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The big question: COVID cases

How concerning is the increase in COVID-19 cases?

Bamidele Farinre

Chief Biomedical Scientist

London Medical Laboratory

The increase in new cases is attributed to the highly contagious delta variant spreading among unvaccinated community. Hospitalisations have increased over the past few weeks, but the number of people requiring hospital treatment for COVID-19 remains at a much lower level compared with when we were experiencing similar case rates in previous waves. This shows that the vaccination programme is having a significant impact on the number of people becoming seriously unwell.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and all adults can get their vaccine now.

Undoubtedly, after many months of cancelled activities, economic challenges and stress, people are frustrated and tired of taking coronavirus precautions. All these are factors that are driving surges and spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Surges in cases also depend on the behaviours of people when they start moving around more. I would implore communities to continue diligent COVID-19 precautions, including physical distancing, handwashing and mask-wearing, and monitoring for symptoms. These practices will result in a much lower impact on transmission of the virus than in communities where people do not continue these safety precautions on a widespread basis. Finally, stay in touch with local health authorities, which can provide information if COVID-19 cases begin to increase in your community.

 

Sally Cutler

Professor of Medical Microbiology

University of East London

A n increase of COVID-19 cases as we emerged from lockdown was inevitable, but, given this, I was shocked to learn of the decisions to drop virtually all restrictions on 19 July. After months of “data not dates” the government has totally reversed its strategy, seizing the “firebreak” offered by the summer holiday period to drop COVID community infection controls.

The rather misguided opinion appears that the “at risk” population would have been offered vaccination (though not all have chosen to take up vaccination) and that infection in children is unlikely to be serious, so by letting infection run through this group, we will achieve population immunity to infection. This unchecked transmission through our children and young adults will not only cause a proportion of these cases to endure protracted and damaging health consequences, but is also likely to result in massive disruptions once schools and universities resume in September.

We are being told it is time to live with COVID, but this should include a duty of care for those around us through use of sensible precautions. Sadly, we now have no way of actioning COVID-safe environments through compliance being a personal decision for the public. Maintaining safe working environments will be a challenge with no power to implement precautions. As a scientist, experiments are a way of generating data, but I did not particularly want to be part of this experiment being conducted without ethical approval.

 

Allan Wilson

Lead Biomedical Scientist in Cellular Pathology

Monklands Hospital

I t goes without saying that we would all like to see the number of COVID-19 cases decline, not purely because

it will reduce the number of people hospitalised and deaths, but because it would allow us to ease the restrictions further and hasten the return to normality.

The average weekly number of deaths of people who had a positive COVID test and died within 28 days sits at around

130 across the UK. In a bad flu year, on average, around 30,000 people in the UK die from flu and pneumonia. Although these figures are not directly comparable they do indicate that we now “accept” that tens of thousands of members of our communities will die from flu in a bad flu year. In this post-vaccination period, this is probably more deaths than forecast from COVID-19 over the coming winter.

Despite my ramblings above, the main reason we should be concerned about the rise in cases is because of the real risk that a high transmission rate will drive the emergence of new variants of concern. Not only would this increase the risk of the evolution of variants that may not be affected by the vaccine and lead to an increase in hospitalisation and deaths, but it would almost certainly lead to the re-introduction of restrictions.

We have a collective responsibility to get vaccinated, continue to self-isolate if required and observe social distancing and mask-wearing, where appropriate, to protect not just ourselves but our families and the wider community from the emergence of new variants.

 

Image credit |Getty

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