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Lockdowns – three years on

Three years ago, on 16th March 2020, we entered into an effective lockdown. A day before, on 15th March 2020, our University sent out the notice:

The pandemic started.

We will continue to analyse the pros and cons of the way in which we attempted to stop the pandemic.

But, it is clear to me that lockdowns – and other control measures implemented then and later – significantly reduced the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases.

Although the “zero Covid” approach later turned out to be a mirage, the lockdowns allowed us to wait until vaccination became possible.

So, the “benefit” side of the equation is clear (at least to me).

What is not clear is the “costs” side. Although the total impact of the lockdowns is still a matter of controversy, the massive damage to the economy and society and to all of us individually is without a doubt.

But, one thing that seems to be missing in the discussion is the question why the negative impact was so strong.

While the popular line is that lockdowns have directly caused problems, I think they also exposed cracks in society’s ability to deal with disasters.

Does the line “children were forced to be in houses where they were at risk of abuse” tell us more about society’s ills than about lockdowns?

Major infectious diseases – England (and Scotland) update, week 10

TL&DR: Good news last week did not last long. Covid and scarlet fever indicators are all up this weeks, while influenza and RSV are mostly stable.


The current wave is different to all the previous ones, with numbers (positivity and hospitalisation) going up, but not as fast as in previous waves. While appreciating the slower-than-before increase, it is worrying on two counts.

Firstly, we are talking about high numbers. The hospitalisation rate is almost as high as it was at the previous peaks. With 50 million population in England, there are 5,000 people needing hospital care every week because of Covid (700 per day). It is 5,000 beds needed, use of doctors’ and nurses’ time, and – above all – huge worry for patients and their families.

Secondly, it means the transmission mechanism is changing. Either it is a decoupling of age groups, or new variants behaving differently, or changes in the immunity landscape. It makes the predictions more difficult.

Daily England’s data is not yet online, so just looking at Scotland, where we see an increase in case notifications in almost every age group, with the largest increases in 65+ years olds.

Scarlet fever

Last week I was hoping for the Scarlet fever numbers to buck the pre-pandemic trends and continue declining. It remains to be seen whether this week’s increase will continue – as in 2017-18 and 2019-20 (before the lockdown) – or turn down again. Regardless, we are now in the “normal” range of weekly cases.

Influenza and RSV

The two “most seasonal” infectious diseases that I look at in this report, flu and RSV, seem to follow the pre-pandemic trends, with a slow decline in numbers continuing. Some other countries have seen large flu outbreaks in recent weeks, but England seems to be following the “usual” seasonal pattern.

England’s daily data has just been released, so here is a quick update.

Increase in the number of cases across almost all age groups, possibly except the 0-14-year-olds. Not as rapid increase as in Scotland, but certainly moving up.


Something worrying is going on in India:

When I was there last month, there was a general post-pandemic feeling. The data above and particularly the news about new variants, question this view.