More than 30,000 new coronavirus cases are reported every day in the United Kingdom, yet the public appears to have moved on. According to experts, this could be a foreshadowing of what is to come for other countries.
Last Sunday, nearly 60,000 soccer fans packed London's Emirates Stadium to watch Chelsea defeat Arsenal. After multiple Covid-related delays, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Cinderella" made its glittering West End debut. Half of the subway riders go barefaced, even though masks are still mandatory.
All of this comes at a time when the UK is reporting over 30,000 new coronavirus cases per day, hospitals are under increased strain, and preliminary data shows that the vaccines' protection wears off several months after the second dose.
The public has moved on, even if the virus has not. This is the strange new phase of Britain's pandemic. Experts believe that because Britain has been at the forefront of so many previous coronavirus developments — from developing variants to rolling out vaccines — this could be a glimpse into the future for other countries.
Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London who has been leading a major study of Covid-19 symptoms, said, “We don't seem to care that we have these really high infection rates. It appears that we are simply accepting it now — that this is the cost of liberty.”
Some of that calm may be because, while the case rate in the United Kingdom is high, it has not yet reached the levels projected by government authorities when they withdrew practically all Covid restrictions last month. Some speculate that because so many Britons have been immunized, fewer serious instances are being reported. And some of it could simply be exhaustion from 17 months of depressing headlines and suffocating lockdowns.
“There’s a feeling that finally, we can breathe; we can start trying to get back what we’ve lost,” said Devi Sridhar, the head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh. “It’s really difficult to ask people not to mix for a prolonged period, especially if there is no solution.”
Professor Sridhar believes that with approximately 80 percent of the adult population completely vaccinated and the virus still circulating widely, Britain might serve as a model for other nations in terms of “whether you can handle Covid in a sustainable way.” She said that the evidence was inconclusive because Britain is still facing critical challenges, such as the reopening of schools on Wednesday.