Covid lockdown 4: Could it really happen and how can we prevent it? 3 weeks ago

Covid lockdown 4: Could it really happen and how can we prevent it?

The reduction in hospitalisations and death rates has "not been achieved by the vaccination programme," says PM

Fears of "lockdown 4" have surfaced following the easing of restrictions yesterday, which saw pub beer gardens, hairdressers, barbers, gyms, non-essential shops and beauty salons open their doors to the public once again.

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The fears came after a cluster of the South African variant of Covid-19 was found in the south London areas of Wandsworth and Lambeth.

A total of 44 cases of the variant have been confirmed in the areas, with an additional 30 cases being likely, the government has announced. All identified cases are now isolating or have completed their isolation and potential contacts have been notified and asked to isolate.

As part of the "largest surge testing operation to date", residents in the south London boroughs are being encouraged to take a PCR test in order to suppress any asymptomatic cases of the Covid-19 variant.

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Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said: "The cluster of cases of the variant first identified in South Africa found in parts of South London, predominantly the Lambeth and Wandsworth areas is significant."

"Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms. By taking part you can protect yourselves and your loved ones and help us identify any possible new cases that would otherwise be missed, preventing further transmission and saving lives," she added.

The government expanded its testing scheme last week, enabling people in England to have access to two lateral flow tests per week. The mass testing aims to help suppress possible asymptomatic cases of Covid-19.

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The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that the combination of mass testing, immunity from Covid and the vaccine is one way that the UK will be able to get back to some kind of normality, possibly in the form of Covid passports, particularly for international travel.

The rollout of the vaccination scheme in the UK has been a success so far, with recent analysis from Public Health England (PHE) estimating that approximately 10,400 deaths were prevented to the end of March as a result of receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.

However, despite the success of the vaccine rollout, Boris Johnson has today said that it is in fact the national lockdown that is responsible for reducing hospitalisations, case rates and death rates.

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The PM said: "The reduction in these numbers, in hospitalisations, deaths and infections has not been achieved by the vaccination programme.

"It's the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement in the pandemic."

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He added that "the vaccination programme has helped", but the downward trend of death rates and hospitalisations is due to the national lockdown.

With the recent easing of nationwide restrictions, the UK is now looking to revert back to a form of reality, while keeping infection and death rates low.

Dr Anne Cori from Imperial College London, who is modelling the Covid-19 outbreak, said that transmission rates are likely to increase as the UK comes out of lockdown.

She said: "We would expect more cases, but also more hospitalisations and deaths as we unlock," the Guardian reported.

Dr Cori said that the modelling has emphasised the importance of high rates of inoculation before easing restrictions
in order to "keep this ‘third wave’ to a minimal level," the Guardian reported.

We also know from other countries that lifting restrictions after vaccinations does not necessarily mean that cases, hospitalisations and deaths won't follow.

As reported by The Guardianthere are two drastically different case studies in Chile and Israel, who have taken different approaches to controlling the virus as their relative vaccine programmes are rolled out.

Where Israel have managed to curb the spread of the disease, Chile's Covid cases are soaring and the country is heading for another lockdown.

Touted reasons for this are numerous, but perhaps most convincing is the argument that the virus is still spreading due to the lack of social distancing being practiced by Chileans due to the false sense of security afforded by the vaccine programme.

This provides a stark warning for the UK in the coming weeks, and reminds us that the best way to emerge out of this lockdown with cases at a consistently low level is to adhere to the 'hands, face, space' rule so engrained in the past months.

The Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty also warned of a third wave of the disease last month.

Speaking at this year's Public Health Conference, Whitty said: "There will definitely be another surge at some point whether it's before winter or next winter, we don't know," Sky News reported.

"There are going to be lots of bumps and twists on the road from here on in," he said.

However, the CMO said that "the path from here on in does look better than the last year."

The Prime Minister urged "caution" yesterday, following the reopening of public spaces, including beer gardens, barbers, hairdressers, gyms and beauty salons.

The easing of restrictions come after 32,190,576 people have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, whilst over 7,500,000 people have now had their second jab.