LONDON — Nearly 60,000 soccer fans packed London’s Emirates Stadium last Sunday to watch Chelsea outplay Arsenal. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Cinderella” made its glittering debut in the West End after multiple Covid-related delays. On the subway, where masks are still mandatory, half of the riders go barefaced.
伦敦——上周日，近6万名足球迷挤进伦敦酋长球场(Emirates Stadium)观看切尔西战胜阿森纳的比赛。安德鲁·劳埃德·韦伯(Andrew Lloyd Webber)的音乐剧《灰姑娘》(Cinderella)在多次因新冠疫情推延后，终于在西区(West End)闪亮登场。地铁仍然强制要求乘客戴口罩，但一半的乘客都露着脸。
All of this at a time when Britain is reporting more than 30,000 new coronavirus cases a day, hospitals are coming under renewed strain, and preliminary data shows that the protection provided by the vaccines ebbs several months after the second dose.
Such is the strange new phase of Britain’s pandemic: The public has moved on, even if the virus has not. Given that Britain has been at the vanguard of so many previous coronavirus developments — from incubating variants to rolling out vaccines — experts say this could be a glimpse into the future for other countries.
“We don’t seem to care that we have these really high infection rates,” said Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London who has been leading a major study of Covid-19 symptoms. “It looks like we’re just accepting it now — that this is the price of freedom.”
“我们的感染率真的很高，但我们似乎并不在乎，”伦敦国王学院(King’s College London)遗传流行病学教授蒂姆·斯佩克特(Tim Spector)说，他一直在领导一项针对新冠症状的主要研究。“看起来我们现在开始接受它了——这是自由的代价。”
Some of that equanimity may stem from the fact that Britain’s case rate, while high, has not yet risen anywhere near the level that government officials predicted when they lifted virtually all Covid restrictions last month. Some may be because so many Britons are vaccinated, fewer serious cases are being reported. And some of it may simply reflect fatigue, after 17 months of baleful headlines and stifling lockdowns.
“There’s a feeling that finally we can breathe; we can start trying to get back what we’ve lost,” said Devi Sridhar, the head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh. “It’s really difficult to ask people not to mix for a prolonged period, especially if there is no solution.”
“有一种我们终于可以喘口气的感觉；我们可以开始努力找回我们失去的东西，”爱丁堡大学(University of Edinburgh)全球公共卫生项目负责人德维·斯里达尔(Devi Sridhar)说。“一直要求人们不要聚集真的很难，尤其是在没有解决方案的情况下。”
With nearly 80 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated and the virus still circulating widely, Professor Sridhar said, Britain may be a model for other countries of “whether you can manage Covid in a sustainable way.” The evidence, she added, was inconclusive because Britain still faces critical challenges, like the reopening of schools on Wednesday.
That will almost certainly drive rates up further, particularly because Britain has resisted vaccinating children and younger teenagers. But epidemiologists are loath to make specific predictions because many were proved wrong in July when cases fell immediately after “Freedom Day,” when most restrictions were lifted.
New cases, in any event, are a less all-important metric than they once were, given that a much smaller percentage of those infected end up in the hospital than in the earlier stages of the pandemic. Almost 970 people were admitted to hospitals on Aug. 24, the most recent date for which data is available. That compares with 4,583 on Jan. 12, the peak of the last wave of infections.
Hospitalizations are rising, however, as is the fatality rate. Admissions last week were up 6.7 percent over the previous seven-day period, while deaths were up 12.3 percent, totaling 133 people on Saturday. With a backlog of patients with other illnesses, doctors say the National Health Service has little slack to cope with another influx of Covid victims.
然而，住院人数正在上升，死亡率也在上升。上周的入院人数比前一周增加了6.7%，而死亡人数增加了12.3%，周六共有133人死亡。由于其他疾病的患者仍在等待就医，医生们表示，如果涌入新一轮新冠患者，全民医疗服务体系(National Health Service)将几乎没有喘息的空间。
“We’ve found rising numbers of cases, and we are under a lot of pressure again,” said Susan Jain, a specialist in anesthesia and intensive therapy who works in the intensive care unit at the Homerton University Hospital in East London. “All our Covid cases are unvaccinated by choice.”
“我们发现病例数量在增加，我们再次面临很大压力，”在东伦敦霍默顿大学(Homerton University Hospital)医院重症监护室工作的麻醉和重症治疗专家苏珊·贾恩(Susan Jain)说。“我们所有的新冠病例都是自愿选择不接种疫苗。”
The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, preoccupied with the chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan, has said little about the rising hospital numbers — or indeed about the pandemic at all — in recent weeks.
Relieved that the more gloomy predictions of spiraling cases have not materialized, the government argues that its strategy has been vindicated, with infections manageable because of the success of its vaccination campaign.
The government’s policy on vaccinating younger teenagers is in flux, with no decision yet on whether to go ahead with a campaign to jab those 12 to 15, though Britain’s medical regulator has authorized a vaccine for this age group.
“The rollout of the vaccine program for adults has been incredibly impressive, but, for children and young people it has been frankly shambolic,” Camilla Kingdon, the president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, said this month.
皇家儿科与儿童卫生学院(Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health)院长卡米拉·金登(Camilla Kingdon)本月表示：“针对成人的疫苗计划推出非常成功，但坦率地说，针对少年儿童的疫苗计划一直是混乱无序的。”
“I do wear masks indoors in public places,” said Philip Crossley, 69, walking on a street in the northern city of Bradford. “I noticed a lot of people don’t. Maybe that’s not a big problem, but they still could carry the virus.”
Outside Downing Street, an anti-lockdown protester, Simon Parry, said he had never worn a mask on public transportation and had yet to be challenged.
“I get people looking at me like I want to kill my grandmother,” he conceded before adding that he thought the argument was moving his way and that one woman had recently shed her face mask after an exchange on the subway. “I make it my mission to get someone to take a mask off in the Tube,” he said.
One government minister, Greg Hands, tweeted a picture of himself on the subway wearing a mask, but complained that only about half of the passengers around him were doing likewise.
The office of London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said its data showed that 82 percent of passengers said they always wore face coverings on subway trains and buses, a solid number given the central government’s decision not to adopt a national mandate for face coverings on public transportation.
Other critics blame the government’s mixed messages, pointing to members of Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party, many of whom abandoned their masks when they returned to a crowded chamber of Parliament recently to discuss Afghanistan. The government’s official position is that people should wear face coverings when confined indoors.
For some who objected to Britain’s recurring lockdowns, the return to normalcy was both welcome and overdue. But some said the tensions between freedom and security could easily resurface.
“The intensity has gone out of the debate, but it will come back if there is another wave,” said Jonathan Sumption, a former justice on Britain’s Supreme Court who has been an outspoken critic of the lockdowns.
“If it does come back,” he added, “we’ll then be in the position that even the vaccines don’t work. What is the exit route?”