Balancing lockdown easing with vaccine roll-outs: some are doing better than others
The trick is to balance lockdown easing with a vaccine roll-out. And amazingly I think the UK has judged it spot on. Looking at new Covid hospital admissions, they peak at over 4,000 per day on 9 January, that’s a huge number and it stemmed directly from the lockdown easing and revelry over Christmas and New Year. It was made worse by the UK variant, which is up to twice as infectious as the original strain. The total number of people in hospital with Covid peaked 10 days later at almost 40,000. The NHS was close to breaking point. The improvement since then has been fantastic, and indexing the fall with different age groups shows that much of the improvement reflects vaccination, which of course started with the over 85s.
The combination of rising new cases with a slow vaccine roll-out is bad news for Europe. And there’s more bad news for Europe: the South African variant may be taking hold there. This strain is believed to be more resistant to vaccines. The UK has a handful of cases of the South African variant and sends in a SWAT team of contract tracers to contain each outbreak. They can only do that because the numbers are so low. France may be seeing 1,500 to 2000 cases of this variant every day: too many for a SWAT team approach.
Every day things get worse in Europe relative to the UK and the US. And the EU have responded by threatening to ban exports to the UK, not just of vaccines but the ingredients too. This could get nasty. The UK makes one of the key components of Europe’s production of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The likely result is some disruption of total supply and some diversion of supplies destined for the UK to the EU. Without this disruption the UK would probably have met its target early of offering a vaccine to every adult in the UK by the end of July, possibly by early May. So, in the absence of more severe disruption, the lockdown easing schedule is still on track.