Northern Ireland have announced a 4-week circuit-breaker lockdown from Friday onwards, involving tough restrictions, including the closure of pubs and restaurants. This was in response to 6,286 new cases being reported this week.
The concept of a circuit-breaker lockdown was first introduced to the Government on 21st September 2020, but it was rejected. However, Wales are considering a similar approach to Northern Ireland, which raises the question of whether it is a possibility for England as well.
It has been reported that a circuit-breaker lockdown in England may halve the amount of coronavirus deaths predicted for the rest of 2020. Specifically, the figures are that it may reduce deaths between 29% and 49%. This means that between 800 and 106,000 lives could be saved.
It is predicted that by the end of the year, there will be 79,800 deaths daily, but with a circuit-breaker lockdown, this figure could be reduced to 39,300 deaths per day.
A circuit-breaker may be beneficial, because with the current rate of infection, the ‘test and trace’ programme is unable to work properly
A paper written by Professor Graham Medley and his colleagues claims that deaths for the rest of the year could be reduced from 19,900 to 12,100, and hospital admissions could be reduced from 132,400 to 66,500.
However, this paper is yet to be peer-reviewed, so there is question regarding its validity.
A circuit-breaker may be beneficial, because with the current rate of infection, the ‘test and trace’ programme is unable to work properly.
However, a circuit-breaker would lower the R-value, and would mean that ‘test and trace’ could begin to cope with the rate of infection again, and therefore work effectively.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is insistent that our new three-tiered system will be enough to ‘drive down the virus’
In Wales, the concept of a circuit-breaker lockdown is very popular. When YouGov asked 3,390 adults whether they’d support the measure being introduced, 68% said yes, 20% said no, and 12% said they were unsure.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is insistent that our new three-tiered system will be enough to ‘drive down the virus’.
He continues to defend a regional approach to lockdown, and believes that putting the areas of the country suffering the most from coronavirus cases into Tier 2 or Tier 3 will be enough to limit the spread and control the virus.
Scientists are claiming this is not the case, and that the three-tiered system is not enough. The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) claim that a short and sharp circuit-breaker lockdown should be imposed from 24th October in England.
This would line up with half term for school students, therefore wouldn’t disrupt their education. The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have also declared their confidence in the effectiveness of circuit-breaker lockdowns.
When looking for evidence for circuit-breaker lockdowns, it is best to look towards other countries who have tried and tested the method.
Scientists claim that whether a circuit-breaker lockdown would be effective or not depends on how willing the public are to abide to the rules
Israel for example, attempted a traffic light system very similar to our three-tiered system, however this failed to be effective, therefore they went into a circuit-breaker lockdown, from which they are emerging this week.
The Israeli government claim there are some signs of success, however infection rates do continue to rise – there were 3,538 new cases on 12th October. This therefore doesn’t provide compelling evidence for the success of circuit-breaker lockdowns.
Scientists claim that whether a circuit-breaker lockdown would be effective or not depends on how willing the public are to abide to the rules.
There are lots of factors to take into account – the economic costs, the mental wellbeing of the public, and healthcare implications.
Boris Johnson has made it blatantly clear that he is reluctant to introduce a circuit-breaker lockdown to England, but this will depend on whether his three-tiered system is as effective as he is claiming it will be.
I think that we will have to test the three-tiered system over the coming weeks, and witness how effective it is, before any further decisions are made about whether a circuit-breaker lockdown is necessary.
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