Covid 12 - 3 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Back
Monday, 3 August
Epidemiology experts have been predicting for some time that after the initial wave of the coronavirus there were likely to be subsequent spikes. That's what we have been seeing across much of Europe in the last few weeks, and what we are seeing now in Manchester.
This spike seems to be different to the earlier wave. Then most transmission was in health or care settings. Now most transmission seems to be either in-family, at home or through younger people not following the social distancing guidance. The symptoms seem to be less severe, with few people being hospitalised, but, a warning to young people in particular, the symptoms may be relatively mild now, but could still cause long-term heart and lung damage. In addition, now shielding has finished, there is a risk of young people, including asymptomatic young people, transmitting the virus to more vulnerable people.
Given the rapid increase in cases, it was right to take swift action. Better preventative measures now than returning to lockdown later. However, as seems to have been too often the case, government has done the right thing but has done it badly. Last Thursday night's announcement seemed more panic than a thought out, measured response to very worrying data. Conference calls can be arranged at the drop of a hat in the current emergency conditions, and it would have been so much better to have spent a few extra hours discussing and agreeing a way forward with local leaders, not least as local leaders agreed that there was a need to act ( indeed Rochdale and Oldham had already taken action ) and wanted to work with government on the intervention plan.
As it is we have ended up with some very sensible measures, restricting home visitors, reducing visits to care homes, but also some that are difficult to justify or explain - you can meet up to six friends on the street outside your home ( socially distanced ), but not in your garden a few feet away. How does that make sense? The restriction on restaurants doesn't seem logical given the current rules they are operating under. Ultimately, restrictions will only work if they are clear, understandable, and there is consent. In particular we need something that will convince younger people not to put themselves and others at risk.
Finally, in the early days of Covid-19, none of us really understood what was going on. There is still much we don't know but we now have sufficiently robust data about who is contracting the virus, and where, and in what numbers. We should by now have very clear, published thresholds for intervention, and published, pre-determined packages of measures to deal with outbreaks, so that everybody can know the what and the why.