Thursday, December 2

COVID-19: Boris Johnson Government Under Pressure As Cases Continue To Rise

The UK is struggling with one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in Europe, despite the initial success of its vaccination campaign, calling into question the liberal health policy of the Boris Johnson government.

Figures released on Monday showed an additional 49,156 people tested positive in the last 24-hour period, the highest number since mid-July.

During the last fortnight, new infections have fluctuated between 35,000 and 45,000 daily cases. On October 12, the incidence rate reached 410 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, much higher than in the rest of Europe and almost 10 times more than in France (44). Only Romania, Serbia and the Baltic countries are in a worse situation.

In July, the Johnson government lifted most remaining coronavirus restrictions, at a time when many European countries were moving to introduce health passes. At this month’s ruling Conservative Party conference, the prime minister focused heavily on post-pandemic recovery.

Scientists explain the rise in daily cases by the large number of tests carried out in the UK. At almost 900,000 a day, this is much higher than the equivalent number in countries like Germany and France, where since mid-October tests are no longer automatically covered by insurance.

Another reason scientists attribute the increase is the fact that young British people, including those over 12 who have only been eligible for vaccination since September, are tested several times a week at school.

The infection rate among older children “is clearly the driving force behind this sustained tide of new infections,” says Professor Simon Clarke of the University of Reading, warning that the high number of cases may put vulnerable people at risk. that surround them.

Relaxed rules questioned

The UK, one of the countries in Europe hardest hit by the pandemic with more than 138,000 deaths, has relaxed restrictions more than most. The number of large indoor events without the need for a vaccine passport has increased, and the mandatory use of masks in England ended in July.

Scotland has introduced a vaccine passport scheme for nightclubs and big events since October 1, enforceable by law. However, coronavirus cases also remain high.

About 15% of Britons never wear a mask, compared to around 5% among their European neighbors, according to a YouGov poll in mid-October. Even on London public transport, where masks are still mandatory, a high proportion of passengers ignore the rule.

Some scientists are now asking the government to review its policy, especially with the arrival of winter, an always tense period for hospitals. They want the government to activate its “plan B”, which provides for the return of certain measures, such as wearing a mask indoors or encouraging home work, in case of deterioration during the winter.

“We always knew that the next few months could be challenging,” a spokesman for the prime minister said on Monday.

“Obviously, different countries are potentially at different stages of their vaccination programs and have different measures, so it is difficult to compare and contrast,” he added. “But it is important to strike the right balance between protecting lives and livelihoods.”

Focus on reinforcement hits

The British vaccination program started much faster than in the rest of Europe, and almost 45 million people are now fully vaccinated (79% of those over 12 years of age).

The campaign has significantly reduced the link between the infection and severe forms of the disease, with 7,086 people hospitalized (there were nearly 40,000 in January) and 972 deaths from COVID-19 in the past seven days.

Some experts say that the country is now paying for the first advances made. The first people to get vaccinated, the most fragile, are now experiencing a drop in immunity to the virus. This is especially the case among the many who were injected with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the efficacy of which wears off faster than its competitors, according to some studies.

The British government launched its booster campaign in mid-September, which is open to people over 50 and caregivers. But only 41% of those vaccinated more than six months ago have received their new injection so far, compared to 45% in France.

The government says that every effort is being made to contact people who are eligible for booster jabs and that it will continue to intensify its campaigns.

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