- UK health research body projects a rise in corona related infections & deaths between September ‘20 and June ‘21
- Coming winters will be especially deadly; and with the colder season being conducive for many other ailments, medical systems will be under high-pressure
- No clear studies on what is the herd immunity threshold level for Britain with respect to the coronavirus
- WHO issues warning to national government for maintaining strict health safety guidelines, says otherwise the pandemic will only get worse
Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) in the UK had forecasted a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ for Covid-19 infections across the nation. The independent health research body predicted the number of corona related death toll to reach 119,900 during September 2020 to June 2021 in Britain. According to official UK government statistics, the deadly virus had killed a total of 44,830 people till 13 July 2020.
It is noteworthy that this forecast does not include corona-led demises in care homes, which till now have summed up to be more than one-fourth of total Covid-related deaths in the country.
Scientist have issued warnings that the coming winter season could see a more serious outbreak of Covid-19 flu, not just in the UK but across the world. The season is not only bad for the corona disease which can affects lungs and cause serious conditions like pneumonia, in the worst -case scenario; but is favourable for spreading of many other diseases as well. Many conditions such as common cough & cold, asthma, heart strokes, and influenza spread much more easily during a colder climate, and this could put additional load on the British healthcare system.
Further, since the initial symptoms of Covid-19 are similar to winter bronchial problems, the correct diagnosis could also get slightly delayed. In fact, the total number of people displaying symptoms of fever or cough or loss of smell are forecasted to increase by almost 3.6 times across England and Wales, as per the report.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) statistics in the UK
(Source: UK Government, 13 July 2020)
To stay healthy, we need to keep infections away and take special care of the most vulnerable people in our society, explained Dr. Stephen Holgate, who has chaired the AMS report. The country’s National Health Service is expected to get busier during the coming colder months of January and February 2021.
The report advised that proper ventilation should be maintained, by opening doors and windows as much as possible, during the winter season, to reduce the density of any viruses present in the air.
The report presumed that another lockdown, as effective as the one imposed during March 2020, may not be possible again, as the season changes in Britain. It also ignored the plausible effect of any potential vaccine and its mass availability by that time.
Will a herd immunity slow the spread of coronavirus disease?
First, what exactly do we mean by herd immunity? It happens when a large part of the population gets immune to a disease, which remarkably slows down its person to person infection rate. Therefore, the entire group of people get protection against the disease, and not just the ones who have good immunity against it.
To achieve herd immunity, the percentage of population that needs to be immune to an ailment, varies from disease to disease. For instance, this figure is 94 per cent for measles, which is a highly contagious illness.
Unfortunately, this threshold level is not clearly known for the Covid-19 disease till now. Expert estimates for the US indicate that 70 per cent of the total country population should get infected with the virus, before the nation can be said to have achieved its corona herd immunity threshold level.
Till now, close to 3 million or around 5 per cent of the United Kingdom’s population has been infected with the corona virus. There are various rough estimates floating around for Britain as well, some of which say that if only 20 per cent of total population is infected, herd immunity threshold will be achieved. While another study puts the same number at 43 per cent.
In the meantime, a study from the King’s College London (released on 13 July 2020) has revealed that people recovering from coronavirus infections might also lose their immunity to the disease within a period of few months. It implies in turn that, if this is the case, then the corona infections would be spreading every year just like the common cold.
In fact, there are multiple cases of people getting re-infected by the Covid-19 virus around the globe.
So, it still remains a mystery as to when and how exactly would the herd immunity offer protection in case of the Covid-19 pandemic.
WHO issues warning to maintain strict health safety guidelines
Incidentally, WHO’s (World Health Organisation) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has issued a statement regarding the necessary precautions needed to stop the spread of coronavirus disease on 13 July 2020. He said that too many countries are dealing with the corona pandemic ineffectively. This will only keep raising the number of infections across the world, unless the basics of health and social distancing guidelines are met, with an immediate effect.
Old normal is not going to return in the near future, warned the WHO. The pandemic will only get worse if governments across the world do not make a detailed strategy to contain the virus and ensure that people follow it.
WHO said that we need more studies to understand the infection pattern of the Covid-19 disease. According to Michael Ryan, Emergencies Director at the WHO, there is a need to trace the origin of the novel coronavirus first and then begin the related studies all over again.
Finally, it comes as a sad news that the reputed Academy of Medical Sciences has cautioned the UK to prepare for a new coronavirus peak during the coming winters. Even though the forecast ignores effects of development of a vaccine or impact of a herd immunity in controlling its spread, but the fact that it is overall more complex to handle the disease during a colder season can’t be left unattended. WHO has warned the governments across the world to implement a comprehensive strategy to contain the virus, or be prepared to face the consequences. It is now up to the wisdom of the respective national governments and their citizens to take thing forward in a sensible manner.
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