Science

Covid-19: fears aroused by “Freedom day” in England

Will the “Freedom day” of the English be the day of freedom for the virus? After more than a year of relentless struggle against the coronavirus, England (the most bereaved country in Europe with more than 128,000 deaths) decided on July 19, 2021 to lower their arms and cast off the few moorings that still held the Covid-19. No more compulsory masks, no more physical distancing, no more limits for massive events (recognized for their potential to super-propagate the virus)… it is as if the pandemic had ceased to exist across the Channel. However, the virus is present and circulating faster and faster in England, where the Delta variant causes more than 50,000 new cases every day. A figure already very close to the maximum reached in the previous wave (59,660 from January 3 to 9, 2021) and which will increase further because of these new freedoms granted to the virus. The English Ministry of Health already forecasts a number of 100,000 contaminations per day in a few weeks, possibly underestimated given the extent that this spread could reach. While researchers around the world, but especially the British, decry a decision “dangerous and premature ”, which could open the door to a massive production of variants of the virus.

England, a new variant factory?

“Creators” of the famous Alpha variant (the first worrying variant of the coronavirus), the English seem determined to retain their first place as a site for the production and export of Sars-CoV-2 variants. Because even if the United Kingdom has made good progress with vaccination (51% of Britons are fully vaccinated, 68% have received a dose), and it is estimated that around 20% of its inhabitants have been infected in previous waves , there are roughly 17 million Britons still unimmunized (according to a letter published on July 7 in The Lancet by a group of researchers already with more than 1,000 signatories). But while the other countries of the kingdom have decided to keep some restrictions, Boris Johnson’s England has chosen to let the virus circulate freely. A freedom that the Delta variant will be able to exploit thanks to its high contagiousness (79% more contagious than Alpha according to a French study published in July 2021) and to this large pool of unprotected people.

nte / virus-england-abandons-worries-restrictions-for-jo-de-tokyo-aj-4_155939 “> Freedom day” of the English will it be freedom day for the virus? After more than a year of relentless struggle against the coronavirus, England (the most bereaved country in Europe with more than 128,000 deaths) decided on July 19, 2021 to lower their arms and cast off the few moorings that still held the Covid-19. No more compulsory mask, no more physical distancing, no more limit for massive events (recognized for their potential to super-propagate the virus) … it is as if the pandemic had ceased to exist across the Channel. The virus is present and circulating more and more quickly in England, where the Delta variant causes more than 50,000 new cases every day, a figure already very close to the maximum reached in the previous wave (59,660 from 3 to 9 January 2021) and which will increase further because of these new freedoms granted to the virus. of English health already predicts a number of 100,000 contaminations per day in a few weeks, possibly underestimated given the extent that this spread could reach. While researchers around the world, but especially the British, decry a decision “dangerous and premature ”, which could open the door to a massive production of variants of the virus.

England, a new variant factory?

“Creators” of the famous Alpha variant (the first worrying variant of the coronavirus), the English seem determined to retain their first place as a site for the production and export of Sars-CoV-2 variants. Because even if the United Kingdom has made good progress with vaccination (51% of Britons are fully vaccinated, 68% have received a dose), and it is estimated that around 20% of its inhabitants have been infected in previous waves , there are roughly 17 million Britons still unimmunized (according to a letter published on July 7 in The Lancet by a group of researchers already with more than 1,000 signatories). But while the other countries of the kingdom have decided to keep some restrictions, Boris Johnson’s England has chosen to let the virus circulate freely. A freedom that the Delta variant will be able to exploit thanks to its high contagiousness (79% more contagious than Alpha according to a French study published in July 2021) and to this large pool of unprotected people.

According to the authors of the letter to Lancet, this situation is ideal for the emergence of vaccine-resistant coronavirus variants, because the more the virus circulates the more likely it is to mutate. And spreading among half-vaccinated people could exert selection pressure that would push the virus to find its way out. “All the experience we have with viruses shows us that if we allow them to replicate in a partially immune population, it is inevitable to select variants that escape the vaccine ”, warned Richard Tedder, researcher at Imperial College London, in an article published in Nature the 14th of July. And according to Christina Pagel, a researcher at University College London and co-author of the letter to Lancet, if a resistant variant emerges in England, it could quickly conquer the entire planet as was the case with the Alpha variant: “Because of our position as a global hub, any variant that becomes dominant in the UK is likely to spread to the rest of the globe., she said in an article in Guardian. Measures at UK does not only affect the British. They affect everyone and they are a stake for everyone.

Long Covid Case Explosion Likely

In addition to a potential explosion of new variants, it is very likely that this free circulation of the virus among the young population of England will result in a wave of long Covid cases (which already affects a million people according to the National Statistics Office). “This strategy risks creating a generation with chronic health problems and disabilities, the personal and economic impact of which could be felt for decades ”, predicted the authors of the letter to Lancet.

And paradoxically, it could be that this “day of freedom” is on the contrary the day of the end of freedoms for those who are more vulnerable to Covid-19 and for whom vaccines are less effective (including the elderly, because the vaccine efficacy decreases with age). For the moment, this drop in efficiency was made up for by the additional protection given by the mask and other distancing measures. But without these additional barriers, the risk will be higher and some will have to isolate themselves to protect themselves.

Export variants… and ideas?

The English government is defending itself from lowering its arms, calling for individual responsibility to face this new wave, a misunderstanding for researchers: “It is an abdication of the fundamental duty of a state to protect public health. Personal responsibility does not work in the face of a highly contagious infectious disease which is transmitted through the air ”, denounced the authors of a letter published in the newspaper BMJ the 15th of July. For the researchers, the government is following a strategy of herd immunity through infection, which is termed as a “moral emptiness and epidemiological stupidity ” by WHO Health Emergencies Program Director Mike Ryan. And the major risk is that this kind of political ease will become the norm in other countries.

Back to top button