January 2021

In the week leading up to 19th January, in the UK, there were almost 40,000 new COVID cases. And, on that day alone, 1,358 deaths. That is somebody who had earlier tested positive for COVID, dropped dead on that date. Our government’s statistics, at the start of this, were woeful, but they have had over a year now to get things right.

There is also a number, the scientists call it the R-Number, which indicates the growth rate of the virus. It is partly calculated from models, so I have always taken it with a pinch of salt. But in a nutshell, if one person is infected, how many other people will they go on to infect?

The magic value here is 1. Quite simply, if 1 person goes on to infect fewer than one person, then the virus is under control. It’ll peter out eventually. How much under 1 will determine how soon it’ll peter out, but whatever, we’re headed in the right direction. However if 1 person goes on to infect more than one person, then that’s bad news. The virus is accelerating and, sooner or later, we’ll all have it. And the statistics say that some of us will die.

Anyway, on 19th January, the R-Number here was about 1.4. As I said, it is calculated from models so gives no more than an estimate. But greater than 1.

May 2021

In the week leading up, there were around 2,350 new cases. Yesterday, there were four deaths. These numbers cover the whole of the UK, a population of 70 million. The R-Number, by the way, is 0.1.

So, what changed?

Well, two big things happened in the UK.

One was, we went into another lockdown. I think there are still questions to be asked about this, since if the pandemic had been properly managed, there should only have been need for one lockdown, and this was our second. So, we jumped the gun.

The second of which was the arrival of a series of vaccines.

Now, the respective parts these two played cannot be quantified. But presumably both played some part.

If we had all stayed locked-down (i.e. apart) for a prolonged period, then the virus would peter out. But how long? Well, lockdown last year lasted six months, and when it was lifted still allowed the virus to infect with a vengeance.

This is not to mention that human beings enjoy socializing, enjoy bars and restaurants, activities which would only have been missed more as time progressed. Do we really have a prolonged period of time where we are happy just to stay home?

So given those two sets of numbers, given that 6 months of lockdown alone was not enough to make the virus go away, I think it is reasonable to assume that vaccines have played some part in decelerating the process.

By the same token, the numbers are publicly available here, not everybody has yet been vaccinated. In fact, only around half of our population has had even one dose, so far. So even if vaccines were fully effective, we should expect to see about half as many cases. But 2,500 compared to 40,000 is not half. Neither is 4 deaths versus 1,400. So, over and above individuals being vaccinated, the virus’s ability to spread has dropped like a stone.

The key argument against being vaccinated is that it is untested. That not enough is known about it, about how it might affect somebody with health condition X. Why should I be the guinea pig?

You know what? We all felt like that. It’s not news.

We looked at the numbers, we saw them plummet, and we got vaccinated anyhow.

And, by the way, the numbers here have plummeted so much that it is considered safe to allow bars and restaurants to open up again next week.

So today I just wanted to thank everybody who has taken the personal risk of being vaccinated, of being that guinea pig. Your decision has helped my society open itself back up again, and I will be drinking to your continued health next week.


  1. I love your post Pete, and you are so right.
    If only some individuals realised how many other people they would harm if they caught the virus.

    I was fortunate, I didn’t pass it to a single person. My son, on the other hand was unsure how many he’d passed it to. He was pretty sure he’d caught it from a colleague who shared his staff room. He knew he’d passed it to me, but he was pretty certain he’d not passed it to other colleagues, he was unsure about the children in his class and whether some may have caught it from him and if they’d passed it to their families because the school closed early for Christmas and then we had lockdown.
    Five months on I’m still harmed and still feeling the aftermath of the wretched disease.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it is something quite easy if you just consider primary descendents, but as soon as you start thinking beyone that first generation…you can see why you’d need a model.
      I was motivated to write this because I heard exacty that argument (again) on here. A US writer put forward the “why should I be a guinea pig?” argument. I thought is fell short because because it dismisses the societal aspect, plus I wanted it to be more visible than just a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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