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Infection rates rise but deaths and hospital admissions remain low

Experts believe coronavirus spreading in lower doses is keeping death tolls and hospital admissions low but daily case totals high.

Social distancing measures mean an infected person would only be able to pass on traces of Covid-19 to another person, therefore the virus’s ‘infectious dose’ is lower.

Because the newly-infected person would have a smaller amount of the virus, their symptoms would not be as serious – in a similar manner to chicken pox.

While this would explain why a rise in cases has not lead to a rise in deaths, doctors have stressed that not enough is known about Covid-19 to determine whether it is dose-dependent. 

But other viruses, including SARS and MERS – the coronaviruses behind two previous pandemic outbreaks – follow this pattern. 

Cases of Covid-19 have been slowly creeping up in the UK since early July.

Greater Manchester as a whole saw 220 confirmed cases on Tuesday followed by 262 on Wednesday. Thursday saw a drop to 67

Greater Manchester as a whole saw 220 confirmed cases on Tuesday followed by 262 on Wednesday. Thursday saw a drop to 67

London saw 228 cases on August 27, followed by 214 on August 28 and 130 on August 29

London saw 228 cases on August 27, followed by 214 on August 28 and 130 on August 29

Experts believe coronavirus spreading in lower doses means death tolls and hospital admissions remain low, while daily case totals are high. Pictured: Daily coronavirus cases in Cardiff

Experts believe coronavirus spreading in lower doses means death tolls and hospital admissions remain low, while daily case totals are high. Pictured: Daily coronavirus cases in Cardiff

Social distancing measures mean an infected person would only be able to pass on traces of Covid-19 to another person meaning the virus's 'infectious dose' is lower. Pictured: Daily coronavirus cases in Swansea

Social distancing measures mean an infected person would only be able to pass on traces of Covid-19 to another person meaning the virus’s ‘infectious dose’ is lower. Pictured: Daily coronavirus cases in Swansea

Government risks jeopardising the test and trace system by urging workers to return to the office at the same time as reopening schools, expert warns

Urging workers to return to the office at the same time as reopening schools is jeopardising the test and trace system’s ability to cope, a leading public health expert has warned.

Professor Devi Sridhar, from the University of Edinburgh, said she was concerned about the UK Government’s campaign to encourage people back into offices coinciding with pupils’ return because the testing system in Scotland struggled with a surge of demand when schools reopened.

Ms Sridhar, who is an adviser to the Scottish Government, told Sky News that a fast, effective test and trace system was key to keeping the infection rate low and suppression of the virus was vital to enable economic recovery.

‘I’m a little bit worried about the back to office push alongside the back to school push,’ she said.

‘What we’ve seen in Scotland over the past few weeks is the testing system has just been really having to race to catch up with the demand of all the children coming home with coughs and colds and fevers.

‘If you add on top of that all the adults going back into offices and having those as well your testing system is really under strain. So you have to get ready and get your testing system going so people get the results fast enough and the tracing teams can get going.’

Asked about coronavirus infection among young people in schools, and whether schools returning could trigger a spike in cases, Ms Sridhar said: ‘It’s really in our hands.

‘We’ve seen variable experience in the world, from Denmark, which handled school returning exceptionally well, has kids back with very little bump in terms of their [infection] numbers, compared to Israel where numbers just skyrocketed because the testing and tracing was in place.’

Mr Sridhar explained that all children were susceptible to contracting the same amount of the virus as adults, but younger children appeared to transmit the virus less than older ones.

The height of children could be one possible reason for the difference, she suggested.

‘Some of the hypotheses are about the social interactions of primary school kids, who they’re around, they’re more likely to be asymptomatic, which means coughing and sneezing is less likely so they’re not infecting others,’ she said.

‘As well as that, primary school kids are shorter and so they’re less likely to be exposing adults or others around them.

‘So, there is a difference, but science has not confirmed yet which of those hypotheses it could be.’

Ms Sridhar said she thought that another nationwide lockdown was ‘unlikely’ and added: ‘When testing and tracing starts to break down, that’s when you need your local restrictions, where you have restrictions on going to other people’s homes or on pubs and hospitality or on riskier settings.

Although Ms Sridhar praised the UK Government for ‘moving towards a model of maximum suppression’, she said that they should consider introducing testing at airports when people arrive and then another test between five and eight days later.

