As the second lockdown continues the R number for Surrey and the South East remains the joint-highest in England.
According to the latest Government figures, published on Friday (November 13), the R number in the South East has remained at between 1.2 and 1.4.
That figure is higher than the rate in both the North West, the North East and Yorkshire regions, the data shows, with only the South West having as high an R number.
The R number represents the number of people an infected person passes the virus on to, and anything above 1 means the epidemic is growing.
If the value is below 1, the spread of the virus will eventually decline as not enough new people are being infected to sustain the outbreak.
The latest missive from Cllr Nick.
Pandemic update – and the meaning of 90% vaccination effectiveness
I studied statistics and used to work in the pharmaceutical industry, so I’d like to comment on what we should expect from the vaccines. First, though, please do be careful right now. The warning by senior health officials that people are relaxing too much because they can see the vaccine coming is important.
We currently have a death rate equivalent to a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing in Britain every day.
Roughly one person in 85 in England has the virus, and it’s increasing here in the Southeast. The current lockdown has only slowed the rise so far, though it’s not accelerating as it was just a couple of weeks ago. Yes, the vaccine is great news, but all the more reason not to contract the sickness before it comes. If that means having a distanced Christmas and getting the family together sometime later instead, that’s better than taking risks with each other.
We need to see more results to confirm the vaccine effectiveness, as well as the other vaccines in a late stage of development. But assuming it’s 90%, it’s important to realise what that means. It signifies that the great majority of people will be much less likely to die of the disease, but it doesn’t in itself mean that we should immediately relax and return to normal because it doesn’t necessarily mean that 90% of people will be100% safe. Rather, it means that people who are vaccinated will be 90% less likely to catch the illness each time they’re exposed to it. This means, initially, that we’ll still be at risk. If we mingle with 100 people who are infectious, we’ll quite likely still catch it.
If that’s the case, does it mean that we have to go on socially distancing forever? No, because of infection becomes much rarer due to vaccination, we will start to encounter it much less often. The R number will drop steadily, so fewer and fewer new infections occur, and after some months of mass vaccination, it should reach the point that it’s rare to encounter it – in which case the 90% protection is really very good.
When will mass vaccination start? Probably around the end of the year, initially for the most vulnerable and then for health and social care staff. The objective should be to cover both groups by the spring and then spread out to others. If it goes smoothly, I’d hope to see some real relaxation by the summer. But I wouldn’t assume it will be safe to mingle in a crowd much sooner.
Enough soap opera!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a Government that was focusing on this and on the end of the Brexit transition, now just 6 weeks away? Instead, the papers are full of gossip from rival factions in Downing Street. Are they divided on what policies to pursue? Apparently not – the debate is entirely on who likes whom and how best to present the personality of the Prime Minister. I actually know some of the people involved and I wish them all well in their private lives, but we need a spell of serious, focused government. Professional people should be able to get over themselves and work together for the common purpose of getting the country out of the mess.
There are still people who say that this style of “colourful” government is what most people like and that Keir Starmer offers a boring alternative. We’ll start to find out in in the local elections next May if that’s really the case – but as we’ve just seen in the USA, people do eventually tire of government by soap opera. Donald Trump is always newsworthy, and yes, much more colourful than Joe Biden. But Americans have decided they want someone serious running the country. It’s a message that the Conservative Party might wish to keep in mind.