The Covid epidemic is racing in the United Kingdom. Mortuary hospitals in Surrey, a county southwest of London, can no longer cope. They can only accommodate 600 remains, so at Leatherhead 170 of them had to be placed in a temporary facility on Sunday. This case illustrates the excess mortality produced by the epidemic. On Monday, 563 deaths from Covid were recorded, three days after Friday’s record: 1,325 deaths in 24 hours. The number of people who tested positive on January 11 was 54,940. While urban areas are the most affected, all regions are affected. Thus, in Scotland, 1,664 people were in hospital on Monday, the highest figure ever since the start of the epidemic. Across the country, 32,000 patients are hospitalized, more than during the first wave of the epidemic in the spring.
The country has been at a standstill since January 4, when Boris Johnson, the prime minister, announced a third lockdown, the same day the vaccination campaign began. Restaurants and schools are closed, teleworking is privileged. The authorities are relying on vaccination to immunize the population. They aim, by setting up seven huge centers, in addition to 1,000 other sites, to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February: the over 70s, nursing staff and the most vulnerable. more vulnerable. The ambition is to cover the entire adult population by the fall.
This does not prevent a health crisis, meanwhile. “Hospitals have always been busy during the winter, but the National Health System (NHS) is in parts of the country facing the most dangerous situation we can remember”, wrote in the Sunday Times Professor Chris Whitty, head of the UK health care system. He fears an overflow in hospitals: “Personal / patient ratios, already tight, will become unacceptable, even in intensive care ”, he warns. He invited on Monday to limit his time outside the house, the worst being yet to come.
In addition to the chronic underinvestment in the NHS denounced in recent years by the Labor Party when it was led by Jeremy Corbyn, this overflow of the care system is due to a variant of the coronavirus that appeared in the United Kingdom. The information was transmitted on December 14 to the World Health Organization. This new strain is said to be 50 to 70% more contagious. In December, 62% of contaminations in the capital and 43% in the south-east of the country were the result of this variation.
The limits of the theory of mass immunity
As elsewhere in the world, the most vulnerable are the poorest. The NHS has contacted 5 million people asking them to self-isolate, but survey shows the ability to self-isolate is three times lower among audiences with incomes below £ 20,000 (€ 22,170 ) per year or among those with less than 100 pounds (111 euros) in savings.
Following Boris Johnson’s choice in the spring to rely on mass immunity to stem the epidemic, the United Kingdom has been one of the countries most affected. In total, more than 2.4 million people have tested positive there; a figure comparable to France. But the modeling carried out during a study, published Sunday, suggests that 12.4 million people could have been in contact with the infectious agent; or one in five Britons. The ratio jumps to one in two in some London suburbs.