By Ryan Heath
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR— When the U.K. ended one of the world’s strictest Covid lockdowns on July 19 — 28 weeks long and the country’s third since the pandemic began — critics fearedthat Covid cases would double from around 50,000 per day to 100,000 per day.
The opposite happened: The numbers dropped to below 25,000 a day. Japanese and Australian cities are currently in emergency mode over much lower case numbers, but it raises the question of why more socializing in Britain has coincided with less Covid. There’s no clear answer yet.
Even so, the national mood is now “cautiously optimistic,” POLITICO’s London-based health reporter Ashleigh Furlong told Nightly.
Herd immunity may bepart of the answer. The U.K. Office of National Statistics says that when the lockdown ended, 93 percent of British adults had Covid-19 antibodies.
That’s mostly thanks to a successful vaccine rollout that has delivered at least one jab to 9 in 10 adults. But it’salso because the U.K. has had one of the worst Covid outbreaks globally.
Three other factors are contributing to the lower case numbers, Ashleigh said:
— A shift to outdoor socializing in summer
— A hiatus from major sporting events like Wimbledon and the Euro soccer championships, where many were mixing without a hint of social distancing even as restrictions on activities like indoor dining remained in place
— The end of the school year causeda dip in testing numbers (students must regularly test while attending school), leading toa likely undercount in asymptomatic cases
Brits are also disciplined isolators: Government surveys say as many as 1 in 17 people were isolating themselvesat any given time over the past month, often after getting notifiedof a close Covid contact by the National Health Service contact tracing app.
Moving forward, the British government plans to rely on “FOMO” to drive up vaccination numbers among the under-30 set. In September, nightclubs and other venueswill be required to obtain proof of vaccination before letting customers in. A new government ad campaign launched today in conjunction with top nightclubs. At least one London club is serving as awalk-in vaccination center.