Covid-19 in the UK is hot again

After an effective vaccination campaign, the number of nCoV infections in the UK suddenly increased rapidly, three quarters of which were strains of B.1.617.2 from India.

On May 29, the country recorded 4,182 new infections, the highest level since April 1. Cases and hospitalizations increased by 20% in the past week, mainly among young people who have not received two doses of the vaccine.

“More than half, potentially up to three-quarters of patients infected with the Indian variant,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

The spread of the virus threatens plans to lift social distancing orders next month, providing a glimpse into the question “Will vaccination bring the country back to normal?”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Clearly vaccines are having a big impact. The question is: How big? How effective are the vaccines?”

Neighboring Britain also began to worry. Some European countries, which have slower vaccination programmes, have imposed restrictions on British travelers to prevent the variant from entering. France since May 31 only accepts people entering from the UK for essential reasons. Germany requires people arriving from the UK to quarantine for two weeks. On June 1, Austria began banning direct flights from the UK.

British scientists do not know exactly how much faster the Indian variant is spreading than previously thought. Specific data is expected to be released before June 21, from which the government will decide whether to completely lift the blockade or not.

British people have their temperatures taken at a theater in London, May 2021. Image: Shutterstock

If restrictions are lifted, people will be allowed to congregate in bars and nightclubs. This always leads to clusters of outbreaks, says Adam Finn, a member of the UK Immunization Commission. “The biggest question mark is whether that number of cases will cause a serious new outbreak,” he said. The presence of the Indian variant makes the situation much more ambiguous.

British scientists say two doses of the vaccine are effective against the variant. The country immunized most of the population quickly. The strategy is to give the first dose to as many people as possible. To date, 74% of the population has been vaccinated with one dose, 47% fully vaccinated.

However, experts have two reasons to be concerned about B.1.617.2. First, it is estimated that the variant can be transmitted 50% faster than B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the UK last year. Second, a single dose of vaccine was less effective in B.1.617.2 than in B.1.1.7.

According to the British Journal of Public Health, a single dose of the vaccine reduces the risk of infection with B.1.617.2 by 33%, in variant B.1.1.7 by 50%. After the second dose, the effectiveness against B.1.617.2 was 81%.

The government is racing to complete vaccination programs in the hardest hit areas. They decided to reduce the time between doses from 12 weeks to 8 weeks in order to protect as many people as possible.

Thuc Linh (According to the WSJ, SCMP)


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