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expert reaction to the suggestion Leicester might be considered for a localised lockdown

It has been suggested that Leicester may be put under a localised lock down to combat COVID-19 in the area.  

 

Comments sent out on Monday 29 June 2020

Dr Yuliya Kyrychko, Reader in Mathematics, University of Sussex, said:

“In terms of the emergence of new cases and localised outbreaks, one can expect these to occur more often in regions and communities where larger numbers of people cannot work from home and have to rely on direct contact with colleagues and customers for work.

“In this respect, all business that involve direct interaction with customers have to ensure they follow the guidelines on social distancing and protective measures to avoid the possibility of passing the infection.

“Since the level of the spread of infection is effectively determined by the number and structure of contacts in the population, it would not be very surprising if, as is reported, younger people, who, on average, have a larger number of contacts, are also among the age groups exhibiting the higher numbers of COVID-19 cases.

“The same reasoning explains why over-crowded and multi-generational households are much more prone to be substantially affected by the infection, since in those households there is a higher chance that one or more people can become independently infected, and then the infection can spread within the household due to a close proximity between members of the household.

“Similarly, since the infection is still quite prevalent in the wider population, when large groups of people meet in close proximity without social distancing (densely packed beaches, parks, football venues), even if just a few of them are infected, there is a rather high chance that others will acquire the infection, since in these circumstances individuals are also very likely not to use face coverings and/or other protective measures.“

 

Dr Konstantin Blyuss, Reader in Mathematics, University of Sussex, said:

“Regarding the particular question of the current outbreak in Leicester, the logic suggests trying to contain this as fast as possible by investigating the exact locations and settings for emerging cases as majority of new cases usually emerge in clusters.  Once the specific origins and settings for new cases become clear, one can consider the need for either localised (within-setting and/or within a small geographic area), or a city-wide lockdown.  These measures may include a postponement of the future easing of lockdown on the 4th July, or even a re-introduction of the previous lockdown measures, but any decisions on how to make these interventions targeted and optimal can only be made only after the specifics of the new outbreak in terms of its geographic locality (within Leicester) and settings become clear.

“This is particularly important in light of the fact that it takes some time for the systems to develop, hence, it may well be possible that the number of infections is already larger, but it will only become known in the next few days or a week, while infected individuals may continue to move around and spread the infection without any knowledge of it.

“The same philosophy applies to controlling local spread in other regions that might see localised outbreaks in near future.  The most efficient strategy would be to try to track and isolate emerging new cases as soon as practically possible to prevent further spread, though this relies on the efficient system being in place.”

 

Prof Rowland Kao, Sir Timothy O’Shea Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science, University of Edinburgh, said:

“We know that transmission of COVID-19 can occur more frequently in ‘hotspots’ with the major outbreak in nightclubs in Seoul, Korea, and the multiple examples of outbreaks in meat processing plants around the world.  It is quite likely that the circumstances in these situations lead to substantially greater transmission but other hotspots are also likely to occur – whether due to individuals with inherently higher transmission rates, or because of circumstances (workplaces with enclosed spaces, or events with closer proximity between people, both of which increase transmission risks).  All these factors may have a role to play in the situation in Leicester.

“However, it is important to remember that these hotspot events do not occur in isolation – they can both lead to and be sparked by generalised community transmission.  As we increase the amount of activities we do, the likelihood that a hotspot will occur and that, once it occurs, will result in onward transmission to create new hotspots, will only increase, even if there is no obvious impact on the number of cases in communities.  This emphasises the importance of a slow and steady approach to lockdown release, and clear messages from government as to what the current measures mean, and should additional measures be required in local areas, why this is so, and what the differences are.”

 

Prof Brendan Wren, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

“It is reassuring to see that testing data for Covid-19 is being used to identify local outbreaks, which seems long overdue.  This will be important in terms of adopting local targeted measures to contain the outbreak.  Why this outbreak occurred in the east part of Leicester is unclear and we may never know as the 900+ number of cases may be too high to drill down to the fine detail of the original source(s) of the infection.

“It is imperative that we continue to test, track and trace to determine the reservoirs and routes of transmission of Covid-19 infection.  This will provide the underlying information for rational decision making regarding coming out of lockdown and when it may be re-introduced temporarily to stem new outbreaks/localised clusters including in Leicester.”

 

Dr Shaun Fitzgerald FREng, Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge, said:

“There may well be differences in how rigorously people apply the mitigation measures.  Now people are allowed out more it is even more important that we work hard to do things such as maintaining our distance, washing our hands regularly, using face coverings in public etc.  For example, there will be differences in the ease with which people can maintain physical distance between densely populated areas and rural environments – so it isn’t surprising to me that we may see localised flare-ups, which in turn may need suppressing through delayed easing or temporary re-introduction of some constraints on some movements and activities.”

 

 

Comment sent out on Sunday 28 June 2020

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

“One of the biggest problems is deciding who is in the lockdown area and who is not.  This needs to be understandable to both the people who are inside and the people on the outside.  People on the inside of the lockdown need to understand why they have been included. There would be nothing to stop people on the outside taking further voluntary precautions themselves as individuals if they were worried. 

“Defining the specific area will be one of the largest problems.  Local authority boundaries can run down the middle of the street with one side in one local authority and the opposite another.

“Urban sprawl has allowed towns and cities to expand resulting in these areas often joining other areas who identify differently and do not see themselves as part of the expanding town or city.

“Locking down at the regional level would be seen as unfair or worse as Leicester City has really very little to do with rural Lincolnshire.  People do not identify with their regional boundaries and many would not actually know where they are.

“If Leicester is locked down, how much of the surrounding area do you include.  A quick view at the satellite picture demonstrates this problem.  Much of the surrounding area probably does not identify as part of Leicester City itself.

“Even islands are not simple.  The Isle of Wight is clearly separate as are many Scottish Islands.  Places such Anglesey, where there is a local incident, is linked by two bridges to Bangor and North Wales.  These communities interact significantly so even an island is not simple.”

 

 

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

www.sciencemediacentre.org/tag/covid-19

 

Declared interests

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