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expert reaction to Keir Starmer calling for a 2-3 week circuit break in England

The Labour party leader Keir Starmer has called for a 2-3 week circuit break in England to help address the spread of COVID-19.

 

Prof Keith Neal, Emeritus Professor of the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, University of Nottingham, said:

“Not closing schools is irrelevant as it will be half term.  Home working is appropriate and there is no reason for that to change.  Stopping people going on holidays to self-contained holiday accommodation does not alter transmission dynamics as the household will just be meeting with the same people in the household.  Seaside areas which are already at the top of the scale for deprivation will simply be hit even harder.

“If it is 3 weeks children will miss more education when the reality is very little spread between children is occurring in schools.

“Closing pubs (where distancing can be enforced) may well lead to increases in ‘house parties’ which are far more risky as people flout the guidance, something that is probably already occurring.  Seating plans in restaurants properly applied lead to substantially reduced risk.

“Large numbers of people, both old and young, have suffered serious mental health issues by not being able to meet up with other people.  This degree of isolation is not allowed  in prisons under human rights legislation.

“What is needed is for people to reduce the number of people they meet, and these are the same people rather than different people.

“Keir Starmer’s plan of only two weeks will not be long enough.  Too many people are flouting currenting mixing guidelines/rules.

“Locking down remote Scottish Islands and many rural areas with few cases is punishing those who have followed the rules because many areas have not socially distanced sufficiently.”

 

Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, UEA, said:

“I don’t think any plan is guaranteed to work.  We’re seeing substantial rapid increases in case numbers, and we heard yesterday from the CMO that the new restrictions on their own are unlikely to turn the tide completely.

“When it comes to the suggestion of a 2-week circuit breaker, we haven’t really seen what the specific evidence is for the value of that as a measure.  At the end of a 2-week circuit breaker, if nothing else has changed we might just be a bit behind the curve than where we would have been otherwise.

“In spring we had very rapid increase followed by much slower decline – even with the most rigorous lockdown.  A 2-week lockdown probably wouldn’t achieve a huge amount unless the time was taken to drastically change other things during that time.  Yes, the longer you leave it before doing something, the bigger the number of cases becomes.  The new restrictions announced yesterday are unlikely to substantially change the tide.  A circuit breaker would certainly have some effect but if it only delays things it’s still open to uncertainty whether it would make a big difference overall.  Yes we have to act and to act decisively, but no single thing is a full protector.  Each individual intervention will have some value, but we need a package of interventions.  Each by itself won’t achieve anything major but taken together a package can slow the epidemic, but won’t reverse it.

“None of us really has a good grasp of exactly what to do.  There are no easy options.”

 

 

Comments sent out today in reaction to the SAGE evidence published last night summarising the effectiveness and harms of different non-pharmaceutical interventions: https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-sage-documents-published-last-night-summarising-the-effectiveness-and-harms-of-different-non-pharmaceutical-interventions/

 

All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:

www.sciencemediacentre.org/tag/covid-19

 

Declared interests

None received.

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