Published 10 September 2020
From Monday, no more than six people can meet together due to an increase in Covid-19 cases. Aside from ruining my birthday plans*, it is a big step after months of unpicking lockdown.
Given the impact of the change and what it signals, it is important to understand what might sit behind the decision. (1) There has been an increase in positive cases per 1,000 tests as well as positive cases, so this increase is not just more testing. The upward trend is worrying.
(2) The age of people getting tested and testing positive is younger - 52 in May, 31 now (a fall of 20 years). Partly this will be due to more community testing, but if vaguely representative, it is good news as the disease has a higher mortality rate for older people.
(3) There is a risk that the disease will spread upwards through the age groups. This has been seen in France and data below for Scotland (this detail isn't available for England) supports this pattern.
(4) What might be the impact on the NHS? Bed usage for Covid-19 patients peaked at ~17,000 beds on the 19th of April - almost a month after daily case numbers (predicted total not reported) peaked at ~328,000 on the 23rd of March. This would suggest we are a long way from the NHS being overwhelmed (excellent article here).
(5) While the NHS is better prepared than it was in March (e.g. +£7bn has been spent on PPE in the last few months), it is facing a significant challenge from the growing backlog of operations (many cancer) - there are over 80,000 people that have waited more than a year for their operation and we estimate the waiting list will grow to over 10m by April (link).**
There are no easy answers, and there are still many unknowns. So it is crucial to understand the context and cost of trade-offs being made.
For all enquiries and questions, please contact George Batchelor at firstname.lastname@example.org
* 4th of October in case you were wondering - not a big one this year *phew* ** As surreal as the scale of this is, I get occasional phone calls from people asking how long I think they will be waiting - no good answers sadly!