On September 21, the UK authorities’s Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) printed a doc calling for a nationwide circuit-breaker lockdown to curb the steadily growing instances of COVID. The Sage scientists warned that “not appearing now to cut back instances will end in a really giant epidemic with catastrophic penalties by way of direct COVID-related deaths and the power of the well being service to satisfy wants”.
As an alternative of heeding the warnings of their very own scientists, the federal government as an alternative solicited the perimeter views of “consultants” who advocated for controlling the consequences of the virus with much less restrictive measures, whereas shielding society’s most weak. The consequence being that the federal government tried to restrict the affect of the illness with a sequence of light-touch restrictions, together with the unique three-tier system launched in the midst of October.
By the top of October, underneath these measures, the virus had unfold to such a level that the scenario within the UK had change into untenable. A nationwide lockdown to manage the unfold of the virus turned unavoidable. Information of those imminent restrictions was leaked to the press nearly every week earlier than the lockdown got here into drive.
Springing a leak
On the time, the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, recommended that the leak would trigger confusion and encourage “some to benefit from their pre-lockdown time”. However is that this how issues truly performed out?
A brand new examine, that has but to be peer reviewed, makes an attempt to reply this query. The evaluation checked out case figures from throughout 315 native authorities. The publicly accessible information exhibits that within the ten days main as much as the nationwide lockdown, there was a stagnation of instances. This was then adopted by a pointy rise through the first week of the lockdown till its peak on November 12. Subsequently reported instances declined nearly till the top of the lockdown originally of December.
Credit score: Equipment Yates, College of Tub and Unbiased SAGE.
From the case information, the authors calculated a copy quantity (generally known as R – the common variety of folks an contaminated individual will go the illness on to through the course of their infectious interval). Their calculations appeared to counsel that whereas all three tiers introduced down the copy quantity from round October 20, it then rose once more within the 5 days earlier than the lockdown was carried out in tiers 1 and a couple of. The authors conclude that the leaking of the lockdown plans earlier than its implementation led not directly to a surge in infections.
Removed from definitive
Whereas it’s tempting to consider that the leak was the only reason for the an infection surge at first of the lockdown, this rationalization is overly simplistic. The proof offered by the authors is way from definitive. The official authorities announcement was made on the Saturday after leaks on the Friday evening which means the leak itself had restricted affect (though it’s unclear to what diploma the timing of the federal government’s announcement was influenced by the leak). A number of different influences may additionally have been at play within the weeks main as much as the lockdown.
To grasp the height in instances throughout lockdown, we must always think about the explanations for the plateau in instances within the fortnight main as much as it. Partially, this may increasingly have been a results of tier 3 bringing down instances within the worst affected areas. Definitely, there was proof to counsel that tier 3 was bringing down case numbers on Merseyside earlier than the lockdown was instituted. The stagnation in instances may additionally have been a results of behavioural change as folks noticed the growing hospitalisation and loss of life figures reported within the media and determined to restrict their mixing.
Maybe essentially the most compelling argument to clarify the levelling off of instances is the staggered half-term break. Sage has recommended on many events that colleges contribute considerably to the copy quantity. Bear in mind, roughly talking, that it takes someplace between 5 and ten days beween folks being contaminated and their constructive assessments being reported. A flattening of reported instances between October 23 and November 7 appears to agree properly with the staggered half time period throughout the UK from October 17 to 31. Not less than a part of the spike in reported instances that occurred on November 12 may then be defined by the return of colleges within the three days earlier than the lockdown was carried out.
In actuality, a mixture of things most likely led to the spike in instances through the second lockdown: the return of colleges, the leaking of the federal government’s plans and the five-day hiatus between the official announcement and the lockdown itself.
With simply over 24 hours between the announcement and its implementation and with a lot of the nation already underneath comparatively tight restrictions, we are able to hope that any behaviour-induced rise in instances may be averted as we enter our third nationwide lockdown.
Christian Yates doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that might profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.