Virus may last a year and put 8m in hospital

Flattening the curve: Four approaches and four computer-modelled results represented over time.

Are you a delayer or a container? What’s your pandemic strategy? As Europe launches a wartime clampdown, the UK’s more relaxed coronavirus strategy is under fire from some scientists.

As Robert Colvile, the director of the Centre for Policy Studies, wrote yesterday: “There is a new dividing line in politics. Instead of leave versus remain, we have contain versus delay: should we seek to halt, or at least slow, the virus via an Asian-style blitzkrieg, or stick to a war of attrition, as the UK government prefers, with the aim of ensuring the NHS is never completely overwhelmed?”

With over 1,000 reported cases and dozens of deaths inside the UK, the “delay” strategy is proving controversial.

Critics of the government’s policy argue that the UK should look towards the success of countries like China and South Korea in containing the virus. In those places, widespread testing and strict quarantines were enforced.

But for the UK government, the priority is ensuring that the NHS does not get overwhelmed. The virus is already here and it is spreading. It says we must avoid a situation where hospital beds run out and people needing treatment for other urgent ailments are unable to get help.

Instead of forcing everyone into self-isolation now, the government wants to wait until it is absolutely necessary.

So, should you be a delayer or a container?

Isolation nation

Delay is a more nuanced, but clever way of ensuring our long-term safety. Assuming we only have one chance at quarantining the entire country, then we should wait until it becomes urgent. Until a vaccine is developed, we should attempt to keep the spread of the virus as slow and as steady as possible.

Contain. There is a reason that other countries are prioritising keeping their population indoors. This allows them to protect vulnerable people now – not at some future point in time. It is possible that, unconfined, the virus will very quickly spread to a level that could overwhelm the NHS.

You Decide

  1. Does seeing news about other countries shutting down borders and bars make you feel more or less worried about the situation in the UK?

Activities

  1. In pairs, write the script for a short radio announcement that summarises the current government advice in a fun and catchy way.

Some People Say...

“If you need to be right before you move, you will never win. Perfection is the enemy of the good when it comes to emergency management. Speed trumps perfection. And the problem in society we have, at the moment, is everyone is afraid of making a mistake.”

Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation Health Emergencies Programme

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
As of Sunday afternoon, the UK government’s official advice is to stay at home for seven days if you have a fever or a cough. There is currently no treatment for coronavirus. The UK strategy is split into four phases: contain, delay, research and mitigate. We are currently in the “delay” phase, defined as: “slow the spread in this country, if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season”.
What do we not know?
We do not know if there will be a second wave of Covid-19. We do not know whether it will be a seasonal disease. We do not know whether developing herd immunity is something that can be achieved deliberately by a government without a vaccine or without a huge loss of life. We do not know whether once countries come out of lockdown, there will be another outbreak.

Word Watch

Delay
A plan to slow the spread of the coronavirus rather than containing it by enforcing strict quarantines.
Blitzkrieg
German word meaning an intense (military) campaign intended to bring about a swift victory.
Attrition
Reducing something’s strength or effectiveness through constant attack or pressure.
Overwhelmed
To overload and put too much burden on.
Quarantines
Restrictions on the movement of people and goods intended to prevent the spread of disease.
Ailments
Diseases, illnesses.
Nuanced
Having a quality that is not easy to notice but may be important.
Unconfined
Not kept to a limited space.

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