I strongly recommend you take a look at the key document published last night by HM Government under the title ‘Covid -19 Response Spring 2021 ‘. Its sets out the road map for route out of our current lockdown and makes it very clear that the Government’s over-riding goal is to protect both lives and livelihoods of the citizens of the whole of the UK. There are 4 overarching conditions to allow the road map to be followed.
1. The vaccine deployment continues at its current rate.
2. The vaccine continues to be sufficiently effective.
3. Infections do not cause a surge in hospitalisations which would put undue pressure on the NHS.
4. The risks are not changed by any new variants of concern.
The link to this report was very kindly added early in the discussions after yesterday’s report. You should be able to find it easily. I have been very impressed by the report, it is well indexed and referenced. The graphics are clear and simple to understand especially those whose first language is not English or who do not cope well with graphs and statistics. There is a lot of useful background information which makes it an ideal resource. Many of you may find it worth downloading a copy for reference.
As restrictions ease and the economy is gradually and safely reopened the government will carefully tailor the level of support to individuals and businesses to reflect the changing circumstances. The 3rd March Budget will set out further detail on economic support for the most vulnerable. Recognising that visits from friends and family are crucial for the wellbeing of care home residents of all ages, their families and friends, the road map includes more opportunities for visiting. Additional testing will also be provided to facilitate safer visits for residents in high risk, Supported Living and Extra Care settings. The Government recognises some groups within society have felt the impact of the pandemic more acutely, and is committed to addressing the longer-term implications of Covid -19 for those communities.
Over time , scientists expect Covid 19 to become endemic, meaning the virus will reach a stable and hopefully manageable low level. Vaccinations- including revaccination- will be key to managing the transition from pandemic to endemic state. Therapeutics and antivirals will become increasingly important , replacing most non pharmaceutical interventions over long term. The Government is also committed to building resilience for any future pandemics both domestically and on the international stage.
The PM still seems very optimistic that he will be able to remove all restrictions by 21st June 2021 under his 4 stage plan . Some politicians will claim this much too slow, some scientists will say much too fast. So in all probability it is about right. The PM makes it clear his plans will not be sped up but can and will be slowed down if necessary. The document refers to legal limits on social contacts that may be removed by 26th of June. There may well be advisory limits or guidelines in place all through next winter. It simply means that the threat of fines will be removed. There is plenty of evidence that masks and social distancing may be guidelines for a long time to come particularly during the winter months. We may well see more Westerners following the Eastern tradition of wearing masks in the street in winter to avoid influenza as well as protecting from smogs.
Nicola Sturgeon has broadly followed England with her announcements today. The younger primary children went to school yesterday. She stressed the same 4 conditions to move forward on the roadmap. She said she wanted to remove “stay at home” by April 5th,and to have all of education back by the same date. Lockdown will then be progressively eased every 3 weeks with more freedoms in the retail industry by April 5th.
Little has been said yet about freedom to travel, all international travel is effectively still banned. There are to be further Governments statements in due course. It looks like travel restrictions must remain in place for some time. We certainly do not want to import any new more virulent variants to the UK.
Todays statistics immediately after a weekend remain very encouraging. The R rate remains between 0.6 and 0.9 meaning the pandemic is receding everywhere. The total number of Covid tests done was 670,560. Of these only 8,489 were positive in the last 24 hours. As for hospitals there were 16,797 patients in hospital on 21st February with 1,323 admitted on the 18th February. 2,273 patients are requiring a ventilator. This is a very encouraging 20% drop in the numbers in hospital.
As for deaths, 548 reported today, a Tuesday, typically the highest number of the week because of catch up reporting after the weekend. This is the lowest Tuesday figure for some time. The death rate has again fallen by 28% in the last 7 days and the death rate right down to only 4.5 per 100k of the population. We remain very much on course for us to be able to follow the road map out of trouble but we are not there yet we cannot relax anything until March 8th. There may be a slight rise in figures due to children returning to school but it will only be slight and temporary. If we relax our guard now it could be catastrophic, halt all further plans and leave us with thousands more deaths. The choice is yours, it should be a no brainer, however hard, we must get through the coming weeks. I am sure we will.
Just for now Stay at Home, Stay Apart and Stay Safe.