When Boris Johnson declared last month that Covid was “over” most of the mainstream media were content to shut up shop on the issue. But now infections and hospital admissions are rising sharply once again—but almost no one in authority is talking about it.
Figures released on Friday showed that the number of positive Covid tests across Britain over the last seven days jumped by 56 percent to almost 400,000. The number of patients admitted to hospital also shot up, by 17 percent, over the same period.
Another set of figures, using a different methodology, from the Office for National Statistics, says almost 300,000 people in Scotland had Covid last week. It is the highest figure since sampling began in autumn 2020 and suggests about one in 18 people had the virus.
There are a number of possible explanations for the rapid rise in infections. The most likely is that the government, by effectively declaring the pandemic over and ending all safety restrictions, encouraged people to take more risks. Those that have been careful about letting people into their homes or going into crowded indoor areas may well have decided that now was the time to “open up”.
A second possibility is that vaccination booster jabs are beginning to wear off for some age groups, and they are now at increased risk of infection. And, a third is that the latest, and more transmissible, BA.2 strain of the virus has become dominant and that is ramping up the numbers.
Health statistician Colin Angus thinks it is unlikely that the expected reduced effectiveness of vaccines is to blame. Looking at graphs for infections he notes, “It really striking how every age group has suddenly changed direction at the same time. This pushes us away from an explanation that might be age-specific, for example the (entirely plausible) idea that the protective benefits of boosters are starting to wear off. Because the booster rollout was very staggered with age.”
And Angus points out that hospital admissions are rising among all age groups, and in all parts of Britain—with the south east and south west of England already exceeding their Omicron peak in the oldest age groups. That means changed public behaviour and the new variant are likely driving the new wave— and that government inaction is allowing it to spread even further. No wonder then that the number of people with Covid in Scottish hospitals is at its highest for 13 months.
It’s also why, at the opposite end of Britain, health bosses in Cornwall have banned hospital visits after a spike in the number of patients at the county’s Royal Infirmary. The shaming new figures are almost certainly a factor in the decision this week to delay the start of the Covid Inquiry’s public hearings until 2023—meaning a final report before the next general election is unlikely.
What could the inquiry’s report show that the Tories are so scared of? It would be that Britain had one of the highest death rates in the world, was among countries with the highest number of people to die that would have lived if Covid had not appeared, and now has one of the lowest rates of full vaccination in the developed world.
This damning record ought to see them driven from office, but with attention now focused elsewhere the Tories will hope no one will notice that the pandemic is very much still alive.
A warning from a director of West Midlands Ambulance Service
Cops handcuffed trade unionists
One-off payments aren’t enough
IWGB union members fight back