Ross Clark Ross Clark

Are we at risk of another Covid wave?

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Could we really see another peak in Covid-19 hospitalisations as bad as January once society reopens in June? That was the story widely reported this morning, based on the latest modelling from SPI-M, the government’s advisory committee on modelling for scientific emergencies. The study caught attention not least because back in January very few people had received a vaccine: now, 56 per cent of the adult population has been vaccinated. By July, on current forecasts, every adult in Britain will have been offered at least a first vaccine dose.

How, if vaccines actually work — and there is a lot of evidence to suggest they do — could we end up in as bad a situation as we did before we had population-wide vaccination? As was explained in some reports, the prospect of a peak as bad as that in January is a worst-case scenario. But, as has happened throughout this crisis, worst-case modelling scenarios tend to be promoted very quickly as if they are scientific fact. A lot less attention has been given to the central projections — which show a much-less dramatic increase of additional cases in the summer or autumn. Nevertheless, SPI-M has fed this morning’s interpretation by picking it out in its summary, which reads:

It is highly likely that there will be a further resurgence in hospitalisations and deaths after the later steps of the roadmap. The scale, shape, and timing of any resurgence remain highly uncertain; in most scenarios modelled, any peak is smaller than the wave seen in January 2021, however, scenarios with little transmission reduction after Step 4 or with pessimistic but plausible vaccine efficacy assumptions can result in resurgences in hospitalisations of a similar scale to January 2021.

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