Lockdowns

I was on Radio WM Birmingham again this morning, talking about the national vs local lockdowns:

https://bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/live:bbc_wm

around 10:12.

Starting with graphs showing reported cases in four countries:

Current (September 17th) data for 4 countries. Dots: raw data; line: 7 day running mean.

Australia has clearly managed to suppress the second wave; Germany is seeing cases rising, but from relatively small numbers and at a slow rate. Israel is now imposing a national lockdown in response to the rapid growth since September. The UK numbers are still low, but the growth rate is very concerning.

The point I was trying to make on Radio WM is that barring masks (which some wear and some don’t) and vaccination (which is some months away), we have only a few options to control the virus. They all turn around the idea of social distancing: we can do it individually as in test and trace, locally in an area (as in North England) or for a group of people (as in prisons or care homes), or nationally.

A blanket lockdown is a nuclear option which we apply if there are too many foci of infection. It is a political decision: it costs enormously in money and in the health of those who do not get the treatment for other health conditions. Also, each time it will be more difficult to get people to obey and we are not in winter yet.

Local lockdowns are better, but only work if there are not many of them, and they are more difficult to control – how do you stop people going to a pub in the next town?

What we need is a combination of individual responsibility – wear masks, work from home if possible – and testing so that people can decide to isolate if they test positive.

Even more, rather than a series of knee jerk reactions, jumping between full lockdowns and full relaxations, we need a steady and responsible approach that builds trust and does not offer false hopes.

It is not good to tell people that we have fantastic testing facilities if they cannot access the registration and the testing centres turn people away. It is not good to promise a silver bullet in the form of vaccine if there will not be enough of it to treat all – and if the risks of side effects are unpredictable.