Are cases about to plummet without Plan B?

Despite all the talk about the need for the government to introduce Plan B – working from home, mandatory mask wearing and vaccine passports – there is actually a school of thought that we may be on the brink of seeing infection levels plummet. Modelling done for the government suggests cases and deaths could soon start to fall dramatically. That though is dependent on a number of factors, including the vast majority of over-50s coming forward for their boosters, and a degree of cautious behaviour throughout winter when it comes to mixing and socialising.

Chart showing infection levels

To understand why this may happen, you have to look at what has been driving the infection rates in recent weeks. During the summer, rising infections were being recorded largely in older teenagers, and then, since school returned, the high rates have been sustained by younger teenagers. In the most recent week, nearly half of cases have been in the under-20s.

Infections by age breakdown

This has happened with relatively little spillover into older age groups. Once the virus had passed through these groups, who after all were the people least protected by the vaccine, there was always going to be a drop-off in infection levels because of the high levels of natural immunity acquired. That in turn reduces that relatively small risk of infections being passed on to older age groups, while the rollout of boosters tops up their protection levels. All the new modelling is quick to stress that there is still a huge amount of uncertainty over exactly when a sustained drop will happen and how far case numbers will fall.

File photo of commuters on London Bridge
Five million adults in UK remain unvaccinated

The modelling does though raise a question over whether Plan B is needed at this stage. Prof Mark Woolhouse, an expert in infectious diseases at University of Edinburgh, agrees a drop over winter is certainly possible. But he still believes extra measures are worth taking as a “precautionary step”, reducing the risk of more drastic action being needed further down the line at a time when other respiratory viruses, such as flu, will just add to the pressure on the NHS.He says the situation with Covid is so finely balanced that a small swing towards greater mixing or more waning than expected could make a big difference. It may also take a little time for the falls to start having an impact.

Arguably more important issues. There are five million adults in the UK who have not even had one dose and we know unvaccinated people are far more likely to be hospitalised by Covid. On top of this there is the fact that only half of cases appear to be coming forward to get tested – surveillance data from the Office for National Statistics suggests the true level of infection is twice what is being reported daily, which is supported by data from the Zoe app. click for full source.

So there we have it. Plan B may not be required after all just yet but as with everything, time will tell.

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