COVID-19 cases are rising in the United Kingdom once again, with the latest data showing a dramatic rise in transmissions in recent weeks. The surge comes two weeks after the country dropped its last remaining COVID preventive measure that forced people to self-isolate after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
The UK has changed its pandemic approach as part of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “living with COVID” plan. The country’s government terminated all COVID-19 restrictions, saying that it has been providing more testing than most countries and more booster vaccines. For Johnson, it’s about time that the public take responsibility and the economy returns to normal.
“Restrictions pose a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental well being and on the life chances of our children, and we do not need to pay that cost any longer. So let us learn to live with this virus and continue protecting ourselves and others without restricting our freedom,” Johnson was quoted as saying by France24.
What This Means For The U.S.
Last week, the U.K. saw its COVID cases jump by 48% compared to a week before. Hospitalizations also rose 17% over the same period. Although the country’s daily case rate was way less than the omicron peak, transmissions were increasing at such a fast rate within the two weeks since the removal of the restrictions.
As COVID cases continue to climb up in the U.K., the United States is seemingly getting a preview of what is bound to happen in the country should it also follow in the footsteps of the U.K. government. As of late, most states have dropped their COVID-related restrictions, while some continue to implement masking requirements.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, in an interview with CNN Tuesday, gave three reasons behind the rising coronavirus infections in the U.K.
Fauci said the rise was due to a combination of three factors. The first one was the spread of the BA.2 subvariant of omicron that has been dubbed “stealth omicron.” The second factor was the opening of the society, allowing people in the U.K. to mingle more indoors without masks. Lastly, the waning immunity from vaccination or prior infection also contributed to the recent surge in cases.
COVID Restrictions In The U.S.
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that about 98% of the entire population live in areas where COVID-19 levels are so low they no longer need to wear masks indoors. This would mean that the U.S. is a step closer to where the U.K. is already at — a restriction-free country.
The CDC and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended the mask mandate on public transportation and in transportation hubs through April. Beyond that, the country could be mask-free moving forward, sparking concerns on what could happen next.
Fauci and other medical experts in the country are observing the trends in the U.K. to prepare for what could happen next should the U.S. get rid of the remaining COVID restrictions. When looking at the same factors that Fauci enumerated for the U.K., the U.S. may be lagging far behind. But there is no reason to be complacent at this point.
While the BA.2 subvariant accounts for around 50% of cases in the U.K., the CDC has estimated it to be causing only 12% of new cases in the country. In the U.S., 69% of those eligible are vaccinated and 50% are boosted, while in the U.K., 85% of eligible people are fully vaccinated and 67% are boosted.
“Without a doubt, opening up society and having people mingle indoors is clearly something that is a contributor, as well as overall waning immunity, which means we’ve really got to stay heads-up and keep our eye on the pattern here. So that’s the reason why we’re watching this very carefully,” Fauci said.