But despite stricter restrictions, case numbers are not dropping as fast as experts have expected. Deaths are increasing and public health experts and the government are beginning to warn people that the country will be in this battle for a long time.
The new version, known as B.1.1.7, is wreaking havoc in the UK, as cases have risen by the end of 2020, despite being a national lockout. The data showing a rapid rise in cases among younger people suggests that schools were left open, allowing variants to spread rapidly.
According to Public Health England, the new strain first surfaced in September. By the end of November, scientists began to worry about the increasing number of infections in the southeast in Kent. The region was an anomaly, as cases were becoming less common around the country due to national restrictions, they were not moving to Kent.
This forced the country to have a very strict lockout from 5 January, in which people were instructed to stay at home, mixing houses – indoors and out – and closing everything but essential shops, including Most schools were involved.
For many experts, the decision came too late. “It’s amazing that we’re making the same mistake over and over again – with increasing loss of life,” Dr. Julian Tang, clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, noted in the comments for the Science Media Center of the UK.
But is the stricter strategy working? Evidence is found.
In England, about 70,000 new infections were reported on 4 January, a day before the new lockdown was announced. According to the reported new cases, the nation’s worst 10-day period occurred between December 29 and January 11, with an average of more than 55,000 new cases reported each day.
Deaths soon followed: the 11 deadliest days of the pandemic occurred, between 10 9 and 18 January. More than 1,000 deaths occurred each day in the country, something that has happened only once before.
A few days after the new ban came into force, the number of new cases began to decline gradually – and has continued ever since.
The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases, a measure that eliminates fewer test-like anomalies over the weekend, has fallen from a high above 60,000 on January 1 to nearly 40,000 in recent days. However, it will take time for hospitals to feel its impact.
“We know there is a lag between reporting new cases and any subsequent deaths,” Michael Head, a senior fellow at Global Health at the University of Southampton, told CNN in an email. For example, within about 7–14 days from today, some percent of newly diagnosed people may end up in hospital, and then in about 1% of today’s cases, approximately 21–28 days will die.
The number of hospitalizations remains at a record high with 38,000 people in hospitals.
But while the latest figures may give a glimpse of hope, a contrasting picture appears in other studies, including one by researchers at Imperial College London.
Unlike official case numbers, which are based on the number of people being tested and thus cannot include those that are still asymptomatic or have not yet developed symptoms, the REACT-1 track current coronovirus infection in the study community And this time 140,000 randomly selected people tested.
Steven Riley, the study’s author and professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College, told CNN in an email that the figures don’t show the kind of substantial decline that is expected to be strong enough to reduce lockdown reproduction numbers . – Value indicates how much the virus is spreading: a fertility rate of 1 above means the epidemic is increasing. On Friday, the government said the number was between 0.8 and 1, although it warned of this diversity across the country.
The study tested samples collected between 6 and 15 January and compared them to mobility data based on GPS locations of individuals using the Facebook mobile phone app. The data showed a decrease in mobility in late December, followed by an increase in early January when people returned to work, which the authors say may explain the greater number of people being infected in early January.
Riley said that while the study did not show a large decline in infection, it would not be fair to say that the lockdown was a complete failure. “Our main point is that we have not detected a sharp decline that is exactly what we need to see.”
The authors further noted in the paper that, “Until community prevalence is reduced, health services will remain under extreme pressure and the cumulative number of lives lost during this epidemic will continue to increase rapidly.”
Reacting to the numbers, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the figures showed more infectious stress was “spreading very rapidly.”
“I think it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some restrictions,” Johnson said.
Valence said that early data suggests that 10 out of about 1,000 infected men in the 60s will die from the old version, this could increase to about 13 or 14 with the new strain.
The government has also found itself under pressure to compensate those who need to self-isolate. A government-supported study published in September found that only 18% of people followed self-segregation rules and suggested that financial compensation could bring that number.
Full effect will take some time
While the numbers are debated and changing, health experts and politicians are asking the public to be patient.
The full impact of the lockdown will not be felt for a while as it will take a longer time – and stay at home much longer – to fully bring the latest surge under control, he believes.
According to estimates by Head’s team, the number of people suffering from the disease is likely to remain high and will only fall next month. And while hospital admissions are declining, the number of hospitalized patients remains at record levels. As long as the number of discharged people is more than those admitted, there will be a danger of running out of beds in hospitals.
“The daily trend is closing the impact on those new daily affairs,” Head said. “However, it is important to remember that the effect of hospitalization will really only be reflected by trends starting around the last week of January, and deaths should fall throughout February.”
For now, this means that strict restrictions will remain in force for some time.
Top government officials have repeatedly said that it is too early to dispel speculation of loosening of the locking measures, which are now due by March, and possibly in summer.
“It may well mean, for example, that any lockdown may have to last longer than would be the case with the older version” Head said.