End of pandemic in sight as Brexit Britain can ‘be first to transfer to epidemic status’

Covid: Butterworth suggests ‘lockdown of the unvaccinated’

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The news will be welcomed by millions of Britons looking to spend this year’s Christmas in the warm embrace of their loved ones. After last year’s festive period was disrupted by lockdown, ministers now appear cautiously optimistic further restrictions are unlikely to be rolled out. This comes amid reports that more than 80 percent of the population has received the second dose of their vaccine, with boosters being rolled out to over 40s as well.

However, Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi has warned against becoming too complacent, even if the pandemic’s end might be in sight.

On Tuesday, more than 44,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 292,000 have tested positive in the last seven days.

And daily deaths over the last seven days, according to the latest figures, were down by about 5.2 percent to 1,027 deaths.

Mr Zahawi, who appeared on LBC Radio, argued that the Government’s plans to protect the public are working and the rollout of booster jabs will help bring a faster end to Covid.

He said: “Our four-step plan meant that we were able to open up the economy in the summer.

“Some said it was a mistake – I think it was absolutely the right thing to do.”

The minister went on to say: “We will probably, I hope, without being complacent, be the first major economy in the world to demonstrate how you transition [from] pandemic to endemic using vaccines.”

Scientists have previously warned that Covid is unlikely to ever go away, much like the flu.

But an endemic disease can be controlled through vaccination programmes.

According to the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, endemic diseases are consistently present but limited to a particular region, which makes “the disease spread and rates predictable”.

Scientists have argued that the UK’s past high infections rate make future lockdowns, like the ones seen across Europe, unlikely.

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Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, told Radio Times past infection rates may have increased the nation’s overall immunity.

He said: “Back in the dark days of March, April, May 2020, everybody said, ‘Oh gosh, aren’t the Germans clever, they haven’t got any Covid and aren’t the Brits dumb because they’ve got lots of it?’

“Actually I don’t think it has quite played out that way.

“One of the interesting things is that it may well be that the delay in lockdown in the UK, the pretty extensive level of disease, has given us longer-term protection.”

Although the UK has had higher death rates than some other European nations, Sir Bell thinks this may have helped the UK build its immunity to the coronavirus.

As of November 22, official data indicates more than 143,000 people in the UK have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid.

For comparison, World Health Organization (WHO) data indicates Germany has experienced a total of more than 5.38 million infections and more than 99,000 deaths.

However, the most recent data suggests Germany’s death rates are now higher than the UK’s.

In Austria, meanwhile, infections are now higher than they have been throughout the pandemic.

Sir Bell said: “They’ve been much more assiduous about lockdowns, about keeping away from the virus and then they released.

“They took their foot off the brake a month, six weeks ago, without a lot of testing in place to know what was going on.

“And you might argue that the exposure to the virus that we had in the first wave is now paying dividends, because we’ve got a lot of people who’ve had natural infection.

“My advice is, order that turkey, because it’ll be all fine.

“And if you’re planning a skiing holiday in Austria, things may not go so well.”

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