The UK government has decided for England to fully reopen on July 19th. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have slightly different timelines, but are also likely to reopen around the same time.
On one hand, this is great news. Students will be able to live lives as normal and universities will be able to provide the education experience that both they and students feel is best for learning. However, there will be some students (and parents!) who will hesitate due to the risk posed by the Third Wave of Covid which has grown, as expected, over the past few weeks. In the paragraphs below, I hope to provide some context to the decision which is hoped will allow those resident in the UK to return to a mostly normal life.
You may wish to view or share this video in which Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer of England, explains the rationale for opening up now – in that this is the best time to balance the benefits of summer, the reduction in vaccines, and the cycle of hospital admissions that normally come in the winter and affect the elderly.
Some resources for you:
- Vaccination rates continue to grow with 86.1% of adults having received their first dose and 64% having received their second. It is expected that at least 90% of all adults will be vaccinated – reducing the long term risk of severe disruption and hard lockdowns in the future. (Source: UK government statistics)
- Cases have increased quickly as the UK has remained open without any major restrictions since the end of May. Fortunately, vaccines are having a major effect in reducing severe illness. This reduction means that hospitals are not overwhelmed, and deaths have only increased very slightly. (Graph source: The Guardian)
- Tests are available for free to all residents in the UK including international students. Each day, on average, about a million people in the UK are tested which helps identify those who have come down with Covid and identifying who should stay home. (Source: [theguardian.com/world/2021/may/28/covid-uk-coronavirus-cases-deaths-and-vaccinations-today]The Guardian)
What comes next:
- It’s likely that we will see increased Covid cases in the UK. Much much smaller rises in severe illness will accompany this but at a rate many times lower than previous waves.
On this, Chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee Jeremy Hunt has said:
"I have been on the cautious side of this debate for the whole of the last year but I'm actually not opposed to what the Prime Minister is doing. The reason is because if you look at the data at the moment, the projected number of deaths from Covid going forward is less than a bad flu year.
"That's not what's happened up to now but I'm talking about going forward from now.
"If you've got the context where the death rate is lower than some diseases that we normally cope with, then I think it's alright to change the social contract from compulsion to co-operation because we have to find a way of living with this virus."
- Prof Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London and one of the leading commentators on the pandemic in the UK, has commented on how the ratio between cases and deaths has reduced by between eight- and ten-fold. This reduction in severity thanks to vaccines means that risk is now around 90% lower that a Covid case will result in death. More details on his analysis from the Evening Standard.