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In the United Kingdom, the pandemic seems to have reached the halfway point, with two images that mark the most awaited passage: the reopening of Wembley Stadium to the public and the mugs that reappear on the counters of the pubs. Football and beer, symbols of a partial but nonetheless concrete return to normality in the British imagination. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new measures for a gradual removal of restrictions against the pandemic, a week after London reported zero deaths from Covid (and hadn’t happened for six months). Backed by a non-stop vaccination campaign that has allowed half the population to access at least one dose, Downing Street offers its best profile in the limelight of the world under the angry gaze of a plastered Europe, afflicted by serious delays in vaccinations under the eyes of all and clearly stammering because unable to find a scapegoat other than herself. Three months after the arrival of the first Covid vaccines, the English patient is recovering, the European one still not.
“Thanks again to all of you for your patience. The efforts are paying off ”, the British Prime Minister began, confirming the rumors of these hours that foresee the reopening of some commercial activities starting from next April 12th. Among these also the pubs. “I will go there myself on Monday,” Johnson said, noting, however, that there is still a need to be careful and respect the rules. I will “cautiously but irreversibly toast” the vaccine campaign and the relaxation of the rules. “We are defining our roadmap to freedom and we are sticking to it,” Johnson continued. “We see no sign in our current data to think we will have to deviate from the schedule.” “But it is by remaining cautious and monitoring the data at every stage and following the rules, remembering hands, face, space and fresh air, that we hope, together, to make this roadmap towards freedom irreversible”.
Non-essential shops such as hairdressers, restaurants and clubs that will be able to serve customers outdoors will reopen. And then gyms, zoos, theme parks and libraries. The ban on overnight stays away from home will also be lifted on 12 April. Members of the same family will be able to take a holiday in England in independent accommodation. Weddings can be celebrated in which up to 15 people can participate. As for travel abroad, Johnson said it was now too early to decide but hopes “they can resume on May 17”. We think of a “traffic light” system, similar to the one that Italy assigns to its regions, but for London it would apply to other countries: where the risk is lower and the traffic light is “green”, you can go without the obligation to respect a period of quarantine upon return, but only undergoing a swab.
Clear signs of a gradual return to a semblance of normality thanks to an effective and relentless vaccination campaign that continues to show its positive effects. The British health authorities have recorded only 26 new deaths in the last 24 hours, among those affected by the virus in the 28 days before death, with 2,762 new infections. In the comparison between the last seven days and the previous seven days, the data indicate a decrease for deaths of 44% and 33.5% for infections. The people who received the first dose of the Covid vaccine, according to data updated to April 4, were 31 and a half million while another 5.5 million received both doses. Quote 40 million administrations is one step away.
A very different story in Europe, still struggling with the third wave. France, which entered its third lockdown on Saturday, still sees a high level of infections, 270 thousand new cases in the last week, and records a peak in intensive care units, which rose to a total of 5433, even higher than the second wave. Italy does not have the lightest heart, also due to the mistake made in initially giving priority to vaccinations by category and not by age (11 million received the vaccine, of which 3.5 million with double dose) : in the last seven days there have been more than 130 thousand new cases, only on Monday there have been ten thousand (figure to be taken with a grain of salt due to the few swabs carried out). In Germany, the last week saw another 110 thousand new infections, and here too the delays in vaccinations are evident. Health Minister Spahn explained that it took Germany three months to vaccinate 10 percent of citizens and that it hopes to manage “the next 10 percent in just one month in light of the expected deliveries”.
In addition to exposing European inefficiencies, British efficiency allows the country to enter the era of coexistence with the virus earlier than the others. A few days ago, the main medical advisor to the government, Professor Chris Whitty explained how in the coming months and in the coming years Covid will have to be managed in a similar way to that with which serious seasonal viruses such as the flu are managed today. Most experts believe that Covid will become endemic and comparable to viruses such as the flu that “in a bad year can kill 20-25 thousand people”.
Johnson announces phase two: “I’ll go to the pub too”
Advances in vaccination must therefore not overshadow precautionary and monitoring measures. Premier Johnson then announced that starting April 9, everyone living in England will be able to take a quick test for coronavirus for free, twice a week. “Until now the tests were only available to those who were most at risk”, the government website reads, “but now they will be offered to everyone and we encourage people to do them to prevent the spread of the epidemic and return to a more normal life. “. “Right now, running regular rapid tests is even more important to make sure the efforts made with the vaccination campaign are not in vain,” Johnson stressed.
Another symbolic step towards normality is the reopening to the public of the temple of English football, Wembley Stadium. It will take place on 18 April on the occasion of the semi-final of the FA Cup between Leicester and Southampton when about four thousand fans will be able to attend the match in a stadium that can host up to 90 thousand. The goal is to bring at least 10,000 people to the stands from May to all British stadiums.
To make a comparison, soccer fields are expected to reopen in Italy by the end of 2021, provided that the vaccination objectives are respected, clarified Roberto Cauda, director of the Infectious Diseases Department of Gemelli in Rome: “We should reach the 60% of vaccinated in July, 70% in August and 80% in September. The campaign must continue fast, I hope that we can reach 500,000 vaccinated per day ”.
It all depends on how many vaccines will arrive. In the first quarter 28 million were expected but only 14 million doses arrived. In April, it will not mesh, as long as everything goes as planned: delivery of 8 million doses is expected, or only 20% of all arrivals scheduled in the second quarter from April to June. At the current rate – 240,000 vaccinations per day on average – herd immunity would be achieved only at the beginning of 2022. We need to accelerate and vaccines are needed: the doses scheduled for April are starting to be considered insufficient by the Regions to reach 500,000 administrations expected at the end of April.
Regions, however, fed up with having to rely solely and solely on closures to see the infections decrease, and therefore increasing pressure on the Government to reopen as soon as possible, as soon as the data allow it: we must “provide perspectives to those closed sectors by evaluating openings immediately after 20 April, in the case of an improvement in epidemiological data, to then allow the resumption of activities in stand-by for too long such as gyms in May “, is the position of the Regions that will be presented Thursday at the table on the Recovery funds with the premier Mario Draghi, which will be followed by the State-Regions conference. And then, the following week, again in a control room with the Government always on the reopening, even if at the moment from Palazzo Chigi they let it be known that no date has yet been set. Meanwhile, after the Easter holidays, Italy changes color: nine regions in the red zone, ten and the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano in orange, while none in the yellow zone.