Johnson urges caution as Covid cases continue to fall
That was the bold prediction by Imperial College epidemiologist and government adviser Professor Neil Ferguson. In his most upbeat assessment since the crisis erupted in March last year, Prof Ferguson said: “We’re not completely out of the woods, but the equation has fundamentally changed. The effect of vaccines is hugely reducing the risk of hospitalisations and death. “I’m positive that by late September, October time, we will be looking back at most of the pandemic.
“We’ll still have Covid with us, we’ll still have people dying from Covid, but we will put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.”
Yesterday, the number of new cases reported by the Department of Health and Social Care fell for the seventh consecutive day.
A further 23,511 cases were reported, an astonishing drop to almost half the 46,558 recorded last Tuesday.
However, there were 131 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test, which is up from 96 seven days ago.
Prof Ferguson, a member of the respected Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, and known as “Professor Lockdown” because his expertise led Britain into isolation in March last year, believes cases are “plateauing”.
That is largely thanks to our world-leading vaccination rollout, which started on December 8 – less than a year after the world was crippled by the respiratory virus. More than 37 million people in the UK have received both doses of a Covid jab.
Neil Ferguson believes the UK is close to overcoming the pandemic (Image: BBC)
Prof Ferguson’s view is a dramatic change in his stance. Just 10 days ago he was warning it was “almost inevitable” Covid cases would hit 100,000 per day.
The Prime Minister last night warned against drawing “premature conclusions” about the dramatic drop in cases.
But Prof Karol Sikora, Daily Express columnist and a former director of the World Health Organisation, said: “If we’re being honest, nobody knows why cases are falling so precipitously.
“Schools breaking up, the warmer weather, the ‘pingdemic’, immunity in the population – it’s probably a mix of all of these factors.
“Whatever the reason, it’s good news.
“Prof Ferguson is absolutely right. Vaccines have severely weakened the link between cases and hospitalisations, though not completely broken.
“Deaths will sadly continue, but not anywhere near the levels we have experienced.
“We should now focus on the non-Covid health crisis and the enormous amount of suffering that is causing.”
Latest data shows 46,653,796 people have received a first jab, some 88.2 per cent of the adult population, while 37,459,060 have had both shots – 70.8 per cent of the population.
Prof James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute for medical research, said: “The rollout of vaccines in the UK has clearly made a huge difference to hospitalisations and deaths. The warmer summer days have also helped. Recent weeks have seen a real drop in the number of first vaccinations.
“I would urge the Government, medics and my fellow scientists to continue to explain to the ‘vaccine hesitant’ the benefits of these safe and effective medicines.”
In his prediction 10 days ago, Prof Ferguson reckoned Covid infections could rocket 200,000 a day, while in the future 500,000 more could develop long Covid – where people suffer symptoms lasting weeks or months after infection has gone.
But data now shows cases are falling in half of all local authorities in England. Analysis of figures for the seven days up to July 22 are based on numbers testing positive with either a PCR test checked at a lab or on-the-spot lateral flow test.Of 315 local areas in England, some 177 have witnessed a drop in new cases per 100,000.
A further 136 have seen a week-on-week rise and two are unchanged.
Vaccines have ‘severely weakened the link between cases and hospitalisations (Image: Getty)
Meanwhile, 218 fatalities registered in England and Wales in the week ending July 16 mentioned Covid on the death certificate.
Office for National Statistics figures published yesterday showed registered deaths involving Covid in two northern regions are at their highest level since March.
The North-west had the highest number of coronavirus deaths at 71 – around one third of the total registered that week and the highest weekly total since the 106 deaths in the week ending March 26, during the second wave.
Overall, 9,697 deaths in England and Wales were registered in the week ending July 16 – 55 fewer than the previous week and 447 above the five-year average.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, said the highest number of deaths since March was in part due to the high number of cases recorded recently.
She said: “We know deaths follow when there are a high number of cases and data highlights we are still in the third wave.
“Rates are still high and the pandemic is not over yet.”