Back in January I wrote about the rate of vaccination against Coronavirus. I predicted that everyone would have at least one dose by the end of July, and that the confinement would be lifted in early August.

So, here we are in early August, 88.7% of people have had one vaccine dose, 73.2% of people are fully covered with two vaccine doses. That seems close enough to the threshold for herd (population) immunity, and everything is as close to ‘normal’ as I can remember since last year.

There are geographic variations; in my little area of Leicester 68.9% of people have had their first dose, and 54.9% have had their second dose. There seems to be a problem with inner city areas, student areas, most of those places are lagging behind in vaccinations.

I’ve had both doses, both Pfizer jabs. I had my first one early due to a special response in Leicester, more vaccination centres were opened and they began offering vaccinations to younger people. They were clearly going all-out to just vaccinate as many people as possible.

For a long while I was worried about this process of opening up while not everyone had been offered a first dose. As the vaccination programme was run in stages, older people first, it risked pushing a massive social barrier between old and young people. It’s now at the stage where anyone over the age of 18 who wants to be vaccinated can get it, and we’ve got this far without resorting to vaccine passports or other compulsive measures.

Is it helpful to write this all out? Everyone knows the situation. Coronavirus is already a permanent topic of small talk, I notice it dropping into conversations. It feels like I’m describing what is already obvious, and at best this kind of record would only serve useful for the historians of the future.

Maps

The UK coronavirus data dashboard has an interactive map of new cases, with a handy button for downloading images. So, I made a few soothing timelapses using this ffmpeg script.

You can see the Johnson variant delta variant really taking off.

The situation deteriorated slowly in Leicester, although there were always consistently high case numbers here anyway.

Cornwall had a much sharper explosion of cases, coinciding with the G7 summit.

Very much the same pattern around Oxford.

Freedom Day

We’re over the uncontrolled peak, levelling out at around 30,000 cases per day. The idea of a zero-covid strategy is completely gone, although the Tories were never really committed to it. Three months ago there were under 2,000 cases per day and even that was too much for the government to push for eradication.

On July 19th almost all restrictions were lifted, and aside from everything else it hit home when they removed the dividers between the urinals at Birmingham New Street station. I change trains at Birmingham New Street a lot, I use the toilets a lot, and for a whole year I have enjoyed the experience of peeing without someone else standing directly next to me. When the dividers disappeared, that’s how I knew something had really changed.

There is another element of the opening up process, the lingering issue that restrictions were lifted without repealing the legal framework around them. The rules are all now just guidelines, yet the police still have the power to arbitrarily break up gatherings or public assemblies. So congratulations, you are no longer required to wash your hands or wear a mask indoors (although, you should carry on doing that), the more important emergency powers haven’t gone away.

And finally, since this post was inspired by a prediction I made several months ago, what can I predict for the future? There’s now a surprisingly popular anti-lockdown movement, with a support base stretching across from small businesses to the ruling circles of the Conservative Party. Unless there’s a deadly new vaccine-resistant variant, I don’t think there will be another lockdown in 2021. The pandemic is far from over, even now the virus is tearing through the country just as ferociously as it was last winter. The difference is that the death rate is low and rising slowly enough that someone somewhere has judged it basically acceptable. I don’t like that idea, but maybe it’s something we grow to live with, or, not live with, in the case of the 100 or so daily fatalities.