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UK – the world’s test of reopening


After the decision to reopen completely, the UK became a “test” for the world in terms of easing the blockade when the Delta variant was spreading strongly.

The situation in this country is being closely monitored by many countries. The question is, can the major economies, with their high vaccination rates, return to normal life at this point? Will Covid-19 become a seasonal pathogen like the flu – easy to control and have little impact on social functioning?

In the UK, most of the restrictions on epidemic prevention were lifted on July 19. People can choose for themselves whether to wear masks at nightclubs or crowded gatherings.

The change caused the number of infections to increase rapidly. Britain records about 50,000 positive cases a day, more than Brazil, India, Indonesia or South Africa. However, the government says hospitalization and death rates are much lower than in previous outbreaks.

This strategy is in contrast to neighboring European countries, or other high-vaccination countries such as the US or Israel. Here, the government implemented a parallel vaccine program and public health measures, such as wearing masks or social distancing to prevent Delta variant.

Many countries are closely monitoring the development trend of Covid-19 in the UK to make the right decisions.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Delta accounted for 83% of the virus samples sequenced. Ran Balicer, head of the Covid-19 advisory board in Israel, on July 20 recommended that the government act cautiously over the next few weeks to study the situation.

“We can learn many lessons (from the UK) and whether the way to respond,” said Professor Balicer.

Londoners are vaccinated against Covid-19 in July 2021. Photo: AFP

Experts say that if hospital admissions in the UK remain steady at low levels for weeks to come, developed countries could learn and move closer to a new normal. But in the event of a resurgence of the disease, this goal is still far away.

Behind Britain’s groundbreaking decision is hope that a vaccine and public prudence will prevent a repeat of last summer’s scenario, when hospitalizations and deaths soared.

Europe prioritizes increasing vaccination coverage, trying to keep Delta under control by wearing masks and social distancing. France and Italy are considering requiring people who want to enter museums, restaurants and participate in community activities to present a certificate of vaccination, negative for nCoV or having recovered from Covid-19 within 6 months.

In Russia, authorities in at least 41 regions, including Moscow, have mandated vaccination of service sector workers, including restaurants, bars, transport, shops, houses, etc.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his scientific advisers believe vaccination will bring the country closer to herd immunity, when the virus is no longer a threat. Currently two-thirds of the adult population is fully immunized, up from 60% in the US. Statistics UK estimates that 92% of adults are partially immune, or have been infected with nCoV in the past.

In fact, the reopening plan has drawn criticism from public health experts. Dozens of people signed open letters to medical journals, calling the government’s strategy reckless and inhumane. They argue that the authorities let many people get infected unnecessarily, risking the emergence of new variants, reducing the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Professor Hendrik Streeck, a virologist from the University of Bonn, said: “I believe this is quite a dangerous test.”

Responding to criticism, the UK government said the vaccination program was enough to keep hospitalizations and deaths much lower than in previous outbreaks.

Children in Binyamina, Israel, are vaccinated against Covid-19 in July 2021.  Photo: AP

Children in Binyamina, Israel, are vaccinated against Covid-19 in July 2021. Photo: AP

The country currently records about 600 hospitalizations and 40 deaths per day. In January, the deadliest period, daily cases peaked at around 60,000. The number of people hospitalized reached 4,000 and deaths reached 1,200.

The doctor said most of the people hospitalized are now young, unvaccinated or waiting for a second dose. About 14% of people over the age of 50 are fully immunized. This is a sign that even after vaccination, many elderly people are still infected with nCoV.

The average number of cases in seven days in the UK is around 47,700, twice as many as at the end of June, 14 times more than at the end of May. Health Minister Sajid Javid warned the number could reach 100,000 a day in a few days. week.

David Strain, a doctor at the University of Exeter in the UK, who has treated Covid-19 patients, said he brought a person in his 30s into the intensive care unit this week, it is unclear whether the patient will survive or not. are not.

“I am very worried about the British approach. We depend too much on vaccines, but vaccines alone are not enough,” he said.

Thuc Linh (Follow WSJ)

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