Have vaccines successfully paid for the UK’s ‘Freedom Day’?
So freedom came to the UK last week.
They called it ‘Freedom Day’ – the end of official social distancing policies:
Monday marked the end of laws mandating the wearing of masks and the enforcement of social distancing in England, with the last remaining closed businesses, such as nightclubs, reopening.
Across the country young people, including many 18 and 19-year-olds who had never been out in nightclub, celebrated as the clock struck midnight in reopening parties.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged caution as coronavirus case numbers continue to rise.
“We want people to take back their freedoms as they can today,” Mr Johnson said from isolation.
“We want this country to enjoy the fruits of our massive efforts of our enormous vaccination campaign.
“But to do that we must remain cautious and we must continue to get vaccinated.”
And so now begins the most interesting social experiment in modern history.
What happens to the UK now?
So far, the results are encouraging.
Recorded cases have eased a little in recent days (though it’s too early to see any effect of Freedom Day in the numbers). However, they’ve been trending upward solidly for two months now.
In that time though, with cases on the rise, the number of hospitalisations has barely inched up at all:
While the number of deaths has moved even less:
So what we’ve got is a strong rise in case numbers that is not translating into hospitalisations or deaths.
And why is that?
Well, it could be two things. Either Covid is a massive fraud and the numbers are just manipulated to tell any story you want.
Or vaccinations are working – if you define working as stopping people dying or ending up in hospital.
The UK is in a position to be able to run this experiment because it has been running hard on its vaccination program. It’s now second in the developed world behind Canada.
But that was all happening while social distancing policies were in place.
So while this seems to suggest that vaccinations are helping the story, the real test here is what happens when the nation opens up fully again, and people start going to bars and the UK’s totally-rubbish beaches?
Do the results hold in a full reopening story?
That’s the experiment.
And it’s an experiment the whole world is watching.
Political leaders are pinning their hopes on vaccination now because, well, that’s all they’ve got left.
There’s no hope of keeping it out of anywhere. There’s no hope of staying on top of it when it does breach the barriers and get into the community.
The only hope left is that the vaccines work, and we can ‘learn to live’ with Covid.
I’m a little sceptical. It sounds a bit too good to be true.
But we’ll see. The UK has put up its hand and volunteered to be the guinea pig.
Watch this space.