Humans and Health

Should We Still Be Worried About COVID-19?

Picture of a COVID-19 particle
Hannah Walton-Hughes

We’ve dealt with COVID-19… haven’t we? 
Compulsory restrictions around COVID-19 have been largely relaxed across all areas of the UK, since March this year. However, a worrying level of COVID-19 infections have been identified in recent weeks, prompting society to question how worried we should still be about the abated pandemic. Hannah Walton-Hughes discusses the issue. 

The mindset around COVID-19 has changed so much over the last two years. We have gone from uncertainty, to utter panic, to complacency, and back again. Right here, right now, it feels like a confusing mixture of all four of these states of mind. 

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that, in the week beginning 18th July, 1 in 40 people in England were infected with Covid-19. This was up from 1 in 50 the week before, as is the highest estimate since April. Figures are currently rising in all areas of the UK, particularly in Scotland, but to a lesser extent in Wales. This rising pattern is expected to spread to other countries within Europe. 

The rise in cases is being driven by the new variants of Omicron (BA.4 and BA.5), which have been identified as “variants of concern” by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Half of the cases in the UK are now these subvariants. It is thought that prior infection from Omicron does not provide anywhere near as much immunity as previous variants. A third “wave” of this variant cannot be avoided, it seems.

Current vaccinations are keeping ICU admissions and deaths down

Nevertheless, one solution does seem fairly straightforward – vaccines. Experts believe that a significant reason for this rise in cases is “waning immunity”. People are being urged to get their boosters if they haven’t yet, and keep on top of their vaccination record, with a “renewed campaign” to encourage people to come forward being suggested by experts. Current vaccinations are keeping ICU admissions and deaths down, and they are without doubt one of the key ways to keep this vicious virus under control. 

Another positive point is that, whilst infections are rising across all age groups, rates in London (the current hotspot for infections), are highest in the 25-34 age category. People in this age group are much less likely to suffer from serious/life threatening cases of the virus. Furthermore, the levels of COVID-19 in school children are very low, meaning that any disruption to education is likely to be kept to a minimum. 

Despite these rather hopeful figures, we cannot ignore the fact that the virus is growing across almost all areas of the UK, and that hospitals are once again bulging with COVID-19 cases, particularly affecting people over 85. Obviously, the country’s biggest fear is that the NHS will be pushed to its breaking point, and that, like before, other important appointments and operations will have to be pushed back because of COVID-19 admissions. 

It is a difficult balance that everyone is being forced to strike. A balance between returning to “pre-pandemic behaviours”, and still remaining cautious. I personally feel that, instead of being actively worried and paranoid about COVID-19, we need to step up to our own personal responsibility. If you are vulnerable, be more vigilant. If you are seeing somebody vulnerable, it is sensible to test beforehand. Use your own common sense around COVID-19, and we will hopefully avoid any further submergence into this wicked disease. 

Hannah Walton-Hughes

Featured Photo by CDC from Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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