Published 17 November 2020
England has been in lockdown 2.0 since the 5th of November.
The latest round of restrictions are due to end in a little over a fortnight, and the question everyone is wondering is whether we will get to have Christmas lunch together without breaking the law.
The primary focus of the government and SAGE is ensuring that the second wave of Covid does not overwhelm the NHS. However, as we described when lockdown was introduced, the NHS is generally the last to feel the benefit of greater social distancing and reduced transmission.
The table below, which we will update next week, shows some of the metrics mentioned in briefings. The measures are 3-day rolling averages compared to the same period a week earlier. The metrics focus on the NHS and the potential pressure it faces.*
Cases are only starting to fall in the North** - this is not good news, although there is some indication that the rate of increase is slowing.
Hospital admissions are also still increasing in most regions - notably London and South West, albeit at much lower levels than during wave one. If you want to explore this more check out our web app here (https://edgehealth.shinyapps.io/COVID_19_estimation/)
... as admissions are still increasing, so too is occupancy for Covid-19 patients - this should fall around a week or so after hospital admissions start falling.
... as with lockdown 1.0, the effect on critical care bed occupancy will be even more delayed.
Deaths are likely to peak a bit earlier - morbidly, it takes less time to die than recover. There is currently a bit of a mixed picture on deaths - falling in the North, but still increasing in the South.
What does this all mean? It is genuinely a bit too soon to tell, but the effect of lockdown 2.0 is certainly lagging its predecessor. Aside from Schools and Unis remaining open, casual observations would agree this is not a lockdown like the first one - as these eerie pictures from lockdown 1.0 show.
The exception to this is North West where Tier 3+ and reports of NHS having to cancel operations may have led to more/earlier behaviour change - see our previous analysis on Liverpool.
But does this mean we will be home for Christmas?
Probably, but at the (R)ate we are going we may be heading into lockdown 3.0 in the early new year - the unavoidable fact is that if R is greater than 1, there will eventually be a reckoning. And even if temporary measures do reduce transmission, more temporary measures will repeatedly be required if infections spread at August and September rates once they are relaxed.
Of course, there is the hope of the vaccines. Distributing these to the vulnerable (e.g. people most likely to end up in the hospital) quicker than the growth in new cases would reduce pressures on the NHS, and lockdown 3.0 potentially averted. That would be great, but it may also increase the risk of catching Covid-19 for the unvaccinated - there being less pressure to manage R once the threat of ambulances queuing outside of hospitals is reduced.
* Chart legend
** This analysis is hampered by the fact that regional data is only available by specimen, not reported, date and therefore more vulnerable to subsequent revision and uplift