Third of people in England still susceptible to Covid, expert warns

13 July 2021, 17:24

Modellers have warned one in three people in England are still susceptible to Covid.
Modellers have warned one in three people in England are still susceptible to Covid. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

A third of the population in England will still be susceptible to the Delta variant when lockdown is eased on Monday, a modelling expert who advises the government has warned.

Warwick University Professor Matt Keeling said his team estimate that, by July 19, there will have been 15.3 million symptomatic and asymptomatic infections in the country.

This means that 27.4% of the English population will have been infected and therefore have natural immunity, leaving the rest either vaccinated or unvaccinated.

When taking account of vaccines, which do not work perfectly, the modellers at Warwick calculated that 33% of the population remains susceptible to the Delta variant, first identified in India.

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Prof Keeling, who is a member of the government's Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), said there are "still a large number of susceptibles out there and we expect infection, cases and hospital admissions to keep increasing between now and July 19th."

"Any waning immunity", could push the number of people at risk of catching Covid even higher, he warned.

The impact of the removal of almost all legal restrictions will have on the pandemic will depend on individual behaviour, Prof Keeling continued.

Speaking at a briefing he said he backed calls for people to take it slowly in the coming weeks if hospital admissions are to remain below January levels.

"You almost need to think of this like a spring-like system, and, if you suddenly release it, you get a much, much bigger wave than if you gradually let things change," he explained.

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Professor Graham Medley, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told the briefing he thinks the country will reach the herd immunity threshold "one way or another".

At that point, the R number will be around 1 and "that is herd immunity", he added.

The new modelling comes as senior doctors have condemned Boris Johnson for his decision to go ahead with lockdown lifting despite a surge in Covid infections.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned of "potentially devastating consequences" if all measures are eased.

"It's irresponsible - and frankly perilous - that the government has decided to press ahead with plans to lift the remaining Covid-19 restrictions on 19 July," BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said.

"The BMA has repeatedly warned of the rapidly rising infection rate and the crippling impact that Covid-related hospitalisations continue to have on the NHS, not only pushing staff to the brink of collapse but also driving up already lengthy waiting times for elective care.

"The prime minister repeatedly emphasised the importance of a slow and cautious approach but, in reality, the government is throwing caution to the wind by scrapping all regulations in one fell swoop - with potentially devastating consequences."