Covid Watch 145: All quiet in Shropshire but national concern over Delta variant

Covid Watch 145: All quiet in Shropshire but national concern over Delta variant

It is looking good here. First dose vaccination rates are close to 100% and most people who have been offered second dose have taken it up. There have been no reported cases of Covid-19 in Ludlow for twelve weeks. Over the last seven days, 29 cases have been reported in Shropshire and 69 in Telford & Wrekin. Compare that to the first seven days of February, when there were 613 reported cases in Shropshire and 462 in Telford & Wrekin.

The wider picture is less settling. The Delta variant is spreading rapidly in urban areas though it is not as yet putting a strain on hospital services. But its spread means that Boris Johnson’s Midsummer’s Night Dream of full re-opening on 21 June may still prove to be a lot of bottom.

It is the question asked in every home and pub in the land. Will England reopen fully on 21 June? Can we socialise without struggling to remember the rules of the day? Can we stand at a bar and have a good natter? Can we got to the theatre and crowd into the stands to watch a football game? Can we relax after a year and a half of stress?

I doubt we will see full relaxation, despite Boris Johnson’s preoccupation with reopening fully on 21 June. The Fourth of July last year was Boris’s Independence Day. It presaged and encouraged the second deadly wave of infections. 21 June could prove to be his Midsummer’s Night Dream. A tortuous fantasy. I’ll resist comparisons between Johnson and Bottom but as Johnson has said, unlocking lockdown should be about data not dates. We might need to wait a couple of weeks.

Reopening fully would not be a problem here in south west Shropshire but the threat from the Delta variant elsewhere grows. I don’t see the sense of a return to the tier system under which our near neighbours in England lived under different rules. Yet we would all like to see businesses and attractions open as usual and people having fun. Over to Boris to bottom this conundrum.

The initial concerns of scientists that the Delta variant would prove more transmissible have proved correct. It is around 40 per cent more transmissible than the Kent strain. But worries that Delta, formerly known as the Indian strain, could be more clinically severe and lead to more hospitalisations currently seem to be unfounded.

Take up of vaccination offers remains high across most of the country. The ever present anti-vax propaganda in free sheets through doors and on social media seems to have had little impact locally. Elsewhere in the country, cultural factors and crowded housing are known to be contributing to the spread of Delta. Our relative isolation, which is one of beauties of living in south west Shropshire, has helped us through the pandemic.

We are hopefully on the final straight but if there is anything we know about this epidemic, it is unpredictable. Matt Hancock has said today a full unlocking of lockdown could still happen if hospital admissions do not rise. We will probably have to wait until a week tomorrow for any decision.

Notes

No cases reported in Ludlow and other localities does not mean that there were no cases. At a local level, occurrences of two or fewer cases are not made public under the conventions of demographic statistics.

The per cent of population vaccinated is an estimated. We know how many people have been vaccinated but the precise population of Ludlow and Shropshire will not be known until the results of the 2021 census are published.

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