She said: ‘I think that UK Government, as a whole, have been behind the curve in terms of border control – one of the latest to put in border restrictions.

‘When they have been put in place they are not really being monitored in terms of compliance with them, also it’s also been quite a harsh measure for the aviation industry and creating uncertainty, so I think, yes, we definitely need a better approach.’

This may seem alarming, but it has not corresponded with an increase in the number of people dying from the virus. 

In the first week of July, the number of new Covid-19 infections hit a low of roughly 550-a-day across the UK.

At that point there were about 150 people hospitalised with the virus every day in England alone and about 30 deaths.

Since then, the number of new infections has steadily risen. Last week, saw about 1,500 positive test results a day.

But the number of patients ending up in hospital and dying have continued to fall.

In the week ending September 4, there were a total of 51 UK deaths. 

In England, there are about 450 patients in hospital with Covid-19 – well below the 17,000 that were during the pandemic’s peak in April.

Even in the Midlands, where there was a significant wave of cases throughout July and a return to lockdown in Leicester, the number of people in hospital or on ventilation has continued to fall.

There are now roughly seven patients in hospital in the Midlands NHS area on ventilators, from a peak of 485.  

Bolton was last night placed under tighter Covid-19 restrictions as the infection rate in the area became the highest in England.

Bolton Council has asked for people in the town to avoid mixing with other households and to only use public transport for essential purposes.

The town’s infection rate recently increased to 99 cases per 100,000 people per week, the highest in England, the council said.  

Greater Manchester as a whole saw 220 confirmed cases on Tuesday followed by 262 on Wednesday. Thursday saw a drop to 67.

Meanwhile, Leeds is teetering on the brink and has been added to Public Health England’s list of areas of concern – while measures will be eased in swathes of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Leicester next week.

The Yorkshire city, home to half a million people, has seen its infection rate rise to 32.4 new cases per 100,000 people, bringing it to the attention of authorities.

London saw 228 cases on August 27, followed by 214 on August 28 and 130 on August 29.

Bristol saw five cases on August 30, which climbed to eight on August 31 and 12 on September 1.

The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board saw a spike of 18 cases in one day on August 29. 

Dr Elisabetta Groppelli, a virologist at St George’s University of London, said: ‘If you are exposed to a smaller amount of virus, fewer cells in your body get infected, so there’s time for your immune system to mount a response.

‘If you get lots of cells infected at once, you are already starting on the back foot.

‘There is not particularly solid data for Covid-19 at the moment, but it’s logical.’

Many comparisons have been drawn between Covid-19 and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

A dose-dependent theory would offer an explanation for what happened then, too. 

A 2010 analysis showed the second wave hit poorer communities living in more crowded conditions. They got bigger infectious doses, and many thousands died.

Dr Groppelli added: ‘Age and other illnesses play a huge role. But if I had to be infected with this coronavirus, I’d like the smallest dose possible because that would mean a higher chance of my body getting the infection under control.’ 

Professor Wendy Barclay, who’s head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, added: ‘It’s all about the size of the armies on each side of the battle,’ she says.

‘A very large virus army is difficult for our immune system’s army to fight off.

‘So standing further away from someone when they breathe or cough likely means fewer virus particles reach you, and then you get infected with a lower dose and get less ill.’

On the other hand, there is the possibility that, thanks to distancing and, more importantly, natural pandemic patterns, levels are down to what they were before testing even started – and a rise could still be seen, other medics warn.

Some point out that nothing has changed in the human immune system, so those who are vulnerable will remain so.

And when those levels do rise past a certain point, possibly in a few months’ time, the serious illness and death will follow.

It comes amid concerns that parts of northern England could be in the midst of a coronavirus endemic, according to leaked Public Health England documents.

In Malton earlier this week, families attended a screening of The Greatest Showman at Castle Howard where they remained within their own groups - despite the inclement weather

In Malton earlier this week, families attended a screening of The Greatest Showman at Castle Howard where they remained within their own groups – despite the inclement weather

Cyclists on the Tour de France have been using face masks to reduce the risk of spreading the virus

Cyclists on the Tour de France have been using face masks to reduce the risk of spreading the virus

On August 29, fans socially distanced at the Amex Stadium in Brighton as the home team played a pre-season friendly against Chelsea

On August 29, fans socially distanced at the Amex Stadium in Brighton as the home team played a pre-season friendly against Chelsea








In the Netherlands, guests cocooned in their own green houses while enjoying dinner at Mediamatic in Amsterdam

In the Netherlands, guests cocooned in their own green houses while enjoying dinner at Mediamatic in Amsterdam

The analysis claims areas in north-west England where local lockdowns have been put in force – including Bolton, Manchester and Rochdale – ‘never really left the epidemic phase’.

