If you cast your mind back to February, you might remember the Prime Minister Boris Johnson describing the roadmap out of lockdown as “cautious but irreversible”. Now, the majority of restrictions have been lifted and life is more or less back to normal. However as of this week, it’s now been announced that we might be facing a “firebreak” lockdown.
This is, of course, bad news. What was once touted as the once-and-for-all return to normal life now seems like an endless cycle of lockdowns. So what can we really do to get back to normal and live with the virus?
A firebreak lockdown is basically a short, sharp lockdown, probably around a fortnight. This is designed to take pressure off the health service by limiting social contact and slowing the spread of the virus. Wales had one last year in October, which was fairly effective. England decided against it, which led to the major lockdown in November.
Sources suggest that the government’s plan for a firebreak lockdown could essentially act as an extension of half-term where children are (once again) kept home from school. This would be along with other restrictions on socialising and travel. It’s also been touted that the government is prepared to bring back compulsory mask-wearing and social distancing in public before the end of the month, should the situation continue.
Members of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have said that the UK is potentially going to enter an “extended peak” of infections and hospitalisations. This could, again, push the NHS to the limit.
The advisory board has suggested there has to be a contingency plan in place to limit societal and economic impact. According to SAGE scientist David Parsley,“We are going to be at a peak, albeit an extended peak, quite soon, so it’s not really the same situation as last year, when failure to reduce prevalence would have resulted in collapse of the NHS and people dying in car parks.”
This is an alarming prospect. While COVID deaths are significantly higher than at the same time last year, they would have to rise fivefold to match late October 2020. Although vaccination has certainly made the picture less bleak, the question still remains: how long can this go on for?
As we did with the development of vaccines, we have to look to technology to make life post-COVID sustainable. Although undoubtedly indispensable, vaccines aren’t a silver bullet. Many people can’t or won’t have the vaccine, so we have to consider how we can stop the spread amongst the unvaccinated population. We need more lines of defence to keep people healthy and protect the NHS.
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