22:44 GMT16 April 2021
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    New restrictions on households have come into force in the English city of Birmingham following a spike of cases in the city and a surge across the country. The increase in cases comes on the back of yet more rules from Britain’s government despite criticism that lawmakers are not doing enough to stop a climb in COVID numbers.

    Dr Jeremy Rossman, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Virology at the University of Kent, has voiced his concern about COVID disability and the long-term effects of the coronavirus infection on the UK population.

    Sputnik: Why are we seeing such a sudden rise in COVID cases? Should we be concerned?

    Jeremy Rossman: I'm not surprised. I am definitely concerned, though. So what we've expected for a long time is that this is going to be an ebb and flow of cases, that even though we've gotten containment quite well earlier on in the pandemic, we really stopped most of the widespread transmission that we were seeing earlier in, say, April. However, there's a huge number of cases around the rest of Europe and throughout the world that can come into the UK. We have to maintain continual vigilance in the UK and so there's always a risk of disease resurgence, and we started to use precautions in the UK and allow more businesses, more schools to open and at the same time of having a lot of disease resurgence in many countries around Europe. I think it was only a matter of time until we started to see cases increasing in the UK. Now, what we've unfortunately been seeing is a fairly continuous and fairly significant increase in cases over the past weeks. And this is where it's really concerning, because we really need to be taking strong action to stop this increase so that it doesn't keep rising, like we saw earlier in the year.

    Sputnik: What is causing this increase in cases but, you know, it's not translating to death. What's the real reason behind this in your eyes?

    Jeremy Rossman: I think there are a couple of factors that are all playing together in this increase in cases. But that is not correlated with increasing fatality rates. And I think what that is, first of all, there's a change in the age demographic of the people that are being infected with COVID-19. And now we're seeing more people being infected that are really healthy young adults, young adults under 40. And this is an age group that has throughout the course of the pandemic had a very low fatality rate. Whereas much earlier on in the pandemic, we were seeing a lot of infection in people over 60, and people with a lot of other health conditions where those people have a much higher fatality rate. So I think part of it is just a shift in the age distribution of the COVID cases.

    But I think at the same time, we're also better at handling cases in the hospital. We are better at identifying what COVID cases are going to progress to severe disease so that we can treat them better and earlier. And so I think that that is also playing a role. We've also increased the many hospital capacities for handling severe COVID cases and for providing ventilators and other respiratory support. So I think we're both better able to handle the severe cases. And we're also seeing fewer cases because of the changing age range. But I think one really important point to mention here is that even though we're not seeing this increase in fatality rates, that doesn't mean that we're now getting to a point where this is a very mild disease and people don't need to worry or take precautions, because we need to be changing the dialogue from talking about COVID fatalities, to talking about COVID disability, because we're seeing in some number of cases, that people are actually starting to show long term symptoms from COVID infection even in healthy young adults. And this is really concerning.

    Sputnik: Do you feel that the government and more of the UK is taking the precautions or the adequate precautions that they should be on the back of this concerning rising cases, and moreover, if we don't act on this rising cases, what situation could we find ourselves in the next week, month or year?

    Jeremy Rossman: No, unfortunately, I don't think that we're doing enough and unfortunately, I don't think that we've done enough in the period of time after we really lowered the cases earlier in the year until now, because we're seeing huge backlogs in testing. People are waiting for tests for far, far too long. We need test data very rapidly. People have to travel a very long time just to get tested. And this is going to make it much more difficult to contain the virus. We're still having issues with the contact tracing programme. We still don't have any sort of real precautions that are being recommended to contain this increase that we're seeing right now. So, yes, I think we actually do need to do more because if we don't, we're going to continue to see this rise. We're going to see this rising cases in many communities throughout the UK, because this is going to be spreading more again, throughout the UK. And what I'm worried about as a virologist is that, if we don't take more preventative actions quickly, then we're going to get to a point where we're going to need a lot more lockdowns and what we would like to avoid is to have any more necessity for a  countrywide lockdown. But if we don't take more actions quickly, that might be where we get to.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    lockdown, pandemic, COVID-19, UK
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