It says 90 per cent of Greater Manchester boroughs are ‘currently experiencing an epidemic phase’.

An epidemic refers to a disease infecting a large group of people whereas endemic is generally when a bug is constantly affecting a particular region.

Parts of northern England could be in the midst of a coronavirus endemic, according to leaked Public Health England documents. Pictured: Members of the public wear masks as they walk through Bolton town centre on Tuesday

Parts of northern England could be in the midst of a coronavirus endemic, according to leaked Public Health England documents. Pictured: Members of the public wear masks as they walk through Bolton town centre on Tuesday

The analysis claims areas in north-west England where local lockdowns have been put in force - including Bolton (people pictured in Bolton this week), Manchester and Rochdale - 'never really left the epidemic phase'

The analysis claims areas in north-west England where local lockdowns have been put in force – including Bolton (people pictured in Bolton this week), Manchester and Rochdale – ‘never really left the epidemic phase’

It claims 90 per cent of Greater Manchester boroughs are 'currently experiencing an epidemic phase'. Pictured: People in Bolton this week

 It claims 90 per cent of Greater Manchester boroughs are ‘currently experiencing an epidemic phase’. Pictured: People in Bolton this week

The paper – marked ‘official sensitive’ and seen by The Observer – looked at areas with a high amount of Covid-19 cases and examined links between large caseloads, economic deprivation, over-crowded housing and larger BAME communitites.

It suggests coronavirus is solidly in place in various areas meaning local lockdowns will hardly make any difference.

While the document – which uses data up until August – does focus on northwestern regions which have been put back into partial lockdowns following a spike in coronavirus cases – it implies the its findings could be used on a national level.

It reads: ‘The overall analysis suggests Bolton, Manchester, Oldham and Rochdale never really left the epidemic phase – and that nine of the 10 boroughs [of Greater Manchester] are currently experiencing an epidemic phase.’








The new measures, which were announced on Saturday evening, will come into effect immediately. Pictured: Bolton town centre at the start of September

The new measures, which were announced on Saturday evening, will come into effect immediately. Pictured: Bolton town centre at the start of September

People should only use public transport to travel to education, work or for essential appointments in Bolton. Pictured: a trace testing centre on Thursday

People should only use public transport to travel to education, work or for essential appointments in Bolton. Pictured: a trace testing centre on Thursday

It adds: ‘If we accept the premise that in some areas the infection is now endemic – how does this change our strategy? 

‘If these areas were not able to attain near-zero-Covid status during full lockdown, how realistic is it that we can expect current restriction escalations to work?’ 

Bolton was last night placed under tighter Covid-19 restrictions as the infection rate in the area becomes the highest in England with hundreds of thousands of people banned from mixing.

Bolton Council has asked for people in the town to avoid mixing with other households and to only use public transport for essential purposes.

It comes as the town’s infection rate recently increased to 99 cases per 100,000 people per week, the highest in England, the council said.

Locals slam Glasgow lockdown as confusing after different households can’t meet at home but CAN go out for dinner

Glasgow locals have slammed their local lockdown as confusing after rules state they can’t meet at each other’s homes but can go out for a meal together.

Under the guidelines – which also apply to West Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire – residents are no longer allowed to meet up with other households indoors from midnight on Tuesday.

 But restaurants, pubs and bars have all stayed open causing confusion among locals.

Helen Smith, 45, told The Observer: ‘I’ve followed all the rules since the start of this thing but I can’t get my head round these latest ones

‘We were told to avoid pubs and restaurants and large groups of different households.

‘Now I can meet my own family in a pub or a gym with loads of other people but I can’t privately go round to their house.’

It came after the NHS regional board of Greater Glasgow and Clyde reported 66 cases of coronavirus in 24 hours – 43 per cent of Scotland’s total cases on Tuesday.

Officials say the spike appears to be mostly traced back to indoor gatherings, leading to the limited rules.

Just days earlier, Boris Johnson came under fire for ‘mess after mess’ in the coronavirus crisis after the government performed another embarrassing U-turn on lockdowns.

