We are now coming to the end of week six of the official lockdown and there is no question that this effort has brought down the spread of coronavirus. Debate is now moving towards how we go about relaxing the restrictions we all live under and I understand the dilemma. Whilst people want to get back to ‘normal’ work routines, visit loved ones, get back to church and stretch our legs beyond our local setting, there is an understandable nervousness about going too early and triggering another outbreak.
The Government has set five tests that will judge when lockdown measures can be relaxed and at what pace. These are important as they reassure us all that controls are in place to maintain the overriding principle of keeping people safe.
- Test One: Making sure the NHS can cope. Even the BBC is reporting on its website that the health service is in a good position to cope.
- Test Two: A ‘sustained and consistent’ fall in the daily death rate. Over 20,000 people are recorded to have died with or of coronavirus which is sobering. The data shows that the highest number of deaths recorded in a 24hr period was around April 10th (nearly 1,000) and this figure has dropped to around 400 earlier this week.
- Test Three: Rate of infection decreasing to a ‘manageable levels’.
- The largest number of cases recorded in any one day was on April 5th and there has been a gradual downward trend since then. We will never know exactly how many people have contracted this disease but the number of cases recorded has slowed despite the rate of testing increasing dramatically in recent weeks.
- Test Four: Ensuring supply of tests and personal protective equipment can meet future demand. This is definitely an area where a lot of lessons have been learned very quickly. There are literally thousands of companies in the UK now offering supplies of PPE and the number of tests available exceed demand (although this is in part due to testing locations not being conveniently located which is being addressed).
- Test Five: Being confident any adjustments would not risk a second peak.
Mistakes have been made. One of which is the fact that we did not forensically track down every person who had interacted with someone diagnosed with coronavirus. The Government is exploring the use of an App to do this for future spikes of the disease. In addition to this the Government is recruiting 18,000 contact tracers to prepare for this effort.
People will have noticed a general increase in activity in areas such as food take-away outlets, building supplies and other outlets where social distancing measures can be maintained. This is not a change in the lockdown arrangements - rather a recognition that these businesses can operate safely whilst observing the Government lockdown regime. Finally, a new fund is now available to small business. The Bounce Back Loan Fund allows loans from £2K to £50K to help businesses resurface as restrictions are lifted. Interest-free for 12 months and advertised as easy to apply!