessive infection levels or spread from country to country (which will make a pandemic again).

UK Education Minister Nadhim Zahavi told the BBC on Sunday that the country is on track “from pandemic to endemic” as the government said it could shorten the self-isolation period for vaccinated people who test positive for Covid from seven to five in the last US manual.) to alleviate the lack of staff in the workplace and to reduce the large-scale economic shocks caused by Covid.

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