Bolton and Trafford were among a series of areas in the North West due to see restrictions eased on Wednesday.

But the move was abandoned at the 11th hour after a furious backlash from local politicians including Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who said infection levels were still far too high.

Councillors from both Bolton and Trafford warned of a spike in coronavirus cases – but a lockdown was not put in place until 12 hours after most locals understood that it was lifted. 

Local leaders have repeatedly felt exasperated by the national government throughout the pandemic as confusing 11th-hour rules have left constituents seeking clarity.

Many councils have used volunteers or staff to take on community-lead virus control, focused on communication, the paper reports.

Public health directors have slammed the current approach – where rules and guidance on local lockdowns comes from London – as making their job even more difficult.  

New lockdown rules were also enforced in Glasgow from midnight on Tuesday following a spike in coronavirus cases there.

Under the guidelines – which also apply to West Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire – residents are no longer allowed to meet up with other households indoors.

Only essential hospital visits are permitted in the affected areas and anyone visiting a loved one in a care home must do so outside.

The rules will be reviewed after a week but they are set to remain in place for 14 days in total. 

It comes after the NHS regional board of Greater Glasgow and Clyde reported 66 cases of coronavirus in 24 hours – 43 per cent of Scotland’s total cases on Tuesday. 

Addressing the restrictions, Ms Sturgeon wrote on Twitter: ‘I know how difficult this will be – I am a Glasgow resident so these rules apply to me too – but they are essential to, I hope, nip this in bud and avoid tougher restrictions.’

The additional regulations in the three areas come after Aberdeen was thrust into lockdown again on August 5.

The city’s population of more than 200,000 were banned from travelling more than five miles from their homes and pubs, bars and restaurants were shut.

The lockdown rules were then relaxed 18 days later.

As Covid cases climb, why you shouldn’t panic… yet 

Cases of Covid-19 have been slowly creeping up in the UK since early July.

This may seem alarming, but it has not corresponded with an increase in the number of people dying from the virus.

This can be seen in the graph, top right. The yellow wave shows the number of people who tested positive for Covid-19, while the red wave denotes deaths.

In April, at the height of the pandemic in the UK, as the number of cases rose steeply, the number of deaths did too. But now, despite a rise in cases, the number of deaths barely registers. In fact, on August 30, when 1,715 cases were reported, there was just one Covid-19 death. On September 4 there were 1,940 positive tests and ten deaths.

Changes in the testing regime will account for some of the most recent rise as only those who were hospitalised were

Changes in the testing regime will account for some of the most recent rise as only those who were hospitalised were 

It’s important to note there have been significant changes in who is being tested. At the start of the pandemic, only patients taken to hospital with suspected Covid-19 were tested. Anyone who was self-isolating at home could not get a test. But since April, the Government began widening testing, allowing anyone with Covid symptoms to book a slot at a drive-in or walk-in centre.

The number being tested has risen steadily since then. The increase in cases is now in the community – hospital numbers continue to dwindle. And the rise in cases corresponds, broadly, with an increase in tests being done. The more you test, the more positive results you pick up.

In France and Spain the rise in cases is more marked.

As the graphs show, the number of confirmed positive tests have soared in recent weeks. France had 8,975 new cases on September 4 and 18 Covid-19 deaths. Spain reported 10,476 new cases on the same day, more than it did at the height of the pandemic – and 184 deaths. Back in April, at its peak, 1,198 people died in one day.

Increased testing means we have a more accurate picture of what is going on. But while cases are increasing, there’s no need for panic just yet.

 

The great Covid conundrum: Why are death rates so low when cases are soaring and could Chicken pox provide an answer? 

By Dr Ellie Cannon for The Mail on Sunday 

Dreadfully itchy, blistering red spots – usually in clusters – and possibly a fever. One grizzly, over-tired toddler; one rather fed up but vaguely concerned parent. The diagnosis? Chicken pox.

It’s one of the most common illnesses I see in surgery, week in, week out. And I’m always glad to reassure mums and dads that this viral infection – also known as varicella – is a mild illness for most children. A bit of calamine lotion to reduce the itching and most are back to normal in a week.

My other standard bit of advice often comes as a surprise, though. I always warn them that if there are siblings at home, they’ll get it within a couple of weeks – but it’ll probably be much worse.

