The Government has produced a “plan to rebuild”. It sets out the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy. It is available here.
WHAT IT DOES
“This document describes the progress the UK has made to date in tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and sets out the plans for moving to the next phase of its response to the virus.
The strategy sets out a cautious roadmap to easing existing measures in a safe and measured way, subject to successfully controlling the virus and being able to monitor and react to its spread. The roadmap will be kept constantly under review as the epidemic, and the world’s understanding of it, develops.”
The document sets out a series of steps/phases
THE MATTERS THAT THE DOCUMENT EMPHASISES
This is not a short-term crisis. It is likely that COVID-19 will circulate in the human population long-term, possibly causing periodic epidemics. In the near future, large epidemic waves cannot be excluded without continuing some measures.
In the near term, we cannot afford to make drastic changes. To successfully keep R below 1, we have little room for manoeuvre. SAGE modelling suggests that either fully opening schools or relaxing all social distancing measures now, will lead to a resurgence of the virus and a second wave that could be larger than the first. In a population where most people are lacking immunity, the epidemic would double in size every few days if no control measures were in place.
There is no easy or quick solution. Only the development of a vaccine or effective drugs can reliably control this epidemic and reduce mortality without some form of social distancing or contact tracing in place. In the medium-term, allowing the virus to spread in an uncontrolled manner until natural population-level immunity is achieved would put the NHS under enormous pressure. At no point has this been part of the Government’s strategy. If vaccines can be developed they have the potential to stop the disease spreading; treatments would be less likely to stop the spread but could make the virus less dangerous.
4. The country must get the number of new cases down. Holding R below 1 will reduce the number of new cases down to a level that allows for the effective tracing of new cases; this in turn, will enable the total number of daily transmissions to be held at a low level.
5. The world’s scientific understanding of the virus is still developing rapidly. We are still learning about who is at greatest personal risk and how the virus is spread. It is not possible to know with precision the relative efficacy of specific shielding and suppression measures; nor how many people in the population are or have been infected asymptomatically.
6. The virus’ spread is difficult to detect. Some people carry the disease asymptomatically, which may mean that they can spread the virus without knowing that they are infectious. Those who do develop symptoms often do not show signs of being infected for around five days; a significant proportion of infections take place in this time, particularly in the two days before symptoms start. Even those who are not at risk of significant harm themselves may pose a real risk of inadvertently infecting others. This is why a significant part of the next phase of the Government’s response will be to improve its monitoring of and response to new infections.
7. The Government must prepare for the challenges that the winter flu season will bring. This will have wide-ranging effects, from impeding any efforts to trace the virus (because so many people without COVID-19 are likely to have symptoms that resemble COVID-19), to increasing the demand for hospital beds.
8. The plan depends on continued widespread compliance. So far people have adhered to the measures well, as depicted in Figure 5 below. However, to avoid R tipping above 1 and the epidemic increasing in an uncontrolled manner, very high continued levels of compliance are essential. The risk is an unbalanced one; if the UK tips back into an exponential increase in the spread of the infection, it could quickly