Last week saw the first week-on-week fall in Covid hospitalisations in England since May. At the peak, in mid-July, an average of about 1,900 people were admitted to hospital with Covid each day in England. This is similar to the 2,100 admissions a day for the previous surge that topped out at the end of March, and the roughly 2,000 a day for the wave at the turn of the year.
The immunity acquired through high levels of infection in the previous two waves has proved insufficient to significantly reduce the burden of ill-health in this cycle: a reminder, if one were needed, that it makes no sense to get infected in order to prevent future infection.
So, while we may breathe a sigh of relief that this wave seems to be subsiding, we should be aware that “decreasing” prevalence is not synonymous with “low” prevalence. In climbing circles, there is an oft-quoted statistic that 80% of accidents happen on the descent – thanks, in large part, to fatigue and complacency about being over the summit. Peaks of Covid are not the same as mountains, yet there are similarities. We are all tired of Covid, and we can be happy that we are over the worst of yet another wave. The virus receding again is certainly good news, but if you were concerned about the prevalence levels on the way up, you should be equally concerned at the same juncture on the way down.
Looking to the longer term, this is unlikely to be the last wave we experience in the UK. Some scientists think the next variant of concern may be a descendant of an already existing subvariant of Omicron, such as BA.2 or BA.5 – responsible for the UK’s last two waves. The novel BA.2.75 subvariant, for example, is already spreading rapidly in India, and has been detected here in the UK. It has a range of mutations that have some scientists worried.