Review of national restrictions presents some challenges for the UK government, which urgently needs to assess their impact, and plot and confirm the safest course possible for each nation for the next three months, Dr Joe Pajak writes.

First published in December 2020.

The impact of the national restrictions

The UK’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (SPI-M-O) for the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), presented a consensus statement on Covid-19 to SAGE on 25 November, which (among other important detail presented) states that:

SAGE. | UK Government

The paper, which was published on 11 December 2020, indicates that government scientists consider a period of 21 days is not long enough to fully evaluate the impact of national restrictions on the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Time has moved on; and the government is due to formally review ‘the situation’, following the introduction (on 2 December) of these latest restrictions in England, by 16 December 2020. Clearly there are some urgent issues to consider, and act upon, not least: a review of the restrictions (across the UK), a review of the plans at Christmas with each of the four nations, and a review of the situation generally in education settings, hospitals, and care homes.  

Presumably, there will be a clear plan for the New Year. Time is of the essence, but will there actually have been enough time, given SAGE’s view of the time lag between introducing restrictions and obtaining full evidence of their impact?

The government has not gained a good reputation for acting in a timely fashion, and its motives have also received understandable scrutiny. There remain a number of burning questions, e.g. regarding: the testing programme, the arrangements for schools and universities, and now, the reduction of quarantine from 14 days to 10 days.  

Many challenges lie ahead, and the worrying uptick in some of the key Covid-19 data is not helping, with increases in London and the East of England being noted today.

Today’s data in focus

Today’s data reports the dreadful fact that a further 424 people have lost their lives in the last 24 hours in the UK, while the number of deaths in the last 14 days is at 5,974.

Note: The data for deaths attributed to Covid-19, each following a reported positive test result for Covid-19 within 28 days of their death.

Today’s Government data indicates that there have been 220,158 new cases reported in the past 14 days, 16% fewer than the 14-day figures reported on 28 November. Today’s trendline chart, and headline UK Covid-19 data, indicate that the situation remains very delicately balanced.

UK Covid-19 headline data, reported on 11 December 2020:

  • 21,672 further positive tests
  • 424 further deaths in the last 24 hours
  • 1,622 further hospital admissions (reported as of 07/12)
  • 16,136 hospital in-patients in total (reported as of 09/12)
  • 1,267 patients on ventilation beds (reported as of 10/12)
  • 220,158 new cases reported in the last 14 days, according to government data.

316 days after the first case was reported in the UK, 1,809,455 cases have been reported, together with 63,506 deaths. However, these data include only those who have died within 28 days of testing positive; other measures suggest the number of deaths is higher: 73,125 being reported as “the total number of deaths of people whose death certificate mentioned Covid-19 as one of the causes, registered up to Friday, 27 November 2020.”🔷

Data source:

Dr Joe Pajak, Professional experience applied scientific research and development, then director of a national children’s charity, trustee of a disability charity, and governor of NHS foundation trust hospitals.

[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 11 December 2020. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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