- BBC World News
“A path of no return to freedom”.
They were the words with which Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, revealed the detailed plan with which he intends restore normalcy in one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic.
The roadmap to remove the restrictions was announced this Monday, hours after the first results of the mass vaccination that began last December were published.
According to data, the impact of vaccines is “spectacular” in severe cases And within weeks of receiving the first injection, the risk of hospitalizations is reduced by at least 75% in patients older than 80 years.
About a third of the adult population has already received the first dose and the authorities are confident that by July 31, all adults will have been offered to vaccinate.
The UK is currently inoculating with vaccines from Pfizer y Oxford/AstraZeneca. His plan is to administer the required two doses within 12 weeks, which differs from the strategy used in other countries around the world.
For now, the good results seem to support the UK plan, which was questioned by various medical authorities at the time.
A few days ago, Israel, which has already vaccinated half its population, began easing its restrictions after studies showed that the Pfizer vaccine was a 95.8% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
Despite optimism, governments and authorities continue to demand caution to reopen their economies, especially given the threat of new strains that could reduce the effectiveness of available vaccines.
Reasons for optimism
To analyze the results, the investigations involved following up those who were vaccinated to compare them with people who have not yet received the injection.
In Scotland it was found that, after four weeks of inoculation with the first dose, the risk of hospitalization was reduced by 81%.
This percentage increased slightly if data from younger people were analyzed.
Professor Aziz Sheikh, one of the leaders of the research, said that the results were “very very” impressive and that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were working “spectacularly”.
“These findings are very encouraging and they give us great reason to be optimistic about the future, “he added.
In England, on the other hand, researchers also looked at whether those vaccinated fell ill, were admitted to hospital or died two weeks after receiving, in this case, the Pfizer vaccine.
The analyzes concluded that symptomatic infections fell a 57%, which reduced hospital admission by a 40% and that the risk of death in the hospital decreased by 56%.
Adding the data for Scotland and England, the overall risk of death in the hospital was reduced by at least 75%.
The researchers explored whether the vaccine also slowed transmission of the virus, one of the key unknowns that remain to be resolved.
To do this, diagnostic tests were performed on healthcare personnel every two weeks to check if they were experiencing symptoms.
According to the results, the risk of becoming infected was reduced by 70%.
“We should all be very encouraged by these first results,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunizations for Public Health England.
Gradual return to normality
If the British received the vaccination data with optimism on Monday afternoon, then at night, they listened with hope to the route to return to normal that the government hopes will be final.
The United Kingdom lives its third national confinement and, with almost 130,000 deaths, it is the country with the most deaths from coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants.
At a press conference, Johnson announced the gradual de-escalation, which will include several phases between March 8 and June 21.
The March 8, students will return to schools in England. A massive system of diagnostic tests and the widespread use of masks in secondary schools will be available.
The March 29, Groups of up to six people from two different houses will be allowed to meet in private parks and gardens.
Non-essential stores, gyms, and bar and restaurant exteriors may not open until April 12th.
Restaurant and bar interiors will not open until may 17th. That same day, museums, cinemas, hotels, shows and sporting events will open again.
The last step will be the June 21, when potentially all legal limits on social contact will be released and sectors of the economy that remain closed, such as dance halls and nightlife, will be reopened.
Between each phase there is a period of five weeks, which is the time that is considered sufficient to analyze whether it is convenient to lift more restrictions. This decision will depend on the continued good progress of vaccines or that the hospital system does not overwhelm in the face of an increase in admissions, serious cases and deaths.
Some members of parliament and trade associations criticized this plan, accusing it of being slow and inflexible, but the government has defended itself, arguing that it is the best way to return to normality without risking taking steps backwards.
In the coming weeks, Parliament will vote on Johnson’s proposal.
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