New lockdowns amid a second wave of COVID-19
The UK is grappling with another wave of infection and lockdowns. All non-essential businesses will remain shut till December 2. In his address to the media Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hopeful that the lockdown will help the nation control the spread of infection. Here is a look at the possibility, severity, and preparedness for further restrictions.
A second wave in Europe
Several European countries have been trying to ward off a second wave of COVID-19 infections since August. Italy saw a widening of the restrictions in early November. The measures will remain in place at least till early December. Belgium opted for a strict 6 week lockdown to be in force till the middle of December. Germany and France are also going through sweeping lockdowns which will be in effect till the first week of December.
The WHO’s Europe Chief Dr. Hans Kluge saw this coming in early September. Back then he remarked that he “…wouldn’t be surprised if hospital admissions surged this November to levels seen during the worst days of the pandemic.” Many health experts dismissed the warning. Prof. Carl Heneghan of the University of Oxford denied the existence of a second wave. He attributed the rise in infections to “…a sharp rise in number of healthy people carrying the virus but exhibiting no symptoms.” Evidently the second wave is real.
A second wave in England
Boris Johnson acknowledged the emergence of a second COVID-19 wave. Speaking to the BBC in September he said, “The UK is now seeing a second wave…it’s inevitable we’d see it in this country.” The UK’s Office for National Statistics estimated that in November 2020, 1 in 100 people in the country may show signs of COVID-19. That could amount to 568,100 people on any given day. By comparison only 1 in 2,300 was infected in July, and 1 in 200 was infected at the start of October.
Many of the UK’s top scientists urged Boris Johnson’s Conservative Government to implement a lockdown. They felt that a nationwide lockdown would be preferable to the localized system which works on a region-by-region basis. The announcement about imposing lockdowns in England received some criticism and opposition. However, it also gained support. Many felt that the new lockdowns should have come even earlier. Government advisory body SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) had called for a short, ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown in the last week of September. They fear that now it might be too late for that measure.
The rest of the UK
Scotland introduced a 5-tier system for handling the pandemic. Different sets of restrictions apply to different regions depending on the number and severity of infection cases. Currently lockdowns are only in place in central and western Scotland. These will be lifted on December 11. In Ireland the restrictions will ease gradually starting late November. In Wales the lockdown restrictions were relaxed on November 9.
Worst case scenario
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove recently warned that, “England’s lockdown could be extended beyond December 2 if necessary.” Shortly before Gove’s speech the Office of National Statistics had announced that the second round of lockdowns will be worse. The findings of the latest REACT-1 (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission-1) report are that “the prevalence of the infection has more than doubled within 20 days.” England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty tweeted recently that the “second wave may well be prolonged throughout the winter period.”
Millions of migrants live and work in the UK. They send international money transfers to their home countries as remittances. Many were able to regain their lost jobs at the end of the first wave of infection. Breaking the second wave is our collective challenge and responsibility. A poll conducted by the Institute of Global Health Innovation suggests that 91% of the British would comply with self-isolation measures if infected. However, a medRxiv study conducted in September presents evidence on the contrary. This study concluded that less than 20% of people with COVID-19 symptoms in England complied with self-regulation measures. WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris seemed to support this discrepancy. In an interview with The Guardian she said that “the missing link in the handling of coronavirus is the management of self-isolation.” This needs to change.
The best way to prepare is with vigilance and caution. These include immediate self-isolation at the first sign of infection. Make use of the free testing facilities. Avoiding social gatherings and use masks in public.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.