The race is on between the Delta strain of Covid-19 and vaccines in one nation like no other — the United Kingdom.
On Thursday, the nation recorded a whopping 27,989 new cases, almost entirely of the new and highly transmissible variant which kind of puts Australia’s outbreaks into perspective.
It’s the highest total since January when the nation was in the grips of a devastating winter wave.
Although cases are high, deaths have dropped significantly.
This time around there is a big difference — vaccines.
They’ve had lots of jabs in arms with more than 33 million people having received a second dose by now.
Nowhere else in the world has a race going on like this. There are nations like Israel where they’ve vaccinated more of the population, and nations like India which have seen more Delta cases.
But the UK is setting up to be an experiment the world is watching, as Delta cases begin to rise in parts of Europe and the United States, and every nation on earth races to vaccinate their people.
A graph showing daily new cases in the UK.Source:Supplied
Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Guardian the United Kingdom is now essentially a “petri dish”.
“The UK is in an absolutely unique position,” he said. “We have the biggest Delta outbreak in a well-vaccinated country. We are a petri dish for the world.”
Britain postponed its so-called “Freedom Day” on June 21 over a rise in Delta cases. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted to see a wall of immunity built-up before properly opening up.
However many aspects of normal life have returned, as evidenced by the big events like Wimbledon and several games at the European football tournament.
And cases, as you might expect, are increasing.
Nearly 2000 Covid cases in Scotland have been linked to people watching Euro 2020 football matches.
Public Health Scotland said two thirds of the 1991 cases were people who travelled to London for Scotland’s game with England on June 18.
And it’s spreading across the continent too as ever larger crowds flock to matches.
There are particular concerns about upcoming games in London and Saint Petersburg, two cities particularly affected by the Delta variant.
“If we want to spread the Delta variant around Europe then this is the way to do it,” epidemiologist Antoine Flahault told AFP.
But many in the UK are fed up. Especially since the guy who told them all to stay at home for all those months was busy having an affair an affair with his co-worker.
Tens of thousands of anti-lockdown protesters marched through central London and towards the Prime Minister’s home last week demanding the “arrest” of the now-former Health secretary Matt Hancock after he was caught breaching Covid rules by kissing his married aide while preaching the restrictions to the rest of the UK.
Boris Johnson says he will push ahead to open up later this month, come hell of high water. You can imagine the British people aren’t too pleased to see their “Freedom Day” pushed back again — although England winning the Euros might take the edge off it slightly.
Fears of a rise in Europe
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is fearing another virus wave in Europe, with cases in the region rising 10 per cent in the past week, fuelled by Euro 2020.
WHO has called for better monitoring of the major sporting event as fans flock to crowded stadiums and bars across Europe while the pandemic continues to rage.
WHO regional director Hans Kluge said vaccination numbers were not high enough to protect against a possible new surge over summer.
“There will be a new wave in the WHO European region unless we remain disciplined,” he said.
Mr Kluge warned that the Delta variant could become the dominant strain in Europe by August, with 63 per cent of people still waiting for their first vaccine.
The world is watching what happens in the UK very closely. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“By August, the WHO’s European region will be ‘Delta dominant’ – but it will also not be fully vaccinated, and it will be mostly restriction-free,” he said.
More needed to be done to avoid a surge in infections and deaths over the coming months, he warned.
“People have to do it by safely taking care of individual behaviour, but also governments, by strengthening health systems, increasing testing, contact tracing and sequencing,” he said.
The European Union’s disease control agency ECDC estimates the Delta variant could account for more than 90 per cent of new cases in the union by the end of summer.
Department of International Relations and European Studies https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-international-relations-and-european-studies/