Christmas 2020 continued with a disappointing theme for the year, as millions of families spent the holiday unable to see some of their closest relatives. In 2021, many of those impacted will be looking forward to making up for lost time, but the UK’s Covid case rate has surged to concerning levels. Whether or not the Government will retrace the path it followed last year depends on several varying factors, many of which are currently going in the wrong direction.
The current Government makes it difficult to predict what could happen with Covid rules ahead of time.
The Prime Minister did not order Britons to “stay at home” until December 19 last year.
Mr Johnson’s late announcement was par for the course for his Government at the time, which tended to shy away from pre-emptive actions.
This has changed little in 2021, meaning people likely won’t find out the measures they face for Christmas until December.
The Government initially cracked down on Covid in late 2020 as statistics showed a coming third wave in early December.
Around October 2020, daily cases averaged between 16,000 and 20,000, forcing ministers to introduce a brief four-week lockdown.
Although this temporarily nudged cases down, winter conditions forced them back up again, reaching the same rates by mid-December.
In the past week alone, cases have topped 50,000 twice, and the Government has ruled out any incoming lockdowns.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) warned cases could prompt a “lockdown Christmas” again this year.
Ministers are currently governing the UK’s Covid situation with its “Plan A” strategy.
That leans exclusively on vaccination rates building immunity, and preventing mounting deaths.
But uptake has hit a wall recently, with data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showing fewer people are coming forward to receive theirs.
The data shows that while nearly 80 percent of Britons have had at least one, uptake has almost flattened since September.
For the Government to consider relying only on Plan A during Christmas, a much higher proportion of Britons would need to have taken theirs.
And in turn, it would need to dent the UK’s Covid case and death rates.
Vaccines, although highly effective at preventing Covid symptoms, primarily prevent deaths.
Unvaccinated people are approximately 11 times more likely to die after contracting the disease than their vaccinated counterparts.
According to Sajid Javid, death rates are “mercifully low” at present, averaging 133 per day.
The vaccination rate is responsible for that, although if it continues to stall, deaths could rise.
According to the latest completed data on October 19 some 111 people died.
In comparison, 488 people died on December 19. While 192 died on October 19 last year.
Hospitalisation rates are perhaps the most important metric of them all.
Not every Covid case will require hospital treatment, but hospitalisations inevitably increase as they rise.
If they rise too high, they could overwhelm the NHS, denying people life-saving treatments, both Covid and otherwise.
A total of 1,080 people were hospitalised on October 19, according to Gov.uk data.
This is in comparison to 2,045 on December 19, but the picture looks similar a year back – with 1,108 hospitalisations recorded on October 19 last year.
While Sajid Javid does not believe this current level is too much for doctors to bear right now, that could quickly change.
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