Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented his plan on Monday to "cautiously but irreversibly” loosen the containment measures in force in the country against Covid-19. During a press conference he revealed a four-stage plan for England. Mr Johnson has indicated March 8 as the first date on which there will be a change of pace with the return to school and university for all students. The successive stages could then pave the way for restaurants, pubs and even nightclubs to be reopened. By June 21, the PM hopes to be able to lift restrictions on social activities and events that have been in place throughout almost all of 2020.
In what I personally believe to be a way-too-optimistic approach, Boris Johnson stated: “The end really is in sight, and a wretched year will give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today. We are setting out on what I hope and believe is a one-way journey to freedom.”
Truth is PM Johnson also emphasised the importance of lockdown and the need to follow the rules. But scientists have warned that lifting restrictions could lead to a very-much-avoidable third wave, resulting in 100,000 more deaths. A document from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) highlighted the constant and continuous need for caution: “All scenarios show an epidemic resurgence which results in a substantial number of hospital admissions and deaths.” Obviously the scale and timing are “very uncertain” as they depend on many factors, but the more pessimistic predictions suggest between 102,000 and 176,000 more deaths form coronavirus.
However, Boris Johnson is ready to accept the risks: “There is no credible route to a zero Covid Britain or indeed a zero Covid world. And we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental well-being, and the life chances of our children.”
The platform Our World in Data has shown that no other country matches the UK’s per capita rate of deaths. Not the best record to set. The UK now has the highest cumulative death toll in Europe and is one of only five countries around the world which has surpassed 100,000 deaths, behind the US, Brazil, India and Mexico - all countries that have far higher populations.
That is why, many of us found ourselves wondering why the UK has reached such a tragic number of fatalities. There is no specific or clear reason that explains why the UK has lost so many lives to this pandemic. Experts have stated that the UK’s ageing and ethnically diverse population, as well as high obesity levels, could be contributing factors. However, many are pointing their fingers at the government, which in past months has been repeatedly accused of a number of decision-making failures.
So now the question is: can we trust Boris Johnson? He surely got everything wrong at the beginning, last spring, and struggled to lead the country to safety and avoid a second wave. Someone even questioned if his general failure to protect the UK from this virus was a choice or an inability to perform in his position.
In its attempt to get out of the coronavirus pandemic as soon as possible, the UK has decided to make a bet: the country aims to vaccinate as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. To do so, it has chosen to administer only the first dose and so postponing the second for three months. As of today, almost 18 million people received the first dose of the vaccine, and only 642,000 people received the second one. Government experts explained the idea saying that in an emergency situation it is better to have more people with incomplete, but at least partial, protection than a few with full protection.
This was initially criticised by many and considered too risky, but now initial data seems to confirm that the bet is proving to be successful. According to an analysis published by the Telegraph, it appears that vaccines, even if administered in a single dose, be it from Pfizer or Astrazeneca, are capable of reducing transmission and infections from Covid-19: “This effect is obtained on all age groups, leading to a decrease in cases among 80-year-olds by 38 percent over seven days."
At the moment, thanks to this strategy, and an unprecedented organisational effort, which is obscuring many past mistakes, there may be hope. Some see the light at the end of the tunnel. But will this really be the end of the Covid-19 pandemic? I’m afraid we won't have an answer straight away. Only time will tell.
Written by Miriam Tagini