Wednesday marks two years since the UK entered its first national lockdown. During the first lockdown and the subsequent two years of restrictions we all had to adapt to new ways of living, working and learning.
Throughout the pandemic we have all been very focussed on daily infection, hospitalisation and death rates. A recent study in the Lancet calculated excess death rates for 191 countries with the UK falling roughly in the middle at 102nd roughly the same position as France and Germany. Every death from Covid was an absolutely tragedy and we all owe a huge amount to our NHS who worked tirelessly throughout to save lives – sometimes at great personal cost.
Despite best efforts, many families have lost loved ones to this terrible disease and this was also marked through the National Day of Reflection organised by Marie Curie.
We have come a long way since those first days of the pandemic. Thanks to the brilliance of scientists here in the UK and across the world, we have developed effective vaccines giving people vital protection from serious illness. In total 140,708,434 Covid vaccines have been administered across the UK in what is the nation’s largest vaccination programme. I am delighted that so many people have had their vaccines and have played their part in keeping themselves and loved ones safe.
Our incredible medical professionals here in the UK have also been at the forefront of developing therapeutics which have played a vital role in helping those who become the most unwell from Covid to recover. In November last year, the UK became the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for Covid-19, an important development particularly for those most at risk of serious illness from Covid.
We are also fortunate that the current strain of Covid has mutated into a milder strain, resulting in fewer hospitalisations.
As we head into spring and warmer weather just like flu we are all learning to live with Covid but we need to recognise that for some that is legitimately a more concerning prospect.
Of course, we have no certainty on the future path of the pandemic and how the virus may further mutate. I am pleased that the world-leading ONS survey will continue; ensuring the virus can be tracked in granular detail.
This week also saw the launch of the vaccine booster programme for those most at risk. If you are aged over 75; live in a care home for older people or are over 12 with a weakened immune system then the NHS will be in touch.