After a period from mid to late November in which the number of people with a positive Covid-19 test in the UK declined, in recent weeks we have unfortunately seen a rise in Covid-19 cases, with over 28,000 cases reported in the UK on 18 December. This rise in case numbers has been particularly high in parts of London and South-East England, leading today to these areas being placed into a new Tier 4 Level. Infection rates are also increasing in other parts of the UK, such as Wales, leading to increased pressure on the NHS.
Despite the enthusiasm and optimism generated by the Covid-19 vaccination programme, the number of people being vaccinated is well-below the level needed to start to reduce infection rates in the community. Without a very rapid escalation in the Covid-19 vaccination programme, which in turn depends on further vaccines being licensed for use in the UK and very quickly obtaining a much large supply of vaccines than we have available now, it will be sometime (perhaps several months, depending on vaccine availability) before enough people in England and elsewhere in the UK are vaccinated to have an impact on Covid-19 infection rates.
Our current crisis will require mass vaccination on a speed and scale we have not seen before in the UK. This needs to target older people, those with long-term health problems, and key workers in the first instance (NHS staff, care workers, and teachers for example); before moving on to other groups.
For the time being, it’s essential that people follow the local Covid-19 rules for the area where they live. In particular, mixing indoors with people from other households should be avoided as the risk of infection in substantially higher in crowded, indoor spaces where ventilation is poor.
Everyone should be mindful of older friends, relatives, and social contacts; and those with long-term medical problems. These groups are at the highest risk of serious illness and death if they contract Covid-19; and anybody in one of these groups should be very cautious in their interactions indoors with people not from their immediate household.
Although everyone wants to enjoy Christmas, it’s essential that infection control measures and local Covid-19 rules are followed during the holidays to protect yourself and others, and to relieve pressure on the NHS. Please also attend for your Covid-19 vaccination when you are invited. Achieving a high vaccine coverage rapidly is our best way to bring the Covid-19 pandemic under control.