Coronavirus: How and when might the COVID-19 lockdown end?

Written by on 05/04/2020

The UK is about to enter its third week in lockdown – but what will come next?

When will the lockdown end?

A number of reporters have asked the question and a number of experts have given their best estimates, but at the moment they are just that – estimates.

The measures are due to be reviewed for the first time next week. But Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said on Saturday there is “no fixed point, no specific date in the calendar at which we can say things will change”.

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said last week that lockdown measures would need “three weeks for review” and “two or three months to see if we’ve really squashed it. Three to six months, ideally.”

However she added that there was “lots of uncertainty”.

She said: “This is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months, but as a nation we have to be really, really responsible and keep doing what we’re all doing until we’re sure we can gradually start lifting various interventions which are likely to be spaced – based on the science and our data – until we gradually come back to a normal way of living.”

Could the restrictions get tougher instead?

Sure – there are a few ways in which the restrictions could get tougher, something the government might decide is necessary if the numbers of new cases and deaths continue to rise.

The current measures allow people to leave their homes to exercise, for example, and this could easily be scrapped if the government sees a need for stricter rules.

What needs to happen before the lockdown can end?

That’s not clear but Business Secretary Alok Sharma said late last week that the government fears a second peak of cases if the restrictions are lifted too soon.

He said on Wednesday: “What’s also really important is that if we stop these too quickly, there is a possibility that that massive effort people have made across the country is wasted and we could potentially see a dangerous second peak.”

It may be that the government puts other measures in place while softening the current ones.

Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “A combination of some social distancing measures, extensive testing and automated contact tracing could allow both a more regular social activity and a significant control of the outbreak.”

Professor Neil Ferguson – of Imperial College London, which is advising the government on its coronavirus response – said the UK’s epidemic was expected to plateau in the next week to 10 days, but said people’s behaviour was critical in determining what happens next.

How would the lockdown end?

One scientist advising the government said the lockdown is only buying time and we need a clear exit strategy from the COVID-19 crisis.

Professor Graham Medley told The Times: “This disease is so nasty that we had to suppress it completely. Then we’ve kind of painted ourselves into a corner, because then the question will be, what do we do now?

“We will have done three weeks of this lockdown, so there’s a big decision coming up on 13 April. In broad terms are we going to continue to harm children to protect vulnerable people, or not?”

:: Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

What would happen after lockdown?

It will take months or even years for life to return to the way it was before and there are concerns that we could be caught in a cycle of lockdowns until a vaccine and/or a cure are discovered.

Would the UK’s borders need to be more strictly policed? There’s little point in getting the virus under control in the UK if it can still be brought in by people travelling from countries where it is not yet under control. Currently, there is no testing at airports – arrivals are simply told to go straight home and then to obey the same rules as the rest of the UK.

There has been a suggestion that those who survived the virus could be tested and issued with “immunity certificates”, allowing them to return to work. These could be especially useful for healthcare workers but they also raise questions.

Will people be encouraged to expose themselves to the virus so they can get back to normal life? What about people who are at high risk of complications or death from the virus? Until now, they have been told to be much more strict about isolating themselves. Would they then face a choice between having to remain isolated indefinitely or having to risk their lives in catching the virus so they can return to work and have the ability to travel?

Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said the illness is still being studied, adding: “It is very likely that this virus will become established in populations throughout the world and so we need a strategy to manage this over time, not just in the next few weeks or the next few months.

“As we learn more about it, as the scientific evidence builds, that will allow those strategies to evolve.”

What are other countries doing?

China is starting to return to normal. Shopping centres are opening again and people are leaving their homes in Wuhan, where the virus originated late last year.

But many European countries are getting tougher. Spain has extended its lockdown until 25 April and France until 15 April. Italy’s will last until at least 13 April.

(c) Sky News 2020: Coronavirus: How and when might the COVID-19 lockdown end?


Current track

Title

Artist

 

Current show

Drive with Larry

4:00 pm 7:00 pm

Background