Lockdown will finish. That is a certainty. The dilemma perplexing the government is how to achieve this without unnecessarily killing people as a result. Here we look at some important facts which inform this process and provide clear guidelines on what individuals need to do to save themselves and others.
Firstly, we should emphasise that COVID 19 is selective in who it harms: it can kill vulnerable groups such as the aged, the medically compromised, the obese and BAME groups. Fit people under the age of 45 have little to worry about: only less than 400 in this group have succumbed nationwide during this epidemic. A vaccine is not available and will not be relevant to exiting the current lockdown. The lockdown has had a minimal effect on the course of the epidemic which has been beneficially modified mostly by handwashing and social distancing. Lastly, and highly relevant, is that wearing face masks and coverings reduces your chances of spreading the virus when in close contact.
How does this help us to avoid dying when lockdown is eased? Before we consider this in detail, we should point out that exiting lockdown will not be that bad. The government scared us into lockdown as a strategy to make it work and the mainstream media is perpetuating that fear for self-serving reasons. But the groundswell of opinion now is sweeping towards the inevitable conclusion that the looming economic disaster is rapidly overwhelming the public health issues.
We must grasp the notion that there is a young, fit group in society who can get back to normal and to work now. Maybe, or probably, they will get infected without much personal consequence. For them it’s business as usual: earning money, saving the economy and frequenting the pubs and clubs of our nation. Maybe, if they have learned from this a bit about personal hygiene, they may get fewer colds and flu next winter! Similarly, healthy kids can go back to school with their non-vulnerable teachers as normal.
Then there are the vulnerable groups: the aged, the sick, the obese and the ethnic minority groups. They need to assess their own individual risks and be shielded accordingly. The risks of walking down the street or shopping in a supermarket are minimal and these risks can be minimised further by distancing, face masks and hand washing. The big risk for this vulnerable group is close contact and this occurs mostly in the home environment. So, initially at least, the vulnerable group needs to be shielded at home from infection. They need to continue sensible social distancing outside as we’ve suggested above, but the real need is to ensure that the fit, young adults and their children all assume that they, themselves are infected when they come home and maintain strict cross-infection practices when close to their vulnerable friends and relatives. Thus, family units need to take responsibility for their own bubble and staff need to protect their vulnerable care home residents.
Testing will not help in this regard. We must all assume that we are personally infected and behave responsibly. If we follow these guides, then we will not only minimise our risk of catching COVID 19 but also reduce our risks of catching colds and the flu and re-ignite the economy.