I’m going to admit to being puzzled by this report in the Washington Post from Karla Adam and William Booth:
LONDON — This is a puzzler. Coronavirus cases are plummeting in Britain. They were supposed to soar. Scientists aren’t sure why they haven’t.
The daily number of new infections recorded in the country fell for seven days in a row before a slight uptick Wednesday, when the country reported 27,734 cases. That’s still almost half of where the caseload was a week ago.
The trajectory of the virus in Britain is something the world is watching closely and anxiously, as a test of how the delta variant behaves in a society with relatively high vaccination rates. And now people are asking if this could be the first real-world evidence that the pandemic in Britain is sputtering out — after three national lockdowns and almost 130,000 deaths.
Public health experts, alongside the government, predicted that cases would be rising in Britain at this point, perhaps even exponentially.
The highly contagious delta variant of the virus, first detected in India, accounts for almost all new cases here. On July 17, the number of new day cases reached 54,674, the highest since January.
Two days later, dubbed “Freedom Day” by the press, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government ended almost all government mandates in England for mask-wearing and social distancing. Pubs are serving pints at the rail and night clubs have reopened with maskless youths packed on the dance floors. Viral defense is now a “personal choice.”
And so some of the best infectious-disease modelers on the planet warned that 100,000 new cases a day this summer could be expected.
But the trend since then has been on a sharp decline.
The reason for my confusion is not just that Britain’s COVID-19 cases are “plummeting”. That’s good news and I hope it continues. Neither is it that the Brits declared “Freedom Day”.
My confusion is that the number of daily cases in the U. S., adjusted for population, is actually considerably lower than the UK’s. And yet here, rather than rejoicing, political leaders are warning us that things are getting worse. Which they are. They’re worse than the best it has been but that’s still considerably better than it was as recently as May 2021.
I wouldn’t proclaim “Freedom Day” or say we’re rounding a corner but I see little reason for doom and gloom, either. People are still getting sick but many fewer are dying; people should get vaccinated but many continue to be. Our health care system has not been brought to its knees.