Britons will ‘have to learn to live with coronavirus’ and treat it as an everyday risk, warns leading statistician
- Professor David Spiegelhalter said that the virus was unlikely to disappear
- He said people could, and should, adapt their lives to cope with coronavirus
- The number of daily new cases edged up during this month with 1,522 reported
Britons will ‘have to learn to live with coronavirus‘ and treat it as an everyday risk, according to one of the country’s most eminent statisticians.
David Spiegelhalter, Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University, said the virus was unlikely to disappear but that people could – and should – adapt their lives to cope.
‘We are never going to get rid of [the virus] completely.
‘This is going to be one more risk – like road accidents, like terrorism – that is just going to be there and we are just going to have to learn to live with it,’ he said.
His comments during a webinar organised by the Royal Society of Medicine come as an analysis by The Mail on Sunday shows the risk of catching Covid-19 has plunged over the summer.
Britons will ‘have to learn to live with coronavirus’ and treat it as an everyday risk, according to one of the country’s most eminent statisticians
The vast majority of neighbourhood areas in England and Wales – described as ‘Medium Super Output Areas’ with each having around 8,000 people – have been virtually virus-free for the past month.
Only one in five has registered three or more confirmed cases.
And while the number of daily new cases edged up during this month – with 1,522 reported last Thursday – it is still less than a third of the 5,000 recorded during the peak of the pandemic in April.
Despite the rise in cases, the number of people in hospital has continued to fall.
On June 1, 6,635 were in hospital with confirmed Covid-19 across the UK.
At the start of August, that number had dropped by more than 80 per cent to 1,204.
By last Wednesday – the latest date for which figures are available – it was 764.
Coronavirus-related deaths have followed a similar downwards trajectory – from 135 on June 1 to 27 on July 1, 11 on August 1 and nine on August 26.
Paul Hunter, Professor of Medicine at the University of East Anglia, said hospitalisations and deaths were not rising, despite the recent uptick in cases, because it was now younger people tending to become infected, who were more resilient to Covid-19.
This trend is supported by Public Health England figures showing the median age of a person testing positive for the Sars-Cov-2 virus has fallen from 46 in early June to 34 in mid-August.
‘A lot of this increase is in young people – people in their teens, 20s, 30s – who don’t die of Covid-19,’ said Prof Hunter.
While urging people not to be complacent, he said there could be further increases in cases ‘without seeing any impact on deaths’.
Prof Spiegelhalter said the public had not fully appreciated the importance of the fall in the average age of those infected.
‘Your risk of dying doubles every five to six years. There’s more than a 10,000-fold variation in risk [of dying of Covid-19] between the elderly and the young,’ he said.
The geographical pattern of the pandemic has also changed.
The number of daily new cases edged up during this month – with 1,522 reported last Thursday – but it is still less than a third of those during the peak of the pandemic in April
During the first wave it affected large swathes of the population, particularly in big cities, with the virus radiating out from London.
Now it appears to be focused in places with high Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) populations.
These communities are at higher risk due to health and socio-economic factors, but the trend has accelerated over time – disproportionately affecting South Asian communities in particular.
Almost all the towns subject to local lockdowns over the summer, including Leicester, have large South Asian populations.
By contrast, there are swathes of rural Britain, notably South West England and East Anglia, that appear to be almost Covid-free.
Prof Spiegelhalter said he had ‘some sympathy’ with critics of a national lockdown ‘because people who live in areas in which there is very little circulating virus have to endure enormous sacrifice’.