COVID-19: What will the pandemic mean for the UK in 2022?

The Government believes the UK has passed the ‘test’ of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

It’s nearly two years since the coronavirus first hit the UK. But three lockdowns and more than 150,000 deaths later, are we finally getting back to normal? And if so, can we stay there?

By March ministers will set out how the UK will stop fighting SARS-Cov-2 without lockdowns and how we can “live with” the virus. That will not mean ignoring it, insist ministers and scientists. But there will be an to limits on our behaviour and movement. Instead, a pharmaceutical arsenal and testing will do all the work. Ministers believe living with Covid-19 should be seen on a par with flu – which can claim up to 30,000 lives a year. In fact, it is hoped that greater awareness of viruses and vaccines can boost jabs on the flu front as well, and reduce this toll too.

Does this mean eradication?

In fact scientists do not expect Covid-19 to be eradicated for years, if at all. But it is hoped that the four-day national holiday, beginning on Thursday 2 June, for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will be used by the public as a parallel “natural celebration” for the worst of the pandemic being over – a moment to come together not only for the historic royal milestone but to mark the first “normal” summer in three years. By then the legal requirement to self-isolate for confirmed Covid should have gone – it is not expected to be renewed when it expires on March 24 – although advice to do so may remain.

“One thing that lockdown sceptics have consistently underestimated is that the public prioritise saving lives over the economy or their individual and civil liberties when it comes to the pandemic.”

Chris Hopkins, associate director of Savanta ComRes

There will be a new variant of concern at some point, given how SARS-Cov-2 continues to mutate and the many countries with low vaccination rates. This will, ministers accept, remain a challenge for dealing with the pandemic in the UK. But government scientific advisers and health experts believe that because the UK population now has substantial levels of immunity against Covid-19, from both vaccination and previous infection, the next variant will not pose as much of a challenge as Delta or Omicron, particularly when it comes to serious disease and hospitalisation. They also believe that the experience of Omicron bodes well.

That does not mean there are no concerns. The number of people dying within 28 days of a positive test is still high in absolute terms, even though it is lower in proportion to the number of cases compared with last winter.

“We need to accept the fact that our flu season is also going to be a coronavirus season, and that is going to be a challenge for us. The likely scenario is life won’t look much different to the autumn of 2019, when we all turned up for our flu vaccines.”

Dr Groppelli, virologist at St George’s

So this sounds like good news…right? Let us know what you think.

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