With Covid-19 seemingly at an end, what comes next?

While there remains some concern around the Indian variant of Covid-19, media coverage of the latest easing of lockdown rules is overwhelmingly positive – but with Covid-19 seemingly at an end, what comes next?

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With Covid-19 seemingly at an end, what comes next?
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Firstly, there is good news for the UK. Since 4th January:

  • New coronavirus cases are down by 95% 
  • New hospital admissions are down by 96%
  • The daily death toll has dropped by 98%

This has been achieved by delivering more than 55 million vaccine doses across the UK, although lockdown has also played a role.

There are now more than 20 million Brits who are fully vaccinated, and everything is in place for England – and possibly Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - to take the final step towards lockdown freedom on 21st June.

However, modelling from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) shows that coronavirus infections look set to increase across England but will not put 'unsustainable pressure on the NHS'.

The big risk is that new variants of the virus can appear unexpectedly - with growing fears over the infection rate of the Indian variant.

The Covid-19 experience in Israel

However, it's worth looking at the Covid-19 experience in Israel because the UK has tracked their path broadly through the pandemic, locking down and then reopening a few weeks behind the Israelis.

Israel had a vaccination programme that became one of the world's fastest. The country saw new virus cases drop from 10,000 every day in January to just a few hundred per day in March.

Their economy has now nearly fully reopened, and citizens are going to cultural and sporting events outdoors.

This offers a unique real-world opportunity to see how effective the vaccines are and how public health is affected when lockdown restrictions are eased.

The author of a report published by the Israeli Ministry of Health, Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, says that having two doses of the Pfizer jab brings 95% of protection from infection.

Dr Alroy-Preis says: "There are still considerable challenges to overcome, but there's real hope that the Covid-19 vaccination will enable us eventually to control the pandemic."

New coronavirus variants

Health experts are pointing to the new coronavirus variants as illustrating why people should have a vaccine boost - and the UK government is planning a third jab later this year.

In Israel, people are increasingly leaving their home offices and returning to work, with demand for office space rising sharply.

But there are issues to consider about our post-lockdown world and a growing sense of apprehension from many people.

A survey from TV channel Dave reveals that 81% of us are apprehensive about life after lockdown easing.

The chief executive of the charity CALM, Simon Gunning, said: "There's no denying that lockdown has had a big impact on our mental and physical well-being."

The charity has revealed it was receiving a call every 62 seconds and answered more than 147,000 calls on its helpline and chat offering with people worried about anxiety, isolation, financial stress and health worries.

Unexpected issues from lockdown restrictions easing

This is perhaps one of the unexpected issues coming from lockdown restrictions easing. Mr Gunning explains: "After being stuck indoors for so long, the ability to visit families and friends is great but for many, understandably, it might take time to get back into the swing of things."

The other big issue is that businesses are heavily recruiting but struggling in some sectors. The hospitality and travel sectors, for example, have seen an exodus of foreign employees from the UK, with many reluctant to return.

One job platform, Adzuna, says that in the first week of May, job adverts rocketed by 18%. However, it appears growing numbers of hospitality workers are looking for more secure work after struggling with three lockdowns in 12 months.

A spokesman for the site said: "There are fewer foreign workers looking for employment with overseas interest in UK jobs halving."

But it's not just in the UK; the hospitality sectors in Australia and the United States are also struggling to find staff, but this might just be part of the 'new normal.'

Do lockdowns actually work?

While asking about a post-lockdown world – do lockdowns actually work?

Look at New Zealand, a country that has been closed to international visitors for a year.

All visitors, even those who are fully vaccinated, must spend two weeks in a government-run isolation centre when they do travel.

However, there's been no widespread Covid outbreak in New Zealand, and the government seems wary about putting its population at risk and when to reopen its borders.

The New Zealand government has said that with the world appearing to treat Covid-19 as a seasonal flu issue - a disease that can be controlled, rather than be eliminated - it will need to look again at its policy of having a country with zero cases of Covid.

Growing fears of redundancy

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has also published a survey highlighting growing fears of redundancy from employees.

Despite a feared leap in job losses from employees during lockdown, this did not occur mainly because of the furlough scheme helping to save jobs.

That's not the case for the future and the CIPD's labour market advisor, Gerwyn Davies, said: "Despite the optimism in our survey, it remains likely that strong employment growth will soften during 2021."

Post-lockdown means we will be getting back to a 'new normal.' Still, for some, the anxiety of another lockdown or losing their job means that mental health and financial worries will soon replace the joy of hugging loved ones.

Boris Johnson has also clearly warned that stage four in the roadmap to freedom could be in jeopardy if the Indian variant continues to grow.

We can hug friends and family, but we have lost nearly 10% of restaurants, and more hospitality venues look set to go under before the year-end.

Predicting a third coronavirus wave

There’s also modelling by the Covid-19 Response Team at Imperial College predicting a third coronavirus wave in late summer or autumn if lockdown easing continues as planned.

To answer the question, 'With Covid-19 seemingly at an end, what comes next?' is simple.

It's down to all of us to be sensible and still take precautions to avoid what could be a worse wave of Covid-19 infections and a stricter lockdown.

So, be prepared for a Boris Johnson 'emergency news conference' at any time ...

Image Credit: Jacek Dylag at Unsplash

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