Sars-Cov-2 contagion has increased in England, despite the advance of vaccination and the new containment, according to the result of the country’s largest coronavirus surveillance study, the React, published this Thursday (21).
Conducted jointly by Imperial College and the Ipsos Mori Institute, testing 142,900 volunteers, React indicated one infection in 63 people between January 6 and January 15, a 50% increase from the previous survey, conducted between November 25 and December 3.
In London, the contagion was even greater: 1 in 36 tests were positive, more than double the rate a month earlier. “The data gives a worrying suggestion of a recent increase in infections, which we will continue to monitor closely,” said program director at Imperial College Paul Elliott.
According to the epidemiologist, the difference in methodology explains why the study shows a different trend from official statistics, where the number of new cases was down. In the government investigation, people who have already shown symptoms are tested, while React actively tests volunteers, even before signs of illness. The survey must therefore have more recent figures.
In people aged 18 to 24, the virus was detected more frequently (2.51%) than in people aged 65 or older (0.94%). Despite this, the rate of infection among the elderly, the most at risk, has doubled during the period. Professionals caring for Covid-19 patients were also more infected, comparatively.
The growing number of cases and the decrease in available healthcare professionals are doubly affecting the already overburdened UK healthcare system. According to Elliott, if the contagion is not reduced, “we will see the same exit pressure in hospital admissions, in ICUs and, unfortunately, in deaths.” The country reached a new daily death toll from Covid-19: 1,820 on Wednesday.
A new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus could be responsible for the rise in the curve, as the country has been in tighter containment since December, Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College, told British media.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed concern that the variant – discovered in the country last year and dubbed B117 – is now found across the UK.
Another cause was the increase in the movement of people, recorded by mobile phone mobility data. After falling at the end of December, movements of people increased at the start of the year.
While observing the increase in new cases and deaths, the UK has stepped up its vaccination program in an attempt to reduce pressure on the healthcare system, which has received 15,000 patients since Christmas Eve (the equivalent of 20 full hospitals, according to the government).
In the long term, the goal is also to try to quell the spread of the coronavirus, but that’s a distant goal. Although well ahead of its European neighbors, until Tuesday (19), the UK had administered the first dose to 4,609,740 people (around 7% of the population), and 460,625 had received the second dose ( 0.7% of the population).
The British are giving around 300,000 shots a day, but the rate is still insufficient to vaccinate the 15 million most vulnerable people by the middle of next month, as promised.
According to Riley, it should take “a large number of weeks, if not months” for the vaccine to have an impact on the spread of the virus, as those who are immune at an early stage are not primarily responsible for the infection. .
Vaccination itself may increase the number of new cases, but on the flip side, according to the UK government’s leading behavioral science adviser David Halpern, when vaccinated people start to circulate more and reduce care, which increases transmission.
According to Halpern, who leads the Behavioral Insights Team, research shows that those who received the vaccine were preparing to meet their family and friends. According to a YouGov survey in December, 29% of adults said they would slack off after being vaccinated, and 11%, who “probably wouldn’t follow the rules anymore.”
As behavior specialists ask the government to launch a campaign showing the vaccine does not release prevention, epidemiologists are pushing for containment to be maintained.
“It’s worth remembering Albert Einstein’s definition:“ Insanity does the same thing over and over and expects a different outcome. ”The lesson is that every time you release detention very quickly, contagion is increasing, ”said Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, on Wednesday.
In the European Union, the presidents and prime ministers of the 27 member countries are also discussing measures to contain the coronavirus this Thursday, but with one more difficulty: in most European countries, vaccination programs are progressing slowly, mainly due to lack of vaccines. .
The European Union wants to avoid coordinated border closures within the bloc, but there is pressure from local politicians, who fear the spread of the new variants — in addition to the British, discoveries in South Africa and in Brazil.
Stricter measures are needed because, according to the director of the European Institute of Bioinformatics, Cambridge, Rolf Apweiler, the B117 variant causes six to eight times more infections per month than previous versions.
Apweiler was among a group of scientists who appealed to German politicians for tighter lockdowns. Germany on Tuesday extended the lockdown that would end on January 31, including the closure of schools, until February 14, and made the use of a surgical mask mandatory (with a higher protection factor) inside stores or on public transport.
Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun told German TV stations on Thursday that border control was not ruled out. “The danger is that when infections in a country increase, this mutation becomes an almost major variant and the infection can no longer be controlled,” he said.
The Netherlands announced that from this Saturday (23), they would ban flights from the United Kingdom, South Africa and South America and set up two mandatory tests: a PCR carried out 72 hours before departure and a fast type, in the arrival.