When it comes to COVID-19, what happens in the United Kingdom rarely stays in the United Kingdom — and that, in turn, rarely bodes well for the rest of the world.
Again and again, the U.K. has previewed the next unwelcome phase of the pandemic. The highly transmissible Alpha variant was first identified in Kent. The even more infectious Delta variant originated in India but used Britain as its springboard to global domination. The U.K. was one of the earliest movers on vaccination — and one of the first to see uptake level off. It was also the first country to declare “freedom” from Delta, lifting nearly all restrictions soon after its summer surge appeared to crest.
But now, almost exactly three months later, the U.K. again has one of the worst COVID rates in the world. Up 35 percent over the last two weeks, new cases are currently averaging more than 45,000 a day. They will soon surpass July’s initial Delta peak of about 47,000 daily cases, with no end in sight. On a per capita basis, the U.K.’s average daily case rate is more than 2.5 times as high as the United States’, more than four times as high as the European Union’s, nearly five times as high as Germany’s, more than nine times as high as France’s and more than 15 times as high as Spain’s or Italy’s.