Below is the opening paragraph of my blog on June 23rd:
“1 in 1700 people are estimated to have coronavirus now, that’s down from 1 in 500 four weeks ago. Those are the figures from the Office for National Statistics upon which the latest government shielding advice in England is based. That’s the advice which says that in July those of us shielding and self-isolating can begin to ease the restrictive lifestyles we’ve been leading, and then in August we can dispense with those restrictions altogether. Up to a point. We should still follow social distancing guidelines and wash our hands regularly, but we can – we’re told – return to our workplaces as long as they are COVID secure.”
That was then. Now, today, just announced by the same Office for National Statistics, comes this figure:
“An estimated 103,600 people (95% credible interval: 85,600 to 123,400) within the community population in England had the coronavirus (COVID-19) during the most recent week, from 13 to 19 September 2020, equating to around 1 in 500 people (95% credible interval: 1 in 600 to 1 in 400).”
In other words three months ago a figure of 1 in 1700 was enough to spur the government into pausing shielding. The comparison made was with a situation when it was 1 in 500, the implication being that – at that level – it was too risky. Now it’s 1 in 500 again, and going in the wrong direction. To quote an unsuccessful election campaign of yesteryear, are you thinking what I’m thinking?
If shielding returns my hope is that it will be a bit more nuanced than before. The vast majority of people whom I know who received the shielding letter took a great deal of care to find out as much as they could about their condition and their vulnerability to Covid-19. That learning process has continued. I’ve had some very illuminating conversations with scientists linked to Versus Arthritis about the risks posed by immuno-suppressant drugs, for example, and the news there is encouraging, but not definitive. So, if we have to watch a press conference in the coming weeks which announces the re-introduction of shielding, can it please include the line ‘talk to your doctor, your consultant, and gauge your approach based on that conversation’.