Few experts are willing to draw definitive conclusions from the downward trend, which could reflect transient factors like the school summer break, the end of the European soccer championships or fewer people getting tested for the virus.
But if sustained, the case numbers raise a tantalizing prospect that Prime Minister Boris Johnson bet correctly that the country could withstand a return to normalcy, even with the rapidly transmissible Delta variant widely circulating in the population. Even his own health secretary, Sajid Javid, predicted that cases could skyrocket to 100,000 a day before the country’s third wave of the pandemic ebbed.
On Monday, the government reported 24,950 new cases, down from a high of 54,674 on July 17. Hospital admissions and deaths are still up compared with a week ago, though both are typically lagging indicators. The Daily Telegraph reported, based on leaked data, that roughly half of all new Covid cases in people admitted to hospitals were in patients seeking care for other illnesses and found to be infected through routine testing.
That would be another encouraging sign, experts said, since it would suggest that many such people do not even realize that they have Covid – confirmation that the vaccines have weakened the link between infection and serious illness. Just over 70 percent of adults in Britain have received both doses of a vaccine.
The government has been careful not to declare premature victory. Mr. Johnson emerged from self-isolation himself on Tuesday, after being in close contact with Mr. Javid, who tested positive for Covid on July 17. In addition to the threat of soaring cases, Britain has struggled with a cascade of people being notified, or “pinged,” by the National Health Service and told that they had been exposed to the virus and should quarantine themselves.
Scientists said it would take several more days to form definitive conclusions about the declining case numbers. (NYT)