Dr Ellie Cannon, pictured, has been advising people to use face coverings to help to stop the spread of Covid-19. Now she believes the policy of social distancing is working

Dr Ellie Cannon, pictured, has been advising people to use face coverings to help to stop the spread of Covid-19. Now she believes the policy of social distancing is working 

The reason? Basically, the first child to get it usually catches it from another kid they’ve had fleeting contact with in the playground. They get a small dose of the virus – enough to make them unwell. They then go back home to their siblings, who they hug, fight, share food and bedrooms and baths with, and the sustained contact means they pass on a much bigger dose of the virus.

I was taught this as a junior doctor, and I’ve since seen it play out endlessly in patients, in my own two kids and in friends’ children.

So why, you may ask, am I telling you about this. Well, there’s a question that’s been perplexing me and just about every other person I’ve spoken to over the past few weeks. And, fascinatingly, the chicken pox phenomenon I’ve described might just give us an answer to it.

We all know cases of Covid-19 are on the rise, here and on the continent. And yet no one, it appears, is very ill. Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed ‘a second wave was rolling across Europe’ and that ‘we must do everything in our power to protect the UK’.

But, right now, not many people are ending up in hospital. Very few are dying, either here or in other European countries.

During the pandemic, social media was awash with people reporting that they were horribly unwell and stuck at home. That’s all gone silent, too. Why is this happening? Well, part of the reason is due to increased testing.

Last week this newspaper revealed how screening programmes have been quietly rolled out across the UK over the past few months, and thanks to this approach it was highly likely that mild or even asymptomatic cases were being picked up in large numbers.

Whether or not many of these people are even infectious, and, therefore, the point of testing them at all, has rightly been questioned by some experts. And, until the Government start publishing how many cases are picked up that are asymptomatic, we won’t have a very clear picture of what’s really going on.

But even then, it won’t properly explain why people are still getting the infection in large numbers but not getting sick any more.

Various ideas have been floated. Some say the virus is becoming ‘less nasty’ or ‘fizzling out’.

But it’s a theory that seems to get instantly shot down by scientists actually studying the thing. There’s just no hard evidence to suggest this is true.

Others say it’s because younger people are getting it now.

We know many older and at-risk Britons are still being very careful, and even staying at home despite the easing of restrictions. And, as we also know, younger people are less likely to get ill with Covid-19. But it doesn’t quite add up.

Face masks help prevent the transmission of the virus

Face masks help prevent the transmission of the virus 

After all, we did see many middle-aged people, especially men, getting sick during the early days of the pandemic, and they’re not all still shielding. Or, at least, not in my local pub they’re not.

And local outbreaks over the past couple of months have hit predominantly Asian communities – a group at higher risk of suffering severe Covid-19. Still, in these areas, serious illness and deaths continue to fall.

Might it also be that the infection is being passed around, but at a low dose because we’re keeping our distance, washing our hands, wearing masks and all that stuff?

So, in a similar way to that first child with chicken pox, the amount of virus inside people’s bodies could mean they suffer a very mild illness, or no symptoms at all, but still test positive.

I have been speaking to a number of virologist colleagues who said that might just be the case. But before we hear from them, let’s look at the numbers. It makes startling reading.

In the first week of July, the number of new Covid-19 infections hit a low of roughly 550-a-day across the UK.

At that point there were about 150 people hospitalised with the virus every day in England alone and about 30 deaths.

Since then, the number of new infections has steadily risen.

Last week, saw about 1,500 positive test results a day.

But the number of patients ending up in hospital and dying have continued to fall.

In the week ending September 4, there were a total of 51 UK deaths.

And looking at England right now, there are about 450 patients in hospital with Covid-19 – well below the 17,000 that were during the pandemic’s peak in April.

Even in the Midlands, where there was a significant wave of cases throughout July and a return to lockdown in Leicester, the number of people in hospital or on ventilation has fallen and fallen.

There are now roughly seven patients in hospital in the Midlands NHS area on ventilators, from a peak of 485.

If rising cases were leading to death or serious illness, we would have seen it by now. A similar picture can be seen on the continent. In France, at the end of August, with thousands of positive cases being discovered every day over the previous six weeks, the number of people in hospital remained well below that at the peak of the pandemic. In Italy, throughout August, there were 600 or so cases a day, but on the whole, deaths have remained in single figures. In Spain there was a second peak of infections in early August that almost matched levels they had in March. But deaths have stayed low – on average 30 per day by the end of August.

