Covid-19 gloom begins to lift

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The fall in Covid-19 deaths in England is running around three weeks ahead of estimates, prompting calls for the lockdown to be eased more rapidly, says Sarah Knapton in The Times. Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling Group (SPI-M) projections on 10 February were key to deciding the lockdown roadmap, for which SPI-M estimated that vaccines would reduce infection risk by 30%-60% after the second dose. Real-world data suggests they reduce infection risk by 70% after one dose and 85% after the second. Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs are now known to be 80% effective in preventing serious illness in the over-80s.

Just 12 weeks after Margaret Keenan received the first jab, hope is quickly taking the place
of deep despair, says The Times. By the end of this month, everyone over 50 should have received their first dose. Millions are now living in neighbourhoods with negligible numbers of cases and, indeed, the discrepancy in infection rates-the seven-day rate of new infections is 145.1 in the East Midlands and 65.2 in the South East-is prompting calls for the lockdown to be eased locally rather than nationally, says Nicholas Cecil in the Evening Standard. An increasingly vaccinated population is likely to tire of restrictions, agrees The Times.

Yet to declare victory once those most at risk have been vaccinated would be a mistake. Cases
are still too high, and the return of schools next week is likely to push the R-number back up at a time when many adults remain unprotected. The gravity of the risk was underscored by the discovery of six cases of the Brazilian variant here. But nor should the government stick doggedly to the original timetable. The economic damage increases by the day. If the benefits of the vaccine programme continue to be felt, PM Boris Johnson might be justified in lifting restrictions sooner than planned.


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