Britain could be first country out of pandemic with Covid becoming 'disease people can live with'

people queuing for shops at the opening of the St James Quarter shopping centre in Edinburgh
people queuing for shops at the opening of the St James Quarter shopping centre in Edinburgh

Prof David Heymann said that antibodies from the vaccines, and in those already infected with the virus, means 95 per cent of Britons now having some Covid immunity


Britain may be the first country “out of the pandemic”, a public health expert has said, with four in five adults in England having had a booster vaccine.

Prof David Heymann said antibodies from the vaccines, and in those already infected with the virus, means 95 per cent of Britons now having some Covid immunity.

He said the high levels of protection suggest it is increasingly becoming a disease that people can live with.

Speaking at a Chatham House online briefing, the ex WHO chief 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.”

However, ministers warn the job is not over, with 7.5 million still requiring booster jabs.

And about 1.1 million have also had only one dose.

As of 11 January, 120,821 people tested positive, down 13.1% from the previous week.

But there were 379 deaths — the highest daily figure since last February.

Last week more than 200,000 Covid-19 vaccines were given to people getting their second jab, NHS England said.

More than half of these (55%) had delayed getting their second dose for five or more weeks after becoming eligible for it.

The health service has urged people who have delayed getting their second jab to come forward.

It is estimated that around 1.1 million adults in England have only had their first dose and have not yet received their second dose, even though they are now eligible.

More than 40 million people have received both doses of the vaccine in England.

NHS England said that the offer of vaccine is “evergreen” and pointed out that last week more than 65,000 people got their first Covid-19 shot.

Dr Emily Lawson, vaccination lead for the NHS in England, said: “The offer of a Covid-19 jab in the NHS vaccination programme is evergreen and it is fantastic that we have now given two or more doses to 40 million people across England, including 205,000 last week alone.

“We know people are busy and over half of people put off having their second dose in the run-up to Christmas.

“NHS staff are making it as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine in their local communities and it’s never too late to get any of your doses of protection – whether it’s first, second or third.

“Vaccination continues to be our best protection against serious illness, so I encourage anybody who isn’t vaccinated or is still to get their second dose to come forward without delay to get the best protection on offer against coronavirus.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid added: “I am incredibly proud of our phenomenal vaccination programme, from NHS frontline staff and volunteers, to the armed forces and British public, who have done everything they can to get jabs into arms as quickly as possible.

“Every one of us has a part to play in the national mission to make sure we’re all protected.

“The offer of a vaccine will always be there – whether it’s your first dose, second dose or your booster – please keep coming forward.”

A frontline consultant who blogs about his work during the pandemic has also said it was “looking increasingly likely” that we can “ride out the Omicron wave”.

Dr Richard Cree, an intensive care consultant at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, had previously feared the number of patients being admitted would be higher due to the latest Covid-19 variant.

Writing in his blog, Dr Cree said: “Across the country, the number of people being admitted to hospital following infection remains high.

“However, the number of people being admitted hasn’t risen as high as I feared it might and it may even be starting to plateau.

“I will admit that I thought things might be worse by now but I’m all too happy to be proved wrong.

“It’s looking increasingly likely that we may be able to ‘ride out’ the Omicron wave after all.”

He said people continued to die – indeed, staff were greatly saddened by the recent death of a young patient from Covid they had tried so hard to save.

He added: “There is now no doubt that the Omicron variant is far less severe than its predecessors.

“In many respects, this fourth wave feels like it is due to a different virus.

“Most of the patients who have required admission to the Covid Intensive Care Unit are relatively young and unvaccinated.

“The few vaccinated patients that we are admitting have either not received a booster dose or have significant existing medical problems that cause them to be immunosuppressed.”

While there had been an increase in patients requiring hospital treatment, the numbers in intensive care remained low, he said.