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COVID-19 winter wave

Since the beginning of December, the UK has been experiencing another COVID-19 wave. In my The Conversation article published on 13th December, I predicted:

Predictions of a large COVID wave as we head into winter have so far not materialised. The most likely scenario is that the small-scale outbreaks will continue throughout winter as COVID becomes “endemic”. 


At the time of writing, there was considerable uncertainty about what was likely to happen over Christmas, both associated with new variants (particularly XBB), loss of immunity, and behaviour (mainly the effect of Christmas mixing). This is an England prediction by IHME dated 16th December

My expectations, briefly discussed here on the blog, were that the wave would be limited, both in size and duration. I was expecting the wave to either be similar to the most recent one – the Autumn wave – or perhaps a slightly larger one, like the Spring 2022 wave.

Although the current wave starting in December 2022 is not yet over, the numbers have started to go down. Comparing the last five waves, it looks like England is simply following the same pattern again and again.

We had about the same outbreak roughly every 3 months (January, April, July, October 2022), peaking around the middle of the month. But the shape of each outbreak is almost exactly the same:

I find this picture amazing (the most recent 3-4 points in the current wave should be ignored as they will be revised upwards). The earlier two waves are very similar as well, except the magnitude is higher. If scaled down by 1.5, they look almost exactly the same.

So, is this how the “endemic” COVID-19 will look like in the future?

The recent two papers speculate that in the future, it will be endemicity that will determine the outbreaks.