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There is light at the end of the Coronavirus tunnel in the UK

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Added 14th April 2020 07:09 PM

Once the epidemic reaches its peak sometime in the middle of April, it will begin to subside as a result of about 1 month of sustained broken social interaction.

There is light at the end of the Coronavirus tunnel in the UK

Patrick Igulot

Once the epidemic reaches its peak sometime in the middle of April, it will begin to subside as a result of about 1 month of sustained broken social interaction.

By Patrick Igulot

Introduction

Coronavirus broke out at the end of last year in Wuhan, China and was formally acknowledged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 31st December 2019. The whole of January was dominated by efforts to understand the new epidemic.

These efforts culminated in WHO declaring Coronavirus a public health emergency on 30th January 2020. When cases reached 118,000 in 110 countries, WHO declared Coronavirus / COVID 19 a pandemic 11th March 2020.

It is important to distinguish between Coronavirus and COVID 19; Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses that cause respiratory-related diseases.

The current strain of Coronavirus is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). COVID 19 is Coronavirus Disease 19; it is a disease caused by Coronavirus of 2019.

UK Response

The first case of Coronavirus in the UK was announced 31 January 2020. Throughout February, more cases were identified across the country and by 1st March, there were 36 cases.

Formal measures broadly referred to as social distancing were announced by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson 16th March 2020.

However, these measures had 2 principal problems. First, the measures came a bit late, two and a half months after the outbreak. Second, they did not go far enough.

Because of these inadequacies in the initial response, the government announced more stringent measures 20th March and the country locked down from 23rd March 2020.

UK epidemic outlook

As a result of the lockdown, new infections will greatly reduce and because of the reduction in new infections, intervention measurers will be relaxed by the end of April 2020.

Early research evidence from China shows that lockdown measures of 1 month can reduce new infections of Coronavirus by up to 73%. Another research published in the Lancet found similar results.

In the UK, evidence shows a drastic reduction of the use of transport (motor vehicles, trains, buses, etc.) by over 90% over a period of about 2 weeks since measures were instituted.

The level of adherence to social isolation measures (measured through the use of transport) is an indirect measure of the level of transmission of the disease; higher adherence to control measures means a lower rate of virus transmission.

Once the epidemic reaches its peak sometime in the middle of April, it will begin to subside as a result of about 1 month of sustained broken social interaction.

Rationale to relax measures

If new infections decline by the end of April, it will be difficult to sustain the current stringent measures of social isolation. Measures will be relaxed for the following reasons:

The health capacity factor: By the end of April and certainly from May, the National Health Service and wider health and social care sector will be having sufficient capacity to continue managing COVID 19 cases.

The economic factor: This epidemic has affected the economy substantially. A decline in infections will pressurise the government to relax measures so business can resume.

The welfare factor: Coronavirus affects about 1% of the population. Of this 1 %, only about 0.2% or less will require hospital care. On the basis of these facts, there will be pressure for the government to address the needs of 99.8% of the population.

The testing factor: With the increase in health capacity, testing will likely play a big role in shaping the new control measures and facilitating return to normal life.

Research factor: As the government considers adjusting measures to control Coronavirus, it will be based on progress in research to develop a vaccine against the virus or a drug to treat the disease.

Weather factor: As the weather becomes warmer in the UK, the people will go out and police will be overwhelmed; the government will not be able to enforce social isolation.

Summary

The epidemic in the UK will subside by the end of April. From May, there will a gradual relaxation of the social isolation measures. The new guidance will be provided to gradually normalise life and by the end of 2020, life will have significantly normalised.

The author is a lecturer in Health and Social Care

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