We SHOULD come out of lockdown on June 21 according to NHS hospital data

HOPEFUL Covid hospital data suggests we should come out of lockdown on June 21.

Hospitals are nowhere near as full with Covid patients as what scientists had modelled earlier in the year.

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Models given to Sage – the Govt scientific advisory group – date back to February, when ministers were considering how and when to exit the crippling lockdown.

Data shows that the number of patients in beds across England is currently ten times lower than worst-case predictions.

It bodes well for the Prime Minister’s considerations for lifting lockdown on June 21, of which the main one will be pressure on the NHS.

Boris Johnson will be looking at hospital data to see if vaccines have succesfully prevented severe disease, case rates and the threat of new variants.

But the Sage models have since been updated to reflect thenew Covid variant (Delta), showing to cause more severe disease, has become dominant.

This week Prof Neil Ferguson said updated models given to ministers painted a bleak picture of a “substantial third wave” on the way.

But if February’s versions are anything to go by, it suggests the models are not always correct.

Prof Ferguson – whose previous work was instrumental in forcing the first national lockdown – said there were always large uncertainties with modelling.

He said scientists could not pin down how high hospital admissions could get in the summer as a result of rising Delta cases.

What does real data show?

The Government dashboard shows there were 876 people in England’s hospital as of June 8.

This has very slowly been rising since a low of 742 on May 27, due to the Delta variant.

However, NHS chiefs say most people in hospital are much younger than previous waves, and so aren’t as sick.

What did modelling say?

Modelling from Warwick University, given to Sage in February, said hospital admissions could be between 1,000 and 2,000 right now.

Imperial College London warned it could be between 7,000 and 11,000.

The severity of the situation was based on different lockdown lifting plans.

The lower numbers were based on what would happen if all step 3 (indoor hospitality) happened on May 1, followed by all restrictions lifted on May 31.

Meanwhile, the worser numbers were based on step 3 occurring on June 7, with a lifting of lockdown on July 5.

In reality, the Govt chose to plan for somewhere in the middle, with step 3 on May 17 and “Freedom Day” no earlier than June 21.

But models can only be created based on data available at the time and do not age well, the past year has shown. 

Even scientists have called them "pessimistic".

Updated models

Both the models were based on what would happen if the Alpha (Kent) variant remained dominant, which it has not.

The Delta variant, first seen in India, has rampaged across the UK, overthrowing Alpha due to being 60 per cent more transmissible.

A newer model from Warwick had looked at what would happen if there was a more easily spread variant – before Delta was discovered.

The paper, considered on May 5, said: “A variant that is 30-40 per cent more transmissible than B.1.1.7 [Kent] is projected to generate more total hospital admissions than the first wave.”

Scientists said that going ahead with lifting lockdown on June 21 could see daily hospitalisations reach 10,000 by the mid-July.

With only step 3, on May 17, they said daily hospital admissions reach 5,500 by the end of July. 

Currently around 110 are being admitted to hospital each day in England.

The models have been further updated since the discovery that Delta is both more fast spreading and able to weaken vaccines, too.

Prof Ferguson said work by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) is basically “saying there is a risk of a substantial third wave”.

“We cannot be definitive about the scale of that, it could be substantially lower than the second wave, or it could be of the same order of magnitude”, he said.

The significance of another wave “critically depends on how effective the vaccines still are at protecting people against hospitalisation and death against the Delta variant”, Prof Ferguson said.

Although hospitalisations are only at 110 now, Prof Ferguson said they will inevitably go upwards. 

But it was "hard to pin down" a figure in the models given to Government last week.

The updated models from scientists reporting to Sage – the Government scientific advisory group – are bound to be considered as the PM decides whether to go ahead with the June 21 unlocking.

Hospital admissions across England and the UK are largely flat.

There have been significant increases in some hotspot areas, but an NHS chief said it was mostly young people being admitted and so hospitals were coping.

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