When I look at all this, my first thought is: long may it continue. But I am constantly reminded of my chicken pox patients. So what’s the science behind this theory?

Well, the medical term for the amount of virus you take in when you first get infected is infectious dose, or inoculation dose.

Imagine you sit next to someone fleetingly on a park bench, who is infected with Covid-19.

They would have the tiny viral particles in their breath, but by logic you’d not take in much, if at all.

Now, imagine that person then visited a doctor for an eye test, or a dentist. If the medic was not wearing full PPE, the closeness would mean they’d be breathing in large amounts of the virus – a much bigger infectious dose.

This could be compounded if they then went on to see other patients who also carried the virus.

Indeed, this is one reason, it’s believed, that young and otherwise fit doctors have fallen ill and died with Covid-19. They ended up being given a bigger dose – just like the second child in a house to catch chicken pox.

Like so much with Covid-19, we just don’t know yet whether the illness is dose-dependant – the more virus you get, the worse the illness. But this is not just seen in chicken pox. Other viruses, including SARS and MERS, the coronaviruses behind two previous pandemic outbreaks, follow this pattern.

I spoke to virologist Dr Elisabetta Groppelli, at St George’s University of London, who thinks we might be on to something.

She says: ‘If you are exposed to a smaller amount of virus, fewer cells in your body get infected, so there’s time for your immune system to mount a response.

‘If you get lots of cells infected at once, you are already starting on the back foot.

‘There is not particularly solid data for Covid-19 at the moment, but it’s logical.’

Many comparisons have been drawn between Covid-19 and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 – and, interestingly, this theory would offer an explanation for what happened then, too.

It’s believed, that young and otherwise fit doctors have fallen ill and died with Covid-19. They ended up being given a bigger dose – just like the second child in a house to catch chicken pox

It’s believed, that young and otherwise fit doctors have fallen ill and died with Covid-19. They ended up being given a bigger dose – just like the second child in a house to catch chicken pox

A 2010 analysis showed the second wave hit poorer communities living in more crowded conditions. They got bigger infectious doses, and many thousands died.

Dr Groppelli adds: ‘Age and other illnesses play a huge role. But if I had to be infected with this coronavirus, I’d like the smallest dose possible because that would mean a higher chance of my body getting the infection under control.’

As has been said many times, this virus isn’t going anywhere, so we’re going to have to learn to live with it as normally as possible. It’s either that or stay locked in our homes, decontaminating food deliveries and quarantining the post until a vaccine arrives – and when that’ll happen, we still don’t know.

I’ve managed to get through all this thanks to a heavily optimistic outlook, and I like to think that we can live alongside something that causes only mild illness.

We should continue the mitigation behaviours to keep infectious doses down – social distancing, washing hands and covering our faces – but life can carry on.

Professor Wendy Barclay, who’s head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, agrees. ‘It’s all about the size of the armies on each side of the battle,’ she says.

‘A very large virus army is difficult for our immune system’s army to fight off.

‘So standing further away from someone when they breathe or cough likely means fewer virus particles reach you, and then you get infected with a lower dose and get less ill.’

Of course, there are valid counter-arguments to all of this. There’s the possibility that, thanks to distancing and, more importantly, natural pandemic patterns, levels are down to what they were back in, say, January, before testing even started. And we could yet see a massive rise.

Others point out that nothing has changed in the human immune system, so those who are vulnerable will remain so.

And when those levels do rise past a certain point, possibly in a few months’ time, the serious illness and death will follow.

In my quiet moments, when I’m feeling a bit less optimistic, this thought spooks me.

But then I look at it rationally. Yes, our immune systems are unchanged, but things couldn’t be more different now.

Take ten people in a room. One of them has the virus.

Before the pandemic, they were all standing close together, coughing all over each other, talking, maybe shaking hands or hugging, even kissing. No handwashing.

Covid-19 would have spread like wildfire.

Statistically speaking, today, two of them will have had it, so will probably be immune and won’t get infected.

One of them, maybe, is a child under ten – and we don’t even know if they really get it.

One of them is probably still shielding. The rest are distancing, most wearing masks, being generally more hygienic and washing their hands more often.

It just makes sense that the virus is less likely to circulate in that room now.

We’re in a different place than we were in March, even with more than 1,000 new cases a day.

And as long as we stick to the plan, I believe we’ve got little to fear this winter.

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