UK will be one of first countries out of Covid pandemic, says expert

UK will be one of first countries out of Covid pandemic, says expert

The UK is set to be among the first countries to emerge from the Covid pandemic, an expert has claimed.

Tuesday saw 379 Covid deaths, the highest number since February last year, but cases were falling as 120,821 were recorded.

Professor David Heymann, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said the UK is starting to see signs of the disease becoming endemic.

Speaking at a Chatham House online briefing, he said the UK is likely one of the countries with the highest levels of population immunity.

Prof Heymann said the Covid pandemic would not be declared over across the globe “until all countries have completed what they need to do to make this virus more tame and to become endemic”.

He said: “In general, now, the countries that we know best in the northern hemisphere have varying stages of the pandemic.

“And probably, in the UK, it’s the closest to any country of being out of the pandemic if it isn’t already out of the pandemic and having the disease as endemic as the other four coronaviruses.”

The professor said the population immunity was already high in the UK.

He added: “That means immunity against serious illness and death after infection if one is vaccinated, or after re-infection if one has had illness before, and that population immunity seems to be keeping the virus and its variants at bay, not causing serious illness or death in countries where population immunity is high.

“I looked at the ONS (Office for National Statistics) most recent report on population immunity and they estimated about 95 per cent of the population in England and a little less than in other parts of the United Kingdom do have antibody to infection either from vaccination or from natural infection.

“And that antibody, as I said, is keeping the virus at bay. And it’s now functioning more like an endemic coronavirus than one that is a pandemic.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Prof Heymann was quick to draw attention to the fact the majority of those who were seriously ill had not been vaccinated against coronavirus.

“If you look in the intensive care units, you’ll see that unfortunately the majority of those people are not vaccinated,” he said.

Over the weekend, Omicron was called a “possible first ray of light” in the Covid pandemic by an expert.

Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick, said the Omicron variant could make Covid endemic and he said hopefully we should start to see a shift in the pandemic by the spring.

He told Times Radio: “The thing that might happen in the future is you may see the emergence of a new variant that is less severe, and ultimately, in the long term, what happens is Covid becomes endemic and you have a less severe version. It’s very similar to the common cold that we’ve lived with for many years.

“We’re not quite there yet but possibly Omicron is the first ray of light there that suggests that may happen in the longer term. It is, of course, much more transmissible than Delta was, which is concerning, but much less severe.