'Too Early To Be Sure': When Will We Know If Covid Has Peaked?

The bulk of the Covid pandemic could be over in upcoming weeks, says scientists.

With most lockdown restrictions removed, some of us might be mentally over the pandemic, but we won’t know if the official peak of Covid-19 is over for a while.

The number of positive cases in the UK has gone down as of late. For the first time since February, the number of daily reported cases dropped consistently (for six days in a row) with average daily cases down 15% week on week.

But don’t go out shaking hands and kissing multiple strangers (a la Love Island) just yet, as we’re not totally out of the woods.

Imperial College London’s Professor Neil Ferguson, said it is too early to tell what the consequences of so-called ‘Freedom Day’ will be.

“We’re not completely out of the woods, but the equation has fundamentally changed,” he said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The Clapham Grand welcomed audience members at full capacity as live performance returns on July 26.
Tim P. Whitby via Getty Images
The Clapham Grand welcomed audience members at full capacity as live performance returns on July 26.

Going one step further, the epidemiologist, who is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) that advises Boris Johnson and the government, estimated when we’ll know that the worst has already passed.

“The effect of vaccines is hugely reducing the risk of hospitalisations and death,” he said. “And I’m positive that by late September or October time we will be looking back at most of the pandemic.

“We will have Covid with us, we will still have people dying from Covid, but we’ll have put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.

“Clearly the higher we can get vaccination coverage, the better – that will protect people and reduce transmission – but there is going to be remaining uncertainty until the autumn.”

Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, spoke on the Today Programme, saying we might be over the bulk of the pandemic by September
Parliament TV - PA Images via Getty Images
Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, spoke on the Today Programme, saying we might be over the bulk of the pandemic by September

Infections have now dropped to 24,000 daily cases this week, which has left scientists somewhat puzzled.

Some have suggested the temporary spike following the Euros, plus school closures, may have contributed to the recent drop in cases. But professor of medicine at University of East Anglia, Paul Hunter, who specialises in infectious diseases, says we must still proceed with caution.

In regard to whether the height of the pandemic is now over, Professor Hunter says that might be the case.

“We may already be past the peak in this wave as it is quite plausible that the recent drop in cases may continue. But at present it is too early to be sure as the impact of ‘Freedom day’ will not become clear until the end of this week,” he tells HuffPost UK.

“If I had to guess I would say we are already past the peak but I am not certain. But what I am confident about, is that even if we see increasing numbers again next week, the rate of increase will not be as dramatic as it was early July and will probably be short lived.”

However, scientists do expect the numbers to rise again once schools start to open up. “Autumn is another thing and I do expect to see cases risk again then, probably starting early September,” Professor Hunter adds. “I cannot guess how high cases will go as we move towards Christmas, though they are unlikely to get anywhere near as high as we have seen earlier this year.”

Despite the encouraging stats – which go against the 100,000 cases a day that some experts had projected for this period – Boris Johnson has advised the public to not run away with “premature conclusions”.

The prime minister said cases could still rise to the predicted number and the situation may deteriorate very quickly in coming weeks, adding: “People have got to remain very cautious and that remains the approach of the government.”