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expert reaction to reports of a three-tier lockdown system being proposed for England

It has been reported that a three-tier lockdown system being proposed for England.


Dr Nilu Ahmed, a behavioural psychologist at the University of Bristol, said:

“The first stage of the pandemic lockdown saw a blanket rule imposed across the country. This left no room for error in understanding what we could and could not do. As we have moved into local lockdowns the public have expressed feeling baffled by the different guidance across the country which is being widely reported in the media. It can be unclear what rules apply to whom. 

“The more direct and simple rules are, the greater the likelihood of compliance as they are easier to remember. When information is confusing, it can deter engagement if people feel overwhelmed from multiple pieces of advice and regulations, and people may unwittingly fall foul of regulations. Clear guidance offers more than just rules to follow, it provides reassurance during stressful times.”  


Dr Flavio Toxvaerd, specialist in the economics of infectious diseases at the University of Cambridge, said:

“It is now clear that there has been a shift in policy to more broadly apply regional and local measures going forward. The PM expressed reluctance to implement across-the-board lockdowns such as the ones that were imposed earlier in the year.

“I think this is the right approach, whenever possible. Controlling the spread of the disease while safeguarding economic and social activity is a fine balancing act so it is right that local conditions should dictate local policy.

“As a general principle, the targeting of measures to specific groups or geographical areas is preferable to one-size-fits-all measures, because they allow us to minimise the damage that social distancing inevitably imposes on society and the economy.

“Having said that, it is sometimes difficult to achieve. Shielding the elderly and vulnerable, an example of targeting based on the age and health status of people, has proved extraordinarily difficult.

“Geographic targeting may bring large benefits, but also comes with practical challenges and needs to be coordinated with neighbouring regions.  If a town closes pubs and entertainment venues and the next town doesn’t, then we may inadvertently help the disease spread from one to the other. We saw a stark illustration of this in Italy in March, where lockdowns in the North of the country prompted thousands to rush to the South of the country. This shows that regional policies have to be carefully considered and implemented.”


Prof John Preston, Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex who has researched preparedness communication in the UK, US, Germany, Japan and New Zealand, said:

“My research into preparedness in the United Kingdom shows that there has been a long-standing distance between Government Policy on preparedness and the needs of local communities.  It is not a new problem, but this Government has to put into practice actions that successive UK Governments have developed under exceptional secrecy when compared to pandemic preparedness in other countries.  This new alert level system could impose another layer of information on an already crowded landscape of emergency levels and warnings including the national Covid-19 alert level system and NHS App-driven alert levels.  Simplicity is welcome, but evidence shows that a bottom-up approach to preparedness and response (as in New Zealand) is most successful.  Policy makers in this country have always found it difficult to decentralize policy on emergencies and to give local authorities and citizens responsibility to make their own informed decisions.”


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