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Is it time to relax?

June 15, 2020 12:44 PM

The media over the weekend was full of Ministers saying they are considering relaxing the 2 metre rule following a review currently underway. Apparently they are willing to over-ride the scientists if need be which does makes you question why they are having the review in the first place!

From am economic perspective you can understand the enthusiasm to change. Many shops, restaurants, schools etc are going to find the reduced capacity that is implied by the greater distance will make it hard to operate profitably or effectively

Perhaps not coincidentally the World Health Organisation ( WHO) on the same day urged caution in the speed of leaving lockdown saying the UK remained in a "very active phase of the pandemic". They went on to say that England's coronavirus lockdown should not be further lifted until the government's contact-tracing system has proven to be "robust and effective",

kraq (Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash)Whilst it is good see the track and trace process is beginning to work it has been plagued by computer glitches and delays in getting test results returned, it is still miles away from the "world class" system promised us for June 1st. The much hyped tracking app that at one time was hailed as a game changer is now not talked about and would be nice to have !

Ultimately any decision to change is about the amount of risk we as a society and an individual are willing to take. It will be up to you to make your own judgement about whether you want to follow any changed guidance

Here are a few facts that will help you decide the risks for you

1 Physical distancing An article in the Lancet showed a reduction in risk of 82% with a physical distance of 1 m in both health-care and community settings [presumably compared to 0m spacing]. Every additional 1 m of separation more than doubled the relative protection.

2 Face Masks The same article suggests based on evidence from 10 studies involving 2,647 participants, that the risk of infection or transmission when wearing a mask was 3% compared with 17% when not wearing a mask, although they said the level of certainty was "low

3 Track and Trace needs dramatic improvement. Early published data suggests of the 8,117 positive cases referred to contact tracers, they succeeded in reaching 5,407 (66%) who had been willing to give them names and phone numbers for the people they had met in the previous two days. The tracers had reached 85% of those contacts - 26,985 people - and asked them to self-isolate. There were a further 4,809 that they either failed to reach or failed to persuade to stay at home.

4. The number of new cases reported daily is still high . Dido Harding the Tory Peer who runs the track and trace programme said recently in Parliament that statistics suggest 8,000 people per day are catching the virus but fewer than 2,000 people are now testing positive each day.

5. Foreign countries behave differently but have restrictions. In Germany the physical distance requirement is 1.5 metres but face masks are compulsory on public transport and in shops (although some variation by state). In France Physical distance the requirement is 1 metre; face masks are compulsory on public transport and in secondary schools, and shops can require customers to wear them. In both daily case numbers are much lower than the UK and in Germany their testing programme is more comprehensive and faster